In the 1980s, Orvis expanded beyond waders and shotguns to offer women’s clothing and lifestyle items. The catalog also included etched whiskey mugs, duck-baited telephones, and even firewood lighting, inspired by the trees on Mr. Perkins’ property in Florida.
Dog beds were particularly popular, as were weatherproof jackets from the English clothing manufacturer Barbour, which became mandatory clothing for employees in Midtown Manhattan in bad weather. Some die-hard sports customers complained, but the business continued to grow.
Mr. Perkins insisted on conservation as a company value and donated to wildlife organizations before such practices became widespread.
“It’s the right thing and it’s good business too,” said Simon Perkins. “If people don’t have places to fish or hunt, you don’t have a great future in the world trying to sell fly fishing.”
Mr Perkins is survived by his third wife, Anne (Ireland) Perkins; three children from his first marriage, Leigh Jr., who go by Perk, David, and Molly Perkins; a daughter, Melissa McAvoy, from his second marriage to Romi Myers; three stepchildren, Penny Mesic, Annie Ireland, and Jamie Ireland; 11 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. A son from his first marriage, Ralph, died in 1969.
According to his son Perk, fishing for Mr. Perkins was not a competition but a restorative affair. Up until the 1990s, Mr. Perkins trundled to Battenkill on summer evenings – with a rod and a cocktail – to look for trout at sunset.
“There’s only one reason in the world to go fishing: to enjoy yourself,” Perkins told the New York Times in 1992.