Thursday, September 3, 2015

Catching Up!

I’m finally home from a long, busy summer in Ridgway, Colorado, where I work full-time as a professional tenkara guide and fly shop bum at RIGS Fly Shop and Guide Service.  There really wasn’t much time for anything else, with days off few and far between.  I’ll guess that RIGS does two-thirds of their business between June and August, so drinking from the fire hydrant is the norm.  I was fortunate to be surrounded by fellow guides and shop folks who take hard work to a new level.  We have a solid team at RIGS, led by co-owners Tim and Heather Patterson.  The two of them set a high standard for hard work, flexibility, and perseverance during a busy, stressful time of year.  I couldn’t ask for a better place to work!

Closing down the fly shop on my last day behind the counter in mid-August.

The busiest place in Ridgeway, Colorado!

In all, I guided 25 trips, and spent the rest of the summer working in the fly shop or shuttling whitewater raft trips.  Combined with the two tenkara weekend clinics I put on each year, that puts my guiding up above 30 days per year.  Not too shabby, if you ask me!

Happy clients, happy guide!  

Most of my guided tenkara trips take place in the Cimarron Range, which is a northern extension of the San Juans.  Ridges, spires, turrets, and hoodoos form a line, running north from Uncompahgre Peak all the way to Cerro Summit.  This is stunning country!  The drive from Ridgway over Owl Creek Pass is arguably one of the most scenic anywhere in Colorado.  We’re permitted in the Uncompahgre Wilderness, so my trips can be done from the extreme southern headwaters of the three forks of the Cimarron River all the way up to the northern boundary of the Uncompahgre National Forest, just below Big Cimarron Campground.  At the fly shop we call this entire area “The Cimarrons”, and it provides a vast, diverse region that’s absolutely perfect for tenkara.  Each drainage above Silver Jack Reservoir holds its own special qualities, and is unique.  Each one of them requires different strategies and techniques, ranging from the wide-open lower end of East Fork, to the brushy and intimate pools and pockets of West Fork, and the twists and turns of Middle Fork.  One of my favorite places to guide in late summer is the Cimarron River tailwater below Silver Jack Reservoir.  It’s technically a tailwater, but it looks much more like a freestone.

The Cimarron River above Silver Jack Reservoir. (Photo courtesy of Stephen and Melissa Alcorn)

Once or twice a summer, if the water is lower and clear, I guide on the San Miguel River between Telluride and Norwood.  This summer “The Miguel”, as we call it, turned out to be very fishable, and my clients caught some really nice rainbows.  There are few things more fun than drifting a #14 Crystal Stimulator or Puterbaugh Caddis on the far edge and having a nice sixteen-inch rainbow crush your fly and take you for a ride.  A fish like that on a tenkara rod is simply amazing!

The San Miguel River below Telluride.

In all, it was a great summer season!  It’s always fun to head 200 miles southwest to Ridgway, and it’s equally good to return home to my family each August.  To my clients this summer…THANK YOU!  I had some amazing days standing beside you in wild water.  I hope you learned a thing or two.  One of the most rewarding things about guiding is spending quality time with such interesting people.  To do so in such magnificent country makes it all that much better!   

My last two clients of the season, Tim and Mona.  We had a stellar day fishing the Cimarron River backcountry!


  1. THANK YOU! Great article. See you next year.


  2. Just saw this Paul, Thanks for the kind words!!! Heather

  3. Wonderful words from an obviously very professional guide. I'm looking forward to starting my Tenkara journey this week after I receive my Iwana. You gave lots of great advice and I love the pictures.