RIGS Fly Shop & Guide Service named RACC May 2022 Member of the Month
Please tell us about how your business got its start.
RIGS was founded in 2001 as a small guide service after successfully receiving the first-ever permit for guided fly fishing within Ridgway State Park along the Uncompahgre River. The following year the business added a modest fly shop in downtown Ridgway on Cora Street and began the retail side of its operation. A couple years later, the business made an acquisition with permits to operate guided float fishing trips within the world-famous Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area. After about the first five years, we slowly added more and more activity locations, including whitewater rafting, additional guided fly fishing locations, and paddle sports rentals. It was a slow build to acquire all the pieces needed to effectively offer the diversity of trips our clients were seeking.
How did you grow your business here?
The business began modestly on a shoestring budget and a couple thousand dollars borrowed from each of the two partners’ fathers (paid back no doubt). It was a labor of love for many years, having other jobs was the only way to make ends meet – just a lot of hard work and sacrifice. There were tons of uncertainties living in a small community where you have to rely on tourism to keep your business alive and cannot rely on the local population to make rent in the winter months. We built everything from the ground up and found satisfaction in not just buying a preexisting business but making our own track record.
After about nine years struggling to keep it afloat, the two original partners parted ways, and it became a family business operated by husband and wife, Tim and Heather Patterson. From that point on, we doubled down on our efforts and focused deeper on growth, marketing Ridgway as a fly-fishing destination and turning RIGS into a year-round operation, with the goal of becoming a premier fly fishing shop and outfitter that could consistently support its employees.
We now employ six year-round employees and 25 seasonal employees during the high season.
What are the range of services and guided experiences offered by RIGS?
RIGS’ services include: a year-round, full-service fly shop featuring the industry’s top manufacturers of accessories and fly-fishing gear – including outdoor water activity-based shoes and apparel, fly fishing and boating rentals, a modest whitewater section, gifts, and CPW fishing and hunting license services. However, the primary focus of RIGS is its guiding services: fly fishing trips (both float and walk/wade trips) to the region’s premier locations. RIGS also operates an annual guide school, clinics and courses, and the paddle sports concession at Ridgway State Park (hourly rentals of SUP’s and kayaks), as well as whitewater rafting trips when the season allows.
How do you curate your shopping inventory at your shop?
As a smaller fly shop and primarily a seasonal business, we work hard to put product selection at the forefront of who we are. Our goal is to curate the best of what each manufacturer has to offer by carrying quality products we truly believe in and are best suited to the specific activities we offer and apply to our regional waters. It’s a painstaking process of research and trial and error, coupled with participation in our industry on a global level. It’s important to us to refine and curate product from the best manufacturers in the industry that are relevant in real time – call us a boutique fly shop I guess, unique as a visit to the beauty of our specific region.
In what ways do you give back to the community and watershed?
This is a big one for us at RIGS – whether participating in river clean up, developing a recycling plan to address retail waste, volunteering for water quality monitoring, or creating a fundraiser for our local watershed, giving back by supporting community efforts to help improve river and land resources is a part of our business. We have a long history of supporting conservation efforts, speaking out, and participating with regional land agencies, local governments and nonprofits that better this place we are fortunate enough to call home.
Why should people come to Ridgway to enjoy fishing and paddling during every season?
Shoulder season visits to the Ridgway area offer some of the most outstanding opportunities to explore the area. Sure, you may have to battle the elements at times (that’s what quality gear is for), but to see this place without the crowds of summer, gives one a deeper appreciation, sense of solitude and a type of exploration not often experienced by summer visitors – not to mention fishing conditions can be outstanding.
Do you have any news to share such as new products or services?
A big change this season is that RIGS will be the sole concessionaire for paddle sports at Ridgway State Park, and exclusively stationed at the Dallas Creek entrance to the park for the 2022 season. We offer a fantastic and affordable way for the whole family to get on the water this summer!
What do you value from being a Ridgway Chamber member?
Co-owner Tim Patterson has been a longtime participant as a previous chamber board member and president, and he values the organization’s services to both our businesses community and its visitors. He explains, “I feel it’s hard to criticize any efforts of an organization unless you are willing to participate and get involved first. By participating, our local businesses have a unique opportunity to educate themselves firsthand in the interworking of our community in an impactful and valued way. It’s been an incredibly educational and rewarding process to be part of the chamber on this level, and I encourage all Ridgway business owners and employees to step up and get involved.