We had the good fortune of connecting with Paul J. Dufour and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Paul, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
Prior to opening PJ’s Fine Bamboo Rods, I worked extremely hard in the construction industry for close to thirty years. Fishing and creating have always been my passion, but construction paid the bills, and it was a physically grueling job. Like many people, it took a major life event for me to re-evaluate my work-life balance and where my priorities were. For me, it was cancer. I was diagnosed with Metastatic Melanoma after my mom noticed a freckle behind my ear while giving me a hug.
I knew physically I could not stay in the construction industry forever and that there were a lot of things that I still wanted in life, like a family and the ability to fish more often. I returned home from a brutal surgery and radiation treatment, cancer free, ready to start a new chapter in my life with new priorities and a better work life balance. I got married, retired from construction, and opened PJ’s Fine Bamboo Rods. Now that I do what I love for a living with the woman that I love, our work life balance never feels out of balance.
So much of it has to do with perspective. There are a lot of people that may look at my life and think that I still work too much, but I love what I do. I wake up in the morning excited to create new designs, perfect my craft, and share my passion with other anglers. It feels great to spend my day side by side with my wife, not having to leave for a long day of work in the freezing cold and having my back hurt when I get home. I am proud of the products that we build, and I look forward to the opportunity to share them with people.
Before PJ’s, we would often travel to escape our day to day lives in an effort to maintain a work life balance. But we always dreaded going back to our jobs and would immediately have to start planning our next “escape” upon returning home. Now that we love our business and day to day life, we no longer need to escape from it but rather are able to bring the passion for what we do with us everywhere we go.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I have always been drawn towards creating art, it’s a passion I believe most artists are born with. My first inspiration was my fourth-grade art teacher, Mr. Pinter, who taught me how to throw pottery. I have always loved creating beautiful things, from ceramic bowls to multimillion dollar homes. I am interested in art forms that serve a practical purpose. We like to call our fly rods and landing nets “functional art”. Being able to combine my passion for art and love of fly fishing with the skillsets I developed in the trades felt like a natural progression in my life.
Creating a physical product like a bamboo rod is extremely gratifying and really never gets old for me. It is so amazing to see a twelve-foot bamboo culm be perfected down to this beautiful and functional tool that will be used for generations. So many of my customers have shared their heartfelt memories of learning to fly fish on their grandfather’s bamboo fly rod. I love that what I build has the ability to have that kind of an impact on someone’s life and be a part of some many meaningful memories.
I have thought about my vision for this business for decades and I knew I wanted to make something that no one else on the market was making. So, it only made sense to open my own business rather than hand my creative vision and dream over for someone else to benefit from. However, opening and operating a business can be overwhelming initially, but once you have made it through the learning curve and have the entrepreneurial mindset the benefits definitely outweigh the risks. It is liberating to be in control of all aspects of your business and in turn your life. Running a business where you enjoy what you do makes the path to success easier to navigate. I build fly fishing rods and nets, I love to fish, therefore I know where to find my prospective customers and how they think because I would be my prospective customer.
PJ’s tagline is “wetting the line between tradition and nostalgia”. For me that combines the passion I have for this business. I love to fly fish, I am enamored by the history of bamboo rods, and take great pride in being able to provide people with a product that provokes such fond memories and facilitates the ability to make more memories. Building things with my hands, creating art, and fly fishing has been the basis for my happiness in life. I believe building heirloom quality products that will inspire people to go “wet a line” will bring added joy to our customer’s life as well.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Well, every angler knows it is a sin to give up your secret fishing holes, so I won’t be able to give specifics, but I absolutely love it when my fly fishing buddies come to visit me in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. We are surrounding by millions of acres of national forest with amazing fishing and views. Needless to say, visiting me for a day or a week would be filled with fly fishing in the area. We would start our day by visit Pops at Let It Fly, the longtime local fly shop to stock up on what the fish are biting at the time and decide where we are headed fishing for the day. After what can only be assumed to be an amazing day of fishing, we would grab some dinner on our way back into town at Kip’s Grille and Cantina. A local watering hole off the San Juan River where you can often find anglers exchanging stories after a day on the water. From there, stopping at The Springs Resort to soak those bones is a must when visiting Pagosa Springs.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Definitely my parents. I am so grateful that they took fishing in Red’s Meadow as a child. It started a lifelong obsession with fishing and watching how hard they worked growing up have given me the work ethic and drive to run my own business.
Rosanna Dufour, Dustin English