In 2014, 23 fly fishers paid up to $12,000 each to join the world's first professional fly-fishing tournament series. Modeled partly after the Professional Golf Association Tour, the idea was to promote a series of events offering significant cash prizes for top finishers.
Colorado fly fisher Cody Burgdorff paid $12,000 to join the Professional Fly Angler (PFA) Tour, won the championship event in September 2014, and was presented with a oversize fake check made out to the amount of $25,000, but according to Burgdorff he never got that money.
"It was basically sold to us as a way to promote what we're passionate about — fly fishing — while still making a decent living doing it," Burgdorff told a Denver ABC News affiliate.
The PFA Tour was started by Anthony Naranja of Denver Colorado who spent 10 years with the amateur organization Fly Fishing Team USA — some of those as a team captain. Some members of Fly Fishing Team USA like Maktima and Weiss also paid money to compete in the PFA Tour, but the two should not be confused. One is an amateur nonprofit organization with a long, credible history that ended with a team silver medal at the most recent world championships. The PFA Tour is owned and operated by Anthony Naranja.
According to Burgdorff, Naranja also collected entry fees for a 2015 season and also a "rookie camp" planned for early 2015, but none of that ever happened. He says Naranja paid two installments on the 2014 prize money and then, "He just basically disappeared, wouldn't answer emails, wouldn't answer facebook posts, wouldn't answer calls, he still owes me about $19,000." Burgdorff is a college student and works at Front Range Anglers fly shop in Boulder Colorado. He says he doesn't have the resources to pursue any legal action.
While Burgdorff won the final event of 2014 billed as the PFA Tour championship, Pat Weiss of Pennsylvania won the inaugural event at Steamboat Springs, Colorado, earlier in the year. His prize money was supposed to be $20,000 and he too received a giant check for promotional purposes, but he didn't actually get the money. Like Burgdorff, Weiss received two small "installment payments" and never heard from Naranja again.
"He jacked a lot of people over including organizers, on-air personalities, and film crews," said Weiss of Naranja. "Basically, everybody who was involved got hosed."
Weiss has filed a complaint against Naranja with the Colorado Attorney General's Office.
The PFA Tour web site is still operational but the published phone number and email address are no longer in service.
Click here to see a video trailer promoting a 2014 PFA Tour event.