March 20, 2012

Tenkara Guides LLC; a review

I have not been fishing tenkara for very long, but I have been western fly fishing for over 20 years. I now have dabbled just enough into tenkara to know that I do not really fish tenkara and that I needed some instruction. It just so happens that I live fairly close to Utah, the home of Tenkara Guides LLC.

Tenkara Guides LLC was created by three tenkara fisherman (Erik Ostrander, Rob Worthing, John {I don't know his last name}) from Utah. From their website: "We are a tenkara based fly fishing guide service specializing in Utah streams and rivers.  We provide a first rate guiding experience using unique, effective and easy to learn methods of tenkara fly fishing perfectly suited for Utah’s waters.  Our experienced tenkara fly fishing guides will design a unique trip customized to your schedule, level of adventure and experience." They were the first Tenkara Certified Guides by Tenkara USA. With their expertise in tenkara, I thought I would take advantage of their close proximity and schedule a trip.

So, I went to Tenkara Guides LLC website  and used the "contact us" link to send an email of my desire to hire a guide on March 16th. The next day I had an email from Erik (he spells his name ERiK). He stated that that day was open and he gave me his phone number so that I could call in a few days so to discuss what I desired out of the trip. Now, before I go on, let me say that I really like this in a guide service. I have hired fly fishing guides before and most of them, dare I say, only care about their clients catching fish. What I got from Erik wanting to talk to me is that he is desired to make sure that the trip was more than just catching fish! He wanted to make sure the trip was what I wanted!  What a concept! As it so happened, I explained to him that I wanted to learn tenkara from him, to fish some smaller freestone rivers, and also fish the Provo River. He said all of that was definitely possible and so we arranged payment. I payed Tenkara Guides $395.00 through Paypal. The whole process of hiring was very easy.

Erik contacted me a few days before the scheduled day to let me know what flies to bring. I have all the stuff: waders, boots, rods, various lines, tippet, etc. He made sure that I would be set. So I tied up some various flies: Utah Killer Bugs, Purple Haze kebari, etc., and was ready.

March 16th I drove done to meet Erik in the north parking lot of Cabelas, near Alpine, UT. I was to meet him at 0900. He was there right on time. After a brief introduction we headed into Cabelas for my license. My out of state one day permit was $12.00! What a bargain! We then loaded up his car and off we went -- first to the American Fork River, just up to road.

Erik teaching the Davy knot
The Ito at work on the American Fork River: boulders, pockets, pools
We arrived at a section of the river that he thought would be a good outdoor classroom for tenkara. The day was forecast to be cloudy with wind gusts, but when we arrived it was warm, sunny and very little breeze. Dare I say it -- perfect! We geared up (me with my three rods, small chest pack, and camera)  Erik with his arsenal of rods, fly boxes, goodies for the client, etc. He had me get my Ito lined up and he asked me to cast -- right there in the road! He analyzed my cast, made some suggestions, and gave me the OK. I must have done OK since he appeared content after watching only a few casts. We headed down the road to a location to enter the river.

The American Fork River is a classic freestone with amazing pocket water. The water shoots between rocks and creates small eddies and short lived foam lines. Sometimes the foam would accumulate in more permanent eddies or what Erik calls "froggy water". He instructed me on his lingua franca so that I could understand his instructions. The fast runs he calls "tongues" and the small calmer water or eddies to the sides of the tongues he calls "tonsils". With that we scrambled down the bank to the water.

A typical stretch of the river
Erik immediately went into guide mode. He began pointing out water that held fish. I got the distinct feeling that he had personally knew those fish! I went to put a Utah Killer Bug on my tippet and he began teaching me how to be more efficient at tenkara. Erik has a blazingly fast way of tying a fly to his tippet: he uses the Davy knot. I have used the Davy knot before, but not like Erik. In two quick motions the fly is on the tippet. I recorded him teaching me how it is done -- you can see it on the video at the end of this entry.

Erik instructing on how to cast into very tight quarters with a 13 foot rod......

.....choke up on the handle and loop the rod tip towards that 6 inch wide target

Well, once the fly was on he had me systematically work the water. After only a few minutes I had hooked two fish, both browns -- one to hand, the other long line released -- not bad for the first 15 feet of river. From here on up the stream we crawled over large rocks, under low hanging trees, waded fairly deep pools all in quest of skittish mountain trout. As I cast he instructed. This was exactly what I wanted in a tenkara trip. He was excellent in his guide persona; it was like fishing with a good friend. He pointed out where and how I should cast. He was patient with me as I hooked a bazillion tree branches and lost a whole lot of flies. He helped me in every facet of this "full contact" fishing experience. I caught over a dozen browns as we worked our way up the creek, but it was the instruction that I really enjoyed. BTW, most of the trout were caught on the amazing Utah Killer Bug. A few others took the Purple Haze kebari.

Netting one of the browns

We had started about 1000, but at 1500 hours we stopped for lunch. I was beat, needless to say. I had not fished commando-style for many a year and I was feeling it. But I was also having the time of my life! As Erik got out his backpacking stove to heat up some delicious Chinese food I wandered down to the river. I cast a Purple Haze into some "froggy water" and within seconds had hooked another fish, this time a 10" rainbow.

Another American Fork brown

After the quick, but satisfying lunch we packed up and headed for the lower Provo River. The weather had began its forecasted change to cloudy skies and some breeze. We geared up again and walked to a stretch of the river were Erik thought there may be some risers. He was right. In a calmer section of this larger river there were some trout sipping on midges. We slowly and painstakingly waded towards them and then, one by one, took them on either a CDC midge dry or on a small dark kebari dropper. It was a blast! It was the type of fishing where you see a trout rise, you cast (as only tenkara can do) with precision and a feather light landing 2 feet in front of the fish and -- WHAM! -- fish on! It was great! What a excellent trip, what a fantastic day. We would have fished until dark, but I had to meet my parents so we wrapped it up at about 1830 hours.

Lower Provo River: The master contemplating what fly to use next
A Provo River brown that took the Utah Killer Bug
Slower water on the Provo means midging fish

Conclusion: I highly recommend Tenkara Guides LLC and especially ERiK. I give him an enthusiastic two thumbs up!  Five stars!! You get the point. I did not get a chance to meet Rob or John, but if they are anything like Erik then this a world class guide service. If you want to learn about tenkara, or learn more about tenkara, then I would recommend you contact them for a half or full day guided trip to some of the Wastach Front's excellent waters. You will not be disappointed! I plan on rebooking with them soon. I have so much more to learn!

Addendum: I was not able to get video of most of the fish that I hooked and landed. I was too busy having fun to notice that my camera wasn't running! Oh well, I did record a few with the GoPro. I also recorded Erik teaching, as he does so well. Once again, you may want to view it in YouTube. 


  1. I fished the lower Provo with ERiK over Christmas - I had a great time despite only hooking one fish - ERiK landed one demonstrating czech nymphing with tenkara. My very next trip I was able to incorporate the techniques he taught me and landed several nice fish from the Weber river on a czech nymph rig and a nice sized brown on the lower Provo.
    Tenkara Guides is a terrific outfit and the tips and tricks - knots, line storage, flies have made my fishing trips more efficient so I can focus more on enjoying the fishing.

    1. I'm glad to see you had a wonderful experience with them as well!