Best tricks, tips and techniques from an established Tenkara guide in Japan.
With my first season as a Tenkara guide under my belt I thought it would be helpful to share what I have learned. My hope is that at least parts of this post will prove to be informative and helpful - and not just to aspiring guides, but for those who enjoy Tenkara yet earn their bread through more conventional (and most likely more prosperous) lines of work.
This is part three of a three-part article compiled by Isaac Tait, a Tenkara guide living in Japan who also chronicles his adventures in Japan on Fallfish Tenkara. The purpose of this series is to share some of the knowledge he has learned during his first season as a Tenkara fly fishing guide. Be sure to read part one and two beforehand.
Expecting the Unexpected
During the dog days of summer, the hot sun would drive the fish into the deep pools and due to the warming water they would lose interest in feeding. So I found a ‘secret’ swimming hole nearby and would take my clients there to cool off in the afternoon. Many of my summer fishing trips ended with the clients spending a few hours swimming in a mountain stream and cliff diving into the deeper pools.
During the monsoon season a flash flood blew out the river a few hours into a trip with several clients. No one was catching fish in the swollen muddy water so we packed up and went for a hike in the rain, saw some cool waterfalls, and toured a nearby dam. They went home happy, wet, and tired. They also told all their friends about the great trip they had had and I ended up booking another group based upon their recommendation! Not every fishing trip has to end with fishing – this is especially true if you’re guiding a family with younger children. Having a backup plan if the weather doesn’t play nice or your clients lose interest is always a good idea.
Get the Insurance, no matter what.
Last, and certainly not least, I want to discuss a relatively new problem facing many outdoor guides - and that is litigation. It is no secret that we live in a sue-happy culture; 15 million lawsuits were filed in 2013 according to the most recent surveys. Unfortunately, guides are not exempt from our sue-happy culture. Let me clarify a few things first: I have not been sued and I am most certainly not a lawyer. Rather, I am parroting counsel I received from the corporation that has contracted me to guide/instruct Tenkara.
I was advised to write a Threat Analysis (TA) and a Plan of Action (POA). The TA should outline every possible threat that could happen on any given guided trip. Here is a list of example threats to get you started: “Forest fires, floods, wild animal attacks (e.g. bears, snakes, bees), broken bones, hypothermia, heat stroke, heart attacks, drowning, allergic reactions, mudslides, vehicle breakdowns, etc…” Note: Every area and environment is different. This is not a comprehensive list. You should seek your own legal council. I am not a lawyer.
Once you have compiled a TA you need to write a POA listing procedure(s) to be followed for each one of the threats outlined in your TA. It is imperative that all threats be included despite how unlikely it may seem (for example, an individual recently sued a National Park because he got hit on the head by a falling pine cone). Because of a POA you might need to acquire extra equipment like an AED, satellite phone, fire extinguisher, or survival kit to ensure that you can promptly respond to specific environmental or area threats listed in your TA. Simply having a TA and/or POA in your head will not work when you’re staring down your former client’s attorney. The adage “if it isn’t written down, it didn’t happen” is a good one to live by when approaching this issue. You’ll also probably need to get the TA and POA signed by a notary (at the very least). This shows that you were proactive and that you didn’t write it the day before showing up to court.
Another “threat” you should prepare for is the fact that something could happen to you and that your client(s) could suddenly be thrust into a situation that they have no experience or training to deal with. Your TA and POA should be covered during the trailside brief (see part 1). A few examples of the problems you should think through in your POA are: Does your client know where you keep the car keys if they need to go for help? Does your client know how to use the satellite phone? What is your personal emergency contact information?
Writing this information down, laminating it, keeping it current, and putting it somewhere easily accessible is probably a wise move.
Isaac Tait - Fallfish Tenkara
Tenkara Guide & Blogger in Japan