Trusted By Experts: Keani Taketa

Staying Grounded

There's a poetic irony in the notion that one might feel most grounded while surrounded by water, a beautiful contradiction that holds true for Montana-based fly fishing guide Keani Taketa. If you had asked nine-year-old Keani if she envisioned herself guiding people down rivers, captaining her boat, and teaching the art of fly fishing, she might have dismissed the idea. But today, she can hardly imagine life unfolding any other way.

Raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, Keani has always had a close relationship with water. Her parents’ home sits on a mountainside with a view of the ocean, and her father is a passionate saltwater fisherman. But her own love of fly fishing wasn’t fully realized until her father began bringing her along on his annual fly-fishing trips to Montana and Idaho, exploring the countless trout-abundant rivers of the region.

“...we would have the whole road trip planned out and we would travel from Montana to Idaho visiting friends and guides, and just fly fishing between those two states…it was just like a really great bonding experience with my dad, in a completely different environment, socially, geographically.”

Keani swiftly fell in love not just with the sport but also with the opportunity to disconnect from the external world. She found as much contentment in the serenity of the river and engaging conversations as she did in casting lines and reeling in sizeable trout. At the age of ten, she grasped a crucial fishing lesson earlier than most anglers: the essence of fishing transcends mere catches.

“I really didn't focus on how many fish I could catch today. Or, 'what's the biggest fish that I can have on the line?' Nature was very important, and the rivers were very important to experience. If you're too focused on just catching fish, then I feel like you're kind of doing yourself a disservice. It's much more than that.”

This perspective on fishing and the outdoors birthed a guiding philosophy that has stuck with Keani: there are very few "bad days" on the river, regardless of whether you catch anything or not.

Becoming a Guide

Keani's aspiration to turn fly fishing into a career was sparked by a guide acquainted with her and her father. Recognizing her passion, the guide began to encourage her. Following her stint in the outdoor industry in Yosemite, California, Keani's resolve to make water her daily workplace solidified. She uprooted her life in California and headed to Montana, thirsting for knowledge. Conversing with other guides, outfitters, and shopkeepers, she guided alongside seasoned anglers on multi-boat trips. It marked the humbling yet exhilarating commencement of her journey. Before long, she was steering her own two-client drift boat, carving a niche for herself as a guide in the region.

A Woman at the Helm

Early in her career, Keani realized the impact she had on young girls she guided or encountered on the river. She lights up recounting an interaction with a father who brought his daughter on her maiden fly fishing excursion. "We spotted you out there today, she wants to be just like you."

"…that was really touching for sure…you know, growing up going on these fishing trips, it was always guys. I never saw a woman on the water. So now I'm like, 'I can do so much more than just my job.' And because there's so few female guides, I feel like there is kind of a responsibility or maybe duty that comes with that."

Such moments are becoming more frequent for Keani. Today, she's acutely aware of the positive influence she can have on young women and girls who might not have considered fly fishing a hobby, lifestyle, or potential career. Yet, being a woman, especially a woman of color, comes with unique challenges and assumptions.

“As a female guide, I feel like I’m under a microscope all the time. I feel like it's my duty to work three times harder so I can prove that I can do all the stretches that the guys can do. I can row a 500-pound gear boat on the Smith… like I can do all of the things that these other male guides can do.”

Making Her Mark

At the conclusion of a float, Keani's focus is on offering her clients a holistic outdoor experience. She strives to help them forge enduring memories, develop deeper bonds with nature and with each other — much like the guides did for her and her father during her childhood.

"I wanna be remembered as someone who really worked hard for their clients to have the best day possible… Whether that’s landing a great fish, or providing a great lunch, or showing them a bird they've never seen. And kind of providing that whole holistic experience of fly fishing... just inspiring them to hold onto those experiences…”




Follow Keani's guide journey on Instagram.


Stay out longer and go deeper into the wild below with the Benchmade Water Collection.

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