Rods Tenkara

Rocky MTN Tenkara Rio Grande Rod Review

I recently purchased a rod from Rocky MTN Tenkara, a relatively recent tenkara startup. I didn’t know anything about the company or its rods, so I wanted to check them out. The owner is Estevan Montoya. He’s from New Mexico, and started fishing in the streams around Taos. After fishing these streams using various methods, he purchased a tenkara rod. Tenkara became his go to because of how easy it was to tear down between fishing holes. He admits that he is somewhat of a minimalist and likes things simple.

Rocky MTN Tenkara Rio Grande Rod Review - Tom Davis - Tenkara Angler - Estevan Montoya

Based in Albuquerque, NM, Estevan takes many people out fishing. After some of these people fell in love with tenkara, he pointed them towards main line companies to purchase gear. After a while, he decided to have my own rod made. This was the birth of Rocky MTN Tenkara. Estevan says, “This first rod is a flagship model meant to feel the fight of the fish, hence 5:5 action. I named it the Rio Grande (Big River) because the Rio Grande River here in NM always left me skunked. I took my initial prototype one day to the Rio Grande River and killed it. It was like there was a bond between me, the river, and this new rod I was developing. Again, I like simple things, and black and white is as simple as it gets.

Rocky MTN Tenkara Rio Grande Rod Review - Tom Davis - Tenkara Angler - New Mexico


The rod comes in a rod tube, with an included rod sleeve. The rod’s coloration is white. The finish is glossy. There are subtle black accent rings on all the sections, except the top two sections. Also, the rod comes with an extra top two sections.

Rocky MTN Tenkara Rio Grande Rod Review - Tom Davis - Tenkara Angler

The handle is good quality cork. It is 30 cm (11.8”) in length, and has a modified reverse half wells shape.

The tip plug is wood with a rubber plug insert. The insert is fluted. The butt cap is metal, and is substantial. It’s knurled to aid removal and there is an O-ring to prevent loss. There is a faux decompression hole. It’s only cosmetic, as it’s outside of the O-ring, which seals the nested segments off from the hole and it doesn’t communicate with the inside of the handle section. There isn’t a rubber bumper on the post, so the rod does chatter when nested.

The lillian is dark brown, moderately stiff,  and is attached to the tip section via a micro-swivel. The tip section cannot be removed through the second section, as the glue joint is slightly too big. This means the entire rod can’t be disassembled for cleaning and drying. 

My Measurements

  • Nested: 54 cm (21.25”)
  • Extended: 359 cm (11’ 9.75”)
  • Weight (without tip plug): 107 g (3.8 oz)
  • CCS: 30 pennies
  • RFI: 8.4 Fast/Tip Flex


Casting the rod takes some effort. Due to its weight, there is more inertia than is usual for most 360 cm rods. Although the rod is advertised as a 5:5, which is what peaked my interest in the first place, I find the rod casts more like a 7:3. Unlike a typical 5:5 moderate/mid flex rod where the rod easily loads during the casting arc, the Rio Grande doesn’t load as easily. It takes more force to load the rod. I cast the Rio Grande alongside a true 5:5 tenkara rod, and there was a noticeable difference.

At first, I used a #3.5 fluorocarbon level line, and I found that although the rod would cast this line, it took many minutes for me to find the correct rhythm. I then changed to a heavier PVC level line, and the rod responded more favorably. With the #3.5 level line, there was prominent end of cast tip oscillation, but this oscillation was greatly reduced with the PVC line. Rod damping was less than optimal. 


The Rocky MTN Tenkara Rio Grande is a handsome rod that feels robust. I’ve not been a fan of white tenkara rods, but I find this one quite handsome looking. It’s heavy for its length and takes some effort to cast, but this may be due to its robust design. It’s advertised as a 5:5 tenkara rod, but its measurable data, as well as its response in hand, is much more like a fast 7:3. Because of this, a heavier fluorocarbon level line or a PVC line does better on this rod. Also, there is quite a lot of tip oscillation at the end of the casting arc. A PVC line helps dampen this oscillation.

I’m not trying to be hypercritical of the Rio Grande. Instead, I’m just trying to relate to a potential buyer what they might feel when using this rod. I’m sure the Rocky MTN Tenkara Rio Grande would be a fun rod to use in the hands of a novice – it casts well enough to be fishable and it’s robust enough to take some accidental abuse.

Disclaimer: My opinion regarding this rod is just that, my opinion. Your opinion may differ.  Also, your rod may not have the same length, issues, or functionality as my rod. There are variations between rods, even in the same production run. No description can fully tell you how a rod feels or fishes. For this, you must personally hold, cast, and fish the rod, then make up your own mind.  I ordered and purchased this rod from Rocky MTN Tenkara at retail price.

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  1. I’m guessing the white color wouldn’t be an issue against a bright, overcast sky but might be spook-inducing with a blue sky or dense vegetation background. That said, I confess I’ve never factored rod contrast with the expected background into my rod selection criteria. I do steer clear of purchasing rods that have bright, contrasting stripes at the end of each section.

    1. Good point, Gary. I’ve always been skeptical of rods with non-traditional colors, but maybe I should be more lenient. However, I agree about strongly contrasting stripes on the rod sections, that just doesn’t work for me either!

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