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It’s Time for ICAST 2018

It’s the second week of July. ICAST 2018 is here, and Temple Fork Outfitters will be among the vendors at the world’s largest sportfishing tradeshow.

TFO has participated in ICAST since the 1990s, an annual event the company looks forward to every summer.

“ICAST is an opportunity for TFO to identify industry trends, to evaluate response to our new offerings and to socialize with our many dealer and industry friends,” TFO Chairman Rick Pope said. “We expect to leave the show with clearer expectations for TFO business through 2019. This is the 24th year that TFO has participated in ICAST, and each year we’ve welcomed the opportunity to showcase our products and meet with our distributors and customers.”

The four-day, Orlando, Fla. affair allows companies in the fishing industry to personalize their products while meeting a wide-range of anglers, from those who design the gear to those who run the companies. All share the same passion for the outdoors.

“While it’s true that ICAST is the perfect annual opportunity to spend time with old friends and business partners, as well as to cement new relationships, for me there’s nothing better than meeting folks attending for the first time,” TFO CEO Frank-Paul King said. “The combination of joy and bewilderment they feel is the perfect chance to talk about the size and breadth of the fishing industry and the role we all play in ensuring great fisheries for generations to come.”

Feel free to stop by the TFO booth. You can try out rods and talk to members of our advisory staff.

Our hottest new product is the Axiom II Switch rod, which recently was recognized as the best new product in the fly rod category at the EFTTEX (European Fishing Tackle Trade Exhibition) show earlier this summer in Amsterdam. The AII casts like a dream. Try it for yourself at the ICAST casting pond!

Other new TFO products worth a look ae the Pro II two-handed series, the Finesse Trout Glass fly rods, the Bluewater SG fly rods, the Seahunter spinning/casting series and the TFO Inshore spinning/casting series. TFO advisors Wanda Taylor, Ed Jaworowski, Jake Jordan and Rob Fordyce helped design a few of these products. Other TFO advisory staff expected to stop by ICAST are Flip Pallot, Bob Clouser, Larry Dahlberg, Nick Curcione, Rod Harrison, Gary Loomis, Cliff Pace, Gary Dubiel and Blane Chocklett.

All are scheduled to be at the TFO booth and available to provide additional information and insight on TFO products.

How to Use the Inverted Loop Cast for Those Heavy Flies

Editor’s Note: This is a story by TFO Advisor Bob Clouser. It was first published in the 2014-15 edition of the Loop Newsletter. To see Bob’s story in its original form as well as gather a wealth of other fly-casting info, you can access the Journal of Fly Casting Professionals at the Fly Fishers International website by clicking on the following link: https://www.flyfishersinternational.org/Casting/TheLoopNewsletter/tabid/208/Default.aspx

 

You don’t need to throw a wide loop when fishing weighted flies and lines. In fact, you’re more efficient if you don’t. Lefty Kreh and I developed a casting stroke that, when properly executed, delivers weighted flies and lines with a tighter loop and less work.  I call it the Inverted Loop Cast.

Begin the cast after you’ve already retrieved the fly from deeper water, so the line is near the surface of the water.

Step 1

Without breaking your wrist, begin your back cast by rotating your hips and shoulders in the direction of the back cast with the rod traveling to reach a 45-degree angle by the end of the back cast. The line travels below the rod tip to create an inverted loop. After your hand passes your left shoulder, speed up and stop the rod to send the weighted line and fly rearward. The inverted loop will unroll and send the weighted fly in an upward trajectory at the end of the back cast (instead of the downward direction with the standard cast).

Step 2

Without pausing, elevate the angle of the rod from 45 degrees to approximately 60-75 degrees (closer to upright/vertical) without lifting your hand or elbow. This keeps constant tension on the line and avoids shocking the line when you begin the forward cast.

Step 3

As the casting hand changes the rod angle to 90 degrees, simultaneously begin rotating your body for the forward cast. Once the casting hand and shoulder passes the plane of the opposing shoulder, accelerate and stop the tip of the rod in the direction of the target to complete the cast.

Remember to apply constant tension on the rod through the entire cast. It is almost like pulling the weighted line and fly through the entire back and forward casting motion. Don’t pause between the back and forward cast; merely change the plane of the rod from 45 degrees to 90 degrees as the body begins forward rotation. For better accuracy, pull the line directly away from the target on the back cast before speeding up and stopping the rod.

Tips for Casting Weighted Lines and Flies

  • Learning how to fish with weighted flies and lines will improve your catch rate for sure.
  • Keep constant tension on the fly rod through the entire casting stroke.
  • Use your body. Bring your casting-hand shoulder back with the motion of the back cast. When making the front cast, bring the casting shoulder forward until it passes the non-casting shoulder. Then apply the same forward speed-up-and-stop by pushing the palm of the hand forward. This kind of like throwing a dart, baseball, or hitting a golf ball. Use no-up-and-down wrist movement.

Very important, never use the wrist and arm where it moves in an up and downward motion.

Step 1
Step 2
Step 3

 

The Complete Cast Can Help You Become a More Complete Angler

It’s late June and getting warmer by the day, so the fishing in the North Carolina mountains has slowed to a trickle. Recent rains have filled the lakes to the brim, so our tailwater rivers are running full bore; and the mountain streams, while bulging, are a bit too warm for trout.

I frequently use this type of downtime to work on a particular angling skill, usually either fly tying or casting. I recently chose the latter.

It didn’t take me long to find quality instruction. TFO offers The Complete Cast, a three-and-a-half hour DVD that covers all aspects of fly casting. TFO advisors Lefty Kreh and Ed Jaworowski are the instructors.

TFO, unfortunately, because of Lefty’s passing, has sold out of the DVD; however the digital version is available on Vimeo, which was perfect for me since I didn’t want to wait to order by mail. I grabbed a credit card and $39.95 later, I was immersed in one of my happy places, fly-casting geekdom.

I love fly casting. I can cast in the yard for hours and not get bored. Sometimes, Waylon, my young English Cocker Spaniel, will watch from the hill above our house. He’s as loyal as any dog I’ve owned, but even he can only take about 45 minutes of back casts, reach casts and curve casts before fleeing for the front door.

During my nearly 30 years of fly fishing, I’ve taken casting lessons from some of the best in the business: Joe Bressler at the Western Rivers (Orvis) Guide School; Bob Cramer of Mossy Creek (Va.) Fly Shop; Enver Hysni of Tampa Bay on the Fly; Mac Brown of Bryson City, N.C.; Henry Williamson of Brookings Anglers in Cashiers, N.C.; Billy Kingsley of the Blue Ridge Angler in Harrisonburg, Va.; and Dayle Mazzarella of Tampa’s Plant High School among others.

If there’s a fly-casting video in existence, I’ve probably seen it. Years ago, I used to watch Lefty, Mel Krieger, Billy Pate, Joan Wulff and Jack Dennis. When YouTube was born, I turned to Bill Higashi, Steve Rajeff and Davin Ebanks aka Mr. Windknot.

Suffice it to say, I’ve seen just about every shred of info there is when it comes to fly casting. Still, it was not enough.

I can now add The Complete Cast to my vast fly-casting/fly-fishing library.

Here are my thoughts. Keep in mind this DVD is nearly four hours long, so there is no earthly way to summarize the content in a single blog post. That said, here goes:

  • The Complete Cast is comprehensive. It covers freshwater and saltwater casting with in-depth instruction from two voices. Don’t expect to grab a beer after work and knock it out before dinner. Cherry picking the best parts or the parts you think apply directly to you probably won’t work, either, because you need to see the entire DVD to comprehend an overview of the concepts. It’s best to see the forest first, then the trees. My advice: Watch it in sections of an hour or so.
  • Lefty is a fine caster, a great fisherman and a phenomenal teacher. There are a handful of folks who have a good grasp of fly casting, but Lefty separates himself from the pack with his communication skills and analogies. Both Jaworowski and Lefty are big on sports references. Lefty often uses baseball comparisons. Jaworowski uses golf to get his point across. Both are spot on.
  • There are no absolutes. Obviously, the fundamentals of fly casting are pretty rock solid, but one of the themes in the DVD is that the angler’s objective and how the principles of fly casting are applied often hinge on the fishing situation. For instance, we all want distance, but how much is enough? That, of course, depends. If you’re in your yard trying to impress your spouse, 80 feet might work, but if you’re fishing for bones in the Florida Keys against a nasty headwind, 30 feet might just be the ticket.
  • It pays to have a firm grasp of the obvious. I, for one, could never really master a good steeple cast or a roll cast. With the steeple cast, you have to point your rod and hand toward the sky as if you’re casting the fly (with a forward cast) toward the heavens. I did the reverse (using a back cast) for years. On the roll cast, I usually pulled the rod downward instead of forward. Actually, I give myself partial credit for figuring the roll cast out before watching the DVD. The info merely confirmed my flaws.
  • Practice makes perfect. Featured are drills for loop control and accuracy. Casting through a hula hoop develops loop control; casting toward a hula hoop on the ground, by contrast, helps with accuracy. To up the ante, Lefty is shown casting toward a mousetrap.

 

The Complete Cast is a good DVD with a ton of quality information. It doesn’t matter if you fish for brook trout or bonefish, there’s something for every fly fisherman, from the beginner to the expert. To purchase digitally, go to Vimeo’s website: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/thecompletecast/

And, as always, let us know what you think with a comment on one of our social media pages.

A Primer on TFO Rods: What Makes Us Different

Editor’s Note: TFO Bass Category Manager Collins Illich discusses TFO rods and a little bit about what we do and how we do it. Enjoy. …

Talking fishing rods should be fun. Sadly, we all get caught up in industry jargon and techno-babble that can be at best, confusing and, more likely, misleading. TFO wants it to be fun and easy for our anglers.  When we talk rods, we want our anglers to understand why the rod was made. Keeping it fun means we don’t spend a lot of time talking about the modulus of the material, flag patterns, resins or mandrels.  What we do talk about is what a rod does. We want our anglers to be armed with the correct tool for the specific job.

If you want to talk about the specs of an individual rod or why it was made the way it is made, our support staff in Dallas is always around to help. But, you won’t see this information in our catalogs or on our website. What you will see is why a rod was made the way it is.

TFO has unique capabilities based on having their own factory. It provides TFO the opportunity to work with materials our designers demand, control quality and consistency and to experiment with cutting- edge materials before they hit the market.

TFO has had the same factory from inception. It has made all our rods for our 21 years in the industry. Industry icons and TFO designers Gary Loomis and the late Lefty Kreh both acknowledged that our engineer, B.J. Im, is “the finest rod engineer they ever worked with.” B.J.’s production and design oversight is crucial to our success. Working closely with TFO’s worldwide design team, B.J. oversees daily operations, controls and most exciting, development.

Consistency from our factory means defects are minimized. Every rod is loaded and specs are confirmed before it is prepped for delivery. The few defects that make it down our production line are tossed and don’t get into our anglers’ hands.

Consistency is everything when it comes to warranty, too. Damaged rods are turned around within 48 hours. Our team inspects every section, replaces damaged sections and finally assembles the entire rod and puts it under load.  Each rod is thoroughly tested and inspected before being boxed up and shipped out.  Ferrules are ground to 1/10,000 of-an-inch tolerances. That consistency allows for a simple swap of a damaged section with a new one.

TFO is already gearing up for ICAST in July and the 2019 consumer show circuit. Check our schedule online or follow us on Facebook for updates. Drop by one of our shows or better yet, drop in on one of our dealers to check out the lineup. Our gear line covers everything from ultra-light trout to 50-pound class with bass, walleye and inshore in between. TFO’s fly lineup has the right tool for you, from bluegill to tuna.

Want to know more about our rods or have a question, then let us know with a comment on below or on one of our social media pages.

A Few Father’s Day Gift Ideas from TFO

Father’s Day is almost here. Temple Fork Outfitters has you covered when it comes to gifts for dad —- rods, reels and accessories that are sure to make him smile on his special day. See below for a handful of options.

Bug Launcher

Suggested retail: $89.95-$159.95

This is the perfect starter rod for father and son. It’s light (3 ounces) and relatively short — it comes in lengths of 7 and 8 feet — so it’s great for short casts for pond fishing or to stay out of the tree limbs on small trout streams. Comes in a candy-apple red hue in weights 4-6. Cork grip is downsized for smaller hands. The NXT LA reel is the perfect companion to this little rod and reasonably priced at $79.95.

NXT Kit

Suggested retail: $199.95-$209.95

The perfect rod-and-reel setup for the novice adult angler, but it can also serve as a backup rod for the veteran angler. This outfit comes with fly line and leader, so you’re ready to hit the water instantly. The NXT Kit comes with an NXT LA reel spooled with weight-forward line, backing and leader. The rod case is a bonus, making it easier to store and travel.

Axiom II

Suggested retail: $339.95-$359.95

Arguably one of the best fly rods that TFO has made. What sets it apart is its versatility and the ability to accommodate a broad range of casting strokes and styles. Usually the angler has to adjust to the rod. Not so with the Axiom II. It tracks well with a nice feel. But fishing is more than just casting, and the A2 delivers with a degree of sturdiness that can withstand the pull of the fiercest fish. As for a reel, there’s no better option for dad than TFO’s Power ($399.95-$499.95) reel, a good-light weight, durable complement to this fine rod.

BVK

Suggested retail: $249.95-$295.95

Designed by the late Lefty Kreh and Flip Pallot, the BVK is light weight, but offers loads of power and strength. Both of TFO’s Advisors got it right in this TFO classic, which features a slick of olive finish and carbon-fiber reel seats. If you need a reel to go with this rod, look no further than the aptly named BVK reel. It’s machined aluminum, highly ported and has a stainless steel drag system, all for a good value ($159.95-$299.95).

New Zealand Strike Indicator Kit

Suggested retail: $16.95

Tis the time for nymph fishing in the heat of summer when the trout are stacked in the riffles. In this situation, you’ll want a strike indicator that rides high in the foam. And the New Zealand Strike Indicator fits that need. It’s easy to rig, adjust and it’s light enough to cast efficiently. And most important, it stays on the leader securely.

These are just a few items that TFO offers for dad. Any suggestions or questions, let us know.

TFO Helps Set the Pace at Texas Fest

A few days after his finishing up the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest, TFO advisor Cliff Pace took inventory of his performance.

Third place isn’t too bad. Not at all.

“Any time you give yourself an opportunity to win on our level, (it’s good),” Pace said. “I did that. I just came up a little short in total weight. All in all, it was a good week to finish third and get the big fish of the weekend. That was a neat deal. Given that, it’s hard to complain, but yes, you do always want to win. Third is better than fourth.”

It was Pace’s first top-three Bassmaster finish since 2013.  He will head to his next tournament with an extra $30,000 and a new Toyota Tundra after landing the event’s biggest bass during the May 17-20 affair.

“Momentum creates confidence, and confidence is good in anything from a competitive aspect,” Pace said.

Pace totaled 61 pounds, 12 ounces, trailing only Drew Benton (67 pounds, 15 ounces) and Jacob Wheeler (64 pounds, 8 ounces).

The key to his success? Versatility.

“I fished smarter,” Pace said. “I have multiple different patterns that will work, depending on the weather scenarios. You see a lot of guys who will have a really good day and then a really bad day. I had enough different things going on where I could be consistent each day. A lot of guys will catch fifteen pounds one day, then eight the next. I was able to stay in the teens every day. Over four days, you add up the numbers and it etches you up the list. A lot of guys they had the deep pattern going, then we had the overcast skies, and they weren’t as successful. I had enough things going on with the event to make it work with the changing conditions.”

Pace’s biggest bass weighed 10 pounds, 5 ounces. He caught it using a TFO Pacemaker 747 with a Carolina rig and a Drop Shad in about 25 feet of water. He boated it within the first 10 minutes of fishing on the first morning.

“What it does is it gives you confidence in what you’re doing,” Pace said. “It makes you believe what you’re doing is the right thing, so I could settle down and fish and fish more effectively and efficiently. That’s what you want to do — find the right thing. But if you settle on the wrong thing, there’s danger in that. Catching a big one like that gives you faith in the area of the lake that you’re fishing.”

Lake Travis, located near Austin, is known for its water clarity and its stout population of bucket-mouth bruisers.

“That lake has a lot of big fish in it,” Pace said. “There were four fish over eight pounds in the tournament.”

Next up for Pace is the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Elite in Orange, Texas on June 7-10, as he tries maintain momentum for the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year honors. He currently stands in second behind Brent Chapman

“To win that would be a very big deal,” Pace said. “It’s something I’ve worked for my whole career. I’ve gotten close a couple times. I’ve never been able to pull off winning it. It’s a little too early in the year to be thinking about it. I’ve gotten off to a very good start. It definitely feels good to be in position the rest of the year.”

Check out the TFO blog for more info as we follow Cliff on the Bassmaster circuit.

The Predicament of Buying the Right Fly Line

So you want to buy a fly line. Should be a snap, right?

Not exactly. Not anymore.

When I bought my first fly rod in the late 1980s, I found an affordable weight-forward, 5-weight fly line, bought it and began fishing. I didn’t know how to cast or even how to fly fish, but the setup worked just fine.

Those days are long gone. Fly lines are heavier than ever, and a 5-weight line is no longer a true 5-weight line, more like a 5.5, or even heavier.

Forgive me for the technical explanation that’s about to follow, but background is needed for proper context. Historically, fly lines have been measured by grain weight (otherwise known as grainage) in the first 30 feet of line. An 8-weight is supposed to weigh in the neighborhood of 210 grains, a 9-weight 230 and so on.

The system was developed by the late Myron Gregory, an ardent pistol shooter and competitive fly caster, who decided in the late 1950s, early 1960s that fly lines needed a reliable, standardized system of measurement.

Prior to Gregory’s work, fly lines were designated by letters, apparently with little rhyme or reason. Consumer chaos ensued because aspiring anglers had little idea what they were buying. Nearly 60 years later, chaos rules once again.

I looked at 8-weight lines from four different fly line companies — Scientific Anglers, Orvis, Rio and Cortland. Lines were consistently one weight higher than Gregory’s standard, which is used by the American Fly Fishing Trade Association, known as AFFTA. Sometimes weights were right on the money. Sometimes they were two lines too heavy, meaning an 8-weight was closer to a 10.

Huh?

“We don’t know what anything is anymore,” TFO advisor Flip Pallot said. “If you go into a shop to buy a fly line, one thing you can be sure of is it’s going to be much, much heavier in grain weight than what a 7-weight line should be, according to the adopted (grain-weight) system. That’s where we stand again. We got so smart that we completely got ourselves lost in the woods again.”

Full disclosure: Flip told me about this issue a few weeks ago. I thought he might be exaggerating. He wasn’t. So I reached out to others in the industry.

“It’s horrible,” TFO chairman Rick Pope said. “And it’s getting worse, not better.”

And fly shop owners have noticed the trend as well.

“What happened was the line companies didn’t say this line is really an 8.5,” said Vaughn Cochran, a former Keys guide who owns the Blackfly Lodge in the Bahamas and Blackfly Outfitters in Jacksonville Beach, Fla.

Flip Pallot throws a nice loop. Photo courtesy of Flip Pallot.

Why fly-line makers strayed from the accepted standard likely stems from a number of reasons. Opinions vary, but many in the industry agree that rods got faster. Novices and inexperienced anglers didn’t have the skill to cast the quicker sticks. To compensate, newcomers bought lines that were one size heavier than the recommended size. Soon after line makers started doing it for them.

“My answer: The industry was trying to make it easier to fish,” TFO Bass Category Manager Collins Illich said.

Others are a bit more blunt as to what happened and why.

“Somebody needs to take responsibility,” Pallot said. “We had a perfect situation. We shouldn’t design things for goons; we should design things the way they should be. Goons should be able to aspire to use it. If they choose to put a 10-weight line on an 8-weight rod, that’s their decision. They can do that. But you should be able to go into the store and buy and 8-weight rod and line. You can’t do that.

“Someone has to step up. Either rod manufacturers have to build rods that conform to the traditional, established grain weight scale…or… line designations and grain weights need to be readjusted (and standardized) according to current, higher performing rods. In a perfect world, both of the above would take place. The industry OWES THIS TO THE CONSUMER and to itself.”

So what’s a consumer to do? Shop around.

“It’s really important and you want to test it on the rod that you’re going to use,” Cochran said. “It’s kind of like when you used to go buy a shirt, you buy a large. Now you buy a shirt and large is not always the same as a large in another company.  There’s no consistency. You have to try on a couple shirts to get the right size. If you want to find the right fly line, you have to put it on your rod and try it.”

There’s only one flaw with the trial-and-error method. The wrong tool often gets the blame.

“It’s more difficult for the rod maker, when everyone questions the rod, but not the line,” Pope said. “No one really knows what the line weighs. We have 8-weights that range from 210 grains to as much as 350 grains. The difference in an 8-weight lines is totally random. The 8-weight rod maker like us struggles. Everyone questions the rod first, not the line.”

Interestingly, Pope says anglers who use two-handed rods are the opposite. They often will evaluate the line first. Each two-handed TFO rod, it should be noted, lists grain-windows for the appropriate line weight. Traditional fly rods only list suggested line weights.

Should one-handed rods list a grain window for anglers to match the ideal fly line? If it were only that easy. The truth is there is no easy answer to this predicament.

“It’s like in golf,” Pope said. “A 6-iron used to be for 165 yards; now people hit it 190 yards. Did the clubs change or the ball change? I’m not sure who’s chasing who. The reality is it’s the industry’s fault.”

A Tip of the Hat to Anglers and Their Mothers

When the issue of women in fishing is brought up, the name Joan Wulff usually springs to mind. After all, she’s one of the premier fly casters and anglers — male or female — in the world, but here’s the thing that many of us gloss over when pondering women in fishing.

Every angler — male or female – has a mother who had a hand in raising them. So with Mother’s Day less than a week away, we decided to dedicate a blog post to mom. I asked a handful of TFO staffers and advisors to contribute a memory or two of mother.

Any memories of mom you’d like to share, please let us know. Enjoy.


Rick Pope, TFO Chairman
:

“My mother, Bettie, turns 86 on May 26. (She) is still active on the family ranch in the Texas Hill Country northwest of Austin. The first (main) photo is of her mother, Joyce and my daughter, Callan. Mom is on the right. The second (below) is of her with a rattler she shot a couple of weeks ago.  She hates rattle snakes and pigs – shoots both with a vengeance. She is the best mother in the world and that fact has been confirmed by the many members of our TFO family who have met her.”

Not a good day to be a Rattler in Texas. Photo courtesy of Rick Pope


Captain Jake Jordan, TFO Advisor 

“This picture (below) is of my mother, Ann Jordan, and I at her 100th birthday party. She was healthy until late in 2012 and passed away at 102. Mom lived with me for the last six years of her life, which were the best six years of my life. Mom ran a marina in Somers Point, N.J. with my dad from 1950 until 1975 when they sold the marina and retired. She was the sweetest, kindest person that I ever knew, I miss her terribly, and think of her every day, I was truly blessed to have her as my Mother. Happy Mother’s Day, I love you.”

Jake Jordan and his mom celebrate. Photo courtesy of Jake Jordan


Wanda Taylor
,
 TFO Advisor

My mom has always been my inspiration. She put herself through school while raising me and my sis. Rode her own Harley. Received her pilot’s license at (age) 50. Won senior women marathons in three countries. Is a great golfer and fly angler. Most of all she is an elegant woman of faith, love and courage. She is the matriarch of Hairville. When I grow up, I aspire to be her. Gigi Hair Reyes, my mother of the year!”

Wanda and her mom on the flats. Photo courtesy of Wanda Taylor


Collins Illich, Vice President/Bass Category Manager of TFO

“This is an epic Mother’s Day fishing story. In 1994, I was a freshman in high school and my parents had recognized that I was really, really serious about this fishing stuff. I did a bunch of work around the house, and in exchange my mom was going to buy me my first real fly rod, an Orvis 5-weight two-piece. She’s picking me up from school. I’ve always been a terrible student. I love to read. I’m intellectually curious, but I’m a (lousy) student. I was bored in class. My bother is a PHD, JD. My sister’s a judge. I’m the black sheep. My mom being a teacher, (my parents) did a lot of things to really encourage my education. Not succeeding is all my fault, but she’s picking me up from school and taking me to the Orvis store to pick up a fly rod I’ve been casting for like three, four weeks. I had been trying to decide between three or four of them. It’s all predicated on my finishing a reading-comprehension test. Once I get finished with that test, I get to go. The test, believe it or not, only took about three minutes. I called my mom. I got to go. I got to buy my first fly rod. And I got like a 35 on the test. (Laughing), it was the worst plan ever to get me to take school seriously. I spent zero time on the test. I think it’s an awesome story. The results of the test came post-rod purchase. I called her and reminded her about the story (the other day). As a sweet retired school teacher would, she asked if I still had the rod. No, I gave that rod away a few years ago. Thank you for encouraging what was really important to me, mom.”

Collins with his mom, the school teacher. Photo courtesy of Collins Illich

Out of the Stands and Into the Arena: A TFO Angler Steps Up at Spey-O-Rama

After nearly a half dozen years of watching and wondering. Nicholas Conklin went from spectator to participant.

Motivated by his inner athlete and words of wisdom from Mick Jagger, TFO’s director of sales for two-handed fly fishing hopped a plane to San Francisco, plucked down his $100 entry fee and competed in the Jimmy Green Spey-O-Rama, otherwise known as the World Championship of Spey Casting.

A thirst for competition and a passion for casting were quenched.

“I really love two-handed rods,” said Conklin, who listened to the Rolling Stones album, Beggars Banquet, on his headphones during the competition. “I like the science behind it. It’s an awful lot of fun. Second, I thought it would be good exposure for TFO. When I go up to cast, they obviously have a little bio for everyone. It was good exposure for TFO, and I realized I could do this. I played enough sports in college and high school I could figure this out. I kind of missed the competition, the excitement and nervousness before doing something. I figured I could do it and I’ll learn a lot doing it. It’s a good way to meet a lot of folks — from Ireland, Sweden, and that will only help my growth in the fishing industry, and on the other side, that will only help the awareness of TFO. There were a lot of benefits to doing it and trying it.”

Turns out, Conklin, 29, fared well, given that he had only invested a week or so of serious practice prior to the weekend event held at the Golden Gate Angling & Casting Club in late April. The former lacrosse player from the Central Michigan University finished 34th among the 41 entered in the open men’s division, a group considered the best of the best in spey casting.

Competitors were required to make two casts — the snake and single – from the right and left shoulder. Conklin totaled 520 feet, and needless to say, accomplished his primary goal.

“I didn’t have high expectations,” he said. “I just wanted to get out and do it. This was the sixth year I’ve gone to it as an exhibitor. I’ve always been talking about it and thinking about it, but it’s one of those things where if you don’t just get out and do it, you probably never will. I was very happy with that finish. I know it doesn’t sound like an impressive number. I just told myself that I would go out and give it a shot. Afterwards, I don’t know how many people told me, ‘I’d never have the guts to do that, or I thought about that, but I get too nervous.’ It was great. It was fun. I had my headphones on. I was out there casting and people were cheering. Everyone you compete against was incredibly nice and willing to share information and help. It promotes and helps the sport.”

Even though Conklin maintained realistic goals, the financial commitment to even compete in the Spey-O-Rama is rather formidable.

“It’s fairly cost prohibitive,” Conklin said. “Competition style spey rods run anywhere from fifteen-hundred bucks to two, three-thousand dollars. Your lines and heads cost a couple hundred bucks. Reels cost (a couple hundred). That’s the unfortunate part. Everything’s pretty expensive, so it keeps some people away from it. (The sport’s) growing at such a rate hopefully that’s changing a little bit.”

Cost and commitment aside, Conklin insists he will be return to compete in the 2019 Spey Championships.

“Absolutely. I will be back,” Conklin said. “My goal is to qualify in the top 10. I was only 108 feet away. I know I can make that up in a year.”

Casting farther, he said, stems from execution of the fundamentals, which, of course, is easier said than done, particularly under pressure.

“I spend most of the time at (fly-fishing) shows with a two-handed rod or spey rod,” Conklin said. “You tell people it’s just a long lever,” Conklin said. “It’s supposed to make casting and moving line more efficient. But then when I got out there (at the Spey O-Rama), I started to muscle it and put a lot of power behind it, right? I’m big, strong, tall guy and I’ll just muscle this. Nope. It’s something that I tell people, but it’s different when you have to go out and force yourself to remember it, to remember the basics.”

Conklin, from Dallas, will be one of the instructors at the Sandy River Spey Clave May 18-20 at Oxbow Park in Sandy River, Oregon. The festive affair brings together some of the top spey instructors along with a number of vendors. TFO will have a booth. Make sure to stop by to see Nick.

Another Perspective on Lefty by Rick Pope

I met Lefty Kreh back in the mid-80s on a hosted trip to Turneff Island in Belize to learn more about bonefish and fly fishing in saltwater. Flip Pallot and Mark Sosin joined us in a week of the absolute worst bonefishing trip ever — but one that I’ll never forget.  I met Flip first – as Lefty suggested Flip as a guide on my first trip to Florida in the early ‘80s. Like all who met Lefty, he was and has been a friend since.

A career change and my entry into the fishing business in 1995 meant that I would see much more of Lefty and, like all of us, I clung to every piece of fishing advice that he so generously dispensed. He honored me with acclaim for TFO’s entry into rods that were “affordable” – as he lived a frugal life and he believed affordability would allow more folks to enjoy the sport.

Our friendship grew along with our opportunities to spend time together at various fly-fishing events around the country. Lefty’s personality, people skills, humility and candor began to impress me even more than his casting skills.  His interest in TFO’s affordable concept also grew, and ultimately, I decided to write him a letter and beg him to join us and help design our rods. That was in late 2002. Unfortunately, he suffered a “minor” stroke just before Thanksgiving, so I delayed my pitch. Then between Christmas and New Year’s Day, he suffered his first heart attack. Not wanting to add to his stress so again, I delayed.

I got a report in mid-January where Lefty performed at the Denver ISE show that he was in fine form. He even shared with everyone the story of both the stroke and heart attack.  So I sent the letter. He replied with a phone call “I can’t say yes, but I’m not ready to say no. Can we talk about this for a while?” What was essentially an interview with Lefty lasted almost a month and consisted of much more than rod design and concept discussions. Life stories, family, relationships and business philosophy dominated the many conversations we had. Not one mention of money was made. Ultimately, he called me in late February and confirmed that he made the decision to leave his rod company of 20 years and would enjoy helping us with rod design. The press release was written February 25, 2003 – the day before his 78th birthday – and TFO’s business world changed dramatically.

By that point, we had established a good consumer following – although many dealers and certain rod companies threw stones at us for being Korean made and “too cheap.” I even had advice, or a threat, from one dealer that we needed to raise our price, that the rods are too good for their price. Even more upsetting were the complaints levied against Lefty for working with a cheap rod importer.  Our exclusive Korean factory was (and still is) owned by a brilliant engineer who both Lefty and even Gary Loomis claimed is one of the best they’ve ever worked with.

With the benefit of hindsight, splitting design from engineering proved to be very beneficial. Lefty could see transition issues in a rod by analyzing loop and shock wave issues in the fly line.  He could quite accurately predict where within the blank such issues exist – and how much line weight or fly resistance caused them to appear. To this day, I’ve never seen another with such an intuitive understanding of rod dynamics.

His first trip to Dallas was in March of 2003 and involved three days of evaluating every rod we had while we took detailed notes on action, performance, power and finish out. Changes and modifications were made while he took over the design of our prototype TICR series that, after six different 8-weight prototypes, we were able to introduce the family at IFTD in September.

Lefty proved to be more than the “pied piper” with consumers following him as he would call and ask, “Do you know Ed Jaworowski … then Nick Curcione, then Bob Clouser, Jake Jordan and Flip Pallot? They might be interested in working with us and each has excellent insight into rod design.” Through the 15 years and one month Lefty worked with us, we prototyped over 2,000 rods and he gladly accepted final responsibility for every one we’ve introduced. We became a true family, with epic sales meetings, dinners, stories and jokes – all because of Lefty.

Our incredible family of Advisory Staff members – four of whom are inductees into the IGFA Hall of Fame – have ideas and solutions to enhance rod performance and fishing enjoyment. Lefty always enjoyed the group discussions whether small or all inclusive. From talking knots with Cliff Pace and Larry Dahlberg to rod design with Flip Pallot and Gary Loomis to casting with Ed Jaworowski, he learned, taught and made us all better people. Ed, as one of his closest friends, convinced him to join us on an epic three-year production of The Complete Cast DVD set and watching its evolution remains as one of my life’s highlights.

He loved women and always seemed to pick one out of the crowd when on stage while claiming he could “teach any woman he wasn’t going with or married to” how to fly cast unlike “hardheaded guys who don’t listen well.” Lefty even coached a Catholic girls’ basketball team for a while after his return from WWII.  He always claimed, however, that his greatest catch was Evelyn – his wife and best friend for 65 years. Ev Kreh passed away November 25, 2011 after several years of declining health that caused Lefty to limit the length of his travels as he didn’t want to be away from her for more than two nights. With her passing, he came to Dallas the following weekend for an event with our major dealer, and we met a couple with a lodge on Ascension Bay that offered great permit fishing. We booked for the spring of 2012 and I caught my first (and only) two permit the same day with Lefty as my boat partner. After that, we always kept a couple of trips planned and enjoyed many until his health and lack of stamina began to slow him down.

Over the past few years, I came to realize that Lefty was much more than one of the best fly casters, teachers and rod designers in the world. His humility, people skills, passion and insights proved to be incredibly valuable to me as well as all who were fortunate enough to know him well. I regret that I never begged him to write the Lessons on Life book. I was blessed to work with him for the past 15 years and I pledge that his teachings on life will eternally remain part of our corporate ethic as his rod design influence will continue to exist in every TFO rod we make. May he rest in peace.