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Two-handed Techniques for Fall Salmon, Steelhead

While swinging flies with two-handed rods the typical approach is a consistent, level swing through a long run. Repetitively sweeping the fly across the nose of a salmon or steelhead and pushing them farther back into the tail-out of the pool is usually the best chance to elicit an anger strike.

However, there are times that taking a more active approach, similar to that of stripping streamers, can bring success.

Never more is this the case when fishing around the Great Lakes, where steelhead, salmon and brown trout can tend to hunker down in shorter runs. Due to smaller, deeper pools, which drop off and rise in more dramatic distances than the broader rivers in the West, anglers in the Great Lakes, need to be a bit more creative with their swung-fly approach.

Here are a few methods worth a try next time a traditional slow-and-steady swing doesn’t garner attention, (or you have already worked through the run with a traditional cast, step, and swing pattern).

The Pop

After a downstream cast, subtly pop, (or jig down) the tip of a rod, forcing the fly to sink and pop up again.

This can mimic an injured or disoriented baitfish. This can also help keep the fly from snagging on downed trees common during this time of your on GL rivers.

This technique can be fished at varying depths, (more reason to buy extra sink-tips!) and also various sections of the run. Similar to a nymphing approach, start close and shallow, and work it farther out as you make your way down river. This can also be productive in slower portions of the river where you can’t rely upon the current to make the fly move.

The Drop In

As mentioned above, early fall storms can cause some log jams great for holding big fish. This can make it tricky to work a fly through in a straight-line swing.

Make an upstream cast, when the fly lands, throw an upstream mend to give the fly time to sink under the jam. Due to the different current speeds in the water column, you can really play around with different fly speeds and may be the key to hooking a fish in a ‘logged’ up run. This will take some practice in more congested water, but likely will be something most anglers avoid because they are scared to lose flies.

Rip and Runs

When all else fails when working through a run, I like to walk down to the end of the pool, line-up almost 180 degrees from the head of it and make a cast straight ahead. Traditionalists may cry blasphemy, but making a straight-line cast forward and stripping a fly right through the middle of the run can present a view of the fly fish rarely see. This also presents a very active, aggressive fly that would be hard for a fish not to attack. Imagine sitting in your living room and someone drags a 20-ounce rib-eye right through the middle of it? Would be hard to not have a reaction. right?

Ideally best to save this approach till the end of your time in the pool, and “run,” on to the next one as if nothing strikes from the above techniques, there are probably no interested players. Time to move on to the next section of the river.

Looking for a quality two-handed rod? One of the top two-handers on the market is the Axiom II Switch, TFO’s award-winning stick that has drawn rave reviews from Deneki.

Thoughts on our two-handed techniques for fall steelhead and salmon? Do you have other suggestions? Let us known on one of our social media pages.

The Axiom II Switch Steals the Show

As a college athlete, Nicholas Conklin celebrated the joy of victory. Nearly a half dozen years later, he realized of one of the fundamental tenets of human nature.

Winning never gets old.

It still feels good, regardless of the stage. It doesn’t matter whether you play lacrosse or whether you market fly rods.

So it was nearly two weeks ago at 2018 ICAST, when Conklin heard the announcement that the Axiom II Switch, the rod that Conklin helped design and now promotes, won best-in-show honors for 2-handed/Spey rods at IFTD (International Fly Tackle Dealer), one of the premier fly-fishing trade shows.

“There’s definitely a lot of satisfaction, a lot of happiness with the award,” Conklin, TFO’s director of two-handed fly rods, said. “Awards are awards, right? It’s good because now people will be talking about TFO more.”

Moments before the IFTD awards were announced, Conklin paced the Orlando (Fla.) Orange County Convention Center floor in anticipation. When he heard the news, he could barely compose himself enough to text the good news to fellow TFO coworkers back in Dallas.

“It far surpasses anything that I did athletically or professionally,” Conklin said. “It means a lot more because there are so many people here at TFO that are passionate about the company and the sport. Their passion helped me get to this point.  It’s important to so many other people.”

The honor was the second this summer for the Axiom II Switch, which also won best new product (in the fly rod category) honors at EFTTEX (European Fishing Tackle Trade Exhibition) last month in Amsterdam.

“It’s definitely rewarding to get some outside attention,” Conklin said. “Both (the EFTTEX) and IFTD are rewarding. We’ve recently made an effort to better understand our international distributors’ needs and how to better orient our products to their markets. It definitely gives us a leg up going into 2019, (at EFTTEX).”

The ICAST/IFTD win was the first time in Temple Fork Outfitters’ history that a TFO rod received best-in-show recognition.

“We’ve won awards for a reel before, not a rod,” Conklin said. “Awards from both (EFTTEX) and (IFTD) have their place. Both are very exciting. It’s hard to put one over the other.”

Awards are gratifying, but the opinions that count the most come from the anglers who cast the rods, and the feedback, Conklin said, has been flattering.

“There’s been a lot of excitement,” Conklin said. “We’ve had success with the Deer Creek series. People were waiting for something new. We’ve had a lot of positive comments, just because of what it can do.”

The Axiom II Switch’s appeal is its versatility. You can throw lead, fish with an indicator or swing flies — and do so efficiently.

“The rod’s ability to cast different variations of weight has really excited people,” Conklin said. “It’s something new and exciting. That’s always big. The ability to do several different things with it lets people start to understand where they can put a two-handed rod in their arsenal. They certainly understand the different benefits of it in areas that they’re fishing.”