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Tools of the Trade – The Axiom ll Fly Rod

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost four years since the Axiom ll fly rod was released. With the collaboration of pretty much the entire rod design team at TFO, we were able to revisit the original Axiom (2007).

What we came up with was a lighter, more responsive rod that would eventually set the foundation for the popular Axiom ll-X. While the Axiom ll-X, (released in 2019) has received great feedback for being an excellent fast action fish fighting tool, the moderate-action taper of the Axiom ll can be applied to many freshwater and saltwater applications. There is a clear reason why it is a favorite amongst TFO staff, ambassadors, and anglers.

Whether you’re looking for a streamer rod or looking for an upgrade to target both larger freshwater and saltwater species, the Axiom ll is not to be overlooked. Here is more about the Axiom ll from TFO’s Fly Fishing Category Manager Nick Conklin.

Photo: Oliver Sutro

The Axiom-II fly rod fits in a specific and critical spot in the TFO line-up for those looking for feel and power.

What the Axiom II offers is something needed by every fly angler – a rod that anglers of many casting styles can pick up, and effectively load and un-load within minutes. It is why our product copy calls it a tool that is “engineered to fit the angler, (not the other way around).” But what is the other way around?

We found after years of designing and producing fly rods, a startling trend had emerged. Rod design emphasis started to focus on space age materials, fibers and materials resulting in ultra-fast and stiff rods. What was meant as tools for anglers of different casting styles and skills, the new focus was to compete against other brands and garner a high return on search engines. The needs of anglers started to fall by the wayside.

What TFO aimed to develop with the Axiom II was a tool that is more of a medium-fast action, with mid-level stiffness.

Photo: Colin Arisman

Breaking It Down: The Design Emphasis of the Axiom ll

The top sections were designed specifically for easy loading, with increased sensitivity, while also incorporating a butt section stiff enough to fight fish and maintain a load when casting larger flies and heavy lines. The Axiom II is not necessarily a rod for beginners, but rather an “in-between,” tool that could handle more advanced angling and casting scenarios.

We learned from our original Axiom rod series, that some people liked the cannon, “broomstick,” style rod, but many did not. Those same people found they had to put too much work into loading the rod and were not being effective anglers. Solutions such as overlining the rod, or applying too much on the forward cast, creating too many problems and many times bad loops.

What we felt some anglers needed was a mix between power and feel. A tool with the guts to cast the big stuff, but enough soul in the blank to provide an angler with instant feedback while casting.

The “feedback,” portion of this is critical, which mean being able to feel the load, while the rod adapts to the caster. Whether you have a faster, powerful casting stroke or a more deliberate, timed casting motion, the Axiom II will be an effective line moving tool.

Michigan guide and TFO sales rep Brian Kozminski reflects, “I love the Axiom ll because it allows for better roll casting. Short distance delivery of the fly is crucial in smaller rivers. The only time I need to launch 60+ feet of line is in Mio/Au Sable or on the White in Arkansas. I also use the 6 wt for small mousing and Hex action – big, bushy flies, that are wind resistant and require something with a little more stiffness to deliver.”

See below for a review of the Axiom ll from Trident Fly Fishing.

Axiom ll vs Axiom ll-X

The application of the Kevlar thread is what further sets this rod apart. This is very apparent when comparing it to the Axiom II-X.

The placement/location of kevlar thread on the blank is what makes the Axiom ll more medium fast, while the Axiom ll-X, is a step faster and stiffer. In other words, the Axiom ll-X is meant for those with a more aggressive hauling hand and precisely timed casting stroke. While the Axiom ll can accommodate the intermediate style caster, with a varying casting stroke and prefers more immediate rod feel.

*For a more in-depth review of the comparison between the Axiom ll and the Axiom ll-X, check out this article published by Fly Fish USA.*

Photo: Jo Randall

Kevlar Strength

The wrap of Kevlar thread along the blank prevents the blank from ovaling. This occurs when weight is loaded onto the blank when moving heavy lines and flies, or when really having to reach out and make a long shot at a fish, (more line, more mass outside of the rod tip), Kevlar keeps the blank round, and keeps it from collapsing – which means more line moving efficiency, and no loss of power or distance on the cast.

While we cannot go into specifics on the thread, and what section of the blank it is emphasized on, just know, you get a different feel between the two rods, and that is intentional.

McDonald’s may not tell you exactly how they make their special Big Mac sauce so good, but you know it is, and sometimes that should be enough.

Photo: Oliver Sutro

 

 

 

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.”

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.