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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.