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Tools of the Trade: TFO Blue Ribbon Series

Last year, TFO introduced three new fly rods, one of which was the Blue Ribbon series. While the series name might seem like this tool is intended for cool water trout streams, its components and moderate fast action have proven to be able an excellent choice for targeting warmwater species as well.

The Blue Ribbon’s precision and ease of casting make this rod a joy to cast and even more fun when fighting a fish. The 11-rod series has something for every freshwater angler.

TFO Fly Fishing Category Manager and designer of the Blue Ribbon series, Nick Conklin, shares a little bit more about this new series.

Briefly describe the Blue Ribbon series. What is it and who is it for? 

The Blue Ribbon was designed for the freshwater angler who needs to effectively cover water with repeated casts over the course of the day.  Think easy loading, powerful and accurate.

It is an 11-rod series from a 7’6” 2-weight to a 9-foot, 7-weight. We also offer 10-foot models in a three, four and five-weights.

In these situations, the successful angler is the one who has their fly in the water the most and can land that fly accurately and repeatedly.

It is all about efficient use of energy and casting time. We utilized some special components and finish out for the intermediate angler, who fishes for trout and warmwater species. The series spans everything from small dries and nymphs, up to multi fly rigs, (hopper-droppers) and larger articulated streamers.

Photo: Nick Conklin
Photo: Tom Wetherington
Photo: Braden Miller
Photo: Nick Conklin
Photo: Nick Conklin

How did the Blue Ribbon series come about? Is this series based off a pre-existing series? If so, what changes did you want to imply or what did you like about previous series that was carried over? 

While not based off anything in the freshwater line-up, we felt the need to offer a well thought-out freshwater/warmwater specific fly rod. Again, a rod with a moderate fast action, but also plenty of power in the butt section to carry longer lines and deliver accurate presentations. We did bring over the TFO Line weight ID system, and our built in hook keepers, (from some saltwater series). We also offer some of the 10-foot models, in a full wells grip for a more comfortable feel.

Photo: Todd Kaplan
Photo: Todd Kaplan
Photo: Todd Kaplan

Any key ambassadors or TFO staffers that helped with the prototype phases?

During the design and development phase, we utilized our vast and experienced network of guides and outfitters. We have some great, hardworking guides that spend hundreds of hours on the water and really put rods to the test. This was exactly where we envisioned the Blue Ribbon series to fit. A well-built, smooth casting tool meant to be fished hard by anglers. A functional tool that anglers of varied casting preferences and experience can pick up, quickly load, and accurately unload to a fish.

Talk about the 10’ options. Aside from having extra length for nymphing, what makes the 10’ option more advantageous compared to a 9’ model? 

The ten foot models have always been critical across the TFO line-up and it was important that we offered some “longer levers,” to help aid in line management and fly placement. The longer level makes the process of picking up and repositioning lines much more efficient.

Not only are these tools great for those tightline or high-stick nymphing, but they also enable easier and more efficient casting while in a drift boat, kayak, or while wading deeply. One of the great insights that came out of the development phase was learning about all the drift boat guides that have found many advantages for anglers with the longer rod. It’s all about efficiency and aiding in providing a great fishing experience.

Photo: Oliver Sutro
Photo: Oliver Sutro
Photo: Tom Wetherington

Do you see the Blue Ribbon lineup expanding someday? 

There is always an opportunity to expand any fly rod series. It comes down to the needs of the anglers. We take extreme care in selecting the rods we introduce in a series, but, as techniques evolve and anglers find new and fun ways and places to fish, there will be opportunities to improve models and add to a rod family.

Photo: Nick Conklin

Check out the all new Blue Ribbon series at your local TFO dealer today! Find out more about the Blue Ribbon series here.

The BC Big Fly – A Musky Fool Review

BC Big Fly…the name says it all.

This year TFO released a brand new fly rod series geared at predator and big streamer fishing. This rod builds on the previous model, the ESOX series, to offer the predator fly angler a much-welcomed tool in their toolbox.

This rod was fully redesigned by the awesome team at TFO with the help from Blane Chocklett (where the BC comes from)! It comes in three models that are fully fit for freshwater and saltwater demands – 8wt, 10wt, and 12wt.

I was a fan of the ESOX rod to begin with so when the BC Big Fly came out I was very excited to give it a try given some of the improvements TFO included this time around. I spent about 3 weeks fishing the 8wt, 10wt, and 12wt in our local musky water here in Madison, WI so I am excited to share some thoughts on it!

Technical Details

As mentioned, this blank was completely redesigned by TFO. It is built using their Axiom Technology which is what provides such a good balance between power, accuracy, and recovery – three essentials to fly fishing for large fish with big flies.

The blank is stiffer and faster than the ESOX, but still has the blend of tip and butt power to enable different casting styles to be successful using this stick. I really like how light the rod feels in your hand, even the big 10 and 12wts, but the first thing I noticed was how smooth it was on the cast. This was especially apparent when throwing big musky flies, where typically you get a lot of shock in your back cast or the rod just wilts at the weight. This is where the redesigned rod blank really shined as it was able to maintain and deliver power without that full amount of shock seen in other rods. All in all, this just means you will be able to enjoy casting this rod for longer hours…keeping you on the hunt for the next giant.

The grip is very similar to the grip on the ESOX series. It is a modified cork composite that is very comfortable and functional but more importantly also durable. It has the extended IGFA-compliant fighting butt with the unique TFO foregrip. It is a full-wells grip with a little bit extra room on the front which helps 1) provide a comfortable grip platform for Figure 8s and 2) gives you the ability to choke up on the rod if desired (a common tactic in musky fishing!)

Photo: MuskyFool

Some other sweet features included the three RECOIL stripping guides. These are pretty sweet to mess around with as they can truly be bent in half without compromising the durability. This will come into play as rods get thrown into trucks, boats, etc, and will be able to take a bit more of a beating than your typical stripping guide.

Photo: Musky Fool

A couple of other cool features are the added hook keeper and the sweet laser-engraved Gamechanger logo on the reel seat.

Photo: Musky Fool

Rigging Up

We messed around for a few weeks with all three of these rods and several different types and brands of line. We also got to check out the NTR (No Tools Required) Reel. A bit of a side note, but we are big fans of this reel for our musky fishing as it nails a good balance between quality and price. Be sure to check it out when it drops in August! Now, back to the rod, here is what we found to work best when rigging it up.

8wt – 300 grain seemed to be best on this rod. While it will be angler specific, I found this helped me load the rod appropriately without much effort and also cast large bass and trout streamers with ease. It can for sure handle 280 grain+ well but my recommendation would be to spool up something a little closer to 300 grains.

10wt – 400 grains seemed to be the sweet spot. Again, angler specific, and something like a 380 grain seemed to work just fine as well. I was able to cast large 8-10 inch gamechanger style flies on this grain weight and rod weight without any trouble. Definitely be sure to let the butt section load!

12wt – 500 grains was my preference on this rod. I was able to cast the largest and heaviest musky flies in a little bit of wind without feeling like I was working too hard. The part I love the most about this 12wt is that it feels light in the hand and much lighter than your typical 12wt. To me, this means, this could easily be your everyday predator rod, which isn’t something I would say about every 12wt out there.

Dan Donovan of Musky Fool with his favorite species. // Photo: Musky Fool

I was very pleased with the performance of the rods, especially the 10 and 12wt for musky fishing. With other rods I have used in that range, things can start to break down when you are trying to chuck big musky size flies on a heavy sinking line and that is just not the case with the TFO BC Big Fly.

If you are in the market for a new predator rod, be sure to check this one out. This rod will definitely be added to our arsenal here at Musky Fool. Pretty tough option to beat at $399.99 (comes with rod tube and sleeve). I really think you will like it!

Blog written and photos provided by Dan Donovan of Musky Fool. For all your musky needs and gear, visit their website here.

Like We Never Left – The Return to ICAST

We can all agree that 2020 was a tough year. Between many places being shut down and inventory issues brought on by unprecedented demand, it was (and in some cases still) a mess. Not being able to attend fishing shows was one of the many aspects that we (and others) missed about 2020. Needless to say, the return of ICAST last week was a blessing and a long overdue meeting of friends and family, ambassadors, pro staff anglers, and more – both new and old.

Photo: Tom Wetherington

Over the last week, we saw hundreds of familiar and new faces at Booth 3420 at the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC), many of which were eager to see and feel both the new conventional gear and new fly products. Since ICAST didn’t take place in 2020 (or hardly any fishing shows last year), many people were excited to see last year’s additions: Tactical Glass Bass, Tactical Surf, Seahunter Live Bait addition, Tactical Elite Bass additions) — as well as last year’s fly category additions: LK Legacy, Blue Ribbon, Stealth.

The newly redesigned Professional series. // Photo: Tom Wetherington
The newly redesigned Tactical Inshore series. // Photo: Tom Wetherington
The Tactical Surf – a new addition from last year. // Photo: Tom Wetherington
A favorite for ultra light anglers – the Trout-Panfish series added two new models this year. // Photo: Tom Wetherington
The Tactical Elite Bass series. // Photo: Tom Wetherington

For those unfamiliar with the changes in ICAST and IFTD (International Fly Tackle Dealer), the shows are now happening at different times of year – ICAST in July, and IFTD now taking place in October. Historically, both shows happened at the same time – which was ALOT to take in, but great for those wanting to get the most of both worlds. Needless to say, even though ICAST is now more focused on the conventional side of fishing, we still had a TON of people stop by the TFO booth to check out our fly gear, and make trips to the casting pond to try out the new Mangrove Coast and BC Big Fly, as well as some familiar favorites like the Axiom ll-X. While the fly stuff was getting plenty of love, there was a lot of attention aimed at the newly redesigned Professional and Tactical Inshore series, as well as the new Tactical Elite Bass swimbait models.

The all new Mangrove Coast and BC Big Fly – two new additions to TFO for 2022. // Photo: Tom Wetherington
The all new NTR reel in black/gold new to TFO for 2022. // Photo: Tom Wetherington
The all new NTR reel in clear/gold new to TFO for 2022. // Photo: Tom Wetherington
Checking out the new Tactical Elite Bass swimbait models. // Photo: Tom Wetherington
The Mangrove Coast and NTR set up got a lot of test drives on the Casting Pond at ICAST this year. // Photo: Tom Wetherington

We were able to film a few videos with TFO Ambassadors Rob Fordyce, Joey Nania, and Jonathan Moss going over some of the new stuff, as well as some classics.

Our good friends at Tackle Warehouse stopped by for a bit to interview Joey Nania, and go over some of the new Tactical Elite additions. Check out those videos below.

Temple Fork Outfitters TFO Tactical Elite Swimbait Rods with Joey Nania | First Look 2021

New Temple Fork Outfitters Tactical Elite Spinning Rod 7’6″ Med Lt w Joey Nania | First Look 2021

Temple Fork Outfitters TFO Tactical Bass and Tactical Elite Comparison | First Look 2021

Be on the lookout for more content from ICAST. We had several friends and dealers stop by to shoot some content on the new conventional gear, and we can’t wait to share them on our socials as they become available.

We’re already getting ready for IFTD at Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah on October 20-22, 2021. For those planning on attending IFTD, we hope to see you there, and for those not able to attend, be sure to follow along on our social media pages to stay in the know.

TFO Unveils 2022 Fly Products

This week, Temple Fork Outfitters announced three new fly products to the TFO family: the BC Big Fly, the NTR reel, and the Mangrove Coast. Find out more below, and be sure to check out these new additions at your local TFO dealer later this summer!

BC Big Fly

Introducing the all new BC Big Fly series. Designed by TFO Advisor Blane Chocklett, the BC Big Fly delivers big flies to big predatory fish with ease.

Evolving from the Esox series, the BC Big Fly will feature the our popular Axiom technology in the blank design, while incorporating updated componentry including elongated composite cork handles, extended fighting butt, Black Pearl REC stripping guides, blacked snake guides, laser engraved Game Changer fly logo on the reel seat, and much more.

The BC Big Fly will be offering in a 9’ 8wt, 10wt, and 12wt and will retail for $399. To find out more about specifics and details of the BC Big Fly, click here.

Stay tuned for more, and be sure to check out the BC Big Fly at your local TFO dealer later this summer!

NTR Reel

Introducing the all new NTR reel series. This new reel series offers anglers a ‘No Tools Required’ solution in a high-performance, fully sealed and machined aluminum fly reel.

The NTR reels will be available in four sizes, two-color options (Black/Gold & Clear/Gold), and will retail for $139-$169. To find out more about specifics and details of the NTR reel series, click here.

Stay tuned for more, and be sure to check out the NTR reels at your local TFO dealer later this summer!

Mangrove Coast

Introducing the all new Mangrove Coast series. Designed by TFO Advisor Flip Pallot, the Mangrove Coast was built for the hardcore saltwater angler seeking a medium fast action blank. Easy to load and precisely deliver a fly to spooky saltwater fish, the Mangrove Coast delivers all the necessary components to be successful.

This series features full wells grips with an instant rod weight burled cork LINE-ID system, fighting butts on all models, and cleverly machined hook keepers built into each side of the aluminum up-locking reel seat. All rods are topped with saltwater safe FUJI stripping guides and ultra-lightweight chromium-impregnated stainless-steel snake guides.

The moderate-fast action Mangrove Coast will be available in a 9’ 6 weight through 12 weight and will retail starting at $289.95. To find out more about specifics and details of the Mangrove Coast, click here.

Stay tuned for more, and be sure to check out the Mangrove Coast at your local TFO dealer later this summer!

 

Once again, these new rods will be available later this summer! To see our entire catalog of fly fishing products, click here.