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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

 

 

 

Why You Need A 7 Weight

Let’s talk 7 weights. Yes, 7 weights.

Wait, so you’re going to stand there calling yourself a fly angler, and you don’t have a 7 weight?

Well, maybe this will open your mind to a different rod weight.

Often skipped over by the fly shop employee for the more commercially popular 8 weight, and not as common in a drift boat as the old-school, six-weight with a half-wells grip.

The 7 weight serves an important purpose for both the fresh and saltwater anglers.

And frankly, they’re a lot more fun to fight a fish on and can deliver a big fly just as well as the heavier rods in the line-up.

By adding a 7 weight to the quiver, you’ll be able to cover just about everything from large trout, to bass and carp. Don’t forget steelhead and a few inshore saltwater species.

With most anglers already owning a 5 weight, the 7 weight is a perfect next rod to have. Already have a little 3 weight for small flies? Boom, 3-5-7, a perfect way to go, and you are covered for about every scenario.

Let’s breakdown some of the current TFO 7 weights, and see which one might make a home in your line-up.

The Blue Ribbon + BVK-SD reel. Photo: Cameron Mosier

7904 Blue Ribbon, (That’s a 7weight., 9-foot, four-piece rod for those unfamiliar with the TFO model lingo):

New to the line up this year, the Blue Ribbon series has been an all around hit, but the focus here is the largest rod in the series.

The 7 weight in particular has the ability to cast a big, air resistant fly repeatedly with minimal work. Paired with a thick diameter fly line, like the SA Mastery Series Titan, big flies are an ease. This series was based off of the popular Mangrove fly rods. Medium-fast action. Medium stiffness. This rod has plenty of power in the butt to pick-up and move heavy rigs, with minimal back casts.

For those considered this isn’t “enough rod,” or why don’t you have an 8 weight?

Believe me, this rod has the power. It can even handle some of this silly-multi streamer rigs thrown out west…Yes, I am looking at you Colorado anglers.

Outside of a great action for repetitive casting and quick shots along the bank, this rod also features the built-in hook keeper. A neat little aid for quickly attaching your fly.

While this was designed as trout rod, I’ve fished it for a few summers with big popping bugs for bass. Carp anglers, here you go. Perfect for those hulking brutes, (in really arm climates, check out the SA Grand Slam line) it’ll move the big flies and not get so kinky when hot out.

Pairs well with the NXT BLK III or BVK SD III.

7wt LK Legacy with BVK-SD reel. Photo: Nick Conklin

7904 LK Legacy:

First, we designed it with stronger top sections.

What does that mean?

For those that get in bad fish fighting angles, (Seriously, keep the rod tip low! They are designed to carry a fly line, the butt section is for fighting the fish!). The reinforced top sections will help fight against high-stick breaks.

The rod also has a faster style action. For those like something with a little quicker response and stouter butt, this 7 weight is for you.

Whether fishing floating lines, or sink-tips the LK Legacy will respond quickly and help aid the angler in an accurate fly delivery.

This rod, with a 10-foot sink tip beat the banks hard this fall in search of Montana trout. It handled the more dense tip and all kinds of articulated and feathery, peanut envy’s, sex dungeons, husker-dos, husker-don’ts and just about everything I could chuck out there.

Salty folks may want to consider this on your next trip. Whether it’s reds or specs, this rod can more than handle bonefish. Rig it up with a RIO Bonefish or Redfish style line, you won’t be disappointed.

Pairs well with the NXT BLK III or BVK SD III.

Axiom ll with the Power Reel. Excellent smallmouth rod. Photo: Jim Shulin

7904 Axiom II:

Looking for a step-up in power, and something a little faster, but still have a little soul to feel the rod do the work?

Enter the 7904 Axiom II.

This rod definitely how the power in the butt section to fight, much larger than advertised for a seven, it also allows the angler to load and unload efficiently, especially with big flies.

The striper folks out in the Calif., Delta have put this rod to test the last few years, with great results. This rod can definitely handle the west coast stripers.

Pairs well with the BVK SD III or the Power II reel.

7wt Axiom ll-X paired with the BVK-SD reel. Photo: Oliver Sutro

7904 Axiom II-X:

This is the big dog in the seven-weight offerings from TFO.

The fastest and stiffest rod in the line-up, this is for the angler with a fine-tuned cast that likes power and quick recovery.

While it excels at distance, maybe you’ve seen the photos of Blane Chocklett laying long, delicate casts, it more than stands on its own with quick shots and big flies.

Another rod that does well with heavier sink-tips and even the super long 20 to 30 foot sinkers. Striped bass anglers should be fired up about this one, long heavy sinking lines and big Clouser style flies are fun on this rod. The SA Sonar series pair very well with the A2X.

Pairs well with the BVK SD III or the Power II reel.

Five Ways to Catch More Fish in the Winter

Most fishermen hate winter fishing. But I love winter fishing. Full disclosure: I live in Florida. It’s warm pretty much year round. But even when I lived in Virginia, I liked winter fishing. Not many people fish in January and February, so chances are you will get your favorite spots all to yourself.

Here are few tips to make the best of those colder days on the water.

Safety

Wear neoprene waders. Gloves and a good thermal cap are essential. Layer up, if possible. It’s better to feel like the Michelin man than to freeze. Use a wading staff, if needed. No one wants to fall in the water. It’s uncomfortable in the summer; it’s potentially life-threatening in the winter.

Stay upright. Stay safe.

And even if you stay dry, make sure to take breaks to stay warm. Drink a cup of coffee or crank up the heat in your vehicle.

Pick the Right Water

Tailwaters are the obvious option in the winter simply because of the constant water temperature. Trout, for instance, like water temperatures in the 50s. You won’t find that water that warm in the winter — unless it’s a tailwater fishery.

My two favorites are the Nantahala in Bryson City, N.C.; the Jackson River in Hot Springs, Va.; the South Holston in Bristol, Tenn.; and the White River in Lakeview Ark. All are worth fishing, even when it’s not bone-chilling cold.

Sleep In

There’s no need to get up at the crack of dawn. I fish late morning until late afternoon. Sometimes, I go after lunch, when sun is up high enough to warm the water. This schedule applies to freshwater and salt.

For redfish on the Florida marsh, I wait until ankle-deep water covers the dark mud on the flats and in the creeks when the fish try to get warm off the heat from skinny water and dark bottom, always a good combination for winter fishing.

Slow Down

I typically fish too fast. My personality dictates more is better, particularly if the fishing is slow. This is the wrong approach in winter fishing. You need to slow down. Slow movements. Slow casts. Slow strips. Slow retrieves.

As the winter water temperature increases, a fish’s metabolism increases. Decreasing water temperature makes fish lethargic. To compensate, make accurate casts and slow down.

Use a Thermometer

The air temperature is important for personal safety. The water temperature dictates whether the fish will feed. Trout generally like temperatures in the 50s. Largemouth bass, on the other hand, prefer temperatures in the mid-60s and 70s.

I used to get wed to these guidelines, but don’t make the same mistake. Instead pay attention to whether the water temperature is moving. If you’re winter fishing, you want temperatures to rise. In the summer, you generally want temperatures to drop, preferably into each species’ feeding zone.

Temperature, of course, is only one factor in winter fishing success. But the important thing is to get out and enjoy winter fishing. Trust me, it’s worth braving the cold.

Any other tips you’d like to share, let us know with a comment or one of our social media pages.

How to Fly Fish for Trout on Small Streams

When I first learned to fly fish, I was, in retrospect, too stupid to know better.  I remember thrashing about in the brush on a technical spring creek. I was fishing a hopper, but in reality, my fly was on land more than water, as I tried to figure out how to get the line and leader from point A to point B where the fish were, at least where I thought they were.

I assumed the fish were in the middle of the stream. They were under the banks.  It took me a good six months to figure out that nugget of information.

I started fly fishing on Virginia’s Mossy Creek because I thought that venue was my only option, which led to months of futility and frustration. Fortunately, a more experienced fisherman pointed me toward the local mountain streams. That water was my best teacher.

If Mossy Creek was akin to calculus, the traditional small streams of the Blue Ridge Mountains were Algebra I. After a season or two on the smaller water, I was ready for calculus.

Here’s a few things that I learned along the way.

Dry-fly fishing is Rare

When I started out with the long rod, I was a dry-fly snob. I probably watched too many Saturday-morning ESPN outdoors shows with massive caddis hatches. The reality is nymph fishing is the most consistent way to catch trout. Once I put my ego aside and learned how to high-stick nymph fish, the more I caught fish. Was it pretty? No. Was it effective? Yes.

For a primer on nymph fishing, check out TFO advisor Jason Randall‘s post on how to fish subsurface.

However, if there’s a hatch, bring your dry-fly box. If not, reach for a subsurface fly. You will catch more fish and you’ll consider it a religious experience when the Green Drake hatch arrives.

Fish the Foam

I used to only fish the tail of a pool. Typically, the tail yields a big fish or two. But I struggled as the water levels dropped and the water temperatures increased. Why? Because fish need oxygen, and faster water creates oxygen.

And even in cooler weather, fish still hold in the faster water, if there’s quality subsurface structure. The good thing about probing the riffles is the fish have to make a decision whether to eat quickly. They don’t have time to be picky.

It’s a Matter of Geometry

I remember wading as little as possible at first because I feared spooking fish, so I stayed on the bank. Although this approach is doable, my casting angles were limited.

Eventually I learned to fish from the middle of the stream. My strategy: Use the fast water as cover, stand in the middle and reposition incrementally to get the straight-on presentation, where the line, leader and fly were in the same current drifting downstream.

To avoid spooking fish, I didn’t wade up and down the stream. I picked my spots ahead of time and traveled from spot to spot on land. This is key: Once you’ve mined an area, get out of the water and walk away from the bank. Stay away from the edges, because fish can hear footsteps, even if you’re on dry ground.

Shorter is Not Better

Like many new anglers, I spent a lot of time getting hung up in the streamside brush. To correct that, I built a smaller rod — a 6-footer that I was immensely proud of. However, I essentially traded one problem for another. I stayed out of the trees, but I had trouble with drag, because I couldn’t keep enough line off the water.

I went back to my longer rod, a custom-made nine-footer. To stay out of the trees, I choked up and moved my casting hand up and down the butt section, using shorter lever for tight casts and a longer lever for line control.

TFO’s Drift rod is a good option. At 9 feet, it’s long enough and doesn’t require much line to load and cast, which allows you to efficiently punch out short presentations, the norm for high-stick nymphing.

Carry a Stream Thermometer

Before I started fishing seriously, I used to attribute success to sheer luck. Although there are a number of factors that determine whether you catch fish, a primary component of success is a water temperature. There are no absolutes in fishing, but once the water temperature hits 70 degrees in a mountain stream during the heat of summer, trout become lethargic and the chances of catching one drops dramatically.

The Long Road to Success

As I reflect upon nearly 30 years in fly fishing, I remember that I almost quit the sport after my first few months. Thank goodness I had someone help me navigate the learning curve.

Even with assistance, take these tips one at a time. Do not try to implement all of them at once. Be patient. With time, everything will come together, and consistent success will be that much more rewarding.