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.”