Where has the time gone? I feel like just a couple months ago Moby Dick was the size of a minnow, Power Rangers were all the rage, Shaq and Kobe were teammates, and bead fishing outside of Alaska was an unknown. But alas, the older you get, the faster the years pass by. I promised myself I would never turn into an older timer who would reference the “good ole days” but instead embrace the future. Well we are just a few hours from 2019 but before we focus on our resolutions for the upcoming year, lets take a look back at some highlights from 2018. Below are our top 10 most viewed posts from the past year. We appreciate your support the previous 365 days and years prior. As always, do not hesitate to share your feedback or suggestions on content you would like to see more of in the comment section below. Have a safe and happy New Years!
Dollies sure do have some Christmas spirit! Love the clowned up red and green color combination but my favorite part has to be the sharp black and white contrast on their fins. Hard to imagine a more beautiful fish. We at Deneki wish you a safe and happy holiday season. May the holidays bring happiness and joy to you and your loved ones!
Want to see more of any specific type of content on our blog? Your wish is our command. Drop us a note in the comment section to let us know.
Fun Posts from 2018:
At Deneki, we clearly need plenty of fishing diversity in our lives. From walking the flats of Andros, to swinging flies in BC, to casting rodents at Leopard Rainbows, we love it all. Unfortunately for our bank accounts, each different fishery seems to require its own set of gear. Your bonefish line won’t work in Alaska, neither will your flies or lightweight wind breaker. One thing that can work in a range of different locations, your polarized sun glasses.
A common question we get asked by our guests is if they need different sun glasses for each location. Obviously there are certain lens colors that work best in different conditions. Yellow lenses are popular in low light conditions where a reflective blue is a good choice for fishing offshore in bright sun. But in an effort to not have to buy a new pair for each fishery, we would recommend using a copper colored lens. Copper is a great all around lens shade, it can bring out the contrast in flats and rivers alike while still blocking out enough light to offer protection for your eyes. Obviously if you are always fishing in a certain environment, there may be one lens color that is ideal but if we had to pick a go to lens shade that can get it done in a range of conditions, copper is it.
More on Sun Glasses:
When fishing it can be easy to get obsessed with the task at hand. We are here to offer you a friendly reminder, don’t forget to take a break and look around! It may sound cliche but fishing is about more than just the catching. Enjoy where in the world you are at and who you are with. I’ve seen countless clients that almost get tunnel vision with catching fish that they don’t take the time to appreciate all the other wonderful parts that come along with time on the water. Most importantly, always remember to be safe and have fun out there.
More Good Vibes:
10 Things we are Thankful for this Year.
Thankful to our guests, and boy do we have some incredible ones. Plain and simple, we wouldn’t be here without you.
Thankful to our repeat guests. You get your own category of recognition. Repeat guests are the best compliment we can receive. Whether you have fished different lodges with us, or the same lodge multiple times, our repeat guests hold a special place in our hearts.
Thankful for sunny days walking the flats of Andros South (we should also mention here that we are thankful for sun screen, buffs and occasionally aloe.)
Thankful for the tremendous guides that work at our lodges. Let’s be honest, without them we are all catching a lot fewer fish..
Thankful for waterproof gear. “Waterproof” used to be a description you couldn’t trust. Now a days various companies make fully submersible, welded gear that we can count on.
Thankful for cold Kaliks after (or during) some of the world’s best Bonefishing.
Thankful for sunsets. Between Alaska, Andros, and BC we have witnessed some remarkable sunsets signifying the end of a memorable day. With this comes the anticipation of tomorrow’s sunrise and the fish to follow.
Thankful we were born fishermen. Something that can be easily taken for granted. Simply being able to spend time on the water is worth a feeling of gratitude.
For far too long, high performance fly rods have been associated with astonishingly high prices. Sure, some of our favorite rod series have rang in at premium-level prices, but not all of them. Believe it or not, when it comes to fly rods, performance doesn’t have to be sacrificed for affordability, and the folks at Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO) have been proving that for years.
We recently had the good fortune of test-driving a couple models of TFO’s latest offering to the spey market; the Axiom II Switch. We put them to the test against wild Alaska steelhead and the giant lake-run rainbows of the Naknek and were wildly impressed. So, as we often do when a product takes to our liking, we’re going to tell you about it.
The Axiom II Switch series of rods were born from TFO’s highly popular Deer Creek series of two-handers. That should strike a chord with many of the folks reading this post, as we’d go so far as to say the original Deer Creek series of switch rods have arguably brought more anglers to the switch/small spey rod game than any other. How? The original Deer Creek switch rods were high performance sticks featuring a moderate/medium action that not only could casters of all abilities appreciate, they could also afford.
However, as rod materials have advanced, so has their design, and while we’ve always liked the original Deer Creek switch rods, we love the new Axiom II Switch rods, and we’ll go on the record to say we think they’re a massive improvement. We’re not the only ones who think so by the way. Just this past year, the Axiom II series won both “Best of Show” in the 2-handed spey rod category at IFTD and “Best New Fly Rod” at the 2018 European Fishing Tackle and Trade Exhibition (EFTTEX). Yikes.
Like the previous Deer Creek Switch series, all Axiom II Switch models come in at the most popular ‘switch’ length of 11 feet, and are currently available in 6 through 8 weights. The best part? At only $399.99, they’re even cheaper than their predecessor.
We spent most of our time with the 7 and 8 weight models, and here’s what we liked most about them.
There’s a reason why the vast majority of rods in the ‘switch’ category are available in the 11 foot range. The compromise of being able to cast effectively in tight quarters, at fishable distances, while still being able to effectively manage/mend line is undeniable. In our opinion, every hard core spey angler should have an 11 foot rod of some capacity in their quiver.
That being said, not all 11 foot ‘switch’ rods are available in sizes heavier than a 7-weight (something we’ve concluded after testing the 8-weight Axiom II, to be a huge mistake). During some extremely windy days during our testing period, we resorted to the 8-weight Axiom II to turn over heavy tips (up to 12 feet of t-14) and bulky leech-style flies when swinging for trout on the Naknek River. Not only did it handle the challenge with ease, at only 11 feet, we found it able to ‘tuck’ under the wind more effectively than some longer rods, as well as do so when confined to tighter than normal casting scenarios. Furthermore, we found the added backbone of the 8-weight to be helpful (but not overbearing) when fighting fish under the heavy current of the Naknek as well. For all of these reasons, we’ve adjusted our outlook for an 11 foot 8-weight to be one heck of a tool under difficult conditions, and thus feel the Axiom II 8-weight has earned a spot in our quiver.
In comparison, we found the 7-weight Axiom II to be delightfully similar to its 8-weight counterpart. From our experience, rods in the same series don’t always mimic the characteristics of those in other weight classes, but we didn’t find that to be the case in the Axiom II series. Much like the 8-weight, the 7-weight was able to toss a wide range of sink tips (from T-8 to T-14) and fly sizes, but provided a little more feel when fighting fish, as well as required a little less effort to load the rod on the forward cast (as was expected for a rod of a lighter line weight).
Big Punch in a Small Package
Its easy to associate shorter switch/spey rods with shorter casts. After all, the application of most switch rods (when used as spey rods) generally stem from situations encountered on smaller water. However, we were genuinely impressed by the Axiom II Switch’s ability to generate surprisingly high line speed within a very compact stroke. Translation? Big casts in tight quarters.. Which is a really good thing.
We found both the 7 and 8-weights to have somewhat of a ‘tip-flex’ action favoring a sharp ‘punch’ on the forward cast which consistently resulted in extremely tight ‘arrow-shaped’ loops. This was the most noticeable difference we found between the Axiom II and the previous Deer Creek switch rods which exhibited a much softer feel at the tip, a difference we think is a great improvement in terms of performance.
Same Great Handle Design
We find the handle design of a rod to be extremely important, although not often discussed. After all, its what ultimately connects the angler to the feel of the rod, and depending on how it is designed, determines how it is held.. All of which can play a small part in how it casts.
One thing we were happy to learn was that the folks at TFO chose to incorporate the same (or at least extremely similar) handle design on the Axiom II Switch rods as was used on the original Deer Creek series. What’s so great about the design? It’s thin, really thin. In fact, it might be one of the thinnest upper handles on the market which we find to be extremely enjoyable when casting. There’s a lot of personal preference here of course, but if you like the feel of a smaller grip, trust on this one, you’ll really, really like the feel of the Axiom II Switch.
Because the majority of our fishing during our testing period required the use of sink tips, we paired both the 7 and 8-weight Axiom II models with skagit style shooting heads. For those interested in doing the same, we highly recommend sticking with shorter skagit heads under 20 feet (such as Airflo’s Skagit Scout or Rio’s Skagit Max Short), as some may find difficulty forming an efficient D-loop with longer lines (in excess of 20 feet).
As for grain weights, while TFO recommends a wide grain ‘window’ of 350-550 grains and 400-600 grains for the 7 and 8 weight models respectively, we feel its important to note that this window accommodates a wide range of casting styles, including both single and two-handed casting. However, for skagit-style casting (which we do the vast majority of the time), we would consider the grain ‘window’ to be a bit more narrow, and found we preferred lines in the 480 range for the 7 weight model and in the 540 range for the 8 weight model.
We think every hard-core spey angler should have an 11 foot rod in their quiver, and if you’re in the market for one, we don’t think you can go wrong with the Axiom II Switch. It casts really well, is comfortable in hand, and is substantially more than half the price of most premium-priced switch rods today.
The TFO Axiom II Switch series of rods are available in line sizes 6 through 8-weight and retail for $399.99. Pick one up today at your nearest TFO dealer or visit TFO’s website for more information by clicking right here.
Here’s our product review policy and FTC disclosure.
More Gear We Like
Our good friend and legendary sales rep for some of the most respected brands in the biz, George Cook, has been at the forefront of modern spey fishing since the beginning. Simply put, he’s been swinging flies for steelhead, sea-run browns, resident trout, and everything in-between long before it was cool. So, when he’s willing to spill some of his secrets, needless to say, we listen.
When it comes to swinging flies, George has a great analogy to describe what the heck your fly is actually doing throughout the swing in relation to length of the cast he describes as ‘engagement range.’ We’ve found it to be a great perspective to draw from when stepping down a run, so naturally we asked him to put together a writeup for us. Fortunately, he did, and today we share his words with you.
Take it away Geo!
The Importance of ‘Engagement Range’ When Swinging Flies
You step into a run, maybe somewhere mega-fabulous to be, huck one out there 75 feet or so, and your line starts to swing.. What is that getting done for you? It depends!
It depends on a number of factors (where you’re fishing, what species you’re targeting, what cast you’ve executed, etc.) but one factor that remains constant is the notion of what I like to call the “Net Swing” equation that is going to unfold before you after every cast. Let me explain.
We all love the spey game. Whether chasing kings, steelhead, sea run browns or dollies, or resident bow bows and brown trout via trout spey, swinging flies is getting under the skin of anglers chasing all kinds of different species. Targeting each of these species on a swung fly can be different from species to species as well as different in any given river or run.
Let’s take steelhead as a prime example of this. More often than not, an average spey cast can yield great results with fish present. Here, a 45 to 70 foot cast can (and often does) catch a fish in a given run. I’ve seen marginal casters ‘clean up’ in popular runs that lend themselves to such places like British Columbia’s Dean River or Oregon’s Sandy River to name a couple. I’ve also seen runs on the Dean where anything under 90 feet is simply casting practice. In other places, Idaho’s Clearwater being a fabulous example, you could hook one 5 feet off the bank or 105 feet out in the middle of the ditch making literally any cast a viable option as they can be (and often are) anywhere in Idaho’s crown jewel! However, regardless of casting distance, its the “Net Swing” that equates to the true swing within the context of that given cast that actually puts the fly in front of a fish. For example:
- A 60 foot cast ‘nets’ an effective swing at approximately 45 feet
- A 75 foot cast ‘nets’ an effective swing at approximately 60 feet
- A 90 foot cast ‘nets’ an effective swing at approximately 75 feet (and so on..)
This all begins to put the idea of “Engagement Range” into clear perspective. Simply put; we have to hit “X” distance to effectively fish “Y” water. So, having put this concept/reality before us, lets take a closer look at how some of our favorite spey pursuits worldwide stack up..
- Steelhead. Our prime example above shows that if you have the fly in the water you are indeed in the “game.” Steelhead spey guides throughout the Pacific Rim, from Nor-Cal to Kamchatka, do a great job of coaching anglers on just what lies before them in any/every run to be fished. Like any good coach or trusted advisor, they will lay it out for you more often than not. “Go short” (just sink tip out of the rod tip), “mid-range,” or “bomb it” are all frequent and knowledgeable words of council and encouragement. If you find yourself in short supply of such advice, odds are you’re either a veteran angler in the eyes of that guide or a client in need of a new guide!
- King Salmon. The word “depends” returns here big time in that some rivers will allow the novice an honest chance while others present many more challenges. Rivers like the beloved Kanektok and fabled Sandy let casters of all levels play effectively. In contrast, bigger rivers like the Nushagak and interior AK Favorite, the Gulkana, favor much longer “Engagement Range” where a maximum ‘Net Swing’ is advantageous.
- Sea Run Browns. The Rio Grande is an interesting one in that it appears really big and wide in photographs, but once you’re there, your first wade into your first run will likely show you two distinct things; A) You’ll probably wade a ways out before your first cast is indeed executed, thus demonstrating that things are much smaller than they first appeared. And B) You will need to, unequivocally “kiss” the opposite bank, or even “gator it,” in order to crawl your fly off the bank to engage in known troughs on the far side. Only afternoon darkness brings Brownie upward and inward when less precision can bring vicious grabs!
- Atlantic Salmon. Simple advice here.. Brush Up, as good casters almost always win the game virtually everywhere the King’s fish is found. Furthermore, mastery or at least reasonable competence is required with the widest variety of spey lines to ever grace your reel bag as scandi style along with mid-belly format lines get to make these trips.
- Sea Run Dollies. Depends greatly on the given river. British Columbia features some real gems reached best by helicopter that are best suited for single hand and trout spey/switch sized sticks. Washington state favorites like the Sauk and Skagit on the other hand favor the “long ball” in order to maximize the amount of water covered. Alaska’s Arctic dollies vary by stream, some of which are small and require short casts, and others that are reasonably larger featuring lies that are are more “slotted” or trough oriented which quire longer shots in order to engage.
- Western-style Trout Spey. Trouty is everywhere here, so just fish to your comfortable casting distance with confidence as odds are you’re well in the engagement range with every cast.
- Alaska-style Trout Spey. Once again, it varies by river. Some smaller streams and back channel opportunities afford ‘small ball” at its best, but the big rivers of the 907 (the Middle Kenai, the Naknek, and the Kvichak to name a few) have a distinctively different flavor often demanding the long ball in order to cover and thus “engage” distant lies.
All in all, nothing replaces time on the water. Today’s Spey caster, no matter the pursuit, has to be a thinker and the Engagement Range is key to getting the most out of “Net Swing,” the swing game we all LOVE!
More Spey Fishing Tips
Over the past six months, we’ve been fortunate to swing flies for everything from dime bright king salmon, to feisty wild steelhead, to some of the largest native resident rainbow trout in the world. That’s allowed us to put some of the latest and greatest spey gear to the test, in full hopes that we can, well, tell you all about it! We know, it’s a tough gig, but someone has to do it.
This season we did just that with G. Loomis’ latest line of two-handed rods; the IMX-PRO Short Spey and after putting the 71111-4 (that’s the 11’11”, 7 weight model) through the ringer across three different fisheries, we’re here to give you our thoughts about it.
Background – ‘Short Spey’ versus ‘Switch Rods’
We’ve long found the notion of ‘switch’ rods to be a bit misleading. In our opinion, the idea that the same rod/line setup could perform well using both two-handed ‘spey’ techniques and traditional overhead fly casting techniques is a bit of a pipe dream. Why? The result is often a setup that performs multiple functions only moderately well, as opposed to a setup that performs one particular function extraordinarily well. Thus, we’ve long prescribed to the theory that ‘switch’ rods are nothing more than small spey rods.. Which then begs the question; “What’s the difference between a ‘switch’ rod and a ‘short spey’ rod?”
As spey rods have evolved, more and more anglers are reaching for shorter and shorter two-handers. Thank shorter and more efficient line designs and casting styles, improvements in rod design, increased interest in swinging flies for species other than salmon and steelhead, and the greater understanding amongst anglers that more fish are caught within 40 feet than off of the opposite bank. Either way, anglers today are learning the benefits of shorter two-handers as the lengths of popular ‘spey’ rods continue to approach that of their ‘switch rod’ comparison.
So what’s the ideal length of a spey rod? There isn’t one! Nor will there ever be. There’s just too many variables to consider to cover all the possible fishing situations in the world. That being said, we’ve really started to appreciate rods in the 11.5 to 12.5 foot range for the majority of our fishing situations. Why? We’d argue that hovering around that 12 foot mark allows for casts with plenty of distance to cover more than enough water while also allowing for casts in tight situations that longer rods couldn’t even attempt. The shorter the rod also makes for a better fighting stick against hard fighting fish, and offers a good balance between the ability to mend reasonably well while reducing fatigue that can occur when swinging a 15 foot rod all day.
Why are we telling you all this, exactly? Because when we first caught wind that our friends at G. Loomis were designing the entire IMX-PRO Short Spey line at 11 foot 11 inches, we instantly thought to ourselves, “finally, the perfect spey rod,” and we’re happy to say it didn’t disappoint.
‘True Spey’ Action
Despite our view that switch rods are nothing more than short spey rods, most spey anglers would agree that there is an apparent difference in feel when casting a traditional ‘spey’ rod versus a shorter ‘switch’ rod. Simply put, most full spey rods (even fast action rods) tend to have a very progressive flex which lends itself to that lovely deep loading feel we all love when casting two-handers. Switch rods on the other hand are often most described as having a sharper ‘tip-action’ requiring a more ‘punchy’ forward cast and typically translating into less feel throughout the cast. In fact, we haven’t cast many rods under twelve feet that have the same deep loading feel of a full length spey rod.. Until now.
G. Loomis defines the action of the IMX-PRO Short Spey line as a medium-fast “True-Spey” action. We have to admit we weren’t quire sure what that really meant until we cast it, but after we tossed it a few times, we completely understood. The IMX-PRO loads deep into the handle of the rod through the cast, providing a level of feel that you’d expect in a much longer spey rod. In fact, on multiple occasions we found ourselves forgetting how short the rod actually was until it came time to poke a few casts out from some pretty ugly overhanging obstructions. The shorter length combined with a deep loading flex made easy work of some otherwise difficult casting scenarios.
It’s worth noting however, that ‘deep-loading’ or ‘medium-fast’ action should by no means be viewed as ‘soft,’ ‘slow,’ or lacking any sort of power in the slightest. On the contrary, one of the things that impressed us most about the IMX-PRO was its ability to rebound so quickly on the forward cast. ‘Snappy’ was the word that came to mind the first time we cast it, and more than one of our guides were impressed with just how much line speed was generated with so little effort.
We matched the 71111-4 IMX-PRO Short Spey with a 480 grain Airflo Skagit Scout and admittedly never looked back. This is partly because the rod designer himself, Tom Larimer, recommended it to us as his go-to line (its hard to disagree with the designer), but also because it didn’t take more than a few casts before we doubted there was a better balanced setup.
That being said, we’d recommend any shorter skagit-style head in the 18-20 foot and 480 grain range such as a 480 grain Airflo Skagit Switch or a 475 grain RIO Skagit Max Short to be a great match, and anglers with a faster stroke (who typically prefer lighter lines) might appreciate a similar but slightly lighter head in the 450 grain range.
We’ve heard mixed reviews regarding the handle on the IMX-PRO, however we found it to be a perfect match for the length of the rod. For starters, the bottom grip is relatively short and doesn’t feature an oversized knob found on most full-sized spey rods. The upper grip is also somewhat shorter in length than most upper grips, as well as thinner in hand at the top of the grip than some other rods too. After many days of jumping back and forth between several different spey rods, one thing we noticed is that the shorter grip length of the IMX-PRO actually helped to keep our casting motions more compact which is extremely important when casting shorter rods and compact line systems.
When talking about rods, one thing we find isn’t touched on enough is how well a rod actually fights fish. After all, when dealing with hard fighting fish, we’d argue a rod’s function doesn’t stop after the cast. This season we tangled with numerous steelhead, Naknek resident trout pushing 30 inches in length, and multiple species of salmon and never once felt a lack of control after hooking up. That’s somewhat expected for rods in the 7-weight class, but we found the ability to put maximum pressure on fish (due to the shorter length) combined with the rod’s ability to protect tippet (due to its deeper flex) to be a deadly combination.
Something that’s rarely a positive point when it comes to high-performance fly rods, the price of the IMX-PRO Short Spey series might just be its most alluring feature. In every way, we found the rod to perform at a premium level, in comparison (if not better than) rods upwards of $1,000.00. But, at only $575.00 its easily one of the most affordable ‘premium-level’ spey rods on the market, which is not something we get to say often!
The IMX-PRO Short Spey series are some of the most exciting sticks to hit the spey scene we’ve seen in a long time. We think they’re some of the most versatile and affordable rods on the market, and available in 3 through 7 weight (all of which are 11′ 11″ long) are able to cover a wide range of fisheries.
Here’s our product review policy and FTC disclosure.