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.
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