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Gear Review: TFO Axiom II Fly Rod - Tested in Labrador

On a recent trip to the Atikonak River in Labrador, Canada, I brought with me two of TFO's newest rods. The Axiom II is the top end of TFO's offerings and boasts "the most efficient energy delivery tool that our legendary Advisory Staff designers have tested to date." The new A2s range from a 5wt to a 12wt, all in 9' lengths. Listed as "medium-fast" action, their freshwater and saltwater models advertise a "three-dimensional approach to casting a fly, hooking a fish and landing it." Essentially what this means is that the design is incorporating as much thought into the casting elements of the rod as they are with the fighting of fish. Here is what I found while fishing the 5wt and 7wt on a recent trip to Labrador...

TFO Axiom II 9' 5wt

TFO Axiom II Fly Rod Review

This was my dry fly rod which is what I did for 90% of my time the 5wt. I also had it set up with a "hopper-dropper" rig and a full nymphing rig (with indicator) at times as to get the full flavor of this rod. I was not able to cast these rods before I left, so seeing the "medium-fast" action listed by TFO, and generally agreeing with this after the wiggle-test, I decided to rig up the 5wt with InTouch Rio Perception. With a 30' head weight of 150gr and an 8ft front taper, this is a really great all around 5wt trout line on most modern graphite rods and works well for dry flies. 

InTouch Rio Perception Fly Line Taper

The biggest difference between the original Axiom and this 2nd generation is that this new Axiom II is not as fast. Additionally it is lighter. All in all I think they went in the correct direction, especially to include a wider range of casters. While fishing, I felt it took about 20-25ft of the line to get an indication of feel. I could throw these shorter casts off the tip of the rod but feedback didn't start until more line came out. After that 30/35ft mark is when the rod really came to life and I found the sweet spot. Casting dries at rising fish 30-50ft away proved to be comfortable, required little effort, and gave decent feedback to help guide my accuracy and distance. Personally, I think this is what this specific 5wt was designed for...to give a slightly softer rod (compared to old model) still capable of getting to that 50ft mark with accuracy. This "mid range" is what felt the best to me. If I extended further I could feel the Axiom II start to run out of steam. For a trout rod, the necessity of casting further then 65-70ft is rare for most. But, this is something to keep in mind.

When I got home I was curious how this rod would match up with the Scientific Anglers GPX line (now replaced with the similar MPX). This line is another "standard" for me, especially when testing rods. I fish this and the newer S.A. MPX on a lot of rods as it is slightly heavier, but also has a far amount of this weight pushed forward towards the front taper as to help rods load at shorter distances, especially faster rods. I also brought the Rio InTouch StreamerTip WF5F/S6 as this is one of my favorite sinking-tip lines.

I measured off a 50ft mark and rotated through the three lines. My suspicions while at Labrador proved to be accurate on the grass in terms of casting distance. The 50ft mark was about the point where the Axiom II 5wt started to max-out. It was enjoyable within 50/55ft and matched up well in the "field test" again with Rio Perception. The Scientific Anglers GPX was noticeably different and the same issues were exacerbated. Further the Rio Perception was a better "presenting" line and would work better for dries. The sink-tip test also followed suit with the Rio InTouch StreamerTip becoming a little too heavy for this rod beyond 50ft. The softer tip of this rod started to show itself even more here. 

Scientific Anglers GPX MPX Rio StreamerTip Rio Perception Fly Line 

TFO Axiom II 7wt

TFO Axiom II Fly Rod 7wt

This was one of my streamer rods for the trip. I had this rod lined with Rio InTouch StreamerTip WF6F/S6. Using two different streamer rods allowed me to not only fish two different patterns with just a simple change of rod, but also heavier streamers with the 7wt (the other was a 6wt TFO BVK). This allowed me to have a wider range of flies and quickly at-the-ready. So, for the most part I found weighted streamers on the end of this setup.

I felt the same characteristics that the 5wt exhibit apparent in the 7wt as well. At shorter and mid-range casts, it felt good. I was able to negotiate most of the water with relative ease. I did find that I had to work pretty hard to get longer casts to shoot. I could do it, but had to start hauling fairly well. Granted I had a tougher setup with the line/flies, but it did seem a little more tiring than I expected. This could be due to a slightly heavier swing weight. The rod mended well however, and it had ample fighting power for when I hooked into larger Lake Trout, Landlocked Salmon, and Pike. In fact, the "fighting section" of this rod (butt section) was a standout factor. As mentioned at the beginning of this review, the fighting ability of the rod was something they considered while making this "three dimensional."

I also tested this rod with some Scientific Anglers Bonefish WF7F. This was a good match. I was curious how this rod would do on tropical flat for bonefish anglers. Pleasantly surprised with the rods accuracy, I could cast confidently at 50-65ft targets. It did not have the horsepower to reach long distances with ease but was enjoyable with everything else in between.

TFO Axiom II Fly Rod 7wt

The Breakdown...

PROS:

  • Great medium-fast action which could be easily cast by various anglers of all skill levels
  • Short + mid-range casts were comfortable. The road loaded well and accurate casts were expected.
  • Both the 5wt and 7wt are light in-hand
  • Comes with rod tube (yay TFO!)
  • 5wt was a good dry fly rod - presented flies well at all necessary "dry fly distances" and could do accurately and delecately
  • 7wt mended a sink-tip line well and proved to be a decent streamer rod with capable fighting power/ability
  • 5wt was suitable for a nymph-rig. Not ideal, but it worked.
  • Alignment dots
  • Good quality components such as those in reel seat

CONS:

  • Swing weight of the 7wt started to become noticeable, but really only after a very long day on the water
  • Both the 5wt and 7wt did not have the long-cast-power that is evident in faster rods. 
  • An angler with a strong double haul would need to ease off a little to find that "Axiom rhythm." 

Words + Photos by: Josh Thelin

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