Words + Photos: Josh Thelin
I recently brought the newest offering from TFO fly rods out with me on a trout & landlocked salmon trip to northern Maine. I consider this area my home waters so it's always good to bring gear into a setting I know well. The scoop I got about the Axiom II-X before I left on the trip was that "it is similar to the TiCr-X, but updated." Seeing as I was preparing to do mostly streamer fishing on this trip, a fast action rod capable of handling sinking (tip) lines was perfect. I was also interested to see what differences from the previously released Axiom II existed.
(Last July I brought the 5wt & 7wt Axiom II with me on a trip to Labrador. That review can be seen HERE)
At first, with a quick wiggle, the rod stands out as being fairly fast with a softer comparative tip section. What stood out was, for a 5wt, how substantial the butt section seemed. It was visually thicker than most 5wts and with the additional fighting butt, I felt like I was holding a rod which would be very capable in saltwater as well.
One of the biggest complaints about the TiCr-X was the lack of accuracy. This is not uncommon with rods that are fast throughout the blank. But, in my opinion, with a slightly softer tip section the Axiom II-X picks up where the TiCr-X left off. During my time with this rod, I fished not only out of a drift boat but also on foot. This gave me various situations and conditions in which the rod would be tested. Most of my time I was rigged up with the Rio InTouch StreamerTip WF5S6 - this is a fly line that I feel comfortable fishing out of a boat or while wading and has a good sink-tip length and sink rate for the waters and conditions I was fishing. The line requires a faster rod to handle the heavier head/sink-tip and the Axiom II-X did a great job. I could pick a good amount of line up off the water and recast with little effort and could easily carry heavier streamers if necessary. The stronger butt & mid sections also provided good fighting power (similar to the Axiom II), so I could have confidence turning the larger fish's head in fast moving water - which luckily happened on a few occasions.
The accuracy in this setting however wasn't really put to the test as I was mostly swinging and stripping flies where pinpoint accuracy wasn't required. So, I also strung up some InTouch Rio Perception WF5F. This gave me a better idea how this new rod from Temple Fork Oufitters would do while throwing dry flies or soft hackles. Although it was pretty clear that this rod preferred the grunt and growls of longer casts and heavier lines, the Axiom II-X did a solid job of allowing me to flick line accurately off the tip, even at closer distances with a floating line. It wasn't until I worked out more line however did the rod start to come alive.
The fit and finish of this rod is well done too. Although bolder/brighter colors with rods or reels isn't aesthetically high on my list, I didn't mind the blue finish of the Axiom II-X. Recoil REC stripping and stainless steel snake guides combined with an anodized aluminum reel seat make this rod well built and ready for saltwater. The cork handle is of good quality and the carbon fiber insert shares a similar blue color.
What I was looking to get out of the rod - a solid streamer rod that can handle sink-tips and bigger flies - was accomplished. This new TFO Axiom II-X has all the power that the TiCr-X had, but some with added accuracy and improved tracking. If you are looking for an "all-around" trout rod, this might suffer with your short distance dry fly needs, but will exceed in many other ways. I have a pretty aggressive double-haul, even while trout fishing, and found an added bonus was this rods ability to absorb being "over-powered." This translated into good line pickup and helping to roll-out the sink-tip before recasting. It was certainly a streamer work horse.
I enjoyed fishing this rod as it proved to be exactly as advertised. I needed a good rod to handle my streamer fishing and this new one from TFO served that purposed dutifully. I am very inclined to pick one of these up for myself as a new trout rod. The stiffer, fast action of this rod gives it less versatility in freshwater (trout) fishing, but I can see this rod doing serious things in saltwater. The slightly softer tip (than the TiCr-X) will give it an added advantage with accuracy and presentation on the bonefish flat and enough muscle to manage New England coastal conditions. I'm very curious to try the heavier weights!