Gear Review: TFO Drift Fly Rod

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By Spencer Durrant | TMTB Managing Editor
June 5, 2018

 

The TFO Drift is one of the most revolutionary fly rods in decades.

I’m a self-proclaimed gear nut, and in the last five years I reckon I’ve reviewed or cast around 100 fly rods. From boutique builders to the latest and greatest from Sage, Orvis, and Winston, I’ve seen the gamut of fly rods. The TFO Drift stands out above them all because it’s easily the most unique, promising rod I’ve seen in years.

Now, I’ll be honest – TFO hasn’t ever drawn much of my attention. I did get to fish the Axiom rod while at Pyramid Lake last December, and that rod was surprisingly great. In fact, it was good enough to make me start looking at what else TFO had to offer.

I stumbled across the TFO Drift not long after its release. At first, I was wary.  Here was a rod positioned to not only have a new stripping guide system, but also to be capable of fishing in four different configurations without turning into more of a hindrance than a help for catching fish. That sounded an awful lot like the old spincasting/fly combos from the 60s and 70s.

I’m very happy to say I was wrong, and that TFO put togetheer a really, really solid product. The Drift may not be for everyone, but what it represents for the future of fly fishing should be enough for most folks to at least appreciate this rod.

You can check out the video review here, and read the rest of the review below.

The Nitty-Gritty

What I Liked

The Innovation

TFO took a big leap of faith with the Drift, but I think it paid off. It takes guts to sell anglers on buying a 4-in-1 fly rod. That’s the sort of gimmick even a gear whore like myself usually passes up.

What made me really stop and think that the Drift had a chance of being good were the new stripping guides. These are open ever so slightly on one side. It’s enough to let you insert line through the side of a guide, which means you can add and remove sections of the rod without restringing the rod every time.

Of course, with any other fly rod, you’re not adding or removing sections. That’s what really sets the Drift apart from the pack. It comes as a standard 9’3wt 4-piece rod with a downlocking reel seat and decent cork. The blank is a deep bronze with gold lettering, and the wraps all seem tight and slim.

Then, thanks to two other sections, you can turn the rod into a 10 or 11’3wt Euro nymphing rod, or a 12’3″ switch rod.

When I saw the Drift put together for the first time, I remember thinking, I don’t care if this doesn’t work, I need one just because it’s cool. 

The Performance

Alright, drooling over  stripping guides and removable rod sections aside, does the Drift actually fish well?

In all honesty, it did better than I expected. The 9’3wt configuration was surprisingly light and responsive, serving me well on my favorite creeks near my home. Both the 10 and 11′ Euro rods were plenty serviceable, if a bit heavy.

Then there’s the switch rod – all 12’3″ of it.

I’m no sort of expert spey caster, and I’ve never caught a steelhead or a salmon on a spey rod. For a beginner who’s just treading water in the two-handed fly rod world, the TFO Drift is a great place to start.

Now, bear in mind this rod costs $400.00. You’re not going to get all the light weight, torsional stability, and oscillation reduction you would from an $800.00 rod. The Drift is a bit on the heavy side, and it’s not the most accurate rod ever built. But it’s also not too heavy, or to inaccurate, that I wouldn’t fish it.

Put simply, the Drift performs exactly as you’d expect it to at its price point.

The Potential

Lastly, the other lingering impression I have after fishing the Drift is that it’s going to influence fly rod design in the near future. The stripping guides alone should pop up on most major fly rods, if only because it’s easier than ever to string a rod with them. A fly rod doesn’t have to have removable sections to utilize the new stripping guides.

It also shows that having a rod designed to do more than one task is viable. Sure, we’ve had 5wt rods billed as the do-it-all rods. That’s the staple for most fly anglers. But we’ve seen few rods meant to tackle steelhead in the morning and small grayling in the afternoons.

What I Don’t Like

No Storage for Parts

The TFO Drift comes with two accessories that screw into the butt cap on the reel seat – a weighted extension, and a switch grip extension. The weight is used to help balance a longer rod in Euro nymphing situations.

There’s nowhere to store the extensions, though. The rod sock doesn’t have space, so I’ve taken to shoving them in the fancy case and throwing the spare parts in my vest for quick, easy access.

Weight

I know I shouldn’t complain about the weight of a rod, especially when it goes from a small-creek tool to your best bet for landing a king salmon. But the rod is a bit heavier than is comfortable for a day of full use.

Final Word

Weight and storage issues aside, the TFO Drift is a phenomenal rod. It performs exceptionally at its price point, offers versatility no other rod can mach, and it’s affordable. If you want to get into the world of two-handed fly rods, or even single-hand spey casting, then the Drift is a rod you need to check out.


Spencer Durrant is a fly fishing writer, outdoors columnist, and novelist from Utah.. He’s the Managing Editor of The Modern Trout Bum, and Owner/CEO of Cutthroat Creative Media. Find him on Twitter/Instagram, @Spencer_Durrant.