Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Gear Review: Risen Fly Ichthus Fly Reel

Back in January I was daydreaming about spring and what new gear I want needed for the upcoming season.  I noticed I've been targeting steelhead more and more, I got addicted to fly fishing for carp, and I even wanted to target some pike, musky, and hybrid striped bass on the fly rod so I thought I should invest in a good 7/8wt fly reel. After doing some research the Ichthus Fly Reel from Risen Fly was brought to my attention.  I'll admit, I was a little hesitant at first, but after hearing some good things about this reel I decided to get it.  And of course when you get a new reel you also need line and backing to go with it, so I decided to get the 8wt Alpha fly line as well also from Risen Fly.

From the day it came in the mail I was very anxious to get it out on the water. I was very pleased by it's construction, it's drag system, and how light it was.  Throughout the rest of January and February I was able to fish with it a handful of times on the local rivers, but I didn't connect with any fish to fully test out the reel.  Even though I didn't get a chance to see how the reel performed, I was able to get a good taste for the Alpha fly line which I loved from the very first cast.  It is the cheapest fly line I own, and it is just as good as my most expensive line.  It is currently $17.50, which I think is the best deal in fly fishing right now.  The only thing I don't like about it is it doesn't have a pre-welded loop, but that's not an issue at all. 

As March came rolling around I found myself spending more time on the area trout streams and didn't get to fish with the 8wt that much.  Towards the end of the month I couldn't take it any more and just had to get out and test this reel on some steelhead.  I fished the Rock River on the west side of Cleveland, OH.  Unfortunately the fishing was very slow, but I did hook into two hard fighting steelhead which gave the reel a little workout before the fish came loose.  Even though the steelhead didn't cooperate, the hard fighting lake-run white suckers did and and even they put the drag system to the test.

When April started the pike and walleye fishing really heated up on a local river.  I wasn't able to hook up with any pike on the fly(spin fished most of the time, which I now regret as it would have been the perfect chance to get one on the fly), but I did catch 2 nice walleye fly fishing.  Finally my first good fish on the Ichthus!  One of the 'eyes was my biggest ever caught fly fishing.

The walleye were fun, but they didn't really make any long runs to test out the drag, so it was back on to steelhead.  Throughout April I was able to make a couple trips to the Lake Erie tributaries in search of steelhead, and fortunately most of the times the fish cooperated.  Due to high and fast water, and me being unable to cross the stream in most spots, the first steelhead I hooked on the new setup took me into the backing! The reel, line, and backing all held up nicely and I was able to land the fish.  That day, as well as the next trip, I was able to hook into a bunch of steelhead.  Most of them were older fish that have been in the creeks a while, but I did hook into some fresher ones that gave the drag a good exercise.

As the steelhead season came to a close, the carp season was just beginning.  They are the next hardest fighting fish you'll find anywhere and can also easily take you into your backing if you let them.  So far this spring and summer I was able to catch a handful of drag busting carp, and again the Ichthus performed flawlessly.  

Currently I have the Ichthus paired up with a Cabela's Three Forks 8wt fly rod.  I didn't want to spend a whole lot on the rod because I fish with my 3, 5, and 6wts a lot more, but I went with a good reel because you NEED a reel with a good drag system if you are fishing for steelhead and carp.  The reel balances the rod perfectly and I love the entire outfit.

Here's the details on the reel...

Precision machine cut from pure aerospace aluminum bar stock and stainless steel for maximum strength and corrosion protection
Large diameter Cork/FXB polymer disc drag delivers ultra smooth, low start-up inertia
Two sealed, precision, stainless steel ball bearings
Fitted with one-way roller bearing
Quick left and right hand handle reversal
Counter balanced spool
Large arbor design
Easy drag adjustment
Drag clutch with zero-backlash
Silent retrieve with a crisp out-going click
Quick release spool
Exposed palming rim for additional control

Ichthus 3/4 1:1 2+1 1.65 2.87 1.06 4.33 4.06
Ichthus 5/6 1:1 2+1 2.00 3.50 1.06 5.00 6.17
Ichthus 7/8 1:1 2+1 2.36 3.74 1.30 6.29 7.76
Ichthus 9/10 1:1 2+1 2.00 3.74 1.30 7.32 7.76

Overall in my opnion this is one of the best reels you can find in the $100 range. It has a very smooth and sensitive drag, and it is very well constructed.  The only downside is it does not have a sealed drag system, but for me that is not a big issue.  If you're fishing in temps below freezing you just have to make sure you don't dunk the reel in water so it doesn't freeze up.  At first the handle on the reel was a little stiff which was a little annoying at first, but after a couple of outings and fish it was perfectly fine.  I recommend this reel to anyone.  Currently there is a sale on all Risen Fly products, which ends on June 14th.