Risen Fly Ichthus Reel Review

I had the pleasure of fishing with the Risen Fly Ichthus (size 5/6) reel on a recent two week fly-fishing trip to Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. Below is a review of the reel’s performance.

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Rods used on: Risen Fly ITB 9’ 5wt., Orvis Clearwater 9’ 4 wt.

Line: Risen Fly Alpha Line

Reel Weight: 6.17 oz.

 

Overview:

After putting the Ichthus Reel through an intense two-week’s of fishing, I found it fulfill every requirement a trout fisherman is looking for in a reel. Risen Fly has created the perfect no-frills, all-business reel for anglers hoping to spend their time on the water fishing, rather than playing amateur mechanic on the streambank. The large arbor design accommodated a 5-wt. line as expected, and kept my fly-line smooth and tangle free day after day. I found aircraft grade aluminum design to be light and efficient, and the reel’s weight did not affect the performance of either of my rods. In short, I would recommend the Ichthus to anyone looking for a quality reel at an affordable price.

 

Favorite Features:

Weight: The first thing I noticed when taking the Ichthus reel out of the box was its weight, which was surprisingly light. The large arbor design gives it the impression of being heavier, but its aluminum construction and minimalist design gives it the mass of a much smaller reel. On the stream, these features payed immediate benefits as my rod performed exactly as it had with my previous, much smaller reel. Even when attached to my 4 wt. Orvis Clearwater, I had no problems with the reel throwing off the balance of my lighter rod. I logged several long days fishing with the Ichthus, sometimes spending as much as 12 hours on the water, and not once did I develop casting fatigue, reinforcing the importance of the reel’s light design.

Drag: During my two week test with the Ichthus, I had the opportunity to fish for trout of a variety of sizes. Spending one day fighting bull trout approaching 2 feet in length, and the next chasing backcountry brook trout meant that adjusting the drag was something I did a lot of. I found the drag system on the Ichthus to be of excellent quality, when compared with reel’s I have previously used. The adjustment knob was large and easy to use. I have used other reels where it seems impossible to find that perfect amount of drag, but the Ichthus made it possible to accurately and quickly make very fine adjustments as needed. In addition, the drag was reliably smooth, even after collecting substantial dirt and grit on backcountry trips. Never once did the Ichthus “grab” when line was being taken out, which was crucial in giving me the confidence to fight a number of large trout.

Photo by Wendell Baer (@riversonthefly).

Photo by Wendell Baer (@riversonthefly).

Simple Design: The Ichthus has very few moving parts as fly-fishing reels go. This paid dividends on a long trip with repetitive use, as I did not have to spend considerable fishing time fiddling and adjusting the mechanism. I found the design logical in its construction, and I never was confused with it, despite using it for the first time. Cleaning out dirt and grime was easy, without the worry of damaging the reel or misplacing an integral component that more complicated reels pose.

 

Areas for Improvement:

Toughness: Due to its aluminum construction, I found the Ichthus reel to be susceptible to some bending. During my testing, I took a pretty hard fall and slammed the reel on a rock, bending the arbor to the point it was unusable. Perhaps on a reel developed with a tougher material, this would not have happened, but it is hard to know as it sustained a very violent impact. However, its “lack” of toughness also made it very easy to repair. Using only my forceps, a pocket knife, and a rock, I was able to repair the reel to a usable condition while streamside, in only 5-10 minutes. That evening, using some more refined tools, I was able to finish my repair, and by the next day the reel was working the same as before. Be aware that due to its aluminum construction, the Ichthus can be vulnerable to some bending, but that it also is easily repaired. Aside from this incident, the Ichthus held up very well to the abuse I put it through, and displayed surprisingly little evidence from the rocky, rough streams that I was fishing.

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In conclusion, the Ichthus reel exceeded my expectations for a reel that carries as convenient of a price tag as it does.  The lightweight and simple design, with more-than-adequate features provided me with a reel that enabled me to chase trout day in and day out, without having to fiddle or worry with the complexity of a reel with more bells and whistles. I would wholeheartedly recommend the Ichthus to any angler looking for a reel that will be perform reliably and enable fishermen to worry about what matters most – the fish.

 

-Ethan

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