Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Allen Icon II 9' 5wt

Icon II Fly Rod Review

You ever wake up and decide “I need a new fly rod?”
 I open my g-mail and there’s Allen Fly Fishing with a promotion on their Icon II rods. I click on the ‘view rods’ and find their Icon II rods are ½ off. ½ off but why? I have talked with Justin personally and also through e-mails. He’s a pretty down to earth no-nonsense guy from my point of view. The reason he gives for the ½ off sale isn’t because he is overstocked with these rods as if begging you to purchase one. He’s not promoting previous used rods in good condition or telling you those were found in the back of the warehouse in some dark corner and needs to make space. His explanation is simple; ’He wants to get them into the fly fishermen’s hands.’

  Allen Fly Fishing is more known for their economical quality reels. I own 2 of their reels, one for trout and one for steelhead, and haven’t had any problem with either.  I’ve been wanting a 9’ 5 weight fast action rod for windy conditions and looky here, a discount. How can I go wrong with a 30 day try it out and return policy if I don’t like the rod? A lifetime warranty if I decide to keep it. I pay a little over $300.00, with free shipping, to sample this rod! If I decide to keep it no more action needed, it’s mine. Oh, and I read they are made in America.

  I’m not going to get into the technical make up of the rod. I don’t care if it’s made with Boron, Titanium or carbon graphite. I can’t compare it to other expensive rods or other rods considered in the fast action rod class.  If it’s in my budget, feels light enough for my taste and casts well that’s all that’s needed as far as I’m concerned. I don’t buy expensive rods to impress anyone or to be the first one on the block to own one. If I impress anyone it’s on the stream casting and catching fish.

 The blank is made from aerospace-grade carbon. The blank is deep brown with dark mahogany wraps. As far as I’m concerned, as long as it isn’t a bright color, it wouldn’t matter the color of the blank. It’s not like I have to coordinate the blank color to my reel. It has a burl maple wooden insert which is one feature that I love on any of my fly rods. I understand no wooden insert on saltwater rods but if the freshwater rod doesn’t have a wood insert it just doesn’t suit my taste. The hardware on the rod sounds like quality stuff. It has a brushed aluminum reel seat and stainless steel guides. I was surprised that the smooth Portuguese cork handle wasn’t wrapped in plastic when I received it in the mail. Maybe they are made in intervals as orders came in for the 1/2 rod promotion?
 When I assembled the rod I noticed there were alignment dots. Looking down the shaft the guides lined up as perfect as my eye could tell. It had a good feel to it and wasn’t as stiff as I would have expected from a fast action rod. I had a 4 day weekend coming up later in the week so I was anxious to give it a whirl.

 The four days fishing up on Kettle Creek was mostly windy with good gusts now and then. Except for the few hours Jeff and I spent on a smaller mountain stream I used the Icon II rod exclusively.
 I fitted the Icon rod with an Allen LA trout 2 reel with weight forward line. The reel balanced the rod nicely. The fly line was well used with cracks in the coating in places. Even so the rod performed well. Casting weighted Woolly Buggers and weighted tandem nymphs were no problem. Roll casting long lengths of line was a breeze. I cast small dries from #20 Blue Quills to big #10 Drakes without any line twists. The big difference was the longer casts. I didn’t have to use extra force or energy to make long casts that I usually had to do with my other medium/fast action rods. I knew my limits and didn’t try to exceed them. I was sure with a new line the casts would improve. They biggest reason I got the fast action rod was to fight the wind. Again the rod was exceptional casting dries in windy conditions. Overall it performed well enough for my standards and by the end of the day I didn’t feel any arm or shoulder fatigue. Some upper back fatigue from standing in the water all day but that has been getting normal anymore with age.

  Well, when I got home I replaced the worn weight forward with a newer line I had on a regular arbor reel. My next outing was going to be fishing The Little Juniata and than Tionesta Creek up in the Allegheny National Forest. The lower part of the Little J and Tionesta Creek is more wide open and wider than Kettle Creek. There wasn’t much wind on the Little J but there were times a little finesse was needed with tight loops to get under over hanging branches. In the upper part of the Little J shorter sharp casts was the norm. A doubletaper line would have been better for the occasion but all I had was the weight forward line loaded. I found the rod was excellent as before.

 The big test came to be on Tionesta Creek as far as long casts with windy conditions. I was standing in ankle deep water and decided to cast a March Brown Parachute dry when I saw a fish rise along the wavy current ¾ the way across creek. Making those casts with my medium/fast action rod I know would present some extra energy and force to get my dry that far if I was able to even make the cast that distance. No doubt my accuracy would be lost and with the wind might be more frustrating. Let me tell you, the Icon II rod with new weight forward line was tremendous with or without the wind. I made long casts with ease without any straining. Intentionally I would cast right into the wind with the #12 dry fly and the dry would cut through the wind better than I expected with not much back slack. As far as fighting fish it holds its own and flexed fine when I was netting fish.
 Overall, with all the conditions I worked it through, it performed better than I expected. Again, I’m not sure what $700.00 to $900.00 rods have in performance, compared to this rod, but I can tell you for $600.00 it’s worth a 30 day test drive. For a little over $300.00 I considered it a steal!!  


You can read more about the rod at

Monday, May 29, 2017

Yellow Sally and Adams

Yellow Sally and Adams.

 After a quick breakfast we headed to the project area on Kettle Creek in hopes of a morning hatch. Well it never came about and nymph fishing was the norm again. 

   The sun was high and the temperature was quite warm. We wanted to fish a cooler mountain creek in the afternoon so we started to head down creek towards the truck before noon. Jeff was fishing a pool of water while I waded down creek and fished deeper water where available. Within vision of the truck I stuck around fishing while waiting for Jeff. With the sun above, and warm for the past couple of days, I decided to drift a beetle along the banks. I knotted on the only beetle I had on my fly patch and worked it along the bank. Watching the beetle drift cast after cast finally got one trout interested. It almost was too easy as I seen him rise and anticipated the take.

  We parked alongside the road and assembled our 7’ 3 weight rods for the small creek we would be fishing. We walked through the tall grass and as we got near the creek we both felt the coolness, under the shade of the trees, given off by the cooler mountain stream water. 

 Technical fly fishermen would say the best way to dry fly fish shallower mountain streams would be fishing upstream, high sticking as you wade up creek. Some may say it’s the only way to fish and catch trout. I, on the other hand, have learned that with stealth and little movement, downstream dry fly fishing is pretty productive also. I try to keep myself along the bank-side in the shadows and blend in with the background. I move slow and try not to kick up the silt along the shoreline. With my quick action Hardy Demon rod I can make snapping wrist casts without many limb and brush snagging from behind me. I have become very good with over the opposite shoulder casts when need be and I taught myself low profile sidearm casts to almost perfect placements. It all comes to not being afraid and lots of practice.

 Right away I notice Sulphurs , small grayish Mayflies, a few small caddis and a March Brown now and then flying about. My first choice is a small olive elk hair caddis. I knot this on my 6x tippet and look over the slow moving flat water before me. I make long casts towards the far bank, follow my dry with the rod tip, and keep an eye on the small caddis. After a few minutes, with no takers, I bring in the caddis and knot on a #18 Sulphur. I cast this out in a few areas I feel might hold trout but still no takers. I was beginning to think maybe my downstream fishing might not be so good of an idea. As I nip off the Sulphur I notice a Yellow Stone fly fluttering over the creek towards the far bank-side cliff. I look into my fly box and find a Yellow Sally. Fishing small brookie creeks a stimulator is a good choice. With the longer body Yellow Sally and yellow abdomen, it should be easy to see and hopefully a meaty dry to make a trout rise to the surface. I cast it out on to the flat water and get a feel for the weight and drift of the bigger choice. Looking downstream there are spots of sunrays that break through the shady canopy and sparkles the water like shining silverware. In these spots it is hard to see my dry but in most places it is very visible. Down creek there is a leafy tree branch that overhangs half the creek extending from the far bank. I can see a submerged flat rock that lays on the streambed but appears to have a ledge that is above the creek bottom. The water is maybe a little more than shin deep as a short riffling current flows above it. I make a delicate cast upon the riffles and let the Yellow Sally drift in the current. Even though there are no takers I wait till the Sally is far away from the small pocket before pulling the line back for another cast. My next drop is on this side of the riffles. The current pushes my dry into a slower pocket flow and it slows and wobbles on the surface. From the ledge I see a dark oblong object dart towards my fly and rises. It gobbles the Sally with a quick bite like a chicken pecking a piece of corn off the palm of my hand. A quick wrist set and the line tightens. The hooked fish gives a headshake and darts down creek in the shin deep water. The 3 weight bows with the weight of the fish and flexes with each sharp jolt of the fighting trout. It turns upstream and passes by in front of me. I lift the rod to keep tension on the fish. Without any hints it quickly turns and races downstream. It pulls line and I feel like I’m holding onto a kite string with the kite in a strong wind storm. After a few quirky maneuvers it tires and I’m able to bring it near. With an outstretched net I guide the trout over the wooden frame and into the net. A beauty of a brook trout puts a gleam in my eyes.

 The hook is stuck into its jaw and the fly dubbing and wings gets tattered when I get the hook undone. I slip the brook trout into the water and he quickly disappears on the release. I look for another Yellow Sally but can’t find one that fits to the size of my satisfaction.
 Many brook streams I fish I do well with a small Adams parachute. The white post is easy to see, it floats well and the gray body looks like many of the smaller midges you’ll find in these kinds of streams. I knot on a small Adam parachute and go to work.
 With stealth I wade down creek and pin point my casts where possible. There is no doubt some casts are dangerously close to hazardous branches but I try to stay calm and try not to get frustrated when I do snag up. My persistence pays off as I make casts after casts in unfamiliar water.

 The Adams bob up and over the riffles. A trout slaps at the dry like me attempting to catch a Mayfly in mid flight. I quickly wrist the rod tip upward and the line tightens. A trout fusses in the current but I calmly bring it to hand. 

 There’s an exposed branch across creek that keeps a slow pool of water safe from a cross creek cast. I have to get downstream from the branch to get a clear shot at the open pool. I slowly move, wading down creek keeping my profile to a minimum, until I feel I have a shot. It will take a tight loop to get under the canopy of branches above and a soft land of the dry as to not spook any trout within the pool. I make a couple of short false casts and whip a tight loop towards the pool. The dry falls short and I let the dry drift towards me. I pull the line back for my back cast and shoot a longer length of line out towards the pool. The long tippet falls over the pool with the Adams falling in a small wave that enters the pool. I bring in the fly line as is drifts towards me and watch the Adams. A trout sweeps from the side of the dry and mouths it. I quickly whip the rod backwards and the line straightens. I snicker with a stogie I hold tight between my lips. Smoke rises from the lit end as I bring in another frisky brookie.

 Down stream I come to a long wider section of water that flows and butts against a fallen tree that lays across the creek. The water before it is slowed and flat with little waves. I look behind me and have plenty of room for a long back cast. I make my cast towards the fallen tree and stop my cast way shy of the tree. I watch the Adams slow with the current in the flat water as I let line out with my left hand. A trout rises and nonchalantly sips it off the surface.

   I catch about 4 more trout letting the Adams drift towards the fallen tree before there are no more takers.
 I wade out to the far bank and walk on dry land around the fallen tree. Upon entering the creek, down from the fallen tree, I see there is a thinner limb that had Y’d from the thicker trunk. These are both above the surface crossing the creek but I see an opportunity to get a dry into the pool of water behind or even underneath the trunk and limb. I stand in the middle of the creek giving me a good hazard free back cast towards the fallen tree. I make a few casts and a couple of them land my Adams beneath the limbs but nothing rises to the surface. On another cast, beneath the tree, I watch as the dry slowly drifts downstream. I see a flash of a trout swim down creek past my fly and somewhere sits below. As the fly approaches the trout rises and sips it in like the last tiny marshmallow in a cup of hot chocolate. I whip back the length of line and …and…and the line tightens. Another battle and another trout comes to the net.

  Down creek further there is a line of pines that border the creek bank. Pine boughs overhang half the width of the creek. The water doesn’t look very deep but the water is well shadowed by the tall Hemlocks. Sidearm casts are the only way to get under its limbs.
 The dry lands ¾ of the way cross creek under the limbs. I watch as the Adams lazily floats upon the shaded water. I watch as the dry drifts in and out of the sunrays that filters through the limbs sparkling the water. I watch and wait for any surface splash or any dimpling swirl.



Thursday, May 25, 2017

Trout of Character

Trout of Character
Snippet from Kettle Creek

 Friday morning I cooked us up some venison sausage patties and fresh fried eggs. The perked coffee Jeff poured was hot and a good start for the morning. We might have gotten out a little later than we wanted but we had all day to fish and was hoping not too many people would be out being it was Friday. We started our adventure in the project area on Kettle Creek. The temperature was already rising with the sun coming up behind the mountain side as we walked up the path to where we wanted to fish. The green leafed trees were still shining bright with the morning wetness and the air we breathed was clean, cool and fresh.
 We spent an hour or so testing the waters though the catching was slow. Jeff hooked up a few times in a deeper slower section of water with nymphs and wet flies as I tried to hook into any hungry trout waiting for a meal in the faster current with nymphs. When I was nearer to Jeff I finally hooked into a trout on a Sulphur Nymph. That kind of broke the ice for me and I was ready for another.
 Jeff gave me some room in the deeper run that entered the deeper pool. I was nymph fishing a dark Sulphur nymph with a March Brown nymph as a dropper. My cast was out towards the far bank up creek into the current that entered the deeper water. I saw my dry fly line tip arc downward and I gave a sharp jerking jolt upwards. The trout took the tight line down stream towards the far bank. There was a long submerged log mid creek and I knew I’d have to keep him out from the obstacle. I raised the rod trying to get him up higher in the water column to avoid the log. The stiff fast action Allen Icon II rod was able to force him from the bottom and the trout cleared the log and darted upstream in which we fought with a pull and tugging tug of war. He covered the upper deep section pretty thoroughly with his quick darts to and fro. I kept the pressure on him and held a firm grip on the cork. When he got near enough I backed up in the ankle deep water and tried drawing him nearer to me. The way he fought I wondered if he was ever caught before with the wildness in his actions. When I finally netted him I had myself a beauty of a brook trout. His yellow halos were distinct on his silvery gun metal sides and his belly was the color of a tequila sunrise. Jeff noticed right off of the yellow steak that graced his chin. It was my finest colored brook trout I had caught for some time! 

 We continued to fish the project water till noon. The sun was hot and the fish weren’t cooperating so we decided some shady water, and away from the wind, might bring some trout to the surface. We headed to open fishing water for awhile.
 We hit a section that we had fished many times before in past years. The sun still shown upon the riffling water that flowed into a nice deeper section of submerged rocks and slate stream bed. I started off casting dry flies in the riffles while Jeff worked the deeper water slower section.
 My dry fly drifted one too many times above the wavy current for a trout to get hungry enough to rise. He popped up, from the bottom, and grabbed the dry with a gulp. My instincts took over and I hooked him on the surface. He gave a good tail splash after he turned his body and went under. The 5wt was a bit much as he wasn’t able to gain much ground with the pressure of the rod. We had a short quick skirmish and another tequila sunrise belly brook trout came to hand.

 I was feeling good about where we chose to wait out the afternoon. I lit up a cigar and began to cast the dry fly into the riffles again.

 Still working the riffling waves I spotted a rise ¾ the way across creek. A limp side arm cast put my fly just ahead of the rise with the loop of the fly line ahead of the dry in the stronger mid-stream current. With the arc of the line ahead of the fly gave my fly, in the slower current, a good slow drift. I knew the faster current would soon drag my line but I was hoping enough time for the trout to see the March Brown imitation before the drag. Sure enough a trout rose to the dry and I was quick to pull back line and with enough force to set the hook. The rainbow lifted out of the water in an acrobatic show of its skills. It splashed beneath but quickly rose again above the surface water trying to eliminate the hook in its jaw. It struggled beneath a bit after reentry and I got it to the net safely.

 I made a long cast into the shallower riffles upstream that looked to be only shin deep. My March Brown moved with the ripples and a trout slapped at the big Mayfly. I had been taking in line with the oncoming current so it didn’t take much time to straighten the line enough to get a hook set on the upstream take. A little trout darted and scampered about all the way to my waiting wet hand.

 Another rise happened midstream not very far from where I stood. With a roll of my rod the fly line looped in front of me like a lasso and landed midstream in front of me. I took in slack line quickly as the dry drifted drag free into the strike zone. One more hungry trout took the imitation.

 The wind died down and we decided to finish off the day back in the project area on our way back to camp.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Bend +

The Bend +
Snippets from Kettle Creek

  The four Canadian fly guys circled the wide pool at the bend in the creek like marine biologists at Sea World. They looked as if they were trying to coax a fish to take one of their nymphs or wet flies for some kind of evaluation. Their eyes were gazed in the water as they splashed casts upon the surface. They weren’t having any luck. I watched and than realized they must have just been taking samples of the marine life. They would drift their samples for a while and than bring them in and look at them as if they were looking for organism in the water. Then they would switch to a new form of tied fly to sample more creek life.
 The white bearded gentleman waded out of the riffles, which entered the deeper pool, and sat on the bank as if contemplating his next offering. I asked if he minded if I give it a try where he was sampling. He gave me a pleasant yes and told me good luck.
 I stepped into the water but not as far into the riffles as he was previously. I think it was my third drift through, with me tandem nymphs, that the line stopped and I was fighting a chunky rainbow in the riffling water. The second trout I caught in the riffles the white bearded fellow wanted to know what I was using and I showed him the nymphs.
 I never saw the other fellows ever give me a glance to my catches but than again I wasn’t watching their sampling very often. It might have been my 3rd or fourth trout caught that the fellow sampling in the deeper pool below me spoke up. He mentioned to me that there was a big fish swimming around in the pool but wasn’t able to hook into him. A few minutes later he stepped out of the water to join his buddy on shore giving me a chance to fish the deep pool.
 I added a little more weight to my leader and started to drift my tandem nymphs through the deeper water. My fly line tipped down and I jerked the line up for the hook set. The nine foot rod bowed with the tight line but there wasn’t much of a give. When the trout took off away from the hook set I knew this trout was heavier than the others. The trout gave up a good battle but it wasn’t after I was able to see the chunky lengthy rainbow that I mentioned to the fellow that I think I caught the big trout he’d been watching. The rainbow rose to the surface as the older gent looked on and agreed with me.

  I continued to nymph fish the deeper pool and caught one more trout before going back up into the riffles.

 After the 4 Canadians left Jeff and I continued to fish for about another half hour before heading back up stream.

 Jeff pulled a big rainbow in a deep water run before I got to him. I fished a dry for awhile while he continued to nymph fish in the same pool. It was getting around 6:00 pm when we decided to head towards the truck. We stopped and fished another riffling run that entered into a long stretch of knee high water. There weren’t any risers but after noticing a couple of March Browns, Sulphurs and Gray colored flies I decided to dry fly fish.
 My cast was up and across creek. The March Brown Para-Dun drifted upon the surface waves until I saw a surface splash at my imitation. The trout fought hard and heavy in the current with force and aggressiveness.

 It became a great dry fly fishing experience as Jeff and I were able to raise and hook into some nice evening risers.

 After a bit it was getting time to call it quits and head back to camp. After changing clothes we headed over to the Cross Forks Inn to feed up and watch the Penguins beat Ottawa.