10/2/11

Mark Allen Fly Rods!

I have seen pictures of these beauties being built on Google Plus and often wished I could get my hands on one just to see how good these things really are. As luck would have it and after making a comment to Mark that I would provide some field testing for him, the FedEx man shows up with, yup you guessed it, a Mark Allen custom made fly rod!

I told Mark I would give him an honest unbiased review and that I could give it a good work out on these beautiful Western North Carolina streams. If you know me much, you  know I spend as much time as I can out there and with the weather turning cooler, I know this was going to be fun!

(Specs)
The rod is a beautiful  7ft 3wt (3 piece) Graphite with a moderate fast action. It has a reversed half wells grip made of super grade cork. Polished aluminum down locking reel seat along with single foot TiChrome rod guides. Mark chose gun metal gray with a Brown Trout finish which totally is a work of art. Suggested price is at $329.00 with rod tube. Being I support American made products as much as I can in this sport, I asked Mark about the parts. He stated they are all American made and that he wasn't sure of the guides at this time but he does get them from an American supplier. The rod tube is outfitted with four sleeves and locking zipper, green in color and super strong. The tube itself is made in the USA, This is a big plus for me!


(Usage)
I was able to get some serious Blue Line water time with this rod. Any wild water fly fisherman worth his grit isn't going to throw names out of his precious waters so you'll have to just go with me on this. Imagine streams that you have to hike into, fight the laurels and rock hop all day! Carrying this rod I noticed it was light but has a quality feel to it. When you rock hop around your bound to slip, fall or toss your rod. With that being said, I did just that, yup this is a review so why not give it hell I thought. It does well resisting scratches from normal wear and tear so, I tossed it up a few banks when needed my hands to hold on to the laurels to climb, still looking good. I decided to drop it in the water and I used it to keep some tree limbs out of my face. I know what your thinking, he is nuts, you don't use a fly rod for that, well I am reviewing a rod someone who is going to put their hard earned money into so the abuse is justified in my thought. The rod looks great, no problems here. I feel this rod will retain a beauty that will last during normal use for years.

(Performance)
I found this rod to cast exceptionally well for a 7ft rod. I used Rio Trout LT WF line rigged with 6X and in my opinion is a superb line for small streams when you want a smooth delicate presentation, I swear by it. My casting style is pure Appalachian. I cast left handed, right handed, around boulders, through trees and scrub so keep in mind, I'm not going to be seen in any distance casting competitions..ha! I was pleasantly surprised with the control of this rod and how I was able to correct in mid flight many of my sloppy casts. Sensitivity is a strong point of this rod also. I was able to feel the slight bumps of the submerged leaves flowing down stream and the short strikes of the wild trout without issue. Being I know the line is working with the rod to perform like this I decided to put some additional stressful use on it. I threw a nice #12 Stone into a popular tree and decided to play tug o war with it. It handles abuse as expected very well. Catching fish on it? Well catching wild trout around here makes you work at manipulating the retrieve and not so much on letting the rod do the work like on larger fish that you would catch on the Davidson etc. I was able to maintain tight lines and manipulate the fish where needed without issue. I feel without a doubt that if your fishing your typical small streams you will be pleased also with how this rod loads. It loads fast and I found it to be one of the rods strong points. It was a pleasure to cast given it loads fast and got me on fish fast. For the review I used an Orvis CFO 1 and my Abel TR-2.

I decided to do something outside of the rods specifications (Who me?) I took it to a popular Delayed Harvest stream and see how it could handle itself. On this river I go directly to my Winston 5WT or my Sage 4WT and when chucking big streamers I usually run a large arbor and nothing smaller than 4x. Well I pulled up along side the river, tied on some 4x and a nice huge nasty  #8 Slumpbuster. This placed way more stress on the rod during casts as expected. Back casts and roll casts were very tricky and I could not get near as much line out but hey, I expected that, The CFS was up and stripping that streamer through the current bowed that rod like it was a wheat field in a tornado. Did I catch anything in the DH?.. No unfortunately and I would have loved to for the review but it's called fishing, not catching right? Did the rod handle the added weight, yes from a structural integrity point of view. Did it perform well, not really but remember this is a small stream rod and not designed for this but if someone purchased this rod and thought they would hit huge water, I wouldn't want them disappointed. I remember my first rod, thought I could catch anything anywhere with it, not so true once I was out there or it was way to much on the small stuff. Buying a rod is like buying a pair of pants, make sure it fits.

Another out of spec run I did with it was overloading it. I placed my Abel TR-2 on it loaded with 4wt. It done flawless and added a little more punch to the casts. I know some of you like to overload and I do too when the situation warrants it. I did not under load it based on my 2wt line was off the spool at the time. From my observations, it would perform as usual under loaded, light and slightly sloppy as they all do.

(Comparison)
I compared this rod to several of mine and found it closely resembles and performs like my Orvis Superfine "Trout Bum" which boasts a $575.00 price tag. The quality of the cork reminded me of my Winston however, its allover beauty is pure custom. I think if I were to add this to my arsenal I would look toward and Abel brown trout custom painted reel which would look awesome with the Brown Trout skin Mark put on it.

Final thoughts..

This is a superb three weight rod designed for small streams that has a little wiggle room on the upper end near a four weight. Its custom paint scheme is mantle quality and screams look at me! Overall quality is of a custom quality rod and I would feel it will stand up to many years of normal use. At $329.00 with rod tube it's a great deal and rivals rods costing more. This is an American made rod by an American craftsman and the hard work Mark puts into them can be seen and felt. I feel you will be happy with this rod when used within its specification range. I suggest you contact Mark as it's rumored he may be making other weights too and they may fit your style more. I am sure that being a custom shop Mark can deliver to your needs. Mark can be contacted at markffsc@gmail.com 


I have added a few of the trip pictures along side of my review...
Hope you enjoy and tight lines to ya!... JD







Mark Allen's rod is second from top



Mark Allen (top) Orvis SuperfineTrout Bum (Bottom)






My son and me







3 comments:

  1. great review. i love to read about new rods in the hands of someone that uses them and works them in different situations.
    i couldn't tell, what kind of wood is the reel seat insert? ~DT

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's a Struble reel seat with a Vera wood insert.

    ReplyDelete