Allen Alpha II Reel Review
I posted this on the "theflyfishingforum" but I thought people might be interested here as well:
After months of reading all of the reviews and comparisons between the Alpha reels and reels from Lamson and others I finally pulled the trigger and picked a used 9/10 (one of the black/silver) models. It was used but in excellent condition so I feel that is was a reasonable reel to write a review. By way of comparison I also own and compared side by side the following reels:
- Lamson 2nd and 3rd gen Velocity in size 3.5
- Redington Brakewater in size 7/8, 9/10, 11/12
- Teton Tioga model 10
- Okuma SLV size 8/9
- Allen Alpha II 9/10
All of these reels were purchased used.
I set up the Alpha with a 420gr Airflo Rage head, 60' of 50lb mono running line and 150 yards of 30lb dacron backing. The rest of the reels had various single hand and two hand lines ranging from 9wt weight forward lines through 500gr skagit lines.
I spent 7 days salmon and steelhead fishing on the Salmon River in upstate New York. Salmon averaged about 25lbs this year so it was a good test of reel's drag system.
My initial impression of the reel was quite positive. I thought the black and silver anodizing and the machining were top notch. The 9/10 reel is quite large and was a perfect match for my spey rod (13' 6" 7/8) however it is too big for a 9/wt single hand rod. If I was looking for a 9wt single had reel the 7/8 would be my choice. My only complaint was a small wobble in either the spool or spindle. Since the was a used reel I am not sure if it came that way from the factory or was the result of misuse.
I was equally impressed with the way it fished. I fought and landed about 15 big kings with the reel and found the drag power more than adequate. Due to the length of the spey rod the guides provide a fair amount drag so I never needed more than about half of the drag strength. One area that could use improvement is the amount of travel the drag knob needs before it starts to engage the drag in a meaningful way. The drag knobs of the Lamson, Redington and Okuma reels are better in this regard. Since all of my fishing is done in the water (as opposed to the showroom floor of a store) I feel that a reel's drag needs to stand up to rain (all day) and regular dunkings. This is especially true when you are trying to land big fish on long rods by yourself. The Alpha, Redington, Tioga and Lamson reels relatively unaffected by this. The Okuma drag will eventually fail once the drag is saturated with water. Luckily it is easy to take apart and dry out over night.
Overall I am very impressed with the reel for two hand rods. My favorite reel when it comes to drag performance is still the Redington. The drag on this discontinued reel is without equal for "lower end" reels. It really is in a class by itself. If I am going to spend all day stalking and overhead fly casting with a single handed rod I prefer the Lamson reels due to their lack of weight. They have not been the most reliable reels so I always carry a spare Lamson reel so I can switch parts. Despite this I still love them (own 4, 2 Radius, 2 Velocity). The Okuma SLV is my favorite budget reels (all three of my kids use them). The drag is the nicest in the entire Okuma line. It is a painted reel that does not hold up to salt water very well but what do you want for $30 (used). Landed tons of kings without issue. However if you are looking for a reel that represents a super value from both a performance and aesthetic standpoint then the Allen reel is hard to beat. I plan on adding a couple more for two hand rod use.
Prices: (price range considers used - new)
Allen Alpha II 9/10 : $100 - $145
Redington Brakewater 7/8 or 9/10 : $150 - $300 (used only, discontinued)
Lamson Velocity 3.5 : $150 - $250
Tioga #10 : $100 - 130 (used only, discontinued)
Okuma SLV 8/9 : $30 - $70