Sunday, November 6, 2016

Orvis Recon and Hydros SL review

The Orvis Recon 9'/10 wt /4 pc is simply a fly rod that covers the big game situations.  Let me elaborate.  Over the last 8 months, I’ve used it in three unique environments to target big game fish with great results. 

Say you are planning a solo, 16 hour road trip to Wisconsin to chase pike and musky.  You’re probably going to be throwing some rather large bugs.  When you get into 10 weights and large arbor reels, weight of the combo takes a back seat.  However, you’ll appreciate that the Recon has the right action to help load and shot line easily.  In comparison to my Orvis Encounter (entry level set up) it wasn’t even in the same ball park but this isn't an entry level combo.  The Recon’s action is much smoother and angler friendly.  For example, I didn’t have to get 30 feet of line out to really feel it loading.  Over three days of slinging 4/0 hooks over my head, I really appreciated that I had complete control of the magic that was happening around me.  I say magic because it made me look way better than I actually am.  Check out the video and see what I’m talking about: 

Now, I’m back in my home state of Arkansas and stumble upon a school of giant gar.  Gar aren’t necessarily selective on what that want to eat but they don’t really chase either.  In my experience, sightfishing them is far more productive than blind casting.  Or maybe it’s that flinging a 10 wt from a kayak all day can be exhausting. 

Either way, I prefer to cast at something I see first.  Here’s where the action of the Recon is worth its salt.  In the summer, gar will rise and slurp air from the surface.  When his happens, you have a few seconds to get a fly in front of it.  The Recon excels in its ability to get line out quickly and precisely.  More importantly, it can get to fish rising 80 feet away or 20 feet away with accuracy.

Last week I took it to Southeast Louisiana to chase redfish in the marsh.  If you’ve read this far you know it will hold up to the rigors of catching large predatory fish.  Pike, gar and reds will test your gear (more on that later) and the Recon has been up to the challenge.  Salt is a whole other world and I was interested in seeing if it would keep its sheen.  Out in the marsh there isn’t a place to escape from the wind.  My fear was that the action wouldn’t be helpful in the winds I would face.  Keep in mind that I’m in a kayak, so winds above 15 mph aren’t going to be tested.  I’m ok with that because the kayak isn’t a stationary platform.  As soon as I drop the paddle, the winds have an impact on my ability to cast.  In these conditions, I need a rod that has some flex but enough power to drive a fly through the wind.  You’ll appreciate it when the kayak starts to turn to the starboard and your backcast has reached its point of return.  Yeah, lets just say generating line speed becomes an important consideration and the Recon had my back. 

The Recon is paired with the new Hydros SL “super large” arbor reel.  I immediately recognized the worth of a fast retrieve and smooth drag.  Kayak fishing has a certain amount of inherent chaos built in.   When these big fish start moving, they also move the kayak.  Now you’re fighting the fish and dealing with a moving kayak.  Often that means handling the rod with one hand while you have the other hand on the paddle.  A smooth powerful drag and the ability to get line back quickly is huge. 

The drag on the Hydros SL allows me to control the kayak without fear of losing the fish.  After I’ve gotten the kayak under control, I can get back to playing the fish.  The fast retrieve of the Hydros SL gets all that lost line back quickly.  These features are sweet to have when a redfish decides to jump three marsh islands and you have to go chase it down.  Like I said earlier, I have to do the paddling and the fishing.

Kayak fly fishing can be very demanding.  Often times the angler’s success is directly related to the tools you have and you’ll need every tool you can get your hands on when you target big game fish.  There’s nobody on the other end of the boat to help you when things start to get intense.  Case in point, while freeing a redfish from the grass it decided to make a sudden run under the kayak breaking the Recon.  Yep, that really happened.  

Chaos dialed up to intense levels

The culprit - no smiles, but I'm not concerned.

That’s why you need a good warranty from a company you can trust.  Orvis’ customer service is well known for being great to its customers.   It’s another tool that you’ll likely need at some point if you fly fish from a kayak. 
Smooth drag, there when you need it.  Like an unexpected burst right beside the kayak (watch the video).

When I’ve paddled two miles out, I want gear that is reliable.  Gear that will aid me in my pursuit of big fish and that’s what I have found in my Orvis Recon and Hydros SL.  When bad things happen, and they will, knowing your equipment will be fixed is very important.  As a kayak angler, I need tools that help quiet the chaos when it starts to get intense and that’s what I’ve found in my Orvis gear.    

My only real concern is not with the rod but with the rod tube.  I wish the it had a handle or something to clip the reel case to.  I like to keep my reels attached to the rod tubes.  Helps me not forget them when I packing for a big trip.  Be cool if they incorporated something like that in the future.

Other reviews:
Orvis Encounter 8wt review
Orvis Clearwater 6wt review
Orvis Silver Sonic Wader review


  1. I'll never need a 9 foot 10 weight rod or a large arbor reel for the 6 inch fish I catch, but I guarantee you'll never be let down by Orvis. Great customer service. I'm enjoying your adventures as much as you are Drew. I didn't fall once on this trip!

  2. That's great to hear Howard, but I don't know if anyone is enjoying them as much as I am. Ha, no maybe not on 6 inch fish unless your using them as bait!