Sage introduced its newest fly rod today at the European Fishing Tackle Trade Expo in Amsterdam. I was fortunate enough to receive one of the first production models (9-foot 5-weight) about a month ago, and I have been fishing it ever since—on rivers and lakes, and with dry flies, streamers, and dry-dropper rigs (any setup where an angler must cast). I did side-by-side comparisons with my other favorite rods, including the Scott Radian, the Sage One, the Thomas & Thomas Spire, and the Orvis Helios 2. I matched it with two different reels—a Hatch Finatic 4-Plus, and a lighter Sage Click model. I fished it with three different fly lines: a RIO Perception, a Scientific Anglers Ultimate Trout, and an Airflo Bandit. I fished for trout, and landed a good number of browns and rainbows, ranging from 8 to 22 inches long.
So what do I think about the Sage X? I like it a lot, and think many anglers of various skills will feel a perceptible difference when they cast this rod. For that reason, and because Sage is going to market the heck out of X, I think it’s eventually going to be the best-selling premium fly rod of all time. It is built with Konnetic HD technology. But I will spare you the techno-promo speak: It’s simply a small-diameter blank with a fast action and high sensitivity, and you feel the load lower in the rod closer to the grip.
Instead of getting into rankings or claims that any rod is the “absolute best,” let me hit you with my usual disclaimer. The more you know about fly rods, the more you realize that any person who professes to be expert enough to rank one rod over another is probably a numskull. Casting and fishing performance are purely subjective in nature, and what flips my switch might not flip yours. The rod you boom casts with, I might flail with, and vice versa. So take what I’m about to say with whatever measure of salt you deem appropriate. But here are 10 things you might want to know if you’re interested in the Sage X.
1. I’ve never cast a rod with an action this fast, wherein I feel the flex as deeply down the taper and close to my casting hand as I do with the X. I think that, literally, puts me in better touch with the rod action. I consider it a more “personal” casting experience. I also think it opens opportunities for anglers to match this rod with fly lines more effectively.
2. It generates a lot of line speed, with little or no false casting (so long as you load the rod from the water). It’s a pick it up and set it down rod, good for banging banks and covering spots. You shouldn’t false cast over trout anyway.
3. There isn’t much vibration or tip wiggle when you stop the rod. Thus, it’s very accurate, even if you’re a slinger with a semi-sidearm cast, like I have, rather than one with a straight up and down stroke. At 40 or 50 feet, it can feel like you’re driving tacks.
4. You have to be careful, however, to keep your casting plane above the water surface and not angled down, because with that line speed, you can easily slam flies on the water and spook fish. Let the cast fully unfold a foot or two above the surface and then drop, and the accuracy factor is noticeable.
5. This rod helps me throw tighter loops, which bust through wind better. I pride myself on throwing a fairly tight wedge, but I think the X can pack the wedge down another three inches, particularly when I’m using a forward-weighted fly line.
6. I have found that my casting action with the X turns leaders over a little better than with most (but not all) other rods. That directly translates to being able to add another foot or two of tippet and leader, and I’m a big fan of fishing with longer leaders, provided you can turn them over.
7. Because of where I feel the flex in the X, I am a more efficient and effective roll caster with it.
8. The X is 1/16th of an ounce lighter than the One. What is 1/16th of an ounce? A few twists of hackle on a fly? A wrap or two of backing on the reel? Forget about how much fly rods weigh. That’s an old and obsolete factor.
9. The Sage X will cover a full spectrum of rod sizes, from light trout models to heavy saltwater versions, including two-handers. The company is clearly going all-in with the X. Which is good, because now everyone else will get cranking on their own technologies. The rod wars are back on.
10. The Sage X costs $895 for most single-hand models, which is a pretty penny, I know, but that’s what high-end, handmade (more than 40 people touch every Sage rod made in the company’s factory on Bainbridge Island, Washington), American-made, lifetime-warrantied rods cost these days.