A few days ago, took a new Sage ONE, 9-foot, #5-weight fly rod to the river for a little “one-on-ONE.” Early reports on this rod have been positive (see John Merwin’s writeup on the [ONE technology](/blogs/honest-angler/2011/08/slim-powerful-high -tech-rod-sages-new-one)–after ) from The Honest Angler)–after all, it won “Best in Show” honors for both saltwater and freshwater fly rods at the recent International Fly Tackle Dealer trade expo in New Orleans. While I had a chance to cast the rod on an indoor pond at IFTD, I really wanted to pull on a few fish with it before doing a review.
Before we get into that… Okay–I know–we all know, nobody “needs” a slick new $700-plus fly rod to catch fish. In the hand of a good caster/smart angler, anything from a dusty antique to a cheap import will work perfectly well. Just like an economy car will get you to work and back, much the same as a luxury SUV.
But let’s remember there’s a market for the high end product. And, perhaps more importantly, understanding what’s happening with rod designs (tapers), the use of new materials like resins, evolving manufacturing processes and so forth, is kind of like looking at Detroit muscle cars and stylish imports at an auto show. If these designs impress, they will dictate what will happen in the market down the road. What you see in a Sage rod now is what you will see import knock-offs trying to replicate within a couple years.
Out of the tube, the ONE’s thin profile is noticeable, even striking, but that’s not to say it’s a “dainty” rod. Perhaps that’s why Sage chose to style the ONE with an all-business, mostly black finish. It looks like a stealth fighter. The rod is very light, but not shockingly so. (When I first picked up an Orvis Helios prototype a few years ago, it was so different from the norm, I thought that was a shock. ONE falls right in line with the Helios and other premium fly rods in terms of initial feel/weight these days).
Here’s the thing: while most new rods tout power and distance, ONE’s claim to fame is accuracy. Cast straighter and more on target with this rod. I was as skeptical about that claim as I am about all claims about rods that make magical, wind-busting loops for anglers. But I will say this, I did think that the line tracked very evenly, effectively following the rod tip from a three-quarters arm position, and especially with a straighter, more classic casting stroke. I was able to generate ample line speed (it is indeed a fast-action rod), without the kicks and torques I feel with other fly rods. I did cast more accurately.
ONE is also a very “communicative” rod that helps me with timing and feel. You can feel the weight transfer in the fly line as the rod loads–a very subtle, gentle nudge or bump transferred through the rod and into the grip with starts and stops. That’s not to be confused with a tick or a hitch. I consider it a very good thing.
I thought the rod loaded well at short distances, but I was surprised by how straight I could throw the line and pinpoint little targets at ranges up to about 60 feet. I’m not qualified to render any opinions beyond that distance.
While I could see how ONE could help me hoof streamers and lob nymph rigs, I focused most of my attention on throwing dry flies, where the accuracy factor matters most. I give the rod high marks on line control performance after the line hits the water (mends, rolls, etc.). And as far as fighting fish is concerned, it was an absolute kick. Again, I think the rod’s taper/design translates to good feel, which comes into play on the give-and-take with bigger trout in faster water.
The only thing I’m still getting used to is the rather fine cork grip. I have fairly big paws, and I tend to over-grip. (I prefer oversized grips on my golf clubs). So, with the help of “Koldkut,” who was with me on this fishing trip, I added a little grip tape to round things out.
Every angler is different. Different casts. Different preferences. What I like might not be up your alley, and vice versa.
Having said that, in an era when several manufacturers are making absolutely beautiful performance fly rods–The Helios is a classic, the G.Loomis NRX is a supremely versatile casting tool, the Hardy ProAxis is an absolute gun with frightening power, to name a few–I expected Sage to come out with something special. And to name it the “ONE,” well, that took guts.
The ONE is indeed a gutsy, special fly rod. I found myself thinking more about fishing, and less about casting when I used the ONE, and for that reason, I give it an “A”.