Friday, July 1, 2016

Sage X Rod - A review and a look at what our friends at Sage been up to lately!

Back in June, we were fortunate enough to be among the selected group of dealers and writers to visit the Sage workshop on Bainbridge Island for a sneak preview of their new "Sage X" fly rods.

This was my third or fourth such tour, having sat on their Dealer Advisory Board for three years - and it was the most exciting visit yet.  Before I get to the details of their latest and greatest product launch, I would like to mention that things have been refined and new systems, tools and personnel implemented at the Sage workshop/factory to such a degree that I was amazed!

Team Sage has has hired and integrated some key personnel on the production side of their business, and gained efficiency and precision with investments on proprietary machinery, computer systems and specialized training.   I am not sure what details that I can share, but tasks that have been eyeballed and done by intuition in the hands of skilled artisans in the last decades now are aided by sophisticated machines, lasers and software designed and built in-house.  It's not like they could go to Hope Depot and buy esoteric machines .  It takes a level of technical ability to build stuff like they have.  25-30 individuals still touch and contribute to each and every rod produced by hand there.  Now these craftsmen do it at a  level of sophistication that I would dare to say puts them in a league of their own in the fly fishing industry.

Most of us are aware that they have world class rod designers and artists like Jerry Siem and his entire group of fellow designers and they are a key competitive advantage.  Did you realize that they have a compliment of full time material scientists, wonky engineers and really smart black box type guys and gals that together bring hundreds of years of scientific R&D experience and passion to the full time pursuit of perfection?  I hate calling Sage a factory, because the enterprise oozes "soul and passion" from the team of craftsmen and women that roll the blanks to the scientists that stress test hundreds of prototypes, but the tools and expertise that they have assembled makes this much more than a "rod shop" indeed.   This group is at the forefront of material science and R&D development, yet retain a level of passion and love for the essence of what makes fly fishing special.  My hat is off to the collective management for bringing this eclectic group of professionals to the next level without diluting their passion! 

So what has Team Sage come up with in launching the new Sage X Rod?

The "X" in this case means it's the 10th significant fly rod technology that Sage has developed over the years.  I don't know how, but they have refined the Konnetic Technology - this version being called Konnetic HD.

On the technical side of the user experience this translates to near instant dampening and near zero deflection or much better tracking.

By "dampening", I mean that my Sage X 5 WT goes from bent (loaded during a cast) to dead still flat/straight at the end of a cast.  It doesn't wiggle or twang when you finish your cast so energy isn't dissipated.  It's crazy efficient!

By "tracks well" I mean that the rod tip stays true during a cast and doesn't deflect left or right.  This produces even greater accuracy.

 The ability of a rod to generate line speed is the hallmark of a performance rod.  Faster line speed translates into longer, faster and more accurate casts.  Sage claims that this rod series produces the fastest line speed yet.  I agree.  Being a simple man, I don't get the science or physics involved, but I can feel it in the casting of this rod for sure but am puzzled why I can "feel" this rod better...

As far as the taper design - it is still a fast action rod - but the feel is very different from the One.  I absolutely love the Sage One Fly Rods and have years of fishing experience with that series- so I can't say which rod feels better to me yet.  I get the impression that I can load Sage X Rod deeper than the Sage One, and that the top or upper middle section of the rod has a softer touch.  I am not sure yet if the actual tip is softer, but I am very confident that this new rod is much better at protecting tippets and is much better at letting you the angler hold on to bigger fish on smaller hooks when called to do so.   That has always been a strength of moderate action or softer rods - but rarely has it been a virtue of full on fast action performance rods.

After landing a bunch of browns and rainbows on either side of the 20" size range on size 18-20 nymphs in fast water ( fished the  Beaverhead, Bighole and Boulder River in Montana in June) I am utterly pleased in this major refinement.  Previous fast action rods in these types of situations when small flies and thin tippets were necessary in fast water - were less delicate.

For a rod that allows you to do the delicate stuff well, it is at the same time a flat out casting machine!  Streamers or dries, this tool allows you to go further and more accurately than ever.

As a note - from my subjective opinion - I really started being romanced by this rod when I put on the  InTouch  Rio Gold Fly Line.  Initially I tried it with the Rio InTouch Perecption Line, and although it cast great, for me and this rod and the InTouch Rio Gold Fly Line work PERFECTLY together....

After having this rod for a handful of weeks and after bunch of lawn casting and a precious few days of trout fishing out west with the new Sage X, there hasn't been enough time to formulate a definitive opinion.  We might be a bit slower around here, but I am not a fan of uber reviews on brand new products that proclaim definitive conclusions.  I think a true understanding takes time to pick up nuance and subtleties.  Like I have said earlier, getting to know a new rod is like getting to know a new girlfriend...   It's just the beginning and all exciting and new.  What I have seen and felt and experienced so far, I have the feeling that this one is a keeper and that it will rank as among the finest that Sage or anyone has ever produced.  I look forward to learning as I grow into this series of rods.  They start becoming available August 15th, and in the mean time please come by the shop and test out our 5WT at your convenience

 Thanks for listening!

Andy Kurkulis