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Sage Z-Axis 7136-4 Spey Fly Fishing Rod Review
Arguably one of the best all-around two-handers that Sage has ever built. If you can only have one two-handed fly rod this is it, from summer to winter steelhead...this rod can do it all. Read more!
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Sage Z-Axis 7136-4 Spey Fly Fishing Rod Review


Specifications

• Line Size: 7

• Rod Length: 13' 6”

• Sections: 4

• Weight: 7 1/8 oz.

• Handles: Premium Portuguese Cork - Two Handed

• Reel Seat: Uplocking Black Aluminum

• Tube Size: 44 ½”

• Action: Fast and Smooth

• Price: $800





What’s the word . . .



Being one of Sage’s top dealers, I was able to borrow one of Jerry
Siem’s new Z-Axis Spey rods before it was unveiled at the Fly Fishing
Retailer. For my trip to the North Umpqua, the choice was easy; the Sage
Z-Axis 7136-4 Spey Rod. This was over a year ago and the trip was
magical. The history, the scenery and catching steelhead on dries
overwhelmed my senses. This year I was lucky enough to return to the
Umpqua. This time, I brought my own Sage Z-Axis 7136-4 Spey Rod . . .
and it was the only rod I brought.



People who know me and my love of gear have never seen me show up for a trip, no matter what the destination, with less
than half a dozen rods. In fact, I am constantly made fun of for having
“too much gear to fit in the car.” This Z-Axis Spey rod has stopped my
quest to find the perfect rod for every situation, for every pool and
every fly line. The Sage Z-Axis 7136-4 Spey rod is that ‘perfect rod’
for me. I expect it to be the only rod I use on my next trip to British
Columbia, too. Keep in mind, I do not say this lightly. . . in fact, it
hurts the total gear-head in me to think I may not have a full quiver of
rods with me on my next steelhead trip. Maybe I’ll just have three
7136-4 Z-Axis rods rigged and ready to fish . . . one with a floating
line, one with a type three sink tip and one with 10 feet of T-14?





Features. . .



The Sage 7136-4 Z-Axis Spey rod is rated for a 7 weight spey fly line.
This can be confusing because a 7 weight Spey line doesn’t weigh the 185
grains that a single handed 7 weight fly line does. In fact, the
perfect line for this rod is the Rio Skagit Shooting Head for
interchangeable tips, which weighs 450 grains, that is, before the
addition of a 140 grain tip. So this ‘seven weight’ rod balances with a
line closer to 600 grains than the 7 weight designation might indicate.
Despite the rumors, fly fishers don’t make it confusing just for fun. It
is my observation (I may be tarred and feathered for saying this) that
this Spey ‘thing’ is relatively new for most of us, and those designing
and manufacturing the gear are just starting to figure some of it out.
We at Leland Fly Fishing Outfitters take it to be our mission to educate
ourselves, and you, on how to wade through this confusion so you can
just enjoy the fishing!



This amazingly efficient rod casts floating heads, sinking tips, extreme
sink tips, heavy flies, and dry flies, all with effortless precision
that I have not experienced before. The 13’6” length, weighing in at
only 7 1/8 oz., gives you the length you need to precisely control your
swing without tiring. The rod breaks down into four pieces, is protected
by a cloth rod sock and fits into an aluminum rod tube 44 ½ inches in
length, allowing you to fit it safely in most overhead compartments. This
insures the rod will make it safely to British Columbia, Alaska, Russia
or the Great Lakes. The 21” cork handle provides enough room to
accommodate any style grip. The 7136-4 comes with an uplocking
saltwater-safe black aluminum reel seat that resists corrosion when
you’re fishing the tidewater on the Dean. The fast, smooth action of
this rod generates line speeds I have never before experienced in any
spey rod, which translates directly into accurate, precise and easy
fishing. What a rod!





Action. . . .



The first impression when I opened the tube is that the rod blank was
thinner than a traditionally-built 13’6” rod. As I put the rod sections
together, my observation turned into the physical conclusion that this
rod was light! I wiggled the rod and it did indeed feel light in the
hand, and fast! (Wiggling rods is a fantastic pass time, and is done the
world over in fly shops. This is a poor way to determine a rod’s
action, but until every shop has a river running through it, we are left
to wiggle.) I strung up the recommended 450 Grain Rio Skagit line, with
a floating tip, and started to fish the North Umpqua. This is really
the only way to determine a rod’s action. If a rod Only feels good in
the store, it should stay there. After numerous casts, I could confirm
that this rod was “fast”; not in the tainted meaning of the word, which
means “stiff”. “Fast”, as in the awesome meaning that it transferred a
magical amount of energy to the fly line and created loops with
tremendous line speed. Line speed in this situation means easy casting
and accuracy!! The last attribute that I look for in a rod is tracking.
Does the tip follow the butt of the rod and, therefore, the casting
stroke? If it does, you get accurate loops and a versatile rod that
accommodates many types of casting styles. This rod has a thin blank for
low windless drag, is lightweight for tireless fishing, generates amazing
line speed, tracks like it’s on rails, and handles all types of lines,
flies and all my different casting styles. Jerry Siem, the rod designer
at Sage, has built into this rod the potential for it to be a seamless
part of your fishing; where you no longer feel the rod as a fly fishing
rod, but, as an extension of yourself to land your fly exactly as you
pictured it.





Materials. . .



The Sage 7136-4 Z-Axis is built with the Generation 5 Technology
process, a significantly different and improved method used in building
rod blanks. Instead of a typical fiberglass “scrim” or mesh that is
rolled around the steel mandrel to bind the longitudinal graphite fibers
together, the Z-Axis Series has this scrim replaced by a lighter layer
of graphite cloth. This cloth is rolled at a 90º angle to the
longitudinal power fibers, resulting in a rod with greater “hoop”
strength, more power, a thinner wall and less weight. A more efficient
rod with less weight?! Sage wins this one!





Fit and Finish. . . 



The Z-Axis rods are also attractive, with a rich, olive green blank and
contrasting brown thread wraps over English Hopkins and Holloway guides
and tip top. The finish over the wraps is a medium build and has very
professional, near flawless appearance as you would expect. The reel
seat is a black aluminum, giving the rod a solid look. The handle is top
quality Portuguese cork which is a beautiful tan and natural to the
touch. It’s all organized in a custom tan rod sock and fits into a
handsome aluminum brown Sage rod tube. Sage’s fit and finish is equal to
their reputation of making the finest fly fishing rods in the world.





Reliability and Durability. . .



When a fly fishing rod bends, its circular cross section becomes an
oval, with the greatest stress occurring in the compression element at
the inside of the bend. This phenomenon is typically what causes
graphite rods to shatter when they’re overstressed (aside from car
doors, dog teeth, and nicks from weighted flies). In addition, when the
G5 layers are compressed with tape and baked in an oven, as all
synthetic rods are, the epoxy resin fuses the layers together more
effectively than it would with scrim, and uses less resin in the
process. G5 tech has already been proven over several years within the
existing Sage line of tough Xi2 Salt Water rods, and one might assume
this durability will carry over to the Z-Axis line, as well. Time will
tell, but I have no concerns in this department.





Company Profile and Customer Support. . .



Sage was founded in 1979 by Don Green, an experienced rod blank builder
and one of the architects of the modern fishing rod, as owner of the
Grizzly Fiberglass Company, which later partnered with Fenwick. It was
originally called Winslow Manufacturing (after the city of Winslow on
Bainbridge Island, Washington) but within a year had changed its name to
Sage. Emphasizing high quality fly rods sold only through specialty
stores, Sage rode the crest of the fly-fishing boom in the post “A River
Runs Through It” years. Today, although there is no industry repository
for exact numbers, Sage is probably the world’s largest producer of
premium fly rods and employs over 100 workers in their manufacturing
facility.



So, has being the 800-pound gorilla affected the quality of their
product as it has with so many other companies in the outdoor industry?
Although challenged by industry wide flat sales, the growth of the
Internet, and increasingly higher quality Asian imports, my impression
is no, for several reasons. Sage has continued to retain talented people
and spend money on research and development. The proximity of
Bainbridge to the Boeing Aircraft manufacturing plants near Seattle and
Toray Composites in Tacoma provides access to a wealth of knowledge from
the aerospace industry, the primary end users of graphite fiber. More
importantly, aside from a few casting and spinning rod models over the
years, Sage has pretty much stuck to their original intention, building
very good fly rods.



The Z-Axis has a limited lifetime warranty for the original owner. If
you damage or break your rod, you are responsible for the shipping
charges and insurance to send ALL of the pieces to Sage, plus a $40
handling fee, to cover return shipping and insurance within the U. S.
International owners are charged the actual shipping and insurance fees.
Not a bad deal for an expensive, relatively fragile tool. The other
five or six top US makers offer similar rod warranties, but not all
provide the same level of service. I’ve seen some customers wait 3 or 4
months, or longer, to get their rods back. Sort of puts the damper on
the fishing season. Sage’s lead time for repairs is currently about 2 to
2 ½ weeks during their busy summer, and shortens to about 1 ½ weeks in
the winter.





Overall Rating. . . 



Scott Howell is one of the finest guides I have ever fished with. His
passion for steelhead fishing is only rivaled by his intensity for
having his clients catch
one on a dry fly. He was one of the pioneers of Skagit-style spey lines
and was perfecting his cast before most of us knew what Spey fishing
was. His belief is that this rod has put Sage back in front in spey fly
fishing.



“There were, until now, independent boutique manufactures that
produced better rods. The Sage Z-Axis Spey Series and, specifically, the
7136-4 Z-Axis Spey rod changed all that.”




I feel them same way. After fishing this rod for a full year, I can say
that this beautiful spey rod has halted my search for different rods for
specific situations. On a trip last year, I brought six rods to fish.
This year, I brought only two; both 7136-4 Z-Axis Spey rods, one for me,
and one for my fishing buddy, Thys. These were the only rods we used
all weekend and we never felt under or over-gunned. This has never
happened to me before. I’m sold, and I have a lot of boutique Spey rods
that are going to very lonely in the closet.





Reviewer. . .



I’m the owner of Leland Fly Fishing Outfitters by no mistake. I’m,
admittedly, a gear head, and there is nothing better each day than to be
surrounded by fly fishing equipment. I personally have 50+ fly rods,
maybe twice as many reels, 12 cameras, 8 guitars (I can barely play),
1,800 bottles of wine (I barely drink), and four boats. I love the
stuff. I enjoy spending hours trying figuring out what rod matches best
with what line, leader, and fly on a specific river, in variable
conditions. I keep hundreds of lists, and on most trips will be greeted
by groans from the guides on the number of rods I have brought that day
to test. I was introduced to Spey casting about ten year ago, and it
resonated deeply with my love of steelhead fishing. There is nothing I
would rather do than to work a run in the cold autumn of a British
Columbia morning with a Two-Handed Rod. Spey rods and spey lines make up
the focus of many of my current lists. I hope my above review was as
helpful to you as it was fun for me to test the gear and write about it.
Please, if you have any questions, call the shop, as I would much
rather be talking about steelheading than doing the paperwork I find
myself confronted with more and more as a store owner!



Tight Lines – Josh Leland Frazier





PROS    This is the one steelhead spey rod I’ll bring on my next
trip, regardless of where it is. . . B. C., the Pacific Northwest, Idaho
or the Great Lakes. It does it all!



CONS    Being a gear head, I’ve been used to having a few rods with me. This limits my need for a quiver.



BOTTOM LINE    Light, powerful, and strong; I don’t think I’ve
ever said this before, “This rod is a ‘must-have’ for every steelhead
fisherman.”

Sage no longer makes this fine rod. Click here to view Sage's latest work, the Sage ONE 7126-4 Spey Rod. She's a doll!

Click here to see Sage's best steelhead Spey outfit.

Click here to return to equipment reviews.


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Gamakatsu Octopus Steelhead Tube Fly Hook, Red, 2
The incredible hook for Tube Flies: 30% more salmon and steelhead landed
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detdesc::"Hey, have you had a look at those red hooks yet? They look mean!" It's true, Gamakatsu's Octopus Fly Tying Hooks in red are all the rage, and for good reason. These unique hooks offer a short length shank and offset point for decreased levering action and an incredibly solid connection to the fish. Gamakatsu's proprietary fly tying hook materials, manufacturing, and finishing processes also make these hooks bomb proof, a desirable trait when you're after some of the burliest and gnarliest fish that roam the planet's waters! Gamakatsu's Octopus Fly Tying Hooks are available in a range of useful sizes and a unique red finish. Be sure to try these tremendous hooks (IN SIZE #2) in all of your favorite tube fly rigs as well - you'll be far from disappointed.

Summary



The Gamakatsu Octopus Fly Tying Hook is the bullet proof answer to many of your heavy duty fly tying needs. This unique design features a short length shank, up eye, wide gap, and an offset point. All of these elements not only help you make a firm connection with a fish, but help you keep and maintain that hookup - even when you're up against the toughest fish on the block. As if that wasn't enough, Gamakatsu has worked with a materials company to develop a proprietary version of High Carbon steel to virtually eliminate impurities within their raw materials and ultimately in their finished hooks. The tempering process is electronically controlled and the most advanced on the planet and each Gamakatsu hook point is sharpened to a perfect conical shape! These hooks are also produced, from start to finish, with Gamakatsu's concern for environmental safety - another plus in today's green-conscious culture. Use these tremendous fly tying hooks for your favorite steelhead, salmon, pike, chum, and large saltwater game fish flies.

Details



- Short length shank

- Up eye

- Wide gap

- Offset hook point

- Constructed of High Carbon steel proprietary to Gamakatsu

- Innovative and advanced tempering process

- Precision conical sharpened hook point

- Environmentally friendly production process

- Great for steelhead, salmon, pike, chum, and large saltwater game fish species

Sizes



- #8 to #1

Uses



- Steelhead, chum, and salmon flies

- Saltwater streamer fly patterns

- Tube fly rigs (SIZE #2)

Leland on Gamakatsu Octopus Fly Tying Hooks



We've always dreamed of the perfect fly hook. It's sticky, super strong, beautifully finished, and sports a design so functional we ask ourselves, "Why didn't I think of that?" Well, Gamakatsu most certainly "thought of that" when they developed their trademark Octopus Fly Tying Hook.



The first thing everyone notices about the Octopus is its brilliant red color, but in reality, that's really a secondary feature, and should take a back seat to the more brilliant design of the hook. From its short shank to its upturned eye, to its offset point, this hook is the proverbial top of the heap in sticking quickly and holding fast under even the toughest fishing conditions.



Try these innovative fly tying hooks out in your large saltwater streamers as well as your steelhead and salmon flies. These hooks are also perfect for use in chum fly patterns and they've even gained traction in the market for radical pike flies!

Leland on Gamakatsu



Once you start tying flies on Gamakatsu hooks, you'll never be the same. This innovative group of passionate hook makers has been designing and manufacturing fishing hooks for over half a century. Gamakatsu's roots are actually in the production of hand-made (yep, hand made) fishing hooks, and it's these roots that provide the foundation for the industry's foremost provider of extremely high quality and well-designed fly tying hooks.



Gamakatsu has spent heaps of effort, time, and money on the development of materials for exclusive use in their top shelf fly tying hooks. From their proprietary grade of High Carbon steel (one of the purest alloys available), to their ultra high tech computer controlled tempering process, to their revolutionary point sharpening process which produces a perfectly conical and unbelieveably sharp hook point on each and every hook, Gamakatsu's operation screams "space age." Don't take chances with the fly tying hooks you select - you never know which hook in the bag will have a face to face encounter with the fish of a lifetime. Fish Gamakatsu and fish with confidence.

Gamakatsu on the Octopus Hook



"Specially designed bend allows the hook to penetrate quickly and hold."

GAMAKATSU ON GAMAKATSU



History of Gamakatsu



"Gamakatsu started producing fish hooks in 1955. At that time, they were the smallest hook manufacturer in Japan and all of their hooks were made by hand. In 1963 they introduced a new automated heating facility which catapulted them to the forefront of the Japanese market. In 1974, they introduced fully automated hook making machines and found it necessary to build a second factory in order to meet the demand they had created.



In 1976, being well established as the leading Japanese hook manufacturer, Gamakatsu started building a new factory to produce high quality fishing rods for the Japanese market.



After upgrading the hook manufacturing machines in 1986, they expanded their product line. As the result, Gamakatsu Co. Ltd became a major manufacturer with a full line of high quality fishing rods, hooks, apparel, and fishing related items by 1987.

In 1988, after upgrading the automated tempering facilities and expanding the hook factory, Gamakatsu Co. Ltd. opened Gamakatsu International Co., Ltd. in Thailand and Gamakatsu Shantou Co. Ltd. in China in 1989. These two factories import hooks from Japan to get them final products such as snelling, rigging, tying flies, and packaging.

When anglers purchase Gamakatsu hooks, they are buying an original product made by GAMAKATSU. Many hook suppliers are using fabricated Japanese sounding names bought from several different manufacturers."



Market Leader Gamakatsu



"Gamakatsu is the leading fish hook manufacturer in Japan. They are constantly testing new materials, trying to improve their product which already sets the standard for the rest of the industry.



In 1992 Gamakatsu USA inc. was established to provide Gamakatsu brand hooks to the U.S. market, followed by SPRO, The Official Gamakatsu's exclusive agent, established in the Netherlands in 1994 to service the European market. Obviously, Gamakatsu is well on its way of achieving their goal of becoming the market leader in the USA and Europe as well!"



Gamakatsu on the Environment



"Since 1955, Gamakatsu has strictly stuck to the theme of 'Nature and Technology.' We work hard to develop new, hi-tech products that benefit the outdoorsman without adversely effecting the environment.



Gamakatsu's policy of technical development has always been 'the best of quality.' We are always searching for new ways to make our existing products better in addition to constantly looking for unique products which are not yet available. We believe that only this attitude can give our customers the best they deserve!"



Gamakatsu's Global Reach



"Gamakatsu products are used worldwide. With offices located around the world, Gamakatsu is able to research its markets and develop unique products that meet the needs of even the most demanding anglers."



Gamakatsu on the Invention of Hooks



"20,000 years ago, the invention of the fish hook marked the beginning of sport fishing. The first hooks were made of wood or bones. As technology improved, so did the hooks. Records show that copper hooks were made in Banchen 7,000 years ago and artificial flies were used in Egypt 4,000 years ago. Fishing was also a popular form of entertainment in ancient China.



Today, modern materials and manufacturing techniques have resulted in hundreds of styles of extremely high quality hooks, designed for specific types of fish and fishing methods."



Gamakatsu on Hook Manufacturing



"The methods used in creating Gamakatsu hooks is what makes it so superior to all other brands. First, only the most premium grade of high carbon steel is used. This insures against any blemishes in the metal which can weaken the hook.



Secondly, Gamakatsu has the most advanced tempering system in the world. Every hook is heated to the exact temperature that is perfect for that particular style and size then cooled in oil. This process produces hooks which are super strong, but not brittle. It is extremely difficult to achieve a balance between strength and flexibility, and it took many years for Gamakatsu to perfect this process.



Finally, and perhaps most importantly, our sharpening process is the most modern in the world, and results in a perfectly conical point that is unequaled in sharpness."



Gamakatsu on Hook Quality



"Gamakatsu hooks are the corner stone of the Gamakatsu company, and are famous worldwide. Material and technology are what makes these hooks superior to all other brands. The Gamakatsu company, in conjunction with a material manufacturer, developed a material known as High Carbon steel specifically for the manufacture of fish hooks. This material not only contains a higher percentage of carbon, but also has very few impurities. As a result, GAMAKATSU has earned anglers' trust throughout the world. The life of a fish hook is measured by the sharpness, hardness, and viscosity of the point. Using low quality materials results in points that are weak and not truly sharp. In order to use High Carbon steel, Gamakatsu developed a unique electronic tempering process which enables hooks to be tempered in a stable condition. As a result, Gamakatsu is able to manufacture consistently high quality, extremely sharp hooks in large quantities. This innovation has earned Gamakatsu a 70 % market share in Japan."
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Contact Us


We're passionate about fly fishing and our customers.

We're available to answer questions on products, orders, manufacturers, and fly fishing any time between
9:00am and 5:00pm Pacific Standard Time, U.S.A.,
Monday through Friday.


866-672-1959 or via email at info@flyfishingoutfitters.com


Leland Sonoma Ranch Map

Fly Shop at the Sonoma Ranch:
Monday - Friday 9am - 3pm PST.

24120 Arnold Drive Sonoma, CA 95476
707-939-6910
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Galvan Torque Fly Reels
You've collected too many reels... upgrade a few and buy something new!
20630
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detdesc::

Leland on the Galvan Torque Large Arbor Fly Reels

The Galvan Torque represents the culmination of the very best in modern fly reel design, all at a mid-level price. These reels have a large arbor design, with its proven advantages, and are impeccably machined from solid bar stock.

The strikingly attractive appearance of the Torque Fly Fishing Reel is a result of the unique cutouts on the frame, spool and drag knob that significantly reduce weight, while maintaining strength and rigidity. The rounded rims on both spool and frame better withstand impact for enhanced durability and the smooth and reliable thermoplastic and stainless steel disc drag never requires lubrication. There are no ball bearings; a trouble free, self lubricating HPV plastic bushing allows the spool near-frictionless rotation. In this case, less is more. Fully anodized to protect from corrosion, the Galvan Torque is available in seven sizes, and is equally at home as a freshwater companion for your favorite trout rod or as a sleek, ultra-light addition to your modern big game saltwater stick.

Spools
are attractively and functionally counterbalanced, and remove with a simple push of a button. The large drag knob is precisely adjustable with distinct, détente settings. The Galvan Torque has a light audible click, both in and out, is easily convertible from left to right hand, and is available in a handsome bronze or blacklimited lifetime warranty, of course, backed by outstanding customer service from a small, family run operation. From amongst the glut of fly reel model choices confronting the prospective buyer, the Galvan Torque stands out as a superb machine at a very reasonable price.
color. It comes with a
• Large arbor design for quick line retrieve, improved drag continuity, and less line coil
• Precision machined from 6061 Aluminum bar stock
• Unique cutouts on spool, frame and drag knob for lightweight and a distinctive, attractive appearance
• Rounded rims on spool and frame for improved impact resistance
• Low maintenance thermoplastic-stainless steel disc drag
• Large, easily adjustable drag knob détented for precise settings
• Trouble free, self lubricating HPV plastic bushing
• Anodized for superior corrosion resistance - saltwater safe
• Easy, push button spool removal
• Contoured counterbalance on spool for ultra-smooth rotation
• Light click in and out
• Easily convertible from left to right hand wind
• Available in 7 sizes, for 3 to 12 weight rods
• Standard colors are Bronze or Black
• Limited lifetime warranty

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Galvan: Torque 4 Spool, Bronze (Not a fly reel!)
This is a spool. Just a spool folks, not a fly reel...a spool.
5751
id::5751
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desc::This is a spool. Just a spool folks, not a fly reel...a spool.
itemprice::$120.80
Price::$120.80
pricelevel::$151.00
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Name::Galvan: Torque 4 Spool, Bronze (Not a fly reel!)
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detdesc::Leland on the Galvan Torque 4 Fly Fishing Reel

This modern large arbor fly-fishing reel will deliver all the features you could desire for your 4 or 5 weight trout fishing; an ultra-smooth drag that never needs maintenance and a beautiful, yet functional appearance. This is one of the best trout reels at any price, and you'll love the way it looks on your favorite rod.
featdesc::
  • Weight: 4.5 oz
  • Spool Diameter: 3.250 inches
  • Spool Width: .850 inches
  • Line weight + Yards of Dacron backing: 4 + 100 20#, 5 + 80 20#
Leland on Galvan Reels These days it's rare when you call a company and you get a human on the other end of the line, let alone the owner; Galvan Fly Reels is an exception to this rule. Galvan has been making quality reels since 1994, and in that time they have made quite a name for themselves. Over the years, Galvan has developed a cult-like following, and it's no wonder why. When it comes to a high quality reel at a price that's easy to swallow, Galvan is your reel. Galvan Fly Reels is located in Sonora California (right in the heart of great fishing country). The company is still run by it's founder Bonifacio Galvan and his wife Carmen. It is a true family business, currently all four Galvan children work with Mom and Dad. Moreover, their customer service is among the best in the business. All Galvan reels are machined, from 6061 bar stock aluminum, at their shop in Sonora. The reels feature a fully ventilated one-sided frame, and a two-sided ported spool, the combination of which results in an extremely durable yet lightweight reel. Besides the sturdy construction, Galvan reels are extremely durable and lightweight. They are also very easy to use. The spool release is literally as easy as pushing a button, and a large drag knob makes on the water adjustments a breeze. All Galvan reels have a drag system that features a drag made of an Ertalyte TX disc that is self-lubricating as well as stainless plates that are supported by stainless steel bearings. All Galvan reels have a lifetime warranty on parts and workmanship (provided the reel was bought from an authorized dealer).
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Sage Bass Series Fly Rod Review
268
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Sage Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass Fly Fishing Rods

Specifications

Line Weight ratings:

Smallmouth:  290 grains (Smallmouth floating line included)
Largemouth: 330 grains (Largemouth floating line included)

Rod Length: 7’11”

Sections: 4 pieces

Rod Weights: Smallmouth: 3 1/2 ounces

                      Largemouth: 3 5/8 ounces

Handle: Portuguese cork - full wells shaped grip

Reel Seat: Matte black aluminum big game with double locking retainer

Action: Very fast and very stiff
 



What’s the word…


Jerry Siem, head rod designing guru at Sage
, was sitting in his office at the Sage factory on forested Bainbridge Island, WA.  His desk was surrounded by, literally, hundreds of fly rods leaning at precarious angles against walls and book cases. “Hmmm”,   I said to myself, “Just like my office at home, except he has more rods than me. A lot more!”  Out of the stack, Jerry plucked one of the shortest and brightest colored of the rods, and with a big smile, walked to the lily padded bass pond “test center” behind the factory building. “This is our latest project “, he said as he proceeded to tied on a huge deer hair popper.

The “Latest Project” from Jerry and the folks at Sage turns out to be two very unusual, high performance Bass Fly Fishing Rods, aptly named the Smallmouth and the Largemouth. 

At first glance, these two Bass Fly rods appear to be small-stream trout rods because they’re just 7’11” in length. But believe me, the similarities end there! These specialized rods conform to Bass Tournament rules that limit allowable rod lengths to 8 feet and under. Traditionally, the understanding is that Pro Bass circuits have rejected fly gear as being “too dangerous”, but my guess is there is some conventional tackle industry bias (i.e. $$$) there as well. A careful reading of the rules finds that some tournaments allow fly rods, where others do not. Regardless, one could imagine the efficacy a fly rodder might have on the deck of a bass boat, where a pick-up and lay-down would eliminate the extra time required to reel in between casts as with conventional gear.

But whether you fish tournaments or not, The Sage Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass rods have a lot more going for them than just their compact size. These rods are specifically designed to do two things better than any other fly rod;1) accurately cast very big, wind resistant flies, and 2) allow maximum leverage to fight fish and pull big fish from cover.  So what makes these rods capable of this performance?

Most anglers typically select a nine foot, six or seven weight line and rod for smallmouth bass fishing, casting, (on average), size 4 to 12 flies for one to five pound fish, and an eight or nine weight line weight rod for largemouth bass,  throwing flies sizes 4/0 to 6, for two to eight pound fish.  The new Sage Bass rods, in stark contrast, cast much heavier lines. The Sage Largemouth Bass Fly Rod is rated for 330 grains, which is the average heft for an 11 weight line and the Smallmouth is rated for 290 grains, which is at the high end of the weight range for a10 weight line!  Yet, these little outfits feel like you’re only casting light seven weights, as you’ll read shortly! The two rods are extremely fast in action and very stiff and powerful to cast these big lines. In fact, to ensure proper loading, Sage has included a specially designed, matched, grain weight specific floating line with each of their new Bass rods.

 

Action and Features


I’ve cast a lot of different fly rods over the last thirty years
, but owing to their unusual nature, I felt like I was in new territory as I rigged the Smallmouth and Largemouth outfits with six foot, 20 lb. tippet leaders and big, 3/0 hair bugs at my local bass pond.  I tentatively hauled the 25 feet of line from the water and aimed at a spot 10 feet to the left. I guess I expected the leader to partially collapse on the water, with the bug to follow, because that’s what always happens with flies of this size. Not this time. I watched the tippet arc over in a tight curve and the bug WHAP! into the water with a couple of waves pulsing out. Wow! These rods cast big bugs with crisp authority, and I mean CRISP! A short roll cast to put it in the air in front of you, one quick back cast to load, then shoot.  The Smallmouth and Largemouth Fly Lines are massive, short belly (33 ft.), bullet tapers designed to do exactly that: load the rod with a single backcast and store enough energy to turn over almost any leader and fly. The fly lines have fairly large diameter running lines for improved  handling when fighting fish. The super fast, very stiff Sage Bass Rods respond remarkably well to this mass.  An unexpected advantage  of the rod’s stiff tip was apparent when retrieving flies; line strips are more definitive for a bigger “pop” on your surface flies and sub-surface flies swim more realistically. Beginners, who usually find casting bulky flies the most troublesome, will ease their problems with these outfits and a more experienced fly caster, with a reasonable double haul, will make these rods get up and dance.

The Smallmouth and Largemouth Fly Rods derive their strength and power from Sage 3e graphite technology; a reliable combination of high modulus graphite and fiberglass scrim used in the highly successful Sage XP and RPL series. This combination of materials has proven to provide  superior hoop strength and impact resistance to fly rod shafts .  And the best part is the price; the Smallmouth and Largemouth rods, complete with a custom fly line and case sell for a reasonable $350. One other fly rod  that I’m aware of  that fits into this category is the Scott Backcountry. It’s a 3-piece, 7’7” graphite rod, 3.7 ounces, rated for a 9 weight line and sells for $625. It’s worth checking out as well.

I do a lot of float tubing for bass, and while most float tubers choose longer rods for distance and to raise their backcast, I find most of my bass fishing to be around overhanging cover with casts of twenty five feet or less. To get a fly back in under cover usually requires sidearm casting to keep your loop very low and parallel with the water’s surface. Long rods that are accurate in the vertical are very poor for this task, where shorter rods excel. With a little practice, I found both the Smallmouth and Largemouth to be extremely accurate, particularly when casting out of the vertical plane around structure.  These little rods would be very maneuverable in the heavy cover one might find in the rainforest, cedar swamp, or mangroves as well as the confined space of a kayak or canoe. The extreme mass of the line and stiffness of the rod gives you great authority to direct and power your fly in, under and around thick cover. If you get hung up, (and you’re using a twenty pound tippet) this rod will pull the fly off of leaves or twigs, if it’s going to come at all! The rods will fit conveniently in a small boat, rather than being dangerously exposed over a gunwale, and will get fish closer to the boat more easily for landing.

Fly rods, like all fishing rods, serve two elementary purposes. They cast, to place your fly in position for a chance at a strike, and that being successful, they fight fish. The second element, striking and fish fighting, is where nine foot fly rods, and, in fact, almost all fly rods fall short. Although long rods displace line more quickly on the strike, their limber nature has more difficulty generating enough power to drive a large hook into bone or exerting enough pressure to pull or turn fish quickly from cover.  Try dragging a six pound largemouth out from under half a foot of weed with your nine foot, eight weight.  Not likely! I probably lose nineteen fish for every one that I land in a situation like this. I would guess that these little Sage rods, as short, powerful levers, should prove to be among the best fish fighting fly rods on the market.

Although these fly rods and respective lines are named “Smallmouth” and “Largemouth”, Sage suggests that their myriad potential applications in both freshwater AND saltwater would better have us view them as “Light Duty” and “Heavy Duty”. The light duty Smallmouth will serve for Smallies, White Bass, Sea Trout and Largemouth, as well, for all but the largest of flies. The heavy duty Largemouth will rock throwing big bugs for Largemouth, Peacock, Pike, and Musky and in the back country mangroves for Snook, Redfish and Tarpon. The Largemouth should be quite capable of beating fish over twenty pounds and in very experienced hands, probably over forty or fifty pounds. Overall, these rods are a lot of fun to cast and fish with, and bestow a feeling of power and control in a small, relatively lightweight package.

 

         Proven Sage 3e graphite construction

   

         Compact length and light in hand

 

         Extremely powerful and accurate at short to medium distances with big flies

 

         Great hook setting and fish fighting ability

 

         Heavy duty, English Hopkins and Holloway guides and tip top

 

         Padded nylon, PVC rod case with dividers and reel pocket

 

         Limited lifetime warranty

 

 

Fit and Finish


The sanded shafts of the Sage Bass Fly Rods are sunset gold
with rust thread wraps, which appear red when wrapped over the blank. The ferrules and handle front are additionally trimmed with a few wraps each of black and gold. This color combination, from a distance, reminds me of a classic bamboo fly rod.  The English Hopkins and Holloway snake guides, tip top and the two stripping guides are robust and oversized to accommodate the massive, large diameter fly line. The two strippers have hardaloy ceramic insert rings that are actually encased in bands of brazed metal, as opposed to being glued in place.  A nice touch if a mangrove, cedar, or boat rail gets whacked by mistake. The high quality, Portuguese cork grip is a full wells profile for power casting, but is a ½ inch shorter and slimmer than the standard Sage grip. This smaller grip is very comfortable and well suited to these shorter rods. The reel seat is what you might find on saltwater big game fly rods; matte black, heavy duty up-locking aluminum with double retainers. Sage, like most quality rod makers, has several layers of inspection before their rods leave the factory, so one would expect a near-flawless fit and finish. The Sage Bass Fly Rods come with their respective matching floating fly lines and a light green, nylon covered, padded carrying case with room for an attached reel and zippered compartments for accessories. A nice, compact package.

 

Customer Support. . . . Company profile. 


Sage was founded in 1979 by Don Green
, an experienced rod blank builder and one of the architects of the modern fishing rod, as owner of the Grizzly Fiberglass Company, which later partnered with Fenwick.  It was originally called Winslow Manufacturing (after the city of Winslow on Bainbridge Island, Washington) but within a year had changed its name to Sage. Emphasizing high quality fly rods sold only through specialty stores, Sage rode the crest of the fly-fishing boom in the post “A River Runs Through It” years. Today, although there is no industry repository for exact numbers, Sage is probably the world’s largest producer of premium fly rods and employs over 100 workers in their manufacturing facility.

So, has being the 800-pound gorilla affected the quality of their product as it has with so many other companies in the outdoor industry? Although challenged by industry wide flat sales, the growth of the Internet, and increasingly higher quality Asian imports, my impression is “no”, for several reasons. Sage has continued to retain talented people and spend money on research and development. The proximity of Bainbridge to the Boeing Aircraft manufacturing plants near Seattle and Toray Composites in Tacoma provides access to a wealth of knowledge from the aerospace industry, the primary end users of graphite fiber.  More importantly, aside from a few casting and spinning rod models over the years, Sage has pretty much stuck to their original intention, building very good fly rods.

The Smallmouth and Largemouth fly rods have a limited lifetime warranty for the original owner. If you damage or break your rod, you are responsible for the shipping charges and insurance to send ALL of the pieces to Sage, plus a $40 handling fee, to cover return shipping and insurance within the U. S.  International owners are charged the actual shipping and insurance fees. The other five or six top US makers offer similar rod warranties, but not all provide the same level of service. I’ve seen some customers wait 3 or 4 months, or longer, to get their rods back. Sort of puts the damper on the fishing season. Sage’s lead time for repairs is currently about 2 to 2 ½ weeks during their busy summer, and shortens to about 1 ½ weeks in the winter.

 

Overall Rating. . .


The Sage Bass Fly Rods are admirably suited
to fulfilling a performance category not clearly addressed in the past. These rods weigh 40% less than their big saltwater brethren, yet are capable of lifting and casting very large, heavy and wind resistant flies with impressive authority and accuracy.  These rods will “swim” or “pop” flies better than longer rods, and should be more effective at positive hook sets.  Most importantly, once the fish is hooked, these fly rods will do what fly rods are typically very poor at doing; pulling fish from heavy cover and beating them quickly with maximum turning power.  By mating the rods and lines as a package, Sage has taken the guesswork out of line selection for the angler and potentially avoided the disappointment a mismatched outfit would bring.

The Largemouth and Smallmouth rods are constructed with proven graphite technology and heavy duty components that should withstand the abuse one would expect from duking it out in close quarters with bass, tarpon and snook. Although these rods aren’t for everyone, and I don’t know if the Pro Bass circuit will lose its fear of fly rods anytime soon, I think any serious bass, mangrove, canoe or kayak fly angler would find one of these rods indispensable once he or she has used one. I have to believe the Sage Largemouth will quickly become the “go to“ rod for anyone contemplating fishing for Peacock Bass in the thick of the Amazon rain forest.


PROS- Powerful, compact, lightweight, durably constructed rocket ships for shorter, accurate casts with big flies in and around structure.  Incredible fish fighting tools for pulling big fish out of heavy cover. Comes with a custom, matching fly line for $350.  Limited lifetime warranty.

CONS- At 7’11” in length, not as effective for casting at distance, extensive false casting, or mending line in moving water as longer rods.  Definitely not the rods for fishing with light leaders.

BOTTOM LINE- A unique pair of specialized fly rods that can do what others can’t; deliver big flies and fight strong fish in close quarters with less effort. A must for float tubing and boating bassers (including peacock bass), kayakers, and mangrove fishermen.

Click here to check out the ultimate Bass Outfit from Sage.

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R. L. Winston BIIMX Fly Rod Review
266
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Winston: Boron II-MX 1090-4


 

Specifications


  • Line Size: 10 
  • Rod Length: 9’0” 
  • Section: 4 
  • Weight: 4 1/4 oz 
  • Handle: Full Wells, Saltwater grip 
  • Reel Seat: Nickel Anodized Aluminum 
  • Action: Fast 
  • Retail Price: $675.00

 


What’s the word…


 

Winston has always been known for its sweet, smooth casting
bamboo and trout fly rods. But a few years back, Winston introduced the
Boron II-X fly rod series, a fast action rod
that broke out of the typical Winston genre. After owning several of
those fly rods, I thought, “Now if Winston could just add a little more
power and a little more speed, they’d have one darn fine saltwater fly
rod”. Low and behold, the Fall of 2007 brought the Boron II-MX series.
Was I a mind reader? No, it was just Winston’s time to shine. They’ve
broken their mold, and entered into the saltwater, big game arena with
the Boron II-MX rods.



Does a fly rod manufacturer of trout fame have any business
making powerful big game fly rods? When they’ve developed the use of a
material as strong as boron, why not? The Boron II-MX is the third
Winston fly rod series to use the Boron II and, in my opinion, is the
best. But then again, I love saltwater fly fishing. I decided I’d give
the 10 weight 9-footer a go while recently tarpon fishing in the Keys.
One word; IMPRESSIVE.


Action…


 

When you first pick up the Winston Boron II-MX 1090-4, you have
to be impressed. Doing the “shop wiggle” tells you this isn’t the same
old Winston; it feels quick and powerful. Light in hand, fast off the
tip, but then again, not too fast; the Winston Boron II-MX still has
that special feel of a Winston. When I put a line on the rod, it came to
life in my hand. They call it transference of energy; I call it feel or
touch. As I increased line distance, the strength of this rod came
through. It felt like it took the same amount of energy to cast a fly
line70 feet as it did at 30 feet. Somehow, Winston was able to build a
fly rod that has the strength to battle winds, big fish, to carry large
amounts of line while providing one that loads quickly enough for
short-range casts. To put it simply, the Boron II-MX has the best of
both worlds; power with “load-ability”.



Big game fly rods need to be powerful throughout their entire
length for fish fighting ability. They also need to load quickly for
short casting conditions. This became very apparent after a week in the
Keys mired under cloud cover. It’s amazing how camouflaged a dozen
100+lbs fish can be when covered with shadows. I found after casting
this rod over several days at many pods of tarpon, the 1090-4 Boron
II-MX provided the strength to maintain all the line I dared to up in
the air, and generated the line speed for the tight loops needed to turn
over a 6 foot butt section, 4 foot leader and a 1/0 toad fly into 15
knot wind. And after hooking and landing several fish in the 80 lbs
class, I found the 1090-4 Boron II-MX provided me everything I needed
for tarpon fishing.


Material…


 

After several failed attempts at using boron for increasing rod
action and strength, Winston has found the right combination of
placement to give you a fly rod that is destine to be one of the great
saltwater/big game fly rod series. Gone is the floppy tip and
mid-section of the BL5 and gone is telephone pole stiffness of the XTR.
Enter another great fly rod in the modern era of lightweight, powerful
fly rods.



At a weight of 4 ¼ ounces, the Boron II-MX is significantly lighter than
the old XTR, which weighed in at 5 1/2 oz. But what is just as
important is the increased action and feel that the Boron II-MX rods
have over the beastly XTR and floppy BL5.


Fit and Finish…


 

No fly rod manufacturer builds a more beautiful fly rod than R.L.
Winston, period. Their soft green, sanded blanks are accented with
handwritten model and serial numbers and each section has the serial
number hand written at the ferrule. The matching green wrapping is
perfection and almost disappears under the flawless epoxy job. The
slightly smaller than average grip is of handspun Portuguese cork and
sits easily in most hands. Winston has always known how to bring out the
best of fly rod with just the right type of reel seats and the dull
finished anodized aluminum reel seat adds the final touches to this
great looking fly rod.


  • Boron II technology
  • Lightweight powerful big game fly rod
  • Fast action with smooth casting, whether 30-feet or 80-feet
  • Anodized aluminum reel seat
  • Aluminum tube with a rod sock
  • Original owner lifetime warranty

 


Reliability and durability…


 

Many years back, a fly rod company introduced a no-fault full
replacement policy and the rest is history. In my humble opinion, this
“no matter how you break it” full replacement warranty has done to two
things, 1) developed angler complacency in how we treat our equipment
and 2) made the manufacturers develop stronger, abuse taking fly rods.
Modern fly rod materials can be as fragile as the fiberglass and cane of
old, and at $600+ for one rod, it’s hard when it breaks. But we asked
for smoother, lighter fly rods and the manufacturers responded. Be
careful what you ask for! Enough of the rant, Winston’s path to
lightness, smoothness, and strength was through the use of boron. Boron
has always provided strength, but with the use of Boron II technology,
Winston has been able to dramatically decrease the weight while
maintaining strength. After pulling on several large tarpon, I found the
1090-4 Boron II-MX had the power and strength needed to quickly subdue
the fish and put an end to the fight. I never once felt concerned with
breakage. Of course, I knew if I made a mistake and something did
happen; there was the original owner full warranty to back me up!


Customer Service…Company Profile


 

Winston is a San Francisco tradition; Winston started here, and
it grew and prospered here, so it has warm place in our hearts. The
company has passed through the hands of some great fly rod builders and
is now under the control of David Ondaatje, who intends to maintain the
deep Winston tradition of providing phenomenal casting and fishing fly
rods. Through the guise of David, the company has developed the use of
Boron II that has taken Winston to the next level in rod design.



Winston prides itself on the craftsmanship of each and every fly rod.
This pride shows through in the high level of customer care and service
they provide. From publishing contact info to providing individual
factory tours, Winston lays it all on the table for everyone to see.
They stand firmly behind each rod and will fix or replace any
manufacturing defects. If that isn’t enough, Winston provides an
original limited lifetime warranty. No matter how it breaks or dings,
Winston will replace or repair you fly rod for shipping and handling
costs. Because of the level of hand craftsmanship, Winston cannot
guarantee a turnaround time, but they make every effort to get it done
as quickly as possible.


Overall Rating…


 

As I previously stated, I am a fan of fast action fly rods and
the 1090-4 Winston II-MX is one fine fast action rod! Winston entered
the era with Boron II and the Boron II-MX takes them to next level in
big game/saltwater fly rods. The newest member in the modern era of fast
action, but responsive fly rods, the Boron II-MX provides all the
strength and power needed for big flies, long or short casts and
fighting large fish while giving you consistent feed back. Winston did
not just come up with the initial design for responsiveness; they have
put their touch, their Winston feel, to it!



The 1090-4 Boron II-MX fly rod easily handled everything the Florida
Keys and its migrating tarpon could throw at it. From winds in the 15
knot range to cloud cover requiring short dinky casts to big (in my
opinion) fish. It requires little energy to get the fly moving, the
extra power is there for extra long casts and strength to quickly end
the fight. Now, I’m not long distance casting champion or famous tarpon
angler, but I have spent a lot of time in the saltwater arena and I know
what works for me; the Winston Boron II-MX fly rod. I was so impressed
with the 1090-4, I’ve ordered the 8-weight and 12-weight.


Reviewer…




I have been fly fishing the saltwater environs now for more than
15years and grew up with a fishing rod of one type or another in my
hands. I have been in the fly fishing industry for more than 10 years
and have been lucky enough to be exposed to most of the major
manufacturers of fly rods, reels, waders, clothing…I hope this review
helps you decide on which products to purchase. -Burke White



PROS – A true saltwater/big game fly rod by R.L. Winston. Easy to
cast, powerful and good-looking! Boron II has given the MX power to
battle wind and big fish. Original owner lifetime warranty.



CONS – The smaller than average grip may not suit everyone. But
it’s the Winston standard grip and it fits my hand well. At $675, this
rod is a little pricy, but right in line with other top manufacturers.



BOTTOM LINE – The Boron II-MX 1090-4 is a wonderfully casting,
powerful fly rod that stands up to the rigors of saltwater fly fishing
and big fish.

Want the ultimate 10 weight fly rod? Check out the Loop Cross S1 1090-4 Fly Rod.

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Sage Z-Axis Fly Rod Review
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THE LATEST FROM SAGE - Z-AXIS FLY FISHING RODS

Sage Z-Axis 590, 2 & 4 piece

Specifications

• Line Size: 5 

• Rod Length: 9' 
• Sections: 2 piece model or 4 piece model 
• Weight: 3 3/16 oz. (2-piece) or 3 3/8 oz. (4-piece) 
• Handle: Portuguese cork - Cigar shape 
• Reel Seat: Nickel silver uplock with Rosewood spacer 
• Action: Fast



What’s the word. . .

 When I heard that the folks at Sage Fly Rods were replacing the most popular and successful line of fly rods ever produced, the XP Series, I was, well, sorta shocked! It’s not often a company with an enviable reputation such as Sage, arguably the world’s premier fly fishing rod manufacture, would abandon their proven top of the line product for an unknown quantity in our current competitive market place. In fact, I had just purchased a Sage XP 696 a year and a half ago as my primary nymphing rod, and thought I had found perfection.

I’ve felt that we fly fishers have had access to some pretty good graphite rods for the last 15 years or more. As the manufacturers have learned from one another, claims of significant performance increases most often have proven to be small steps forward, if at all. That being said, I was more than a bit curious what I might find when I picked up the new Sage Z-Axis model 590. (A rod nine feet in length, rated for a 5 weight fly line is considered to be the bread and butter standard by most trout fishers).


Features. . .

The new Z-Axis 590-4 from Sage is a fast action nine foot, five-weight fly rod that incorporates the latest Generation 5 graphite technology. Coupled with a newly designed, computer enhanced taper, the result is a lightweight rocket with power and smoothness that sets a new standard. The rod casts comfortably and accurately at both short and very long distances and its forgiving nature makes it desirable for beginners and experts alike. The Z is outfitted with quality hardware; English Hopkins and Holloway guides and tip top, and a Strubel nickel silver reel seat with rosewood spacer. A cloth rod sock and protective aluminum tube are included, as well as a limited lifetime warranty. The Sage Z-Axis 590 is a beautifully finished piece of equipment that may arguably be the best all around performing trout rod ever built.


Action. . .

 My first impression was “wow”, this rod feels very light. Noticeably light. Not only light in physical weight, but more importantly, light in “swing weight”. When a fly fishing rod is accelerated, and then decelerated to transfer energy to the fly line and form a casting loop, the greatest acceleration is progressively toward the rod tip. As a flexible lever in your hand, a fly fishing rod with proportionately less material toward the tip section feels lighter and requires less effort to cast, hour after hour. That’s assuming, of course, that the lighter tip can provide the same relative stiffness and power without sacrificing durability. And therein lies the dilemma of all rod designers; overbuild a rod to withstand almost any abuse and most would consider it heavy and clunky, underbuild a rod for lightweight performance and one may end up replacing or repairing an inordinate number of broken rods for unhappy customers.

All that technical jargon aside, it’s the rod designer who is ultimately responsible for creating the tapers of a superior casting tool. Sage is fortunate to have a rod designer, Jerry Siem, who is a great caster as well, and it is this ability, along with some new computer software, that enables him to evaluate, refine, and tweak the individual rod models to ensure consistency across a given rod series. Rod companies with less talented engineers are relegated to designing by committee, a tricky process, at best.


Materials. . .

According to Sage specs, the Z-Axis 590 -4 piece weighs in at 3 3/8 ounces, compared to its 3 1/2 ounce predecessor, the 590 XP. With identical hardware, the weight difference between these rods is a seemingly mere 1/8 ounce.

But the significance is in the differing technologies used in building the rod blanks themselves. Instead of a typical fiberglass “scrim” or mesh that is rolled around the steel mandrel and binds the longitudinal graphite fibers together, the Z-Axis utilizes what Sage calls their Generation 5 technology. In this process, the scrim is replaced by a lighter layer of graphite cloth that is rolled at a 90º angle (hence the name “Z-Axis”) to the separate layer of longitudinal graphite rolled over it. The result is a rod with greater “hoop” strength with less weight.


Fit and Finish. . . 

 The sanded blank of the Z-Axis is an olive green with gold thread wraps over English Hopkins and Holloway snake guides and a single stripping guide. No color preserver is used, so the wraps become semi-translucent when the finish is applied, resulting in a rich, uniform appearance. Ferrules and hook keeper are trimmed with a few wraps each of gold, black and rust thread for a nice, subtle accent. Handles are turned smoothly from the finest individual Portuguese cork rings and complimented with a sealed rosewood spacer and Strubel nickel silver uplocking reel seat. Due to several layers of inspection during the manufacturing process, the fit and finish of the Z-Axis is nearly flawless and what one should expect from a top of the line rod. The rod comes in a cloth sock with fold over tie down and a substantial, olive colored aluminum tube. Overall, a handsome rod, indeed.

• Sage G5 technology graphite construction

• Very light in hand

• Fast, yet smooth rod tapers for high line speed, accuracy, and comfortable casting, near or far

• English Hopkins and Holloway guides and tip top

• Nickel silver reel seat with rosewood spacer

• Cloth sack and aluminum rod case

• Limited lifetime warranty


Reliability and Durability. . . 

When a fly fishing rod bends, its circular cross section becomes an oval, with the greatest stress occurring in the compression element at the inside of the bend. This phenomenon is typically what causes graphite rods to shatter when they’re overstressed (aside from car doors, dog teeth, and nicks from weighted flies). In addition, when the G5 layers are compressed with tape and baked in an oven, as all synthetic rods are, the epoxy resin fuses the layers together more effectively than it would with scrim, and uses less resin in the process. G5 tech has already been proven within the existing Sage line of Xi2 Salt Water rods and one might assume this durability will carry over to the Z-Axis line as well.


Customer Support. . . . Company profile.

Sage was founded in 1979 by Don Green, an experienced rod blank builder and one of the architects of the modern fishing rod, as owner of the Grizzly Fiberglass Company, which later partnered with Fenwick. It was originally called Winslow Manufacturing (after the city of Winslow on Bainbridge Island, Washington) but within a year had changed its name to Sage. Emphasizing high quality fly rods sold only through specialty stores, Sage rode the crest of the fly-fishing boom in the post “A River Runs Through It” years. Today, although there is no industry repository for exact numbers, Sage is probably the world’s largest producer of premium fly rods and employs over 100 workers in their manufacturing facility.

So, has being the 800-pound gorilla affected the quality of their product as it has with so many other companies in the outdoor industry? Although challenged by industry wide flat sales, the growth of the Internet, and increasingly higher quality Asian imports, my impression is no, for several reasons. Sage has continued to retain talented people and spend money on research and development. The proximity of Bainbridge to the Boeing Aircraft manufacturing plants near Seattle and Toray Composites in Tacoma provides access to a wealth of knowledge from the aerospace industry, the primary end users of graphite fiber. More importantly, aside from a few casting and spinning rod models over the years, Sage has pretty much stuck to their original intention, building very good fly rods.

The Z-Axis has a limited lifetime warranty for the original owner. If you damage or break your rod, you are responsible for the shipping charges and insurance to send ALL of the pieces to Sage, plus a $40 handling fee, to cover return shipping and insurance within the U. S. International owners are charged the actual shipping and insurance fees. Not a bad deal for an expensive, relatively fragile tool. The other five or six top US makers offer similar rod warranties, but not all provide the same level of service. I’ve seen some customers wait 3 or 4 months, or longer, to get their rods back. Sort of puts the damper on the fishing season. Sage’s lead time for repairs is currently about 2 to 2 ½ weeks during their busy summer, and shortens to about 1 ½ weeks in the winter.


Overall Rating. . .

The true revelation occurs in casting the Z-Axis rod. It’s powerful. Yet powerful in a way I hadn’t really experienced before. Most powerhouse rods in the past, that were able to generate the highest line speeds for casting in wind or for distance, have usually had a broomstick feel to them, requiring a short, compact technical stroke. They’ve been limited in their ability to cast comfortably at short to medium distances and not as effective at roll casting. Not great rods for beginner or even intermediate casters and, in general, not great all around fishing tools.

Not so with the Z-Axis. With a short amount of line out, about 25 feet, the rod cast comfortably and crisply. As I extended my casts to 60 feet, and then, beyond 80 feet, I was struck not only with the rod’s reserve power, but how smoothly that power transferred to the tip of the rod, with seemingly little effort. The transition zone seemed wide and forgiving. The light tip tracked very accurately.

In a nutshell, the Z-Axis is a fast action rod that is capable of developing tremendous line speed, yet it doesn’t feel that fast when you cast it. This is a high performance rod that even a beginner would find easy to cast.

The Sage Z-Axis 590, and the entire Z-Axis series, in my opinion, represent a noticeable improvement in all around fly fishing rod performance and are the first rods in a while that would influence me to replace the majority of my favorites that I currently use. Based on this technology, I’ll probably start recommending 9 ½ footers as the standard.



PROS - What’s not to like? A surprising blend of lightness, power, accuracy, smoothness, and, hopefully, durability. Suitable for beginners and experts alike. Limited lifetime warranty.

CONS -
At $695, there are some decent rods out there at half the price, yet most top-of-the line manufacturers have models in a similar price range. Nickel silver reel seats are pretty, but require more care than aluminum.

BOTTOM LINE
Perhaps the best all around fly fishing rod series produced to date, at any price.


Reviewer. . .

Having been in the fly fishing industry for over 25 years as a guide, fly fishing school director, writer, and manufacturers sales representative, I’ve been fortunate to cast and fish with a wide array of fly rods from almost all of the top makers.
– Dean Schubert


Here's what one of our customers had to say recently about his new Sage Z-Axis rod;


"I live in South Africa and have just read your opinion on the Sage Z-Axis. In my mind you hit the nail 100% correct. I purchased the rod not knowing what to expect seeing that every fly rod company proclaim their rods to be the “best”? I took it out for a cast and was silenced… Then I took it to the pond and was blown away with the forgiving nature of the rod when a sudden breeze came up, I thought it was awesome and didn’t even think of the fish I was actually targeting, until one took the fly and I was still on ”hey this is an awesome rod..” when I suddenly had to think “OK, now you have to perform on landing this fish with this pricy rod?” We’ll it handled a 23 inch rainbow with an attitude of dominance. I am currently looking at investing in a 7 weight outfit, seems I’ll look no further than Sage and its good friend Abel." -- Marius Calitz

Back to the Sage Z-Axis 590 Fly Rod


Leland on sage z-axis fly fishing rodS

 

The Z-AXIS Fly Rod! Mr. Wizard is back and talk about pressure! You know the design team at Sage was sweating some serious bullets when they looked to replace the XP. For more than six years the XP Fly Rod Series was the industry standard by which fast action fly rods were measured, and now, it's been replaced. Enter the Z-Axis. We know you’re going to be completely awed by this Sage Fly Rod Series! These rods are lighter, and although they generate the fastest line speed of just about any rod, they're easier to cast (if that's possible) than the XP models. The added advantage of the extreme line speed is accuracy and control of your fly. And if you want to talk trackability...

Here's what one of our customers had to say recently about his new Sage Z-Axis rod;
 
"I live in South Africa and have just read your opinion on the Sage Z-Axis. In my mind you hit the nail 100% correct.  I purchased the rod not knowing what to expect seeing that every fly rod company proclaim their rods to be the “best”?  I took it out for a cast and was silenced… Then I took it to the pond and was blown away with the forgiving nature of the rod when a sudden breeze came up, I thought it was awesome and didn’t even think of the fish I was actually targeting, until one took the fly and I was still on ”hey this is an awesome rod..” when I suddenly had to think “OK, now you have to perform on landing this fish with this pricy rod?” We’ll it handled a 23 inch rainbow with an attitude of dominance. I am currently looking at investing in a 7 weight outfit, seems I’ll look no further than Sage and its good friend Abel."  --  Marius Calitz

Even though we now expect lightness from today’s fly rods, we never thought the Z-Axis' seemingly near-weightlessness could be achieved without giving up strength. Oh, how we were wrong! To bore you with a little technical talk, by replacing the glass hoop fibers (the fiberglass scrim cloth) with lighter, stronger graphite fibers, Sage found that during the curing process, the graphite fiber fabrics bind together more effectively. These now welded fibers give rise to a stronger fly rod blank and the lighter graphite fibers up the performance! Sure, we're simplifying the whole process, but we know when you first pick up one of these rods you will have the same reaction; WOW! You're going hear more clichés than you can shake a stick at (we couldn’t resist just one) about this rod series but just remember; if you want the lightest, most accurate fly rod on market, then reach for the Z-Axis. As Sage says it in one word “Magic”… and we couldn’t agree more.

  • Rod weights: 3 through 10
  • Rod lengths: 7'6" to 10' for single hand rods and 11' to 16' for Spey rods
  • Reel seats: Nickel/silver with Rosewood inserts or anodized aluminum
  • Cork handles: Cigar grip, small cigar grip or full wells
  • Aluminum tubes with cloth socks
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Sage TXL-F Fly Rod Review
251
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THE LATEST FROM SAGE - TXL-F FLY FISHING RODS


 


Specifications




• Line Sizes: 000wt-4wt


• Rod Length: 7'10" (with a 3wt and 4wt at 6'10" as well) 

• Sections: 4 piece 

• Weight:  1 7/16 oz. (000wt) to 1 15/16 oz. (4wt) 

• Handle: Cork - Snub-nose Half Wells Grip 

• Reel Seat: Bronze anodized with walnut insert 

• Action: Moderate Fast 

• Retail Cost: $625.00



    Leland is excited to offer Sage’s new TXL-F series of fly rods.




November 22, 2010 (San Francisco, CA):
  Since 1985, Sage has
endeavored on perfecting performance by handcrafting fly rods in
Bainbridge Island, Washington.  This year, Sage’s master rod builder,
Jerry Siem, has developed a new series of dedicated small stream fly
rods named TXL-F.  This latest rod offering provides big rod performance in a small package.



Celebrate small stream fishing:
Ultra-light rods in general have a reputation for being "noodly". Not so with the ,
which responds to the same casting stroke that efficiently loads and
unloads Sage's high-performing, fast-action rods.  Now an angler can
play “small ball” on tight trout streams without sacrificing
performance.

 


PRO Review - GEORGE REVEL








What’s the word. . .





The new TXL-F series of small stream trout rods from Sage  have been
introduced as the replacement to the much-loved TXL ("Trout eXtra
Light") series. In line weights 000 through 4, the TXL-F fly rods offer
anglers the responsiveness and precision necessary to fish confidently
in tight quarters. The "F" in "TXL-F" is for "feel," and Sage has
managed to produce a rod series that provides unprecedented sensitivity,
tippet protection, and--most surprisingly, stellar casting performance.





Features. . .


 


The TXL-F raises the bar on its predecessor in a few different ways.
From the 000710-4 to the 4710-4, the TXL-Fs are on average a full third
lighter than their TXL ancestors. Sage has achieved this through further
refining their proprietary G5 construction technology (more about G5
below) and a new style of ferrule which they're calling "microferrules."




These new, more efficient junctions provide the TXL-Fs with weight
savings, to be sure, but also help ensure an even, continuous flex along
the rod's length to give anglers sensitive tippet protection and easy,
intuitive casting. These rods load fully and cast dart-like tight loops.



The "snub-nosed half wells" grip is another feature that's new for the
TXL-F. This high quality cork handle is slightly flared at the top, to
provide ergonomic hand placement and better energy transfer from the
anger's arm, through the thumb, to the blank and fly line.





Action. . .




Perhaps because they are on average a third lighter than their TXL
predecessors, the TXL-Fs are a great deal crisper-casting than any light
line rod developed to date. Historically, the small stream category has
been populated by rods with a noodly, unsatisfying action, one that
loads easily at close distances, but doesn't track particularly well or
gracefully form tight loops.



Not so with the TXL-F. These lightweight fly rods are veritable pistols.
They are designed to be cast with the same casting stroke that best
operates Sage's full range of fast action fly rods. If you are
comfortable casting a Z-Axis 590-4, you'll be able to confidently use
that same compact, modern casting stroke to impressive results with
every TXL-F model.





Materials. . .


 


The TXL-F rod series makes use of a high modulus graphite blend in
its blank construction, as well as Sage's proprietary G5 construction
technology.
High modulus graphite allows TXL-F blanks to efficiently
load and unload during the casting cycle--transferring more energy into
the fly line---while G5 enables Sage to produce lighter, more
responsive, and more precise rods.



Often misunderstood, G5 technology is a manufacturing process rather than a specific material, machine, or treatment. G5 has two elements: a scrimless reinforcement method and a fiber alignment method.



Traditionally, graphite blanks have made use of fiberglass "scrims" or
woven sheets of fiberglass that are sandwiched between sheets of
graphite. While the graphite provides axial strength along the blank,
the fiberglass provides hoop strength---basically, it prevents the round
cross section of the blank from contorting into an oval, which is the
first step in failure.



But fiberglass is heavy and makes rods heavier, less powerful, or both.
Through G5 technology, Sage has used advanced resin systems and lateral
carbon fiber reinforcements to provide more than adequate hoop strength without fiberglass.
When these scrimless blanks are baked and cured, they achieve a much
denser nesting of graphite fibers--with consonantly greater strength. With
G5, Sage has moved beyond the need for scrim, making it possible to
produce a lighter, livelier, and quicker-recovering blank.








The second facet of G5 has to do with fiber alignment. Unlike fiberglass, which is woven, a sheet of graphite has all its fibers running in parallel--or unidirectionally. This means a rolled-up tube of graphite is very strong axially. But a fly rod isn't a simple cylinder--it's actually a very thin, gradually narrowing cone of sorts.
It has taper to it, in order that it can bend and unbend predictably to
cast the fly line. This taper makes it technically difficult to keep
fibers in alignment as you roll a sheet of graphite around a mandrill to
make a rod blank.



To get around this, Sage lays a cut of graphite sheeting on the mandrill
and rolls it, then lays another cut at a different orientation, rolls
it, then another cut, and so on. These "multiple lay-ups" result in less overall migration of fiber direction off the longitudinal axis,
and make for blanks that track better, respond with more energy, and on
the whole provide casters with an extra level of precision.






Fit and Finish. . . 


 


• Sage G5 technology graphite construction



• Exceptionally light in hand, but stable and responsive as well



• High quality cork handle in a Snub-Nose Half Wells configuration



• English Hopkins and Holloway guides and tip top



• Bronze anodized reel seat with walnut insert



• Stitched cotton rod sock and extruded aluminum tube



• Limited lifetime warranty




Reliability and Durability. . . 




Sage was founded in 1979 by Don Green, an experienced rod
blank builder and one of the architects of the modern fishing rod, as
owner of the Grizzly Fiberglass Company, which later partnered with
Fenwick. It was originally called Winslow Manufacturing (after the city
of Winslow on Bainbridge Island, Washington) but within a year had
changed its name to Sage. Emphasizing high quality fly rods sold only
through specialty stores, Sage rode the crest of the fly-fishing boom in
the post “A River Runs Through It” years. Today, although there is no
industry repository for exact numbers, Sage is probably the world’s
largest producer of premium fly rods and employs over 100 workers in
their manufacturing facility.



So, has being the 800-pound gorilla affected the quality of their
product as it has with so many other companies in the outdoor industry?
Although challenged by industry wide flat sales, the growth of the
Internet, and increasingly higher quality Asian imports, my impression
is no, for several reasons. Sage has continued to retain talented people
and spend money on research and development. The proximity of
Bainbridge to the Boeing Aircraft manufacturing plants near Seattle and
Toray Composites in Tacoma provides access to a wealth of knowledge from
the aerospace industry, the primary end users of graphite fiber. More
importantly, aside from a few casting and spinning rod models over the
years, Sage has pretty much stuck to their original intention, building
very good fly rods.


 

The TXL-F has a limited lifetime warranty for the original
owner. If you damage or break your rod, you are responsible for the
shipping charges and insurance to send ALL of the pieces to Sage, plus a
$40 handling fee, to cover return shipping and insurance within the U.
S. International owners are charged the actual shipping and insurance
fees. Not a bad deal for an expensive, relatively fragile tool. The
other five or six top US makers offer similar rod warranties, but not
all provide the same level of service. I’ve seen some customers wait 3
or 4 months, or longer, to get their rods back. Sort of puts the damper
on the fishing season. Sage’s lead time for repairs is currently about 2
to 2 ½ weeks during their busy summer, and shortens to about 1 ½ weeks
in the winter.




Overall Rating. . .





PROS - The new TXL-Fs are really a groundbreaking
series. The actions correlate to Sage's larger trout rods, so you can
use the same, compact casting stroke you would use on a 5wt or 6wt, get
great loops, and still show small fish the respect they deserve.





CONS - Though the TXL-F 4710-4 is the most versatile
of the series, these rods are definitely specialty rods. Any one of
these rods will make a great addition to your quiver, but look elsewhere
if you're shopping for an all-rounder.





BOTTOM LINE – These are precise, crisp light line fly
rods that are fun to fish. The TXL-Fs will open up new water and remind
you how great dry fly fishing really is.



Reviewer. . .






 


I grew up in Redding, CA, fishing for trout and steelhead on
the many waters of the region. As I grew up, I became more focused on
fishing for steelhead, and swinging a fly through a glassy tail-out is
probably my favorite thing in the world. But fishing the TXL-F this
summer on small water was like "trout rehab" for me, and I've been
fishing trout hard through the summer and fall. I'm remembering that
California has some really outstanding small streams and ponds that
never get the pressure of the larger tailwaters and freestones. Although
I always value the secrecy of my fishing spots, I encourage you to pick
up a TXL-F and go find the small stuff near you. I'll see you on the
water. -George Revel


 







Leland on sage txl-f fly fishing rodS


 


Why replace a beloved series of light fly rods? When you can
make that series 33% lighter while dramatically improving its
performance, the real question is why wouldn't you? Besides its near
weightlessness, the TXL-F (the "F" is for "feel") Series of fly rods has
received a tune-up in the form of increased sensitivity and performance
with the latest version of Sage's exclusive G-5 technology, as well as
new and improved microferrules. The series even has a brand new grip: a
"snub-nose half wells" grip that's just one more reason it's tough to
put down at the end of the day.



Ultralight rods in general have had a reputation for being "noodly". Not
so with the TXL-F, which responds to the same casting stroke that
efficiently loads and unloads Sage's high performing fast action rods.
This efficient casting stroke allows you to delicately drift dry flies
under logs and bushes with accuracy unprecedented in an ultzralight fly
rod. We test-drove the TXL-F 4710-4 this summer on a tiny creek in
Northern California and had a blast dropping dries into wooded corners
and slingshot casting under cut banks.



Without question, this is the best-casting series of ultralight fly rods
on the market today. And in a new four piece configuration, the TXL-F
is that much easier to pack high into the backcountry.

For the ultimate in small creek trout fishing, check out Sage's new Circa fly rods.


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Abel Super 5N Fly Reel Review
250
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Specifications
• Weight: 5.7 ounces
• Spool diameter: 3.500 inches
• Spool width: .750 inches
• Capacity: Standard WF 5 line plus 125 yards of 20 lb. Dacron backing or WF 6 plus 100 yards of backing
• Material: Spool, frame and foot machined from 6061-T6 cold finished
aluminum bar stock
• Drag system: Draw bar actuated cork disk
• Finish: Corrosion-resistant anodized
• Colors: High gloss black coral or non-reflective matte black, other custom colors available at an additional charge



A little history…

 
So, what’s this?? A beefy, brawny saltwater tough guy posing as a trout reel? Isn’t that a bit …well, overkill?
After all, in fly fishing, unlike conventional spinning or bait casting, we don’t actually use the reel to make the cast. In the old genteel days of trout fishing, the reel simply stored line until we’re lucky enough to hook something that took out more line than we had in our hand. I grew up using a stamped, Japanese import, then a stamped Pflueger Medalist, and finally graduated to a variety of die cast Hardy reels, the gold standard of trout reels in the early 1980’s. I treasured all of them in their time. Maybe it was the insistent buzz made by the clicker as a trout peeled off line, or maybe I felt the reel was my fishing companion, sharing in each new adventure.

Fast forward to 2007. Our “genteel” art has become, on many fronts, a slugfest. No longer are we satisfied plying our trade in bucolic settings fishing for small trout. Today, many of us travel the world seeking larger trout in New Zealand, Patagonia, and Chile. We fish the salt water flats for species such as bonefish and permit that swim much faster and pull much harder than their similarly sized freshwater cousins. Consequently, we’re harder on our tackle and have come to expect greater performance from our fly reels.

You’d think it wouldn’t take rocket science to come up with a little metal wheel with a brake that was dependable. But I’ve seen just about every brand of reel fail at one time or another. Whether it’s grit or grime, extreme heat or cold, component wear, or impact from a hard fall, if there’s a weakness, we usually find out about it exactly at the wrong time.

Enter Steve Abel. Although not a rocket scientist, he is an experienced aerospace machinist, who started selling his fly fishing reels in 1987. His motto then, and the company’s motto today is “to design and build the best, most dependable gear in the world and give world class customer service.” In the ensuing twenty years, Abel Quality Products has succeeded in carving out a niche in the increasingly competitive arena of high quality fly fishing reels and built a devoted following of end users. The latest offering from Abel is the Super 5 Narrow Large Arbor, a trout sized reel that boasts a robustness usually found only in its larger, saltwater brethren.

Features

The Abel Super 5N Fly Fishing Reel is the newest addition to the Abel Super Series, which have a large arbor design for faster line retrieve, reduced line coiling, and better drag continuity. The 5N spool, frame, and foot are cut from a solid block of 6061-T6 cold finished high molecular density aluminum. The spool and frame are aggressively ported (ventilated) to reduce weight, while maintaining great strength and rigidity. The draw bar, main shaft, pawls, and screws are machined 303 stainless steel. The drag is comprised of a large surface area, cork composite covered drag plate tightened against the inside of the aluminum spool by the draw bar. All aluminum surfaces are protected against corrosion by Abel’s proprietary hard anodizing process. The 5N is convertible to left or right hand retrieve. At 5.7 ounces, it’s relatively light considering its bombproof strength. The drag system is silky smooth, with low start up inertia, and based on a simple design that has proven itself over two decades. The spool capacity is suitable for 5 or 6 weight lines, making it ideal for large trout and small steelhead. Substituting smaller diameter gel spun backing in place of Dacron, one could pump up the backing capacity to over 150 yards for medium steelies, smaller bonefish, specks and reds. Overall, a nearly flawless, extremely rugged and reliable fly fishing reel for taking fresh and smaller saltwater species on light tackle.

• Large arbor, narrow spool design for quick line pick up

• Machined from 6061-T6 cold finished aluminum bar stock

• Impact resistant spool rim and frame

• Smooth, reliable cork-draw bar drag system

• Durable, hard anodized finish

• Custom colors, handles, and engraving available at additional charge

Materials, Fit, and Finish

Fly fishing reels machined from a solid bar of metal have the greatest rigidity and strength per weight, but in the long run, are more costly to produce than stamped, or die cast reels. Over thirty years ago, American companies such as Seamaster and Fin Nor pioneered the construction of machined fly reels, primarily for a small following of hard core salmon and saltwater fly enthusiasts. The increased popularity of fly fishing, coupled with political and economic expansion of the Far East in recent years, has led to an influx of many reasonable quality, less expensive machined imports primarily targeting entry and mid level customers. Many U.S. makers of good reels have folded under this pressure, and the majority that have remained, like Abel and Tibor, have done so by directing there efforts at top of the line products.

Although you may find some custom $2000-$10,000 titanium reel models on the Internet, aluminum is the choice for mere mortals. Abel uses 6061-T6 cold finished bar stock in all of their reels, which is the strongest, densest, most corrosion resistant aluminum for this purpose. The spool, frame and foot of the 5N Super are cut from this, and the mainshaft and drawbar from 303 stainless steel, on Computer Numerical Control lathes and mills. In fact, every machinable part in the reel is made in the Abel factory to insure utmost quality control, right down to the stainless steel screws. The only non-metal parts are the cork drag washer, a neoprene o-ring, and the laminated, sealed wood handle.

The overall weight of the reel is significantly reduced, while retaining structural integrity, by precise, aggressive porting throughout the spool and frame. All parts are hand de-burred, hand polished, cleaned and inspected and aluminum parts are protected from wear and corrosion (and colored) by Abel’s unique hard anodizing process, which penetrates and bonds to the metal. Two sealed waterproof ball bearings on the spool and one on the drag plate provide near frictionless rotation.

Abel currently employs 28 production workers and 7 support staff in their Camarillo, California facility. They offer a lifetime warranty on manufacturing defects for all their reels. Although you’re not likely to need that warranty, it’s nice to know that Abel, due to their success, will probably be around to back it up if you do.

What a drag

In a nutshell, there are two basic types of fly reel drags; the classic spring and pawl, popularized by Hardy Brothers of England well over a century ago, or one of many variations of the more modern disk drag. Most anglers, and manufacturers today overlook the click pawl, unfairly in my opinion, in favor of disks for all fly fishing. Actually, the click pawl, if well constructed, is very reliable for smaller trout and is the lightest, simplest, and least expensive to build. And as it works, it creates that sweet sound that many of us find synonymous with fly fishing.

As we seek fish that pull harder and faster and fight longer, our fly reels are progressively subjected to greater amounts of what most often kills them; heat. A disc drag slows the spool by friction, applying pressure between two or more discs, usually one on the spool and one on the frame, or within a hub mounted on the frame. A great number of variations of this seemingly simple concept are available today, each one claiming superior performance.

However, the big game fly reels that have been the most successful in landing fish over 100 pounds, and, therefore, operate smoothly and survive the greatest amounts of stress, have draw bar drags. This simple system has two center mounted disk shaped brake surfaces that meet when the spool is attached, and drag is increased as the draw bar tightens the frame against the spool through the central shaft.

Although most newer disk drag systems use synthetics such as Rulon, Delrin or carbon fiber, as the brake material, natural cork (ground and mixed with a polymer), is still considered by many to offer the best balance of durability, low start up inertia, stopping power, and adjustability. This cork composite, unlike the synthetics, is compressible, providing for its smoothness. The Abel 5N Super has the largest drag of this type of any 5 or 6 weight reel I’ve seen, and the “open” design dissipates heat rapidly into the rear of the spool and throughout the reel frame. “Closed” or completely sealed drag systems offer the advantage of low maintenance, but generally can not cool as effectively.

Cork must be lubricated occasionally to replenish its natural moisture, usually with pure neatsfoot oil. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions, as petroleum products or solvents may harm the cork, and back off the drag tension when not in use. Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of the draw bar drag is that it does not allow for quick change spools, as some disassembly is required. Choose another design if this is a priority for you.

According to the International Game Fish Association, Abel reels where used in setting the greatest number of new world records for 2006. Though you may not land a world record, you will at some point encounter that fish of a lifetime. The Abel 5N Super Large Arbor Fly Fishing Reel, with its impeccably machined strength and superb drag, is as likely as any to get the job done. 

Pros

Rugged, beautifully machined and finished trout-size reel with a very smooth and reliable drag system usually found only in larger, saltwater fly reels.

Cons

At $550, the Abel 5N Super is much more expensive than some other very serviceable trout reels and is an ounce or more heavier than others with lighter drag designs and frames. The draw bar does not allow for the convenience of quick-change spools. Open design requires occasional cleaning and lubrication.

Bottom Line

The Abel 5N Super, compared to other reels of its size, is most likely to withstand extreme conditions, and the one you’ll probably hand down to your grandchildren.

Reviewer. . .

Having been in the fly fishing industry for over 25 years as a professional guide, fly fishing school director, writer, and manufacturers sales representative, I’ve been fortunate to fish with a wide array of equipment from almost all of the top makers.

Check out the Abel Super 5N Fly Reel

Back to Reviews

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Sage Xi2 Saltwater Fly Rod Review
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Sage Xi2 Big Game Saltwater Fly Fishing Rods Review


 


Specifications
• Line Sizes: 6 to 16 weight
• Rod Lengths: 8' to 9.5' 
• Sections: all 4 piece models 
• Handles: Portuguese cork - Full-wells saltwater grip
• Reel Seats: Black anodized aluminum uplock w/ cork fighting butt 
• Actions: Fast




What’s the word...?



Saltwater fly rods have a difficult set of
criteria to live up to. They need to be powerful, and have a relatively
fast action to throw tighter loops when distance is required, and to
battle wind with large flies. Yet, just as often, these rods are called
upon to load quickly for very short casts, with just one backcast, when
jumping fish from the deck of a boat, or in poor visibility conditions.
Hmmmm... that sounds like a difficult design parameter to me. In a
similar vein, we’re battling some pretty big, muscular fish here,
sometimes longer than we would want to, so the fly rod has to be built
strong enough to take that punishment, plus the added abuse of getting
knocked around in a boat. But on the other hand, we may have to cast
this beast of a rod for hours at a time, so if it’s overly heavy, or
unresponsive, it could wipe us out of the game when if we’re unable to
raise our arms any more. Such are the dilemmas of the Saltwater fly
angler.

Awhile back, the Sage Rod Company started
experimenting with a graphite fly rod construction process which they
thought would lead them to the next level in overall fly rod
performance. In a nutshell, they were right on. After three years of
extensive testing, Sage’s new Generation 5 Graphite Technology process
was unveiled for the 2004 season in the form of an impressive new series
of high performance saltwater fly fishing rods, the Xi2. This
construction process has proven so successful, Sage has incorporated the
same G5 Technology into the moderate action/light line ZXL Series, the
all-around fast action Z-Axis Series, and most recently, for 2008, the
featherweight TXL ultra-light series.



Action...



All of these new Sage rod Series are impressive performers in their own right, but let’s get back to the Sage Xi2s. The Xi2 rod
has a fast action, yet is extremely smooth, and can readily generate
high line speeds for longer saltwater casts, even though it has a finer
tip and weighs about a half an ounce less than its popular predecessor,
the Sage RPLXi. When I recently used the Xi2 12 weight on a Tarpon trip
to the Keys, we ran into a lot of overcast conditions. Sometimes we
didn’t see these monsters until they were just about on top of us. Then
the guide was yelling, “Get it out there, NOW!” The Xi2 responded fairly
quickly and accurately in these short line situations. Sage says that
their Modulus Positioning System (MPS) in the Xi2 allows a precise
lay-up of longitudinal fibers not only to create the smoothest action
possible, but also “to provide a startling level of "line feel"
throughout the casting stroke. This enhanced ability to feel the rod
load allows you to apply power more efficiently.” I’d agree with that,
considering that the Xi2 is a fast action rod. “Fast” in saltwater
lexicon usually means “really stiff”. The Xi2 seemed to give me more
feedback than the heavier saltwater sticks I’d used in the past. Long
casts or short casts, the Xi2 seemed to make my casting easier. I should
note that my casting style is suited, and my preferences are biased,
toward faster action rods. But G5 Technology looks to make even fast
rods more “castable” for everyone, so I would even recommend these rods
to beginning casters, some of who may benefit by starting out with a fly
line one size heavier than the rod weight.


Features. . .



There are thirteen of these dark blue-colored,
four-piece bad boys, and they cover all the line weights, ranging from a
9’ six weight for spooky bones, specks, and reds, all the way up to an 8
foot long, sixteen (yes, 16) weight rod for landing god-knows-what
kinda huge fish. The Sage Xi2 9 foot 8 weight, 10 weight, and 12 weight
rods remain the salt water workhorses for flats, reefs and offshore and
are the most popular sizes for all-around saltwater fly fishing.


Materials. . . Reliability and Durability. . .


Sage replaced a very successful saltwater rod series,
the RPLXi with the Xi2. The Xi2 weighs significantly less, easily
generates more power, but most importantly, has a more responsive,
lively feel when compared to previous saltwater rods.

The significance lies in the differing technologies used
in building the rod blanks themselves. Instead of a typical fiberglass
“scrim” or mesh that is rolled around the steel mandrel and binds the
longitudinal graphite fibers together, the Z-Axis utilizes what Sage
calls their Generation 5 technology. In this process, the scrim is
replaced by a lighter layer of graphite cloth that is rolled at a 90º
angle to the separate layer of longitudinal graphite rolled over it. The
result is a rod with greater “hoop” strength with less weight. When a
fly fishing rod bends, its circular cross section becomes an oval, with
the greatest stress occurring in the compression element at the inside
of the bend. This phenomenon is typically what causes graphite rods to
shatter when they’re overstressed (aside from car doors, dog teeth, and
nicks from weighted flies). These graphite “hoops” offer far greater
stability than their heavier fiberglass counterparts used
in past generations of graphite fly rods. In addition, when the G5
layers are compressed with tape and baked in an oven, as all synthetic
rods are, the epoxy resin fuses the layers together more effectively
than it would with scrim, and uses less resin in the process. G5 tech
has been proven with the Xi2 Salt Water rods, and has lead to the
production of new, higher performance freshwater Sage fly rods, as
well.  Not only that, but in the four plus years since their
introduction, the Sage Xi2s have proven their extreme ruggedness in
tough saltwater situations. So; lighter, stronger, faster, more
versatile, and more durable, to boot? If you took a poll of veteran
Saltwater fly anglers, it would be no surprise that they would rate the
Sage Xi2 as the top saltwater rods available today.


Fit and Finish. .


The sanded surface blank of the Xi2 is painted a blue
color with blue thread wraps over English Hopkins and Holloway
heavy-duty oversized snake guides, oversized round tip top, and two
stripping guides, with three stripping guides on 11 weight rods, and
heavier. The grips are turned smoothly from the finest individual
Portuguese cork rings and are complimented with a black, salt-safe,
heavy duty anodized aluminum uplocking reel seat with a cork fighting
butt. Due to several layers of inspection during the manufacturing
process, the fit and finish of the Xi2 is nearly flawless and what one
would, and should, expect on a top of the line rod. The rod comes in a
cloth sock with fold over tie down and a substantial, blue colored
aluminum tube with a solid screw cap.

• Sage G5 technology graphite construction

• Very light in hand (for salt water fly rods)

• Fast and crisp, yet smooth, rod tapers for high line speed, accuracy, and comfortable casting, near or far

• Oversized, low profile English Hopkins and Holloway guides and round tip top

• Hand-turned Full Wells cork grip

• Black uplocking salt-safe big game reel seat with cork fighting butt

• Cloth sack and aluminum rod case

• Limited lifetime warranty



Customer Support. . . . Company profile.



Sage was founded in 1979 by Don Green, an
experienced rod blank builder and one of the architects of the modern
fishing rod, as owner of the Grizzly Fiberglass Company, which later
partnered with Fenwick. It was originally called Winslow Manufacturing
(after the city of Winslow on Bainbridge Island, Washington)
but within a year had changed its name to Sage. Emphasizing high
quality fly rods sold only through specialty stores, Sage rode the crest
of the fly-fishing boom in the post “A River Runs Through It” years.
Today, although there is no industry repository for exact numbers, Sage
is probably the world’s largest producer of premium fly rods and employs
over 100 workers in their manufacturing facility.

So, has being
the 800-pound gorilla affected the quality of their product as it has
with so many other companies in the outdoor industry? Although
challenged by industry wide flat sales, the growth of the Internet, and
increasingly higher quality Asian imports, my impression is no, for
several reasons. Sage has continued to retain talented people and spend
money on research and development. The proximity of Bainbridge to the
Boeing Aircraft manufacturing plants near Seattle and Toray Composites
in Tacoma provides access to a wealth of knowledge from the aerospace
industry, the primary end users of graphite fiber. More importantly,
aside from a few casting and spinning rod models over the years, Sage
has pretty much stuck to their original intention, building very good
fly rods.

The Xi2 has a limited lifetime warranty for the
original owner. If you damage or break your rod, you are responsible
for the shipping charges and insurance to send ALL of the pieces to Sage
in the original tube, or a PVC tube, plus a $50 handling fee, to cover
return shipping and insurance within the U. S. or Canada. International
owners are charged the actual shipping and insurance fees. Not a bad
deal for an expensive, relatively fragile tool. The other five or six
top US makers offer similar rod warranties, but not all provide the same
level of service. I’ve seen some customers wait 3 or 4 months, or
longer, to get their rods back. Sort of puts the damper on the fishing
season. Sage’s lead time for repairs is usually about 2 to 3 weeks
during their busy summer, and shortens to about 1 ½ to 2 weeks in the
winter.


Overall Rating - 4 ½ STARS


The Sage Xi2, from many standpoints, deserves its
reputation as the best all around salt water rod series, and would be my
first choice in all line weights that I would most often use in
saltwater. If I could suggest one ‘dream’ change, however, it would be
for Sage to adopt some new, innovative technology that’s recently become
available; Recoil nickel/titanium guides and stripping guides. These
amazing, lightweight guides are nearly crush-proof, usually snapping
back to their original shape after being deformed. Recoils, as I’ve
heard from some saltwater pros, have superior corrosion resistance over
traditional plated steel wire guides, particularly when exposed to a
constant marine environment. I don’t live on the ocean and I’m an
occasional salt water fly angler, so I clean and rinse my gear (as I’ve
been told to do over the years), after every salt exposure, and I clean
it again, more thoroughly, when I get home from a trip. So, for me, as
well as most anglers, both types of guides will work fine and most
likely will give me long years of service. Sage competitor,
G. Loomis has had good success with the Recoil guides on their GLX
CrossCurrent saltwater fly rods. The CrossCurrents also cast very, very
well and I would rate them a close second to the Xi2 and, perhaps, a
first choice for someone who keeps their rods onboard most of the time.


Pros


 
Generation 5 Technology all-graphite layup from
Sage builds noticeably lighter, stronger and faster line speed saltwater
fly rods that can still load readily over a wide range of casting
distances for ultimate versatility. Thirteen rod models from 6 to 16
weights to cover everything from small reds to giant billfish.
Heavy-duty reel seats. Limited lifetime warranty.


Cons



$670 to $745 price tag is a little steep for
some, but in line with other top saltwater fly rod makers. Traditional
chromed steel guides, while sturdy, sometimes do not hold up as well to
constant, or unmaintained salt water corrosion as the newer
nickel/titanium Recoil guides.


Bottom Line



A combination of recent technological advances and
superb tapers, the Sage Xi2 has established a higher casting and fish
fighting standard in saltwater fly fishing rods. Fast, smooth, ‘lively’
and powerful with proven strength and durability from the world’s most
successful premier fly rod manufacturer.

Check out the best fly rod models.

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Sage ZXL 590-4 Fly Rod Review
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Specifications


Line Weight: 5
Length: 9 Ft.
Sections: 4 pieces
Weight: 3 5/16 oz.
Grip: Western-Portuguese cork
Reel Seat: Up-locking nickel silver w/ rosewood insert
Action: Medium w/ high line speed
Construction: G5 (generation 5) graphite technology
Blank Color: Pomegranate
Tube Size: 30 in. aluminum of matching color
Retail Price: $675.00



What’s the Word?

Sage. Here from Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary: “Sage adjective. Middle English, from Anglo-French: proceeding from or characterized by wisdom, prudence, and good judgment synonyms see wise”. It was this definition that I thought of when I heard that Sage’s latest rod series was not in fact their Z-Axis, a rod series much praised in its own right for the utilization of Sage’s new G5 technology in making for some of the lightest and fastest rods on the market today, but instead the Sage ZXL fly rod, a rod designed using the same G5 technology, but with the alternate goal of creating instead a smoother, more refined rod, one with a medium action and softer feel, yet still plenty of backbone. In other words, just as the Z-Axis was designed to eventually replace the XP, so was the ZXL designed to be an eventual replacement for another older yet still very popular Sage series: the SLT. This was made possible with use of the same G5 high modulus graphite that the ZXL shares with its closest cousin, the Z-Axis. Is it just me or does it seem now that every year, a slew of the biggest rod companies seem hell-bent on outdoing each other in simply producing the lightest, fastest, and hence many times the stiffest rod they can, which is all fine and dandy when it comes power, weight, and the people that really prefer an ultra fast action, but whatever happened to building in a “good feel”, a sensitive tip, and a pleasurable casting stroke, not to mention something that doesn’t feel like a broomstick when fighting a 12 inch fish? Sage has truly lived up to their name in my eyes now as they have realized and answered the considerable demand that this niche occupies within the market and for many an individual angler. They have put forth full and equal effort into seeing that the ZXL takes its rightful place alongside the Z-Axis. Being one who appreciates the pleasurable, albeit, slower actions of bamboo, fiberglass, and even earlier, lower modulus graphite trout rods, but also the power, precision, and light weight of the latest “super rods”, it was a virtual “no brainer” for me when looking for a new rod to test and review. Enter the Sage ZXL 590 fly rod, a rod which I put through as many paces as a day of fishing would allow, from fishing tiny dry flies in a feeder creek I could jump across, to throwing nymphs and streamers with plenty of added split shot into the faster, deeper pools of the much larger freestone river that above mentioned creek fed into. The Sage ZXL 590 did not disappoint.

Features…

The 9 foot fly rod for a 5 weight line is generally considered to be the best all around fly rod for trout fishing, especially out here in the west with our wide variety of waters, and the ZXL 590 is no exception, especially with the unique blend of power and finesse afforded to it by Sage’s state of the art G5 technology which is matched to a more progressively graded taper that runs a strong powerful butt section rather quickly into a surprisingly sensitive tip, which makes for quite a “whippy” little rod with excellent responsiveness. All of this breaks down into four pieces which combined; weigh in at a feathery 3 5/16 oz. These 4-pieces slide easily into the provided aluminum tube of 30 inches. The ZXL Series of fly rods feature a narrower, western style grip designed for improved comfort and an up-locking reel seat.

Materials/Construction...

In conversation with Chris Anderson, the sales manager at Sage, I learned that Sage essentially utilizes the exact same G5 technology of inner fiberglass scrim replacement in the ZXL that they do in the Z-Axis. The sheets of cross-thatched fiberglass scrim, that were traditionally used, layer upon layer, sandwiched in between sheets of the main material, graphite were replaced with thinner, stronger, and lighter weight sheets of carbon fiber. In this way, Sage is able to very efficiently shave away every gram of unnecessary material, building a much lighter but also much more responsive fly rod. But just as “the proof is in the pudding”, the difference between the ZXL and Z-Axis is in the taper design. By utilizing a taper that creates a more moderate action and by coupling that with the G5 technology of the Z-Axis, Sage was able to create a medium action fly rod that gives the angler superior line feel and response, but one that still retains the ability to generate line speeds previously reserved only for fly rods of a much faster action, like the Z-Axis, or TCR.

Fit and Finish...

The Sage ZXL 590 bears components and a finish to match its sophisticated and refined character. Not too much “bling bling”, no overabundance of gold jewelry components here, like you may see on the gaudy Cadillac “super rods” of other current manufacturers. The appearance of the ZXL is subtly understated but distinguished and aesthetically pleasing, with a blank of a deep Pomegranate color finished with four pairs of fine gold wraps in the Butt section. The comfortable, more slender western style grip described earlier is made of fine Portuguese cork, and the up-locking reel seat features nickel silver hardware and a handsome rosewood insert.

Action...

I found the ZXL to be nothing short of amazing at medium distances, which coincidentally, are where most of my trout seem to be caught anyways. It throws an extremely tight loop at an impressive line speed almost effortlessly between 15 and 40 feet, with a buttery smooth transfer of power and excellent tracking. Dry flies can be dropped in teacups at will at this distance it seems, with nary a ripple upon presentation if so desired. I think the rod’s somewhat softer tip is to thank, but I also found that this aspect lends itself extremely well to nymphing, even with a considerable amount of weight, as the rod’s butt handled the weight just fine, but it was the tip which allowed me to feel every rock, weed, and fish in the river. Jerry Siem, Sage’s chief rod designer, has indeed unearthed a gem with the ZXL.

Reliability/Durability...

Sage has built a reputation of quality and I see no reason why it shouldn’t extend to the new ZXL and Z-Axis, series, even if they are lighter. Lighter does NOT mean weaker in this case. If anything, these rods are stronger. The Epoxy resin saturates and fuses the graphite to graphite better than it did with the traditional graphite to fiberglass scrim process. This technology has already been proven in Sage’s new Xi2 Saltwater rods. In other words, what’s good for the tarpon should be good for the trout, at least where strength is concerned, shouldn’t it? And if you are ever lucky enough to be the first person to hook a Trout that’s bigger and stronger than a Tarpon, there’s always Sage’s excellent warranty and customer support to back you up.

Customer Support...

As with all Sage rods, every ZXL is covered by their lifetime, original owner warranty. If you damage or break your rod, you are responsible for the shipping charges and insurance to send all of the pieces to Sage, plus a $40 handling fee, to cover return shipping and insurance within the U. S.. International owners are charged individually calculated shipping and insurance fees. A few other top US makers offer similar rod warranties, but not all provide the same level of service. The main plus with Sage seems to be the turnaround time. It can take months with other rod manufacturers, but Sage’s lead time for repairs at worst is 2 ½ to 3 weeks upon receipt during the high season of summer, and this shortens to about 1 ½ weeks in the winter.

Company Profile…

Sage was founded in 1979 by Don Green, an experienced rod blank builder and one of the architects of the modern fishing rod, as owner of the Grizzly Fiberglass Company, which later partnered with Fenwick. It was originally called Winslow Manufacturing (after the city of Winslow on Bainbridge Island, Washington) but within a year had changed its name to Sage. Emphasizing high quality fly rods sold only through specialty stores, Sage rode the crest of the fly-fishing boom in the post “A River Runs Through It” years. Today, although there is no industry repository for exact numbers, Sage is probably the world’s largest producer of premium fly rods and employs over 100 workers in their manufacturing facility. Although challenged by industry wide flat sales, the growth of the Internet, and increasingly higher quality Asian imports, Sage has continued to retain talented people and spend money on research and development. The proximity of Bainbridge to the Boeing Aircraft manufacturing plants near Seattle and Toray Composites in Tacoma provides access to a wealth of knowledge from the aerospace industry, the primary end users of graphite fiber. More importantly, aside from a few casting and spinning rod models over the years, Sage has pretty much stuck to their original intention, building very good fly rods.

Overall Rating...

Overall, I found the ZXL to be a more than sufficient replacement of the SLT and a delightful alternative to the Z-Axis for those anglers who are open to the latest technological advantages but who aren’t quite willing to trade in that smooth pleasurable feeling of casting which to them, is essential to fly fishing.

Reviewer...

Being somewhat of an aficionado of bamboo fly rods, which I consider to be the ultimate in terms of softness and slow action, but also being an all around “gear head” and working in the fly fishing industry where one needs to stay abreast of all current technological developments, my colleagues and I found that I was in a unique position to review one of Sage’s new ZXL fly rods. The ZXL had a hard judge in me, but I took my task seriously…and I loved every minute of it. - Evan


Pros
- An ungodly balance of power and finesse.

Cons- Umm..price? Ok, at $675.00 it isn’t the cheapest rod on the market but c’mon, let’s be honest. You get what you pay for, and for an “ungodly balance of power and finesse” you’re lucky Sage doesn’t require you to sign over your first unborn child for one of these.

Bottom Line- Best all around medium action, light trout rod on the market. Period.

Check out Sage's latest work. Sage Circa Fly Rods.

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