Whether you're new to fly fishing or a seasoned angler, this great sport can be a bit overwhelming with all the brands, series and models of tackle available today...each claiming to be the best. Truth is, even we at Leland felt overloaded with all the choices. That's exactly why we got rid of them and kept only the solutions that are worthy of your consideration.
We have a balanced, efficient fly fishing outfit for every type of fly fishing situation you might encounter. From panfish to billfish, we'll put the right solution in your hands so you can arrive anywhere in the world completely confident that your fly tackle won't let you down. If it's fly fishing for trout, we're ready for you. Saltwater flats...no problem. Steelhead...yup. We make it easy for you.
This doesn't mean we only kept the most
expensive solutions. We pride ourselves on the ability to service all
our guests with the same responsible approach at all prices. Whether
you're just learning, we've got the right gear. If you're a youth fly angler, we've got the right gear for you. Maybe you just love to
backpack into the mountains for a soulful trout trip. We've got the
right gear for that, too.
But, gear alone doesn't make for an
exceptional fly fishing experience. For this you need confidence and
our principle-based approach to education won't leave you wanting.
Over our many years, we've honed our instructional technique, making
learning easier and more enjoyable for you. No lengthy classes,
syllabuses or quizzes that bring on that “test anxiety” feeling.
We promise, your experience with us will be refreshing and
enjoyable...just like fly fishing should be.
Our thoughtful approach to fly fishing
means we'll take care of you, your needs, your wants and your wishes.
The way we see it, it's our job to put you in that magical fly
fishing picture that lies deep in your mind and to do this right, you
simply need to visit the Fly Shop at Leland Ranch. We look forward to
your visit and to the many memorable fly fishing experiences that
Click here to see Sage's best steelhead Spey outfit.
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Leland Sonoma Ranch Map
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
Sage Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass Fly Fishing Rods
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
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
• Line Size: 5
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).
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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 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
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
BOTTOM LINE – Perhaps the best all around fly fishing rod series produced to date, at any price.
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
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
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.
• Line Sizes: 000wt-4wt
• 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
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.
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.
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
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.
• 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
So, what’s this?? A beefy, brawny saltwater tough guy posing as a trout reel? Isn’t that a bit …well, overkill?
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
$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.
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.
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