There's no doubt that photographer and
friend of Leland, Val Atkinson, is something of a fly fishing legend.
But his recent trip to South America is as much a celebration of
angling landscapes as the sport itself. Capturing the immensity of
the Southern Hemisphere's most coveted fishing destinations, Val's
latest collection depicts life at the edge of the world. And, of
course, the trout that call these sacred waters home.
In March, Val hosted a group of international
anglers for the trip of a lifetime: one week fishing for browns at
the Remota Lodge in Chilean Patagonia, one week chasing sea-run trout
at the Kau Tapen Lodge in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, and an
opportunity to wet a line with a fly fishing great. Equipped with a
selection of Loop and Leland's finest gear, Val and the gang trekked
across the wilds of a trout fishing mecca. With them, a brand new
Leland Switch prototype and Leland Brass Sea Run Reel, two Loop Cross S1 Fly Rods with Leland Limited Edition Opti Reels (9ft 5wt with a Dryfly for
browns, 12ft 7wt with a Speedrunner for sea-trout), and a 12ft 7wt Loop Yellow Rod equipped with a Classic Fly Reel, 8-11wt.
no better place to put fly tackle to the test than Patagonia, with
the Rio Grande boasting the largest run of anadromous brown trout in
the world. Big fish, long days, and ripping winds made for beautiful
photographs and serious strain in environments where lesser gear is
best left at home. The season's exceptionally low water levels also
demanded delicate presentations and put rods and anglers to the
ultimate test. But this didn't stop them from landing enormous fish
amid spectacular settings. In Val's own words, the trip was “truly
remarkable, among the most productive and enjoyable fishing
adventures I've ever gone on.” Not to mention, the response to the
gear was hugely positive and had the guides offering to purchase
Val's own rods and reels.
And what about the man behind
the camera? Val landed the largest fish of the trip, of course: a
whopping 23 pound gem of a sea-run brown. With fish like that and
photos like these, it's easy to see why Val's is undoubtedly the best
job in the world. As for the rest of us, there's nothing like gawking
at a few South American slabs to get you through the work day.
**Look for Val's Bolivian Dorado
series in the latest edition of Catch Magazine, or browse his
Oakley HDPolarized, 99% polarized efficiency
Hydrophobic/Oleophobic anti-smudge lens coating
resistance that meets ANSI Z87.1 standards for high-mass/high-velocity impact
• UV protection of Oakley Plutonite®
lens material that filters out 100% of UVA/UVB/UVC & harmful blue
light up to 400 nm
• Black, Tortoise, White
• Durability and all-day comfort of
• Oakley O Matter® frame material
Comfort and Performance of Three-Point Fit that holds lenses in
precise optical alignment
• Metal Oakley icon accents
September 30, 2011 (San Francisco,
CA): When Leland set out to create the best fly fishing
sunglasses on the market, there was only one name we could trust:
Oakley, the premier manufacturer of polarized sunglasses made
specifically for angling. The Leland Edition Polarized Fishing Sunglass by Oakley are the apex of fly
fishing eyewear technology and we guarantee you won't find a better
set of shades for your style.
Keeping things Simple: Here
at Leland, it's our belief that elite, expertly-crafted fly
fishing gear doesn't need to be complicated, so we set out with a
simple vision: two shades of Oakley's premier polarized lenses to
cover the spectrum of fly fishing applications and satisfy the needs
of anglers everywhere. The Leland Edition Polarized Sunglasses by
Oakley are the answer to a market where excellent performance has
been lost in a sea of too many options and too few results. With
the Leland Edition Oakley Sunglasses, it's as simple as two
lenses for every angling style. The All Day lens is the
“everyday lens,” designed for bright conditions where the most
important factor is diminishing glare and keeping your eyes at ease.
Leland's All Day shades perform as well scanning the flats for
bonefish as they do spotting steelhead or conquering high mountain
creeks on a sunny day. The second lens, the Low Light Lens, delivers extraordinary clarity in dim conditions for
those dedicated anglers who know the best fly fishing often means
subpar light conditions. If you love to fish before dawn and don't
call it a day until the last traces of light are gone, then the
Leland Oakleys in Low Light are guaranteed to enhance your vision and
and dial in on the catch.
The All Day Lens satisfies a
dynamic range of applications with extreme precision and unparalleled
versatility. From saltwater to spring creeks, the Leland Oakley All
Day Lens delivers striking visual acuity and fatigue-free comfort
in a sport where reading the water, judging depth, and
differentiating between structures is key. The Leland Oakleys in
All Day enhance contrast without distortion to ensure that you can
see the catch the way it's meant to be seen.
The second lens, the Low Light Lens,
offers superb clarity in limited light conditions. Aptly named, this
lens thrives in sight-fishing environments where reading the
subtleties of the subsurface action is critical, helping you land
fish and dial in on the catch no matter how diminished the light.
The Leland Oakleys in Low Light are a must-have for the trout angler
who fishes premier conditions no matter the time of day.
Both the All Day
and Low Light offer Oakley's striking clarity as well as the
protection of a shatteproof polycarbonate material. Glass lenses can
prove dangerous when fly fishing, shattering upon impact and causing
serious injury. The lenses of the Leland Oakleys won't shatter in the
event that they're struck by a bad cast, guaranteeing you protection
in the event of an accident. The Leland Oakleys are also
scratch-resistant, a hugely beneficial feature in a sport where
dropping your glasses into the water or dirt is not a question of if,
but a question of when.
The frames: The
unique design of the Leland Edition Oakleys lends itself to extreme
comfort and versatility. The Leland Oakleys fit virtually any face
and they're contoured design prevents peripheral UV penetration.
Constructed from Oakley's patented O Matter® frame material,
the Leland Edition Oakleys are also extraordinarily lightweight and
entirely stress resistant. They won't start to cause you discomfort
halfway through a day of fishing when the sun is bright and you need
them the most. Both shades of the
Leland Edition Oakley frames are available in black, tortoise, or
white, and feature Oakley's signature metal icons
Archille Valenciennes, 1847
- Zane Grey, “Byme-by-tarpon.”
The tarpon is a giant among saltwater game fish.
Although it is not the largest game fish a fly angler can catch and
release, it’s known as “the silver king” throughout the warm lagoons,
estuaries, thick mangrove swamps, and saltwater flats of southeastern
North America, the Caribbean, and northeastern coast of South America.
The tarpon: saltwater royalty. Adult tarpon can easily reach 6 or 7 feet
in length and can weigh well over 150 pounds. The Megalops atlanticus is astonishingly powerful
and is famous among anglers as the mythological silver beast that can
walk on water. Tarpon, once hooked, are known for jumping and thrashing
about, sometimes longer than 3 hours, their tails skitting across the
The silver king, although caught by indigenous tribes in the Florida
Keys probably as early as the 1700s, was officially discovered and named
in 1847 by the French parasitologist Archille Valenciennes during his
work with Georges Cuvier on their Natural History of Fish, a whopping
22-volume work published between 1828 and 1848. Valenciennes placed the
tarpon within the genus Megalops (Greek for “large eye”) because of its
prominent and daunting black eyes. Since the turn of the century, a
great body of literature, historical and otherwise, has been developed
on the subject of tarpon. Fly fishing for tarpon is now a wildly popular
sporting pursuit among anglers from Georgia to the Florida Keys, and
tarpon are also highly sought after throughout the coastal waters of the
Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. Recently, giant tarpon in the 300
pound class have been caught on fly tackle off the southwestern coast of
Africa. Tarpon have been so popular in the Gulf region of the United
States that in 1955, by act no. 564 of the Alabama state legislature,
the “fighting tarpon” became the state’s official saltwater fish.
Rolling and dashing through skinny saltwater flats and estuaries tarpon
inhabit a range of 49°N - 44°s, 99°w - 14°e, but they have been recorded
as far north as Nova Scotia, along the Atlantic coast of Southern
France, and as far south as Argentina. The tarpon uses the thin water of
the saltwater flats to feed on smaller baitfish and crustaceans. The
deeper water of the open ocean is the tarpon’s spawning grounds. The
tarpon does have a counterpart native to the Pacific Ocean (Megalops cyprinoids or Indo-Pacific tarpon), but this tarpon is a much smaller fish and not prized among fly anglers.
Tarpon are an ancient fish that has survived 125 million years of
evolutionary tumult. One of the oldest living species in the ocean, the
tarpon carries an almost otherworldly
presence. Just catching a glimpse of a rolling school of giant tarpon
is an intimidating sight even to the most confident fly angler. The
tarpon’s huge bucket-like jaws and large black eyes compliment its
thick, powerful body. When tarpon clear the top water during a jump,
their massive set of mirror-polished scales clatter and clack audibly
with the tremendous force of the maneuver. The tarpon’s fins are a dark,
steely gray and the tail is deeply forked, providing the silver king
with a tremendous amount of underwater leverage and speed.
According to historical accounts dating from the late 1800s, anglers
have been able to catch tarpon on artificial flies with reasonable
success. Since then fly fishing for tarpon has steadily increased in
popularity owing to rousing tales of madly fighting fish from such
popular authors as Zane Grey and, more recently, Lefty Kreh. The rising
interest in saltwater fly fishing, coupled with tarpon-specific articles
and books by other fly fishing greats have fueled the rush to master
tarpon on a fly. Today, there is now an extensive network of guides fly
fishing exclusively for tarpon from Florida to South America, and a
number of tournaments and other competitions celebrating fly fishing for
tarpon have also cropped up in recent years.
Fly anglers should understand that there are three classes or sizes of
tarpon: baby tarpon, midsize tarpon, and giant tarpon. Baby tarpon range
from 5 to 40 pounds, midsize tarpon fill the 50 to 80 pound class, and
the giant tarpon weighs in at an astonishing 100+ pounds. Anglers
looking to chase tarpon on the fly should think seriously about which
weight class they are after before they gear up and head on that tarpon
trip of a lifetime. Smaller tarpon are often found cruising on the edges
of saltwater flats and in brackish inland estuaries and mangrove
swamps. Larger tarpon are usually found cruising and rolling in
Baby and midsize tarpon offer quite a fighting challenge on an 8 weight
or 9 weight outfit. Giant tarpon, however, require much heavier 11 or 12
weight outfits. Fast action fly fishing rods are popular among tarpon
anglers for their ability to assist the caster in creating the long,
accurate casts (often into heavy wind) required when sight casting for
tarpon. It’s important to have top-notch fishing tools when stalking
tarpon of any size in the saltwater flats; an angler, even on the best
day, may only get 3 or 4 good casts at fish!
Loop Cross S1
Loop Cross S1 12 Weight Tarpon Rod
As with any saltwater flats game fish, spotting a tarpon can be a challenge. Sunny conditions on saltwater
flats can produce some of the world’s most visually taxing conditions,
and the sheer brightness of the glare on the water can be overwhelming. A
good pair of polarized sunglasses with copper photochromatic lenses can
– on some days – be considered the saltwater fly angler’s most useful
fishing tool. Yellow photochromatic lenses can be useful for morning
light conditions, so if you plan to fish from dawn until dusk, consider
two pairs of shades. (Experience in spotting tarpon, or a guide perched
atop the polling platform of a specialized flats skiff will also help!)
All Day Polarized Sunglasses
Low Light Polarized Sunglasses
There is a recent movement among saltwater fly anglers who chase tarpon
to “dredge” deeper channels and estuaries for tarpon of all size
classes. This dredging method is anchored in common blind casting
techniques familiar to striped bass fly anglers of the North American
coasts. Dredging for tarpon with a sinking line can be productive, but
remains a relatively new and unproven tactic in the quiver of tarpon fly
Deep Water Fly Line
Perhaps the easiest way to recognize the location of a single, pair, or
school of tarpon is by the characteristic “rolling” action the species
exhibits. The tarpon is equipped with a swim bladder, allowing them to
survive and thrive in brackish swamps and saltwater flats as well as the
open ocean. Tarpon will periodically appear at the water’s surface to
take in a breath, filling their swim bladder before rolling back into
the salty depths. This process, although graceful, can cause quite a
stir. Fly anglers should be on the lookout for large boils and bubbles
in the top water accompanied by a silvery flash – this is likely a
Large tarpon in saltwater flats will aggressively chase and take a
well-presented fly, adding to the species’ storied place in saltwater
game fish mythology. Tarpon will respond energetically to a fly moving
directly away from them. Creating this effect can be achieved with a
hook cast or a reach cast, both practiced techniques used by freshwater
fly anglers. Saltwater flats can offer a fly angler some of the most
challenging casting conditions on earth. Long, tuned, and accurate casts
of 60 to 70 feet are often necessary. Once the fly is properly
presented to the tarpon, the stripping game is on. Anglers will invariably
disagree on which are the most effective methods for retrieving the fly
when fly fishing for tarpon in the saltwater flats. In one conversation
on the subject, one might hear “fast, slow, smooth, jerky” … often in
the same breath. Never fear, a local guide will often know just how to
play and move a fly to produce results; listen to what they have to say!
Be patient though, as tarpon have been known to chase a well-presented
and retrieved fly all the way to the boat before striking!
Brackish inland estuaries and mangrove swamps offer saltwater fly
anglers amazing chances to cast to, catch and release baby tarpon. Some
canal systems – especially in southwest Florida – provide excellent
shelter for juvenile tarpon, even through the slow winter months. When
fishing these environments, work streamers as close to the mangrove
roots as possible. As the tide goes out, more and more of these mangrove
roots will be exposed, leaving behind an excellent feeding shelf for
baby tarpon. Remember: well-presented flies will move silver kings!
Simply hooking a tarpon can be an operatic experience in itself. The
tarpon’s mouth is extremely hard and has been likened to tough
construction-grade concrete. Subsequently, successful hook sets are
almost more challenging than actually getting an aggressive tarpon to
take a well-presented fly. Practice in firm and confident strip setting
techniques is extremely important when fly fishing for tarpon. When a
tarpon finally chomps the fly, and the hook is set, the fish will put on
an impressive aerial acrobatics show. Seasoned tarpon anglers, when
trading notes on a day’s work, will often proudly include the number of
“fish jumped” as well as the number of fish landed. Tarpon are
consistently observed jumping 3 or 4 feet above the water after a hook
up. During this aggressive jumping and thrashing, fly, fly line, and
tippet are at their most vulnerable point. It is extremely important to
protect rigging and tackle by keeping the rod tip as low as possible
during the initial few jumps. This process is called “bowing” to the
fish, and it’s no secret, bowing to the silver king will minimize the
chance of losing a tarpon to a snapped line or leader.
Tarpon fly anglers presented with the challenge of keeping a
tail-walking silver king on the line have developed a number of rigging
techniques designed to stand up
to what many think are the toughest and wildest fighters in the salt.
Taking a nod from the rigging standards employed by bill fish and tuna
anglers, anglers in hot pursuit of monster tarpon have experimented with
extremely complex, heavy rigs. The standard 9 foot tarpon leader,
however, consists of a heavy 60 pound butt section, a section of 16 to
20 class tippet, and finally a short, one foot section of 60 to 100
pound mono shock tippet. This rig is the standard for many medium to
large tarpon, but there are other options for the really large fish. Be
sure to ask your local fly shop about the leaders you should have ready
to go before you board the plane for your chosen tropical tarpon
destination. Keeping this general rigging rule for tarpon fishing can be
helpful: When traveling to far-flung destinations, bring your rigging
with you. When traveling to the Florida Keys, a good guide should
provide all you need to jump and land the tarpon of your dreams.
Do not head to the saltwater flats in search of tarpon armed with a
sub-standard fly reel. The stress a tarpon can place on even the
strongest rods, lines, and leaders is truly impressive – to say the very
least. The fly reel is the mechanical link for your connection to the
fish and if it goes south, so does your time on the water. Be sure to
find a reel with an iron-clad drag system and a large arbor for easy
line pick up. The reel should also be large enough to store between 200
and 250 yards of backing; if you find yourself connected to a rolling
fish, you’ll use it.
Ultimate Tarpon Fly Reel
When at home along the saltwater flats, tarpon will hunt and feed mostly
on baitfish. When migrating and spawning, tarpon are more likely to
feed instinctively on smaller crustaceans. Regardless of the situation,
however, tarpon will aggressively chase a well-presented fly. Large
streamer patterns are the most effective flies for tarpon of all sizes,
but some smaller crab and shrimp patterns will yield good results on
days when the silver kings are on the move or in a more selective mood.
A favorite classic tarpon fly from Florida to the Bahamas is the
Cockroach, developed by saltwater fly fishing legend Lefty Kreh. Other
proven tarpon flies include Lefty’s Deceiver, the Clouser Minnow, and
the Sea Habit. When tarpon are migrating or on the spawn, the Tarpon
Shrimp, Tarpon Crab, and the Seaducer are another trio of useful tarpon
flies to have on hand, and the Campeche Special is a brilliant fly for
baby tarpon in the mangroves of Mexico’s Gulf Coast.
Tarpon offer fly anglers a unique challenge; discovering the proper
blend of power, strategy, concentration, and finesse is crucial when on
the flats or in the brackish water in search of rolling tarpon. The
majesty of the tarpon survives in a heap of literature from Grey to
Kreh, and with good reason. Holding court, the tarpon truly is the
silver king of the flats, offering excited anglers throughout the
tropics the sport, the drama, the epic struggle, and the joy of the
great kings of mythology.
Fly fishing takes us to some of the most rugged areas in the world.
You need fly fishing gear bags that can handle the varied environmental
conditions, as well as luggage tough enough to get the rest of your
stuff there, no matter how far "there" actually is. Look no further than
Fishpond when it comes to the manufacturing of such ultra
functional "tough love" fly fishing bags and luggage. Few manufacturers
made a bigger splash when they landed in the fly fishing arena than
Fishpond did. After less than 8 years in the industry, they have become
virtual front-runners in the design and manufacturing of gear bags and
luggage produced with you, the angler, in mind. Fishpond
designs their gear bags and luggage to be as functional and durable as
their tackle packs. From the perfectly sized and designed Cloudburst to the often imitated, but never duplicated Stowaway Reel Case to “the mother of all rolling duffels”, the Stampede,
Fishpond makes gear bags and luggage pieces to fit your every need.
Fishpond luggage is designed to be just as rugged as their gear bags,
and most still have features that are specifically designed for fly
fishers, like rod and wader storage. From their "take every piece of fly
fishing equipment you own and some clothes too" Chinook Rolling Rod and Gear Bag to the new, more compact Lariat,
which is designed to conform to strict FFA Carry on regulations,
Fishpond makes something that is essential for your next trip. Fishpond fly fishing luggage and
gear bags are designed for easy storage, maximum use of available
space, and durability. Fishpond bags are cut from rip stop and/or
ballistic nylon to ensure strength and durability and use non-corrosive
zippers to ensure immediate and easy access to your fly fishing gear
and clothing. Fishpond fully waterproofs the compression molded EVA
bottoms and then specially treats them with a 1680
ballistic nylon/tarpaulin combination that is highly abrasion resistant.
There are wonderfully padded shoulder straps, where appropriate, and
well placed rubber hand grips to assist with carrying. All Fishpond
luggage and gear bags are covered by a lifetime warranty against
manufacturing or material defects. The functional designs are summed up
in unique, stylish colors with accents on much of the trimming. Fly
fishing gear bags and luggage have advanced significantly in the last
few years and Fishpond is leading the pack.
Key Features of Fishpond Luggage and Gear Bags:
• Models: 7/8wt, 8/9wt, 9/10wt
• Action: Light Fast Action/Fast Recovery
• Length: 11 feet
• Sections: 4
• Reel Seat: Double up-locking,
custom-designed & milled anodized aluminum salt resistant reel
• Guides: Thin wire chrome over
stainless snake guides & Alconite inserted stripping guides
• Handle: AAA Grade Portuguese cork
with custom cork burl ring highlights
• Blank: High-gloss, Midnight Blue
finish with a 52 million modulus carbon/glass scrim with IMA bias
January 12, 2012 (Sonoma, CA): Casting into the surf
evokes a distinct sense of awe and anticipation. Standing at the mouth
of the open ocean amid the sound of waves crashing and a blitz of
Montauk stripers or bearing the Baja heat for the take of a roosterfish
is pure fly fishing bliss. But it's not without harsh winds and
difficult casts. Beulah tailored their latest Surf Series of fly rods to excel in these raw, exhilarating, and demanding conditions.
Crafted to maximize your casting efficiency and range where distance is king and weather can be taxing, the Beulah Surf Series Fly Rods
are the preeminent option for coastal anglers and saltwater
enthusiasts. Available in three models, the Beulah Surf Series is the
result of a dedicated mission to produce two-handed rods that are not
just adequate in in the surf, but refined tools that command the water
in a way no ordinary Spey rod can. Simply put, the Beulah Surf Fly Rods
are designed to provide anglers with easy distance. Granted, distance
is not everything in surf fishing, but anyone who has dabbled in the
surf appreciates how conditions sometimes make even mid-length casts
difficult. A stiff onshore breeze can make getting beyond the breakers a
lot to ask of your average single-hander. And double hauling a nine
weight all day can make fly fishing seem like work, which it never
With every feature honed to better your surf casting abilities—from the
elongated grips that support overhead two-handed casting to an action
that lends itself to powerful casts and big flies—the Beulah Surf Series
is entirely saltwater safe and backed by a lifetime warranty. These
rods take the effortless power that two handed rods provide to swing
fishermen, and bring it to the overhead casting arena for a hugely
efficient experience. Beulah Surf Rods make surf fishing something you
can enjoy for a quick evening session out at San Francisco's Ocean
Beach, or a weeks-long cast-a-thon camping on Baja's gypsum sand
beaches. The Beulah Surf Series
has also found a dedicated base among avid steelheaders in BC, sea-run
brown anglers in Tierra Del Fuego, and a slew of Salmon fishermen in
Alaska, so don't let the name deter you from swinging flies on your
For the most challenging casting environments, and the hardest-charging fish around, reach for the Beulah 10/11 Surf Rod.
This beastly stick is light in hand, a pleasure to cast, and a serious
weapon that puts you in the driver's seat early on in a fish fight. The Beulah 10/11 Surf Rod
is the tool of choice for Baja's roosterfish, powerful, fast-moving
predators that have a tendency to move into – and back out of – the
range of a single hander faster than you can double haul, twice.
Check out our best saltwater fly rods.
Until recently, two-handed rods were
used almost exclusively in the pursuit of steelhead and salmon on the
rivers of the British Isles, Scandinavia, and Canada. In the last five
years, however, the popularity of Spey rods on our own steelhead and
trout streams has exploded. In fact it’s not unusual today to see
anglers applying two-handed techniques on lakes, flats and in the surf.
What would influence these fly fishers to trade their favorite single-handers for longer rods? Spey fly lines, and the rods that cast them, offer many potential advantages: greater casting distance, greater line control, more precise mending at longer distance, and the ability to operate with little back-casting room. These tools enable an angler to cover more water with less effort and less fatigue.
And on larger rivers, you can reach areas that would be virtually
unfishable with single-handed lines and rods. And let’s not forget the
enjoyment and excitement of learning new skills that add to your
proficiency on the water!
Because anglers are doing a lot more with Spey techniques these
days, Spey fly line designs are evolving so rapidly, even experienced
spey folks have trouble keeping up, let alone beginners! We at Leland have chosen RIO Products as
our primary source of spey fly fishing lines. RIO has virtually led the
way in revolutionizing fly line designs for Spey anglers in North
America and across the world. Since there are so many styles of spey
casting and corresponding spey line designs, who better than Simon Gawesworth,
RIO fly line designer, former Captain of England’s World Fly Fishing
Championships team, author, all-around nice guy, and one of the world’s
leading authorities on spey casting to explain the ins and outs of
modern spey lines? Read on and you'll get the best synopsis we've ever
seen on modern spey lines from the man himself, code named 'SpeyBro'.
by Simon Gawesworth of RIO Products
'A newcomer to spey casting would be forgiven for peeping into this
sport, trying it out or talking to the many different opinions and then
turning tail and running away from the mass of confusion that there is
'There is a mind boggling array of theories, techniques, tackle and
styles and it is very difficult for the beginner to make head or tail
out of the world of spey casting. To explain the subtleties and
intricacies of this spey world would be like trying to explain the rules
of cricket to the average American, or of baseball to the average Brit.
However, as fly line manufacturers, we only need to make it easier to
understand the fly line – the most important part of your tackle.'
Let’s start with a look at spey line weights.
Perhaps the greatest confusion lies in the rating of two-handed rods
and lines. Most fly fishers are familiar with the rating of a single
handed rod – choose a #5 rod for trout, a #8 rod for bonefish and a #12
rod for tarpon. Two-handed rods also have a similar rating – somewhere
between #5 and #12, but the 8 weight fly line that loads your bonefish
rod will never get close to loading a #8 two handed rod. The reason for
this is that two handed rods are far more powerful than an equivalent rated single handed rod.
A single handed rod, rated for a #8 line, loads effectively with between 200 and 300 grains. A #8 two-handed rod
will take between 450 and 600 grains to load for spey casting. This
large range is due to the spey casting style used. At this stage there
is no need to confuse anyone more with the differences in these styles,
just remember that the two-handed rod needs more weight to make it load. In other words, if you put a regular WF8 line on a #8 two-handed rod you will never get close to loading it.
One confusing thing about spey lines is that most of them have more than one line number as a “size”. The WindCutter lines have three numbers such as 7/8/9, 8/9/10 and 9/10/11. The reason for this triple numbering system is that the first WindCutter
line designed by Jim Vincent, was made by taking the body of a #10
line, adding some of a #9 to the front end and then finishing it off
with the full front taper of a #8, thus the line became an 8/9/10. The
numbering system stuck. As a simple guideline, use the middle number of the three to find out what line size it is – the 8/9/10 is a good #9 line.
The AFS and PowerSpey lines only have two numbers – 7/8, 8/9 and 9/10 for example and in these cases, generally use the higher number. The 8/9 is, in effect a #9
line. To help choose the right line for your rod, we have compiled a
chart that recommends the right lines for spey rods. (Please
See Rio's Spey Line Recommendation Chart for all of Leland Spey Rods)
Okay, so how confused do you want to be? In an attempt to illustrate the difference in line weights between the single handed AFTMA standard and the two handed AFTMA standard
the following charts might be helpful. On the other hand, they might
cause you to go cross eyed and reach for the nearest bottle of Single
The AFTMA standard is an attempt to standardize line
weights so that whichever line manufacturer you buy a fly line from you
know that they will all weigh about the same and load the rod equally –
that is, of course, assuming line manufacturers manufacture lines to the
Before you look at the charts you need to understand that the two handed standard actually has four different categories: H, S, M and L.
More than regular casting the head length of the line in spey casting
influences the weight. So, we have four standards (for ease of
recognition RIO’s appropriate Spey line is listed after the category):
‘H’ is for shooting Heads and is measured at 40 ft.
- AFS head and AFS OutBound
‘S’ is for Short belly spey lines and is measured at 55 ft
‘M’ is for Mid length belly lines and is measured at 65 ft - PowerSpey
‘L’ is for Long belly spey lines and is measured at 75 ft.
So, depending on how long the belly of the spey line is, the “weigh point” falls at different lengths. The AFTMA single handed designation is measured at 30 feet.
Now that everyone is clear on that, let’s look at the AFTMA Standards (the numbers represent the weight in grains at the “weigh point”)!
Most spey lines follow a simply designed taper. There needs to be weight in the back of the belly to load the rod effectively as a “D-loop”. There also needs to be a long fine front taper, so that the line lying on the water (“The Anchor”) at the start of the forward cast has as little drag as possible.
In a spey cast the “D-loop” (from A to B) loads the rod and needs to be the heaviest part of the line. The “Anchor” (B to C)
lies on the water. The more line there is lying on the water, the more
energy is lost during the forward cast as it tries to tear itself off
the surface film.
A typical spey line design will have most of the weight
in the back end of the head and a long, fine front taper to make the
most of these casting requirements:
Within the basic spey line design are numerous variations, but the main one to compare is the head length. At RIO we make three different head lengths of spey lines. These are the the AFS, (Advanced Flight Spey) line, both as a Shooting Head and as an integrated shooting head, with a head length between 31 ft and 40 ft, the Windcutter, with a head length of between 45 ft and 56 ft and the PowerSpey™, with a head length of between 57 ft and 71 ft.
The longer the head of the spey line, the more line there needs to be outside the rod to make a cast. Longer belly lines, like the PowerSpey, really need plenty of room behind them to create a big enough D-loop for the line to load the rod – say 30 ft of room for an effortless cast. With the short to medium head length of the Windcutter, you may only need around 15 ft of room behind and with a short head line like the AFS, even less; perhaps only 8 ft of space is needed.
Of course, space behind isn’t the only factor. There are four other factors that influence your choice of head length:
1. Casting Ability - you need to be a better caster to handle the longer head length lines.
2. Rod Length – A short rod does not have the same lift as a long rod, so the shorter the rod, the shorter the line head length must be.
3. Sinking Tip – with sink tips or heavy flies it can
be really tricky to get the sunken line to the surface with a long belly
line. A short head line means that the sink tip is closer to you and
easier to get out of the water.
4. Stripping flies – Some fishing techniques require you to strip the fly in to entice a fish to take. The short head lines are perfect for this as you must strip the start of the head up to the rod tip before making a cast.
If you don’t need to strip line, the short belly lines are more of a problem and
a good caster will have to manage the slack coils of running line
hanging in the water before each cast. They will also waste good fishing
time having to strip the line into the casting length.
Generally, if you start with a WindCutter
line and, with practice, get to a skill level where you can cast the
whole head at the tip of the rod, without stripping anything in, you are
ready to move up to a PowerSpey line. When you do, make sure you start with the head about 12 feet in side the rod tip; this will be similar to the WindCutter you are used to.
The most recent style of spey casting is called Skagit casting (pronounced ska-jit) and named after the Skagit river in Washington.
This style of spey casting utilizes an even shorter head length spey line than the WindCutter
- something in the region of 27 ft. This exceptionally short head
length allows the fly caster to make long casts in extremely tight
situations. Even the most basic of spey casters can make a 70 ft cast
with no more than 3 ft of room behind. Added to the shortness of the
line is the fact that the head weighs about the same amount as the
corresponding WindCutter, but at half the length. This means that the Skagit line has almost twice the weight per inch of the WindCutter line. This extra weight per inch is an immense asset for lifting out deeply sunken tips or heavy, large flies. Nothing will pick up big flies or T-14 or LC13 style sink tips as easily as a Skagit line will.
The most confusion with Skagit lines comes with something called “Skagit Cheaters”, which are 2½ ft, 5 ft and 7½ ft extension pieces for a Skagit line.
One of the ideas behind Skagit casting is that you want to maintain a constant ratio between the rod length and the head length of the line. It maybe 3 times the rod length, it may be 4 times the rod length, and each caster will find their happy ratio.
For the purpose of this example, let’s say a caster likes a ratio of
3½:1. A 12 ft rod would require 42 ft of line and a 15 ft rod will
require 52½ ft. By following this ratio, it means that the caster never
needs to adjust their casting stroke, regardless of which outfit they
If a caster likes this ratio and uses a 12 ft rod, they are going to
need 42 ft of line to feel comfortable. The Skagit line has a 27 ft
head. Add a 15 ft sink tip and you get 42 ft, which means there is no
cheater needed. The next day, the same caster casts a 14 ft rod - 14 x
3½ = 49 ft. So, to keep the same casting stroke, the caster needs a
total head length around 49 ft. A 27 ft Skagit line, plus the 15 ft sink tip is only 42 ft. Plug in the 7½ ft Cheater and the head length becomes 49½ ft and much closer to the required ratio.
The whole idea is pretty confusing to a novice, but once the concept is
grasped, it is very easy to understand and allows for a caster to
develop a consistent style, regardless of the size of rod used.
A final note to mention on the Skagit lines is that the sink tip does not form part of the calculation for line weight. If you look at the spey line recommendation chart and decide on a Skagit line for your rod, make sure you use the weight of the Skagit body. If the chart suggests you need a 550 grain Skagit line, it does not matter which
size sink tip you add on to the front end of this (as long as it is not
heavier than the Skagit body). The reason for this is that the sink tip
usually does not form part of the D-loop and, therefore, plays no role in loading the rod.
A typical example is that someone is told that they need a 550 grain
Skagit line. They know they are going to use a 150 grain sink tip, so
they buy a 400 grain Skagit line (thinking that the two added together
will give them the correct load). This is very wrong and will result in an under loaded outfit. Make sure the Skagit body weight is correct, regardless of the sink tip.
More and more people are using two-handed rods for overhead casting
in the surf these days. The length and power of these rods are great
for throwing big flies out against a wind and over incoming surf.
When choosing a line for overhead casting a two-handed rod there are two important considerations.
1. The head length needs to be shorter than for spey casting so that the back loop does not drop and line speed is retained to shoot big distances.
2. The line weight should be less with an overhead cast, than with a spey cast. Here’s why:
With a spey cast, only part of the line weight loads the rod. In this example the load really comes from A to B, though B to C also helps load the rod. The piece of line from C to D really has no effect on the load of the rod.
With an overhead cast, the entire weight of the line serves to load the rod at the end of the back cast. This means that a lighter line can be used when overhead casting, as opposed to when spey casting, because the entire line length (A to B) loads the rod.
An ideal line for overhead casting a two-handed rod is RIO’s OutBound®.
The Outbound is available in several densities and sizes, but the most popular one for overhead casting, particularly in the surf, is the intermediate version.
Rio's Windcutter VersiTip Linesare unique in the fly fishing world. Nobody else makes a spey line with three sections. These three sections are:
1. a body section
2. a middle section (Tip 2)
3. and the front tip (Tip 1)
There are a number of reasons for these three sections:
1. For normal spey casting simply change out Tip 1 with
whichever sink tips is required for the fishing conditions. Each sink
tip in the wallet will weigh the same, which ensures the casting is not
affected and the line remains balanced. However, each sink tip has a different sink rate from the clear intermediate tip, with a sink rate of 1½ inches per second, to the Type 8, density compensated tip which sinks at 8 inches per second.
2. For overhead casting, when a shorter and lighter weight head is needed, simply remove Tip 2 completely and attach the sink tip, or tip 1 directly to the body.
3. Sometimes extra depth is required and many fly fishers use RIO’s long 24 ft density compensated sink tips called Big Boys. These tips are too long to simply replace Tip 1, so when using longer sinking tips like this, again remove Tip 2 and attach the long tip directly to the body.
4. One odd-looking tip in the wallet is grey and has two loops on. This tip is called a sink tip compensator. The sink tip compensator is a sinking Tip 2. Replace the floating tip 2 with this compensator when fishing in strong currents. By lengthening the sinking portion of the line, the current has much less “lift” effect and ensures that the fly stays deep.
5. On really windy days, or with big, cumbersome flies, remove Tip 1 and attach the leader directly to Tip 2. This shorter taper and heavier front end makes light work of the windiest of conditions and the biggest of flies.
T-8, T-11 & T-14 are level shooting head materials.
T-8 weighs 8 grains per foot, T-11 weighs 11 grains per foot and T-14
weighs 14 grains per foot.T-8 has a sink rate of 7 inches per second,
T-11 at 8 inches per second and T-14 around 9 inches per second and.
The material is usually sold in a 30 ft pack. Anglers
simply cut this level material to the length they need for a variety of
fishing conditions, and then add a braided loop to each end to easily
attach to the spey line. The most useful tip lengths from a 30 ft pack
are 15 ft, 10 ft and 5 ft, though some anglers prefer 15 ft, 9 ft and 6
The weight of T-14 makes it pretty heavy for the lighter lines to lift out. Most of the Skagit line sizes will not have a problem with 15 ft of T-14, but attaching it to the lighter WindCutter and PowerSpey
lines can result in poor turnover and inefficient casts. As a simple
guideline, use T-14 for the spey lines of #9 and bigger, T-11 for the #7
to #9 sizes and use T-8 for the lighter line sizes.
With the array of spey
lines on the market it is a little baffling to know which one to choose.
Hopefully this document has at least given you an idea behind the
different line designs. Following is a description of each line we make
and their particular advantages:
Overhead casting - particularly useful in the salt or in lakes.
It is available in 6 densities: Floating, Hover (1” per second),
Intermediate, Sink 3 (3” per second), Sink 6 (6” per second) and Sink 8
(8” per second). Three adaptable versions with a level T-8, T-11 and
T-14 head are designed to be cut to the perfect head weight and length
for individual casting styles. The intermediate OutBound is made up to a
WF14 (600 grains) size and is perfect for the larger rods of #10 and
AFS Shooting Head – NEW for 2008
An excellent presentation line that is very easy to cast. There are four different densities available:
1. F. A full floating line between a
4/5 weight (300 grains, 19 grams - 31 ft, 9.5 m in length) and a 10/11
weight (640 grains, 42 grams – 40 ft, 12.2 m in length). The head is a
subtle olive color that will not spook fish in clear water,
but the rear 15 ft is yellow so the angler can gauge the line’s swing.
For anglers needing an easier color line to see there is also a
Steelhead Orange floating AFS head.
2. F/I. A floating line with a 15 ft intermediate sinking tip. This line starts at a 7/8 (460 grains, 30 grams – 37 ft, 11.2 m in length) and goes to 10/11.
3. S1. A slow sinking head. The same
weight range as the F/I but the whole head has a very slow sink rate of
1” per second. This is an excellent choice for cooler water conditions
when fishing for Atlantic salmon. It is also a very good fish catching line for summer run steelhead, particularly on the Deschutes. Sizes 7/8 to 10/11.
4. S4. A full sinking head with a sink rate of 4” per second. This fast sinking head is a great line for early season and back-end Atlantic salmon and particularly good for winter steelhead. It is one of the easiest casting and fishiest sinking lines ever made. It comes in the same sizes as the “F/I” and the “I” heads. Sizes 7/8 to 10/11.
While these lines are exceptionally easy to cast and give incredible presentation, the very best results will be achieved if a Spey VersiLeader is attached to the front end. RIO has 6 different densities of these leaders in two lengths – 10 ft and 15 ft. The leader densities are:
1. Floating (olive)
2. Intermediate (1.5 inches per second)
3. Slow sink (2.4 inches per second)
4. Medium sink (3.9 inches per second)
5. Fast sink (5.6 inches per second)
6. Super fast sink (7.0 inches per second)
Use the 10 ft leaders with rods of 12’ 6” and less, and the 15 ft leaders with rods of 13 ft or more.
Attach the back of the shooting head to a hard nylon like Rio's Slick Shooter (35 lb or 50 lb) for the ultimate in distance, or to a floating Powerflex Core Shooting Line (0.030” or 0.035”) for something a little more manageable.
AFS OutBound® Integrated Shooting Head – NEW for 2008
Built with a thin, hard running line this line is the integrated version of the AFS head. It is an excellent choice of line for casters that do not want a loop to loop connection running
through their guides. The short head is very easy to cast and
particularly useful in tight situations and the long front taper gives a
beautiful presentation. These lines are only available with a floating
head and in sizes 4/5 to 10/11.
Like the AFS head, these lines will cast even better with one of RIO’s Spey VersiLeader.
The Skagit lines are, quite simply, the easiest way to cast large flies or fast sinking tips.
The mass of the head and the short body length result in incredible
lifting power, making it child’s play to cast otherwise “nasty” rigs. It
is a very easy line to learn to cast with and also extremely useful for casting in tight situations. The Skagit line is available in: 300 (new for 2008), 350, 400, 450, 500, 550, 600, 650, 700 and 750 grain head weights.
The Skagit lines have a thin running line extending from the 27 ft long head that aids in easy distance and shooting ability.
The front end finishes with a loop and to this loop you will need to
attach some kind of tip. The line does not come with a front tip of any
kind, so if you purchase this you will need to add a tip to your
purchases. As explained earlier, you may also need a Skagit Cheater, depending on your rod length, casting style and size of sink tip used. RIO makes five 15 ft tips to choose from:
2. Intermediate (1.5 to 2 ips)
3. Type 3 (3-4 ips)
4. Type 6 (6-7 ips)
5. Type 8 (8-9 ips)
In addition you can purchase T-8, T-11 or T-14 and cut to the desired length and weight.
Rio's Skagit VersiTip Kit
The Skagit VersiTip is a Skagit line, packaged with a 5 ft floating Skagit Cheater,
a 15 ft Type 6 tip, a 15 ft Type 8 tip and one of RIO’s shooting head
wallets. For those that don’t know much about the Skagit technique and
tackle it is a good purchase as it has pretty well everything you need
to start with. The only possible add on would be a 15 Foot Floating Tip, for conditions when you don’t need to be deep. The Skagit VersiTip is available in 450, 550, 650 and 750 grain sizes.
Skagit Shooting Head
The Skagit shooting head is the head from the Skagit line. It is 27 ft long and has a loop in both ends. To the front end you attach a tip as recommended for the regular Skagit line, while the back end loop is ideal for attaching your favorite RIO shooting line. These heads are available in 350, 400, 450, 500, 550, 600, 650, 700 and 750 grain sizes.
One very simple fishing set-up is a reel loaded up with either
SlickShooter or a floating Powerflex core shooting line and have a
wallet with a couple of AFS heads (floating, slow intermediate and Sink 4
for steelhead fishers and floating, slow intermediate and intermediate
sink tip for Atlantic salmon fishers) and a Skagit shooting head with
some tips. With a rig like this, each fly fisher would be primed for
everything and any situation they would encounter.
The original and still the best all round and the most versatile spey line developed.
This line is available in a full floating version in sizes; 4/5, 5/6,
6/7/8, 7/8/9, 8/9/10, 9/10/11 and 10/11/12. The head length varies
according to the size. It is also available as a VersiTip Line,
packaged with a wallet of tips including a floating tip, a 15 ft clear
intermediate tip, a 15 ft Type 3 tip, a 15 ft Type 6 tip and a 15 ft
Type 8 tip. As mentioned above, there is also a sink tip compensator,
which is a sinking Tip 2. The VersiTip line is available in 5/6, 6/7/8, 7/8/9, 8/9/10, 9/10/11 and 10/11/12 sizes, though the 5/6 VersiTip does not have a Type 8 sink tip, a sink tip compensator or a floating Tip 2.
(Note: I would also highly recommend the floating Windcutter, or
Windcutter Versitip with floating tip, as the best all-around spey line
for dead-drift nymph and dry presentations to trout and steelhead. Its
head length is long enough to effectively stack mend for better drifts. -
Dean Schubert - Leland)
PowerSpey NEW for 2008
RIO’s new PowerSpey has a medium length head between 57 ft and 71 ft (depending on the size) and with its revolutionary taper design is the easiest mid to long belly line to cast. The longer head is
ideal for longer rods, larger rivers and for casters that prefer to do
less stripping of the fly between casts. Fishing with the PowerSpey line catches more fish - as there is little need to strip the head in between casts, the fly fisher will make more casts in a day, thus increasing the odds.
Another advantage with the longer head lines is when winter fishing with
air temperatures below freezing. As there is no need to strip the line
in between casts, the rod guides do not get iced up.
The PowerSpey is available in 5/6, 6/7, 7/8, 8/9, 9/10 and 10/11 sizes and either as a full floating line or as a VersiTip version. The PowerSpey VersiTip line does not have a Tip 2, so there is only one loop in the line.
There are a few accessories RIO makes that are worth mentioning here.
The Skagit Floating Tip is a 15 ft floating tip designed to be added to the Skagit lines to make a full floater, it is also a good replacement for the WindCutter floating tip. Here is a guideline of which floating tip to choose for which Skagit line or shooting head:
#7 300 to 400 grains
#8 400 to 500 grain lines
#9 500 to 600 grain lines
#10 550 to 650 grain lines
#11 600 to 700 grain lines
#12 650 to 750 grain lines.
The Skagit Cheaters are “plug-in” extensions as
mentioned earlier. For 2008 RIO has changed the sizes to be more
applicable. Each selection packet comes with a 2½ ft, a 5 ft and a 7½ ft
floating cheater as well as a 5 ft intermediate cheater. RIO also sells
the 5 ft floating cheater on its own. Here is a guideline of which Cheater to choose for which Skagit line or shooting head:
6/7/8 300 to 350 grains
7/8/9 350 to 450 grains
8/9/10 450 to 550 grains
9/10/11 550 to 650 grains
10/11/12 650 to 750 grains
The Big Boy is a 24 ft long sinking tip, ideal for really getting deep and staying deep. It is great on the end of a Skagit line, or a WindCutter, but remember to remove both Tip 1 and Tip 2 if you are attaching a Big Boy to the WindCutter. They are available in sizes 150, 200, 250, 300, 400, 500 and 600 grains and the sink rate of each is as follows:
150 4.8 ips
200 5.5 ips
250 6.4 ips
300 7.3 ips
400 8.4 ips
500 9.0 ips
600 9.5 ips
The WindCutter does not have as much lifting power as the Skagit line so will take a lighter Big Boy tip than the corresponding Skagit line. Here’s a rough guideline to the maximum weight Big Boy that each line will take. This does depend on the rod, current speed, fly size and caster’s skill!
• 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.