THE LATEST FROM SAGE - Z-AXIS FLY FISHING RODS
Sage Z-Axis 590, 2 & 4 piece
• Line Size: 5
• Rod Length: 9'
• Sections: 2 piece model or 4 piece model
• Weight: 3 3/16 oz. (2-piece) or 3 3/8 oz. (4-piece)
• Handle: Portuguese cork - Cigar shape
• Reel Seat: Nickel silver uplock with Rosewood spacer
• Action: Fast
What’s the word. . .
When I heard that the folks at Sage Fly Rods were replacing the most
popular and successful line of fly rods ever produced, the XP Series, I
was, well, sorta shocked! It’s not often a company with an enviable
reputation such as Sage, arguably the world’s premier fly fishing rod
manufacture, would abandon their proven top of the line product for an
unknown quantity in our current competitive market place. In fact, I had
just purchased a Sage XP 696 a year and a half ago as my primary
nymphing rod, and thought I had found perfection.
I’ve felt that we fly fishers have had access to some pretty good
graphite rods for the last 15 years or more. As the manufacturers have
learned from one another, claims of significant performance increases
most often have proven to be small steps forward, if at all. That being
said, I was more than a bit curious what I might find when I picked up
the new Sage Z-Axis model 590. (A rod nine feet in length, rated for a 5
weight fly line is considered to be the bread and butter standard by
most trout fishers).
Features. . .
The new Z-Axis 590-4 from Sage is a fast action nine foot,
five-weight fly rod that incorporates the latest Generation 5 graphite
technology. Coupled with a newly designed, computer enhanced taper, the
result is a lightweight rocket with power and smoothness that sets a new
standard. The rod casts comfortably and accurately at both short and
very long distances and its forgiving nature makes it desirable for
beginners and experts alike. The Z is outfitted with quality hardware;
English Hopkins and Holloway guides and tip top, and a Strubel nickel
silver reel seat with rosewood spacer. A cloth rod sock and protective
aluminum tube are included, as well as a limited lifetime warranty. The
Sage Z-Axis 590 is a beautifully finished piece of equipment that may
arguably be the best all around performing trout rod ever built.
Action. . .
My first impression was “wow”, this rod feels very light. Noticeably light. Not only light in physical weight, but more
importantly, light in “swing weight”. When a fly fishing rod is
accelerated, and then decelerated to transfer energy to the fly line and
form a casting loop, the greatest acceleration is progressively toward
the rod tip. As a flexible lever in your hand, a fly fishing rod with
proportionately less material toward the tip section feels lighter and
requires less effort to cast, hour after hour. That’s assuming, of
course, that the lighter tip can provide the same relative stiffness and
power without sacrificing durability. And therein lies the dilemma of
all rod designers; overbuild a rod to withstand almost any abuse and
most would consider it heavy and clunky, underbuild a rod for
lightweight performance and one may end up replacing or repairing an
inordinate number of broken rods for unhappy customers.
All that technical jargon aside, it’s the rod designer who is ultimately
responsible for creating the tapers of a superior casting tool. Sage is
fortunate to have a rod designer, Jerry Siem, who is a great caster as
well, and it is this ability, along with some new computer software,
that enables him to evaluate, refine, and tweak the individual rod
models to ensure consistency across a given rod series. Rod companies
with less talented engineers are relegated to designing by committee, a
tricky process, at best.
Materials. . .
According to Sage specs, the Z-Axis 590 -4 piece weighs in at 3
3/8 ounces, compared to its 3 1/2 ounce predecessor, the 590 XP. With
identical hardware, the weight difference between these rods is a
seemingly mere 1/8 ounce.
But the significance is in the differing technologies used in building
the rod blanks themselves. Instead of a typical fiberglass “scrim” or
mesh that is rolled around the steel mandrel and binds the longitudinal
graphite fibers together, the Z-Axis utilizes what Sage calls their
Generation 5 technology. In this process, the scrim is replaced by a
lighter layer of graphite cloth that is rolled at a 90º angle (hence the
name “Z-Axis”) to the separate layer of longitudinal graphite rolled
over it. The result is a rod with greater “hoop” strength with less
Fit and Finish. . .
The sanded blank of the Z-Axis is an olive green with gold thread wraps over English Hopkins and Holloway snake guides and a single
stripping guide. No color preserver is used, so the wraps become
semi-translucent when the finish is applied, resulting in a rich,
uniform appearance. Ferrules and hook keeper are trimmed with a few
wraps each of gold, black and rust thread for a nice, subtle accent.
Handles are turned smoothly from the finest individual Portuguese cork
rings and complimented with a sealed rosewood spacer and Strubel nickel
silver uplocking reel seat. Due to several layers of inspection during
the manufacturing process, the fit and finish of the Z-Axis is nearly
flawless and what one should expect from a top of the line rod. The rod
comes in a cloth sock with fold over tie down and a substantial, olive
colored aluminum tube. Overall, a handsome rod, indeed.
• Sage G5 technology graphite construction
• Very light in hand
• Fast, yet smooth rod tapers for high line speed, accuracy, and comfortable casting, near or far
• English Hopkins and Holloway guides and tip top
• Nickel silver reel seat with rosewood spacer
• Cloth sack and aluminum rod case
• Limited lifetime warranty
Reliability and Durability. . .
When a fly fishing rod bends, its circular cross section becomes
an oval, with the greatest stress occurring in the compression element
at the inside of the bend. This phenomenon is typically what causes
graphite rods to shatter when they’re overstressed (aside from car
doors, dog teeth, and nicks from weighted flies). In addition, when the
G5 layers are compressed with tape and baked in an oven, as all
synthetic rods are, the epoxy resin fuses the layers together more
effectively than it would with scrim, and uses less resin in the
process. G5 tech has already been proven within the existing Sage line
of Xi2 Salt Water rods and one might assume this durability will carry
over to the Z-Axis line as well.
Customer Support. . . . Company profile.
Sage was founded in 1979 by Don Green, an experienced rod blank
builder and one of the architects of the modern fishing rod, as owner of
the Grizzly Fiberglass Company, which later partnered with Fenwick. It
was originally called Winslow Manufacturing (after the city of Winslow
on Bainbridge Island, Washington) but within a year had changed its name
to Sage. Emphasizing high quality fly rods sold only through specialty
stores, Sage rode the crest of the fly-fishing boom in the post “A River
Runs Through It” years. Today, although there is no industry repository
for exact numbers, Sage is probably the world’s largest producer of
premium fly rods and employs over 100 workers in their manufacturing
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
Overall Rating. . .
The true revelation occurs in casting the Z-Axis rod. It’s
powerful. Yet powerful in a way I hadn’t really experienced before. Most
powerhouse rods in the past, that were able to generate the highest
line speeds for casting in wind or for distance, have usually had a
broomstick feel to them, requiring a short, compact technical stroke.
They’ve been limited in their ability to cast comfortably at short to
medium distances and not as effective at roll casting. Not great rods
for beginner or even intermediate casters and, in general, not great all
around fishing tools.
Not so with the Z-Axis. With a short amount of line out, about 25 feet,
the rod cast comfortably and crisply. As I extended my casts to 60 feet,
and then, beyond 80 feet, I was struck not only with the rod’s reserve
power, but how smoothly that power transferred to the tip of the rod,
with seemingly little effort. The transition zone seemed wide and
forgiving. The light tip tracked very accurately.
In a nutshell, the Z-Axis is a fast action rod that is capable of
developing tremendous line speed, yet it doesn’t feel that fast when you
cast it. This is a high performance rod that even a beginner would find
easy to cast.
The Sage Z-Axis 590, and the entire Z-Axis series, in my opinion,
represent a noticeable improvement in all around fly fishing rod
performance and are the first rods in a while that would influence me to
replace the majority of my favorites that I currently use. Based on
this technology, I’ll probably start recommending 9 ½ footers as the
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.
Reviewer. . .
Having been in the fly fishing industry for over 25 years as a
guide, fly fishing school director, writer, and manufacturers sales
representative, I’ve been fortunate to cast and fish with a wide array
of fly rods from almost all of the top makers.
– Dean Schubert
Here's what one of our customers had to say recently about his new Sage Z-Axis rod;
"I live in South Africa and have just read your opinion on the Sage
Z-Axis. In my mind you hit the nail 100% correct. I purchased the rod
not knowing what to expect seeing that every fly rod company proclaim
their rods to be the “best”? I took it out for a cast and was silenced…
Then I took it to the pond and was blown away with the forgiving nature
of the rod when a sudden breeze came up, I thought it was awesome and
didn’t even think of the fish I was actually targeting, until one took
the fly and I was still on ”hey this is an awesome rod..” when I
suddenly had to think “OK, now you have to perform on landing this fish
with this pricy rod?” We’ll it handled a 23 inch rainbow with an
attitude of dominance. I am currently looking at investing in a 7 weight
outfit, seems I’ll look no further than Sage and its good friend Abel."
-- Marius Calitz
Leland on sage z-axis fly fishing rodS
The Z-AXIS Fly Rod! Mr. Wizard is back and talk about
pressure! You know the design team at Sage was sweating some serious
bullets when they looked to replace the XP. For more
than six years the XP Fly Rod Series was the industry standard by which
fast action fly rods were measured, and now, it's been replaced. Enter
the Z-Axis. We know you’re going to be completely awed by this Sage Fly
Rod Series! These rods are lighter, and although they generate the
fastest line speed of just about any rod, they're easier to cast (if
that's possible) than the XP models. The added advantage of the extreme
line speed is accuracy and control of your fly. And if you want to talk
Here's what one of our customers had to say recently about his new Sage Z-Axis rod;
"I live in South Africa and have just read your opinion on the Sage Z-Axis. In
my mind you hit the nail 100% correct. I purchased the rod not knowing
what to expect seeing that every fly rod company proclaim their rods to
be the “best”? I took it out for a cast and was silenced… Then I took
it to the pond and was blown away with the forgiving nature of the rod
when a sudden breeze came up, I thought it was awesome and didn’t even
think of the fish I was actually targeting, until one took the fly and I
was still on ”hey this is an awesome rod..” when I suddenly had to
think “OK, now you have to perform on landing this fish with this pricy
rod?” We’ll it handled a 23 inch rainbow with an attitude of dominance. I
am currently looking at investing in a 7 weight outfit, seems I’ll look
no further than Sage and its good friend Abel." -- Marius Calitz
Even though we now expect lightness from
today’s fly rods, we never thought the Z-Axis' seemingly
near-weightlessness could be achieved without giving up strength. Oh,
how we were wrong! To bore you with a little technical talk, by
replacing the glass hoop fibers (the fiberglass scrim cloth) with
lighter, stronger graphite fibers, Sage found that during the
curing process, the graphite fiber fabrics bind together more
effectively. These now welded fibers give rise to a stronger fly rod
blank and the lighter graphite fibers up the performance! Sure, we're
simplifying the whole process, but we know when you first pick up one of
these rods you will have the same reaction; WOW! You're going hear more
clichés than you can shake a stick at (we couldn’t resist just one)
about this rod series but just remember; if you want the lightest, most
accurate fly rod on market, then reach for the Z-Axis. As Sage says it
in one word “Magic”… and we couldn’t agree more.
- Rod weights: 3 through 10
- Rod lengths: 7'6" to 10' for single hand rods and 11' to 16' for Spey rods
- Reel seats: Nickel/silver with Rosewood inserts or anodized aluminum
- Cork handles: Cigar grip, small cigar grip or full wells
- Aluminum tubes with cloth socks
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