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


 


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




What’s the word...?



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

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



Action...



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


Features. . .



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


Materials. . . Reliability and Durability. . .


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

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


Fit and Finish. .


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

• Sage G5 technology graphite construction

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

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

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

• Hand-turned Full Wells cork grip

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

• Cloth sack and aluminum rod case

• Limited lifetime warranty



Customer Support. . . . Company profile.



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

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

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


Overall Rating - 4 ½ STARS


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


Pros


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


Cons



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


Bottom Line



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

Check out the best fly rod models.

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