In this article, we introduce Sage DART small stream fly rods with a detailed overview and model-by-model reviews
Sage DART Rod Design Review and Overall Impressions
by Richard Post, Telluride Angler
Sage’s new DART rods are all about the fun. Despite their fun-loving casting style, these little rods are serious creeking tools, tailor-made for the close quarters upstream casting environment. When I cast a series of fly rods I often find that one or two rods in the lineup do not jive with the rest of the group. Maybe the shorter rod doesn’t feel as good as the longer one, or the 4-weight 9-footer doesn’t remind you at all of the 5-weight 9-footer. Across the board, the DART models are all strong; they cast and feel like a match set with the Rio Creek line. If you’re looking to pick up one of these rods, simply ask yourself how light of a touch you would like. Pick a corresponding Rio Creek line and do not worry, you have made an excellent choice. I actually wish Rio would simply include the line with the rod for a higher cost, it is that perfect of a pairing and necessary to making these rods sing. Bottom line, do not fish this rod with another line, put the Rio Creek on there and you will be very impressed, happy and satisfied. Put another line on there and I do not think you will witness the rod’s full potential. If you have read this and still fished another line on the Dart rods, then I can’t help you. Not without a Rio Creek line anyway.
All of the DART rods are three-piece models. Now some of you are going to ask, why aren’t they four-piece models? The word from the horse’s mouth, Jerry Siem, is that the three-piece configuration moves a ferrule out of the center of the fly rod. With a three-piece rod at 7-foot 6-inches, the middle of the rod is in the center of the middle section. When you take a 4-piece rod apart, what is in the dead center of the blank? I know ferrule technology has come a long way, but I like the idea of the middle of the blank being a smooth piece of KonneticHD. Also, I trust Jerry Siem’s opinion on the matter. Cast one of these and I bet you’ll feel the same.
DART rods are built using KonneticHD technology and sport a very attractive looking Sapling Green blank. Paired with Bronze thread wraps and Gold accent wraps, you have an attractive old school looking blank with modern casting capabilities and components. A vera wood insert (similar to the X rod) and bronze anodized uplocking hardware round out an attractive little creek rod. Pair it with a Sage Click 0/1/2 in the bronze finish and you’ll have a sharp looking, classically styled, modern creeking outfit.
Overall, I think these rods turned out exceptionally well – great casting, great looking rods that go in a slightly different direction from Sage’s current form. The DART rods remind me of rods from Sage’s past and I like that they stepped out of the box a little with the three-piece configuration. Further, Sage made a killer 7-foot 6-inch series of graphite rods, not the easiest length for that material. I personally do a lot of creeking in the summertime after the shop closes in the evening and I’m really looking forward to playing with these little rods right through the town water in Telluride and on our little cutthroat creeks out the back door.
Sage Dart Fly Rod Model Reviews
Sage DART 076-3
Unfortunately, there was no Creek line at the show in a WF0F or a WF1F, so I will not be able to give you the full run-down on this rod until I get to cast this rod with the appropriate line. I did cast the rod with a Trout LT DT1F and it was fun, cast well, but it did not cast nearly as well as the comparable models with the Creek line. Personally, I do not care for the Trout LT in any of its line weights. I fish Rio lines almost exclusively, but I just don’t like the shape of the Trout LT or the way it casts on any rod. One man’s opinion. Stay tuned or give us a call for more info on this otherworldly light fly rod. I am very intrigued by this little rod.
Sage DART 176-3
Like the 076-3 I was not able to cast the 176-3 with the Creek line. I can’t wait to see how this rod casts with the appropriate line. Trout LT DT1F just didn’t do it for me on the 176-3, but no fault of the fly rod. There was some speculation at IFTD as to whether a line pairing on a 0 or 1-weight mattered because of the negligible difference in grain weights. I agree that grain weight matters when considering a proper load on a fly rod, but I believe that taper is the overriding factor in line selection for light line rods. Give me the right shape in a 0, 1 or even 2 and I bet all three would cast well enough with any of the three line weights. With the wrong taper, I bet all of them will cast in a forgettable manner. Stay tuned for further information. I look forward to spending more time with this slim rod and a Rio Creek WF1F.
Sage DART 276-3
So sweet. A beautiful, buttery feeling rod through the cast with the Rio Creek WF2F. The rod and line really do harmonize on a level with some of the best rod and line combinations I have cast. This is a really special setup the folks at Farbank have put together with the DART and the Creek line. Just like the 3-weight, the Dart 276-3 could read your mind and deliver the fly at a moment’s notice in any way you could imagine at any distance inside of 35 feet. They are such fun rods to cast, remarkably stable for a light, short graphite rod and unbelievably light in the hand and through the cast. The 276-3 Dart is another winner for sure. Pair it with a Creek WF2F and a Sage Click 0/1/2 and tear up the creek.
Sage DART 366-3
This is a great rod for the right angler and the most specialized of the DART lineup. In general, I think sub 7-foot graphite rods tend to be a little bouncy in the tip or feel board stiff and only cast off the very tip. The DART 366-3 was neither, but I preferred the 3-weight that was one foot longer. The 366-3 is for the tightest of quarters and throws little laser loops just off your casting ear. Very bow-and-arrow castable, this rod should be selected when the angler takes the battle to the willows and rhododendrons. With the creek line, the Dart 366-3 casts slightly more off of the tip than the 376-3, and the 366 also prefers a quicker cadence in the casting stroke. I can think of a lot of places where this little rod would come in handy. If you can to, consider picking up one of these little techy creek wands.
Sage DART 376-3
This is the first model I cast in the lineup and the standout in the. I cast the Rio Creek WF3F on the rod and to call it a perfect pairing is an understatement. I instantly felt like the rod and the line were meant to be together and I confirmed this by casting another line or two on the 376-3. Fish the Rio Creek WF3F on this rod. The very first thing I wrote in my casting notes was Holy Sh*t! I was instantly impressed and my expectations were certainly exceeded. The DART 376-3 is a dreamy casting and deadly accurate creek tool. This rod reads your mind and delivers the fly where you’re looking whether you’re casting overhead, roll casting, side-armed, pendulum cast, reach cast, dump cast, super close, reasonably far, the DART 376-3 left me wanting nothing more. No pun intended, but this rod throws dart-like loops automatically. The rod tracked true, feedback was instant and expected, and the cadence could be tuned to the caster. Want to sit back and wait on the cast? Go for it, the 376-3 is remarkably stable with line out the back. Have a quicker casting stroke and tend to push the fly too much? Grab one of these, the DART will absorb some of that and keep that caster in the game. There is only one thing that this rod does not want to do, and that is cast out past 50 feet with the Creek line. Be real with yourself, can you actually cast a 3 weight 50 feet? If you answered yes, I will ask why? This is a creek rod and it is tuned and optimized for that environment, and I believe it to be the best 7 foot 6 inch 3-weight I’ve cast. Go out there and give one a spin, or stop by the shop if you’re in Telluride. There will be a DART 376-3 in the demo lineup as soon as I can get one.
Sage DART 476-3
This is the one DART model that plays well with lines other than the Creek WF4F. With the Perception, the rod handled nicely and it is a viable choice for an up and coming fly fishermen looking for a creek-length rod with a little more all-around play. Think Southern Appalachian freestone and creek rod combo. With the Rio Gold, the rod was tighter (narrower timing window), but I got more feedback from the rod with the Gold. Not surprisingly, the Creek WF4F was my favorite line on the rod and it was a ton of fun to cast. The DART 4-weight cast with wonderful stability and a confident and distinct pause in the backcast. The 476-3 is equally at home pulling bigger trout out of tight creeky spaces (Creek WF4F) or fishing a dry dropper through the summer months on a small to medium freestone (Perception WF4F).