In this article, we introduce Sage Sonic fly rods and offer a model-by-model review.
The Sage Sonic is much more than a second coming of Konnetic Technology, which, ten years ago, was introduced in Sage’s market-leading One Series fast action fly rods. The Sonic does feature this high grade material, but the tapers are all new, refined by Sage’s youthful rod design team led by Peter Knox. The engineers emphasized feel and fishability in these powerful fly rods. Many casters will find the Sonic series more approachable than the One, which delighted Sage’s traditional power-casting anglers but proved temperamental in the hands of the unwary. Across the line weights, Sonics are powerful but light, racy but friendly, balanced in a way that makes them more fun to cast and more effective on the water.
Sage really nailed the basic action. Rather than “fast” or “extra fast,” we would describe them as “medium fast,” a user-friendly character found in surprisingly few fly rods currently on the market. In the words of longtime Sage ambassador Erik Johnson (Mountain Sports, Boulder, CO), “We immediately loved them. With Siem’s mentorship, Peter and the other rod designers put a lot of refinements into these blanks. These are all-new tapers, super fishy and a blast to cast.” In our phone interview with Peter Knox, he explained Sage’s objectives for the Sonic, “We wanted a versatile all-arounder that represents a premium experience, from the rod case to the components to everything these rods do on the water. The Sonic was designed to offer real feedback to the caster, with predictable power progression so the angler anticipates how the rod will respond when power is varied in the casting stroke. They flex all they way down the blank, but are still fast action fly rods.”
Note: we started by reviewing the rods we were actually able to obtain for inventory. As the rest become available, we will add reviews.
Reviews by John Duncan and Richard Post, Telluride Angler
John Duncan: This rod makes an undeniable first impression of lightness and appropriate scale, possessing none of the clubbiness of most light line rod models offered in a mid-priced series, such as the Sage Pulse or Scott Flex. The little Wells grip is just perfect for a rod of this length. Most of all, Sage nailed the action. Like most others in the series, I would call it “medium fast,” about a 7 out of 10 in stiffness. More nimble than the Sage X or Scott Radian, the Sonic 376-4 is among the sweetest short graphite rods on the market. I cast it with a Rio Technical Trout WF3F and wouldn’t change a thing. It casts short, medium and medium-long distances with the same relaxed casting stroke. Short graphite 3-weights are a tremendous challenge for the rod designer because most of these rods come out feeling “tight.” Hats off to Peter and the crew at Sage. Everyone will love this cool little rod.
Richard Post: This little 3 weight surprised me. I tend to shy away from shorter graphite 3 weights but this one is very good. The Sonic 376-4 bends nice and easy in close without feeling clubby and throws smooth level loops with a scant amount of fly line. The short rod also has some range and it won’t shy away from hitting the head of a plunge pool while you’re crouched down in the tailout. I wish they made 7’6” 3 weights at this price that were this good when I lived in the Appalachian Mountains. A great rod that is right at home on the creek, fish it with a Rio Technical Trout WF3F or similar taper. I think the creek line would be a little much on this for my tastes, but a Gold would be just fine.
John Duncan: Like most rods in the series, I would rate the 486-4 a 7 out of 10 in stiffness, a true “medium-fast action.” Sage recommends a Rio Gold with Sonic rods, but I cast it with an SA Trout Taper and just loved it. The Trout Taper was enough to load it in short, and presented with beautiful, natural loops throughout its range. Heavier lines, like the Gold, may bring undesirable bounciness, so stick with the SA Trout Taper, Rio Technical Trout or SA Standard fly line. This is a high-end rod all the way. Peter Knox says he wanted these rods to offer “feedback” to the caster. I’ve cast very few rods that were so easy to interpret, and so pleasant in the hand.
Richard Post: The Sonic 486-4 performs automatically from 15-30 feet. Line speed is adequate and appropriate for this line weight and length. The rod’s tempo is very even and confidently relaxed. I cast it with a Rio Technical Trout and a Rio Gold and I preferred the Gold on this model. Like the rest of the models in the Sonic family the 486 sports a medium fast action that makes it very versatile. The slightly larger diameter blanks make the rods feel solid. While the Sonic 486 doesn’t feel light in the hand compared to a rod like the X or the Trout LL in the same size, it certainly doesn’t feel sluggish in the hand or through the casting stroke. This is a great even casting and even fishing 8’6’ inch 4 weight.
John Duncan: Functionally, this rod will catch every fish in the river. It needs a Rio Gold or SA MPX to load well inside of 30 feet. In this range, it’s a little bouncy and unrefined, but once it hits its stride at 40 feet, it wants to go forever. I enjoyed casting this rod at distance, but not as much in close, where tip bounce and wide loops tell me that the tip section is not as finely tuned as the butt. It would be a great nymphing 4-weight at short to medium distances, and a superb dry fly rod when casting beyond 30 feet. I want to emphasize how much better this rod is at 50 feet than 20 feet. I would recommend it for the Missouri, South Fork, Silver Creek, Big Horn or Green, but not so much for the freestones and small tailwaters of southern Colorado. If the other Sonics are a 7 out of 10 in stiffness, the 490-4 is an 8 out of 10.
Richard Post: This is a 5-star 9’ 4-wt in the mid-price category and I preferred it to the 486. The Rio Technical Trout and the Gold were both very good. The Sonic 490-4 can throw the laser like V-loop with the Technical Trout line and makes you feel like you could cast any dry fly out there with the Gold. It is a smooth casting rod that finishes very well. The lower end of the rod has a nuanced and stable bend, while the light tip finishes the cast and lets you speed up or slow down. The Sonic 490-4 has wonderful line and loop control and casts through the range of distances very well.
John Duncan: With a Rio Gold WF5, this is one of my favorite Sage fly rods. I’m not kidding. It flexes evenly, like the most refined Scott or Winston, but with a medium-fast action. Acceleration is so natural; timing, power application and the rod’s response are textbook. Once again, this is a high end fly rod. I cast it over and over from fly-in-hand to 40 feet, almost forgetting to test it longer. It could be a terrific 8 ½’ 5-weight without the ability to reach beyond 50 feet, but with a terrific butt section kick, this rod turns over a beautiful loop at 60-70 feet with almost no accommodation from the caster.
Richard Post: The Sonic 586-4 is a very versatile feeling fly rod. My first rod was an 8’6” 5 weight and this rod is a top choice for someone just getting into the sport that wants one rod to do it all. It feels nimble, casts solidly and is very predictable with a Rio Gold. It isn’t quite as long as the 590, but has a lighter rod feel with its shorter length. The 586 and 486 are very similar to one another and both feel just right for their length and line weight.
John Duncan: What impresses me most about this model is its smoothness. This is an overused term, but truly, this rod is smooth. Equally impressive is the range. It loads right out of your hand, forms a nice loop and turns over the leader from 10’ to over 70’. Sage’s rod designer, Peter Knox, confesses that he’s been “field testing” this model long since the design was completed. I get it. I highly recommend a Rio Gold on the 590-4 Sonic. It’s a match made in heaven, requiring no extra power, nor caution, nor hard stops from the caster. This is one of the easiest casting 5-weights Sage has designed in years, as intuitive as the X and much rangier than the Pulse, but much closer to the X in overall quality.
Richard Post: The Sonic 590-4 is a solid all around 9 foot 5 weight, more stable than the Pulse 590 and a better long casting rod than the Sonic 586-4. Grab this rod for a mid priced western or larger river rod. The Sonic 590 likes both the Rio Gold and the Rio Technical Trout. The Technical trout makes the rod throw any loop shape and allows the angler to tighten up the loop to the ridiculous level. The Gold is the best for the spectrum of trout fishing techniques. I like the stability of this rod. The action is relaxing. Loops go out nice and level and very predictably. It doesn’t generate the fastest line speed, but it doesn’t need to. The butt section and tip are nicely matched and make for a solid and sound fly rod.
John Duncan: Like all rods in the series, the 691-4 Sonic gives the impression of physical lightness. It flexes relatively deeply but recovers neatly. Many modern fast action 6-weights cast specifically off the tip (think Sage Igniter 690 and Loomis NRX+ 690), but the Sonic 691-4 uses the whole rod. I can feel the tip following through, which adds a bit of weight to the swing but finishes each cast with authority. This is a useful quality for a streamer or heavy nymph 6-weight, but requires a somewhat longer, more patient casting stroke. I would fish this rod with conventional lines, like the Rio Gold, rather than aggressive tapers such as the SA Titan or Rio InTouch Big Nasty. It’s a great rod for streamers or nymphs from a boat, but for deep wading in large rivers like the Gunnison, the 697-4 will offer the advantage of reach.
Richard Post: The Sonic 691-4 generates the highest line speed out of the Sonic rods that I cast. It is a confidence inspiring 6 weight with an action in the upper middle of the fast category. The 691 can take a more aggressive haul and more abrupt casting stroke as well. There’s no bounce with this rod and a distinct feeling transmitted to the caster when the rod unloads. I liked casting this rod and I liked how level and parallel the loops were. The Rio Gold is great and would be a mean hopper dropper or big terrestrial rod. Put a Perception on here for some medium sized streamer work and a little more punch for fishing larger nymph rigs. This is a very well put together mid priced 9 foot 6 weight.