Sage Trout LL Fly Rods | Model-by-Model Review

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In this article, we introduce Sage Trout LL fly rods with a detailed overview and model-by-model reviews.

Sage LogoSage’s accomplishment with the Trout LL is remarkable.  By any measure, these are some of the finest rods Sage has ever produced.  They stand confidently on their own, but the reference to the original Light Line is right on the money.  From the casting cadence to the color of the blank, the characteristics of the Trout LL gracefully acknowledge part of the Sage legacy too often forgotten in the face of its prowess in power-oriented fly rods:  Sage has made outstanding medium-action trout rods for over 30 years.  The Trout LL is truly world class.

Review Resource BannerSage’s premise for redesigning the Light Line was technological:  with KonneticHD Technology, the performance of the original could be significantly improved.  In our minds, however, the improvements in the blank tapers match or surpass the technological upgrade.  The new Trout LLs are among the most refined progressive casting fly rods we’ve ever handled, meaning that they cast evenly relative to the amount of line in the air and power applied to the cast.  Finely tuned in the extreme, the finished rods represent a tireless effort by the Sage engineers to polish every wrinkle out of their prototypes.  These rods cast so intuitively that almost any angler can feel them load without watching the backcast.

Sage makes so many great fast action rods that excel with nymphs and streamers that some will peg the Trout LL as a “dry fly rod.”  Indeed, they cast dry flies with more feel and precision than any previous Sage fly rod, but they are also highly capable with dry dropper and light nymph rigs.  The beauty of a true progressive action rod is that if you need butt section power, it’s there for you.  Just lengthen your casting stroke and apply a little more power, and you’ll have no problem casting nymphs or even small streamers.  You’ll fish your Light Line all day, not just when fish are rising.

TroutLL590Model-by-Model Review

by John Duncan, Telluride Angler

Sage Trout LL 379-4  (7’9″ 3-wt, 4-pc)

John Duncan:  The Trout LL 379-4 feels great in hand but has notably different action from all others in the series. It’s much quicker. I liked it with the Rio Technical Trout, but only at distances over 30 feet at which point the overall weight of the line head flexes the rod deeply enough to throw nice, tight loops. Although pleasant to cast at 30-40 feet, a rod under 8 feet in length is surely a creek fishing stick. So, I tried it with the Rio Creek WF3F. This loads the rod easily and allows one to cast just by rocking the rod back and forth. The Creek Line doesn’t throw tight loops, however.  So, we have a rod that wants to cast tight loops paired with a line that loads it well but doesn’t produce the desired casting loop. I settled on the Rio Gold.  On the first cast, I knew this was the answer.  This rod is more sensitive to line pairing than any other in the series.  With a Rio Gold, not only does it feel more like the longer rods but it becomes something truly special.  It casts with tight loops from 15 feet to at least 60 and maintains a supreme feel of connectedness throughout the range.  Almost everyone will cast this rod beautifully on the first try.  Just stick a Gold on it.

Richard Post:  The Sage Trout LL 379-4 is a clear case of why I like to try out a variety of tapers on each rod to find out what works and what does not. I began with the Rio Technical Trout and found the rod to be accurate and extremely light in the hand while feeling pretty darn good. I felt like this wasn’t the right line for the rod, but it wasn’t the wrong line either. The Rio Creek line is the wrong line on this rod. I gave it a run and then ran to another fly line. Keep the Creek line on the DART series or comparable true fast action light line rods. The third line we cast was the Rio Gold and the rod and line made beautiful music. The Rio Gold just balanced the action of the Trout LL 379 and it made for a spot-on line pairing. With the Gold, the 379 came to life and possessed similar qualities and characteristics to the rest of the Trout LL lineup. This rod can reach out past 50 feet, but it prefers to work in the 10 to 40 foot zone, with a special focus on the 15 to 30 foot range we so often encounter on the trout stream. The 379 straddles the line between dedicated creek stick and a small freestone focused fly rod. If you’re looking for a smaller trout rod to compliment an all around 5-weight, the Trout LL 379-4 is a strong consideration.

Sage Trout LL 389-4  (8’9″ 3-wt, 4-pc)

John Duncan:  I was so excited to cast this rod, successor to the definining original Light Line model.  I tried it with both a Rio Technical Trout WF3F and also a Rio Gold WF3F.  It is superb with both lines, with the predictable effect upon action.  The Technical Trout line is lighter than the Gold, so the rod casts with a quicker cadence and allows the angler to “push” it more at distance.  Paired with a technical trout, it throws tight loops at every distance and easily accepts a double haul.  Casting a Gold, the rod feels noticeably slower in action, especially from 10-40 feet.  If anything, it feels even better with a Gold because it flexes more deeply and the caster can appreciate the sweet, springy action.  At distance, the Gold carries more line momentum and turns over long leaders spectacularly.  However, the caster must be a little careful with double hauling with the whole line head out of the tip top because it’s easy to overpower the rod.  Less power is more power.  In the end, I prefer the 389-4 Trout LL with a Rio Gold because I want this rod to be more distinguished from a comparable Sage X.

Richard Post:  I sure do like a long 3-weight and the Sage Trout LL 389-4 is a longer 3 weight to pay attention to. I loved this rod from the first cast with the Rio Technical Trout and I didn’t want to put it down. Loop formation was instant, and this rod threw lovely loops with only a couple feet of line and the leader. You can feel the rod load up right in front of your feet. At 30 feet the 389-4 was simply delightful. The loops unrolled confidently with measured and appropriate line speed in a way that made me feel like I could set the line down in six inch increments after each false cast. The 389-4 didn’t shy away from a longer shot, either. We set up targets at 15 feet, 30 feet and 60 feet. I could land the fly in the 60-foot circle and curve cast around the middle target while reach casting around the close target. For a 3-weight to be able to pull off this little lawn casting trick it has to be predictable, stable and intuitive and the 389 possesses these characteristics in spades. The Technical Trout line does require a little more input from the caster on the Trout LL 389, but it affords an experienced caster a long window of line control while the cast is in the air. With the Technical Trout line on the 389, the caster needs to be smooth and relaxed and this rod provides the confident feedback for the caster to do just that. Switching over to a Rio Gold was predictable with the upper third of the rod becoming more involved through the cast. The Gold gives the 389 a little bit more to turn over a bigger dry fly and helps to give the rod more automatic accuracy. Both lines cast exceptionally well on the Trout LL 389, so line selection is more about flies and conditions than the rod’s performance. I would line up a Rio Gold on the 389 for hopper fishing, a little bit of wind or a very long leader. I believe the Gold makes the 389 a touch more versatile and gives the angler the option to fish a bigger fly. I love the feel of the Technical Trout line on this rod and would reach for that line to solve the puzzle of a finicky mayfly hatch or long down stream reach cast presentations. The Trout LL 389 is a 3 weight for the ages and should certainly be considered by fans of the fabled LL 389 from the past.

Sage Trout LL 486-4  (8’6″ 4-wt, 4-pc)

John Duncan:  Like most of the rods in this series, the Trout LL 486-4 is lovely with a Rio Technical Trout or SA Trout Taper line. It has the same flex and feel characteristics of its cousins. Each time I cast, I started with fly in hand and worked it out over 50 feet. It has a remarkably even flex profile, loading effortlessly with a relaxed stroke throughout this range. I would choose this model over the 490-4 for fishing small and medium sized rivers with leaders up to 13′. The Trout LL 486-4 is ideal for pocketwater, dry-dropper fishing and single dry flies up to approximately size 10. Tailwater anglers should go with the 9′ 4-wt because the extra length really helps turnover leaders over 13′. Also, the longer rod abets line pickup and mending on broad water. The shorter rod swings lighter, casts even more accurately and will be preferred by many anglers until its range is exceeded.

Richard Post:  The 486 Trout LL handles a Rio InTouch Technical Trout line wonderfully, dead to rights accurate and repeatable at close distances around 15 feet, but the pairing really comes to life at around the 30-foot mark. At this distance the combo felt very controlled and even with loops that were level and predictable.  While I have more overall control of my line and loop shape with the 490 Trout LL, the 486 was a half measure quicker than the 490 with the Technical Trout line. This slight difference in action made me feel like the 486 would be a more adept dry dropper or larger hopper rod on medium sized rivers or in tighter cover. With the Rio Gold, the Trout LL 486 loaded a little bit better in close while slowing the action down slightly. For throwing smaller dry flies at all distances I preferred the Rio Technical Trout on the Trout LL 486. If you opt for bushy terrestrials or a dropper, go with the Rio Gold WF4F.

This rod is a finely tuned 4-weight for the angler looking for a true all around 4-wt but doesn’t want a rod with a faster action like the X 486.

Sage Trout LL 490-4  (9’0″ 4-wt, 4-pc)

John Duncan:  A magnificent caster with the balance of a superbly tuned fly rod, I would choose this rod over the 486-4 for long leaders and fishing in the 30-60′ range. A better tailwater dry fly rod would be hard to find. The feel when aerializing 30-40′ equals that of any 9′ 4-weight on the market, possessing a “springy” action uncommon in Sage rods. I didn’t want to put it down. The loop shape is consistent throughout its casting range with a wonderful combination of line speed, accuracy and control. The rod has plenty of guts for dry dropper fishing but still floats a dry fly with ideal presentation traits. With regard to fly lines, it casts both a Rio Gold and SA Trout Taper magnificently, but the very best match is the Rio InTouch Technical Trout line. The Gold naturally loads the rod a little deeper and is a better choice for dedicated dry-dropper fishing.

Richard Post:  From the moment I picked up this rod I knew I was holding something special. After I laid out the first cast I was convinced. I could almost hear Obi-Wan over my shoulder whispering in my ear, “This is the four weight you’ve been looking for.” Light in the hand, light through the casting stroke, rock steady stability and an improvement in every way over the MOD 490. The flex is more progressive while the action is still moderate with a perfect harmony between the tip, middle and butt section of the rod. Everything feels very smooth and finely tuned. At 15 feet the rod could be loaded lower down the blank with an easy confidence. Short casts found their mark repeatedly and with intuitive accuracy. At 30 feet this rod is a true dream and the sensation of a lovely cast unrolling runs from the tip of the rod to the heel of the caster’s hand. Loop shape was highly controllable, and the casts found their mark with a clear and crisp confidence. At 30 feet this rod is the personification of control with a 4-weight line. When you need to reach out a little further, rest assured that the Trout LL 490 can handle that long distance shot to a picky riser. Performance at 60 feet was superb and the rod seemed to close the distance, making 60 feet seem a lot shorter. I preferred the SA trout taper for longer range shots. The Gold was great at this distance, but the caster must feather the cast and apply power correctly to mitigate the extra weight in the front taper of that line. Go with the Gold for larger dries and dry dropper rigs. Stay with the Trout taper for technical dry fly work and longer leaders with small flies. The Trout LL 490 is a rod that strikes the perfect balance between a fast action 9 foot 4-weight that you would typically overline by a half line weight or more and a slow supple dry fly 4 weight that gets folded in the wind. The Trout LL 490 is exactly what I’m looking for in a 9 foot 4-weight.

Sage Trout LL 586-4  (8’6″ 5-wt, 4-pc)

John Duncan:  This model is a tad slower than the 490 and 590. Paired with a Rio Gold, it flexes deeply, but a Scientific Anglers Trout Taper or Rio Technical Trout brings it in line with the rest of the Trout LL series. I can’t overemphasize how sweet these rods feel and the 586-4 might be the “touchiest” of the bunch. I particularly recommend this model for the wading dry fly angler, but the action will be ideal for wind-resistant dry flies and dry dropper rigs. The 590 will fish better over 50 feet, but within its range, the 586-4 may be preferred for its light swing weight and short distance loading capability.

Richard Post:  The Trout LL 586-4 was the most surprising rod I cast in the Trout LL lineup. I tend to shy away from most 586 rods, for no other reason than I prefer a 9 foot rod in the 5-weight line. Shorter 5-weights tend to feel a little tight to me and they either feel too fast and clubby, or soft and bouncy. Sage nailed it with the 586-4 Trout LL, embodying all the benefits of the shorter rod without sacrificing the smooth casting profile that a great dry fly rod must possess. The blank diameter of the 586 is noticeably slimmer than its 590 brother. The shorter length gives the blank an otherworldly lightness in the hand and through the casting stroke. I also felt like the 586 has the most supple and playful action of the Trout LLs that I cast. The rod has a springyness that puts a smile on the caster’s face and begs for a false cast. If you like the way Sage rods perform, but have been looking for a rod with more “feel,” you owe it to yourself to cast a 586 Trout LL. I felt like the 586 Trout LL could generate more line speed than the other models I cast and the rod wanted to shoot line rather than carry line in the air. This property tunes down the distance of this rod compared to the 590. The 586 threw the tightest loop out of the lineup and exemplified amazing loop and line speed control close to the body. Think about a long cast into a tunnel of cover around the bank. I preferred the rod with the SA Trout taper to the Rio Gold. The extra weight of the Gold could cause the upper part of the rod to get out of sync with the lower if you weren’t paying attention at distances past 50 feet. My final thoughts are there is no other 8 foot 6 inch 5-weight out there I would rather have in my quiver than the 586-4 Trout LL.

Sage Trout LL 590-4  (9’0″ 5-wt, 4-pc)

John Duncan:  Among the finest 9′ 5-weights I have ever cast, the Trout LL 590-4 casts with a progressive range from 15′ to over 70′ without a change in casting style.  Just lengthen your stroke and the rod will respond with perfect intuition. It has plenty of power and control for nymphs and dry-dropper rigs, but will also drape a 16′ leader over the most sensitive rising fish. I prefer this rod with a Rio InTouch Technical Trout or SA Trout Taper. It will fish a Rio Gold all day, but those lighter lines make the rod feel lighter in my hand and offers even better loop control. This rod crushes Sage’s reputation as a one-trick-pony maker of fast action fly rods.

Richard Post:  Sage turned my world upside down when they released the X 590. I had never fished a rod that had that much range and power while still having the sweet touch required of a great dry fly rod. I honestly never thought I would ever have eyes for another 905, but the Trout LL 590 gives me pause. I have never picked up any fly rod as dead-to-rights accurate as this rod right out of the gate. I threw 10 short casts at my 15-foot target and each one found the mark. After I hit seven in a row I switched to southpaw and my half-assed lefty casts all landed dead center on the target. I pulled off more line and took aim at 30 feet and the casts landed as predictably as Stephen Curry with a hot hand behind the 3-point line. I pulled more line off the reel, eyed the 60-foot circle, and watched the line unroll and deliver the yarn to the circle as if I had no say in the matter. Look at the target, visualize the fly arriving, raise the rod and put the line in the air, watch a perfect cast unfold. This rod is a mind reader and it feels like an extension of not only my arm, but my fishing psyche. The Trout LL 590 is more than confident regarding accuracy, it is commanding. The rod cast the SA Trout taper and the Rio Gold interchangeably. I liked the Trout taper a little more at distance, but the difference is very slight. Pick a line that suits your fishing style and the flies you plan on using. For slightly bigger bugs go with the Gold. For techy dry work and longer leaders, reach for the Trout taper. With the addition of the Trout LL to Sage’s lineup, anglers now have three 590s that are perfectly tuned to their purposes. Looking for a no compromise fast action 5-weight for adverse conditions, check out the Igniter 590. Do you need a 9’ 5-wt that can do a little bit of everything, from dries to streamers, to nymph rigs with floating or sinking lines, pick up the X 590. If you’re a dry fly or die kind of angler that wants a rod with uncompromising accuracy and intuition from 10 feet to 75 feet, get your hands on the new Trout LL 590.

Sage Trout LL 690-4  (9’0″ 6-wt, 4-pc)

John Duncan:  The 690-4 Trout LL is a pleasing caster with outstanding loop control. I would fish this rod all day with a dry fly or nymphs under an indicator, but would reach for something stiffer at streamer time. The 690-4 Trout LL does all the little things that an ultra-fast 6-weight doesn’t: line mending, roll casting, tippet protection. I like a faster rod for streamer fishing because a high flex point holds my line above the willows on a long back cast. On the other hand, I could cast this rod 1,000 times without tiring. It does a lot of work for the angler.

Be a little careful with line choices. Titan Tapers, Streamer Tips and other aggressive WF lines may horse around the tip and mid section more than desired. A Rio Gold, Rio Technical Trout, Rio Perception or SA Trout Taper is a great choice for a floater and a Rio 15′ Sink Tip works great as well.

Richard Post:  The Trout LL 690-4 is the workhorse of the Trout LL lineup and should be a strong consideration for float fisherman and guides fishing Chubbies with a dropper. This rod has easy power and throws a very predictable and parallel loop that isn’t too tight to tail or too open into the wind. The lower end of the rod is easily accessible to the caster and provides instant feedback regarding rod load. At 30 feet the rod is uncompromising, and the casts fall right where you’re looking. When you need to reach out further, do so with confidence and watch the rod drive the dead level loop with confident ease. This is the rod in the Trout LL lineup that a heavy-handed caster can step on without folding the rod and the best rod in the lineup for those that like to fish a slightly more exaggerated weight forward fly line. The Rio Gold and the SA Trout were both excellent on this rod and I’d have a hard time choosing between the two. The action of this rod falls somewhere in between the X 690 and the MOD 690. Not as fast and powerful as the X, and slightly more refined and polished than the MOD, the Trout LL 690 is a perfect all-around trout rod for anglers fishing larger western rivers with big dry flies or dry dropper rigs.

[Sage Trout LL Rod Pages]