By Richard Post, Telluride Angler
I was recently invited to Bainbridge Island to see something new from the team at Sage. They rolled out the red carpet and gave us one of the new rods, called the Sage X. After learning about the technology and design of the X on a Sage factory tour, we cast the rods and field tested them on the Yakima River of Eastern Washington. From start to finish, the experience left me with an indelible impression. This is the company’s tenth high end fast action fly rod and in my opinion the best they’ve ever produced.
Sage X Technology and Design
The X rod is built with an entirely new graphite they call Konnetic HD (high density). This new graphite takes Sage’s world renowned Konnetic technology to the next level. Konnetic HD uses less glass scrim to bind the graphite fibers together than ever before. What this means to the caster is a rod that is lighter than ever, supernaturally stable, and maintains the highest level of line feel and line control that I’ve seen in a Sage rod. The blank is a color Sage is calling Black Spruce. At first glance the blank appears to be a deep green that almost looks glossy black. In natural light, the deep black blank shimmers a translucent dark green that shows off the tightness of the graphite material beneath. New silk screening of the Sage logo along with black ice and silver accent wraps keeps the look of the rod fresh and clean. A light colored and beautifully marked wood reel seat with customized black uplocking hardware featuring the Sage medallion and the line weight finish out the cosmetics.
Versatile Casting Characteristics in a Classic Sage Fly Rod
The first thing you’ll notice when you pick up the X Rod is how incredibly light it is. The physical weight of these rods is unbelievable. The 9 foot 5 weight comes in at a scant 2 and 11/16 ounces. The next thing you’ll notice is that the X rod is noticeably less stiff than the One rod. Sage fast action rod lovers, rest assured the X is everything you’ve known and loved in a Sage rod and so much more. Casting on the grass, the rod exhibits remarkable line speed and loop control. This is not a one note fast action fly rod, but instead a rod that can generate very high line speed across a variety of loop shapes. Throw a quicker shorter stroke and a tight sharp haul and watch laser tight loops run out from the rod tip (think throwing dry flies into a stiff breeze). Bring your arm out a bit from the body and loosen up the casting stroke to create incredibly parallel wider loops that still accelerate with wonderful speed (think throwing indicator rigs). I cast both the Rio InTouch Gold WF5F and the Rio InTouch Perception WF5F on the X rod while on the grass. I liked the way the Perception loaded the rod a little better initially, but the Gold loads the rod well and feels great too. What I took away most about my initial casting session with the X rod was the incredible range of this rod throughout all types of casting styles, loop shapes, and distances, a confidence-inspiring rod that was mind-readingly accurate.
Field Testing the Sage X on the Yak
The following day, Sage set us up with the guys at Red’s Fly Shop for a day float on the Yakima River. I fished the 590-4 X rod the entire day with a Rio InTouch Perception WF5F. The Yak presented the opportunity to fish the rod across the entire range of techniques a trout fisherman might encounter. I threw big indicator rigs, single and double dry fly rigs and streamers both big and small during my float. Again I was blown away at what this rod could do and how effortlessly it could do it. What really set this rod apart in my opinion from fast action Sage offerings of the past was the X rod’s affinity for mending. This rod absolutely loves it. Not only does this rod love to mend, but you will love to mend with it. Small nuanced mends, far-off stack mends, and huge across the current mends were all very effortless and intuitive. Roll casting was a breeze as the rod loads into the middle and lower third of the blank with ease providing sudden power to lift and turn over large nymph rigs on the roll cast. I was very impressed with the way the X rod fished the indicator rig across the spectrum of casting overhead, roll casting and stack mending while fishing with an indicator rig.
While we didn’t get a ton of action on the surface this particular day on the Yakima, we saw enough noses to justify the dry. The flies were smallish (#16-#18) and the drifts were mostly difficult down and across in heavy water. We did manage to pick up a few on the surface by the end of the day. Everyone loves throwing a single dry and the X rod excelled. The rod loaded and unloaded silky smooth with the single fly and laid the line down sweetly. Long casts with a short precise drift preceded by a huge mend would bring the fish up. I can’t wait to get this rod out some more and really see what it can do with a dry fly.
The Sage X Rod’s performance with a streamer on the line flat out blew me away. I threw around some size 4 and 6 Wooly Buggers without getting any looks and then my guide handed me a #6 Dali Lama. The 590-4 X Rod threw the wooly buggers very well to no surprise, but I anticipated the heavy cone headed zonker strip clad fly to give the 5 weight a bit of trouble. Most 5 weights don’t like flies of that size and I usually reach for a 6 or 7 when I start throwing bigger streamers. The 590 X didn’t bat an eye. The stability built into this blank really came out with the bigger fly. The rod tracked, loaded and unloaded without paying a bit of mind to the water logged streamer. The rod carried line in the air effortlessly, it was remarkably accurate, and really made fishing the big fly fun. The 590 fished way out of its line class. I can’t wait to get my hands on some of the higher line weights.