Three years after its introduction in 2020, we expect the Centric to remain Scott’s fast action forerunner for at least another decade. From top to bottom in this series, Centrics outcast and outfish almost all other fly rods. Several Centric models are best in class. All cast a long shadow, even in a forest of tall trees. These rods the angler may never replace. Power and control are consummate, but what makes Centrics timeless is their fishability. Unlike many one-note flamethrowers, the Centrics mend, roll cast, play fish and communicate with their operators like few of their peers.
The R8 Core (2022) represents Sage’s effort to humanize fast action fly rods. Not since the Z-Axis (2007-2012) has Sage offered fast action rods with such a playful nature and forgiving tips. They are true-to-line weight, load with a relaxed casting stroke and fish well both short and long. We chose R8 Core rather than Sage Igniter for this review because Igniters cater to the most extreme fringe of power fly fishing applications, whereas the R8 Core are designed to improve fishing performance for almost everyone on the water.
These rods are simply more fun. As compared with the cold-blooded killers found in other rod lines, the Air 2 seem to beg, “Why are you all so serious all the time?” Although fast action in character, the Air 2 (2021) emphasize feel over performance. Several models in this series cast with line speed and accuracy equal to anything in the field, but few of the competitors compete with Air 2 on sensitivity and feedback. In this review, we found that 9 ½’ Air 2 models deserve consideration on grounds of being completely unique, with no comparable model in action for their given length and line weights.
If you can be persuaded that graphite technology plays a major role in fly rod design, the evidence lies in Asquith (2016). Loomis “Spiral X” blanks are lighter, more springy and more stable than their competitors. That does not mean that Asquith rods are uniformly superior, but their core traits are unmatched. They cast with the highest line speed and greatest accuracy of any fly rod. It is curious that the Asquith lineup has not been expanded. Such light blanks would be useful in 10’ rods, for example, but the Asquith series remains limited to 9’ 4-piece rods ranging from 4-weight to 12-weight. This article compares fast action freshwater rods. Can anything compete with the Asquith 490-4, 590-4, 690-4 and 790-4?
It is important to remember that prior to the Asquith introduction in 2016, NRX was the Loomis flagship fly rod. This is the horse that Loomis rode to the front lines of the industry, a high-performance series whose roster reads like an all-star team, from the angelic 9’ 4-weight and peerless 10’ rods to the whole saltwater family, Spey and switch models. NRX+ (2019), could carry the franchise, so it is a true wonder that the same manufacturer also developed Spiral X Technology, around which a complementary fast action fly rod has been designed: Asquith. Although once considered expensive, there is now a value proposition in NRX+. Price aside, the series continues to earn loyalty for powerful, durable no-nonsense fly rods.
Line choices and casting process
The goal of this session was to compare fly rods with each other rather than analyzing individual rod and line pairings, which we cover in specific rod model reviews. We talk about fly lines in this article, but only to inform the reader about the relative capabilities of each fly rod in a group. We chose lines that best represent typical fishing applications for each model configuration. For example, on 9’ 7-weights, we cast the SA Titan Long, which embodies aggressive trout streamer and bass lines, whereas on the 10’ 7-weights we cast the SA Infinity Taper, representing long-bellied salmon/steelhead lines. In a few cases, the chosen line was awful on a specific rod, so we cast again with a line that we know to be a better match for that model.
Many anglers would choose a 3-weight based solely on its “fun factor,” but long 3-weights are challenging because they tend to get knocked down in the wind. The Winston Air 2 9’ 3-weight is one of the most finely tuned rods in the lineup, a joy to cast, with unmatched sensitivity and an exquisite sense of connectedness with its fly line. You’ll fish this rod on special days when hatches erupt and the wind is on recess. While the rod handles a long leader with artistry, you can’t stop it hard to pop your leader over in the wind. With the Air 2 9’ 3-weight, we can take only what the river offers. The R8 Core 390-4 is a bit more empowering, with rigidity in the lower blank that responds when called upon. The Winston loads impeccably with either a Technical Trout or Rio Gold, but the Sage R8 Core requires the Rio Gold to call up high line speed. You’ll cast the R8 with a more deliberate stroke, but loop shape and accuracy are superior. The Winston offers the greatest feel, but if you fish on water where a 9’ 3-weight may simply be too light then you’ll be able fish the R8 390-4 on more of those borderline days. Both are among the finest rods in their respective series.
In our hands, the Centric 854-4 is the most powerful rod in this group, but not the sweetest. Everything about this rod is intended to generate line speed. It’s a pea-shooter. Whereas wading anglers often choose a medium action rod that prioritizes feel and loop control for their 3 and 4-weights, if you fish from a drift boat, you need a fast action tight-loop stick that doesn’t buckle in the wind. The taper of the Centric 854-4 is aggressive, by which we mean that the tip is very light relative to the stiff butt. With any fly line, the rod flexes deliberately into the mid-section and the loop tightens abruptly as the butt section resists. The result is automatic high line speed. This is a great rod for drilling the bank, stopping your forward cast hard to turn over your leader at a precise distance.
Both the Winston Air 2 and Sage R8 Core models are more even-flexing and touch-oriented. These rods are the best choice for the angler who seeks the cadence and reserve power of a fast-action 4-weight but prefers the progressive flex and feel of a rod that you would still reach for by choice rather than out of necessity. We prefer the Rio Technical Trout on the Sage and the Rio Gold on the Winston. The R8 Core is a little bouncy and inaccurate with the Gold. It needs a longer taper and more patient casting stroke. The action is ideal for an all-purpose 8 ½’ 4-weight, but mostly for the wading angler. The Winston doesn’t load quickly with the long-headed Tech Trout. It’s great at distance with this line and would be ideal for fishing tailwaters from a drift boat, but the wading angler will need a Rio Gold to load the rod at short distances. In fact, with a Rio Gold, this is our favorite rod in the group for the wading angler. All three of us likened this rod to the Air 2 9’ 5-weight, perhaps the finest rod we cast all day.
In a crowded room, we’ll start by painting a couple of these rods into a corner. The Winston is a medium-action rod with plenty of feel, but doesn’t belong in a fast-action rod comparison. The top half of the rod feels imperfect, bouncy, out of touch with our most-popular 4-weight trout lines. We find this rod performs best with an SA Infinity Taper, which has a very long head and is ½ line weight heavy, because the line pulls down through the loose top half of this fly rod and casts more off the butt section, turning the Air 2 9’ 4-weight into a smooth casting medium-action rod.
Similarly, the Sage R8 Core 490-4 is just too line-sensitive for our tastes. While initially impressed with this fly rod, we find its lack of versatility to be puzzling. In the words of Rich Post, “It wants to be cast a certain way with a certain line, but you have to go easy on it, and the fly rod resists loop control.” When it’s great, it’s great, however. We recommend this rod specifically for long casts with a gentle line taper, like the Rio Technical Trout or SA Trout Taper.
The Asquith, NRX+ and Centric 9’ 4-weights may collectively be considered among the finest of all trout rods. On the water, the nuances get down to preference rather than performance, but these are hall-of-fame fly rods to be treasured by the angler. The biggest surprise is the NRX+. In a series that emphasizes power over touch, the NRX+ 490-4 has a shockingly sweet feel brought forward by its light, nimble tip and ideal taper transition that keeps the rod smooth and responsive regardless of line pairing or casting stroke. If you like the deliberate presentation style of a Rio Gold fly line (for hoppers, shorter leaders, dry dropper rigs, etc), we found the NRX+ 490-4 paired with a Rio Gold WF4 to be the finest light rod and line pairing that we cast all day. It’s a true show stopper.
The Asquith and Centric may offer greater versatility in fishing scenarios and line pairings, but not by much. Both rods cast a Rio Tech Trout with slightly higher line speed and greater loop control. Rich calls the Asquith 490-4 with a Tech Trout his all-time favorite 4-weight outfit. Duncan agrees, but only when casting beyond 30 feet. The Asquith feels lightest in hand, but both the Centric and NRX+ load shorter, especially with the heavier-headed Rio Gold. The Asquith has the highest ceiling of these three rods. With a Tech Trout, it casts the longest with highest line speed and greatest control.
The Centric is the most balanced rod of the three, “Exactly what I picture in a fast-action 9’ 4-weight,” according to Duncan. It seems to be the most progressive rod of the group, truly fantastic from short to long, especially with a Rio Gold. Loop control is exotic with the Centric. The rod has a confidence-boosting stability that gives the caster the feeling of placing the fly with one’s fingertips (in front of a rising trout). The balance of performance and “fun factor” would seem hard to beat with the Centric, but both Loomis rods feel slightly lighter while casting.
So, what’s our advice? Are you “Scott” or “Loomis?” Enjoy the beggar’s banquet, friends. Any of these rods will truly elevate your love of fly fishing.
R8 Core 4100-4 vs Centric 1004-4 vs NRX+ 4100-4 (plus Air 2 9’6” 4-wt)
Lines: Rio Elite Gold
On this day, we only cast these rods with a Rio Gold, but a long-bellied line such as the SA Infinity taper would also be a logical choice, especially for nymphing on broad water where long distance stack mending extends the dead drift. All of these qualify as big water nymphing or stillwater rods, but not Euro nymphing rods. They cast with power, control the line at distance, roll cast and mend all day, but do not have the tip sensitivity required to detect subtle takes without a strike indicator (the Euro approach).
With any 10’ trout rod, you’ll spend more time mending and extending than overhead casting. You’ll catch the most fish with the rod that does this best. Casting fatigue must be considered as well, especially for stillwater fishing where repeated long casts are implicit.
The R8 Core 4100-4 is the easiest casting rod in the group. You can’t rush this rod, need to let it load, allow the rod and line to do the work for you. Richard remarked, “This is a purpose-built fly rod, but I have to move stoically.” This rod casts and fishes best at distance, but you can’t force it in the wind. It feels like a big water nymphing rod, and a good one, at that. The NRX+, on the other hand, feels like a long casting stillwater rod. This is a classic “tippy” fast action fly rod. It’s the best pure caster of the bunch by far, but doesn’t use the whole rod for roll casting and line mending, as do the R8 and Centric. It swings the lightest and automatically forms gorgeous, level loops at distance, remarkable for a rod of this length. On the river, one could use a heavier, long-headed line, such as the Infinity Taper or an SA MPX, to make the rod more responsive to subtle techniques, like mending.
The Centric falls squarely between the R8 and NRX+. A monster roll casting and mending rod, it casts overhead without excessive tip weight and, in every way, seems optimized for fishing 25-60’. It’s the “rangiest” rod in this group, the most versatile and inviting. The slightly higher tip mass of the Centric helps cast awkward nymph rigs, especially under a strike indicator.
If this is your first 10’ trout rod, you’ll find that the NRX+ is lighter and less fatiguing, but the Centric and R8 Core come alive on the water.
Winston 9 ½’ 4-weight: We decided to include this rod in spite of having no apples-to-apples peer. Interestingly, while 9 ½’ 5 and 6-weights are common, there have been few or perhaps no other 9 ½ 4-weights brought to market by Sage, Scott, Loomis or Winston over the decades. The difference between this 9’6” Winston and the 10-footers in the field is that this is a much sweeter dry fly rod, especially applicable to rivers like the Henry’s Fork and San Juan, where wading belt-deep compromises the angler’s casting range and line control ability. We cast this rod in a light breeze with a Rio Gold WF4 and found that we couldn’t double haul without overpowering the fly rod. Fish this rod with a long-bellied fly line and a single dry fly. Use a long casting stroke and let nature take its course. The loop and line control capabilities of the Air 2 9’6” 4-weight are phenomenal, but only when the rod operates in a vacuum, relatively speaking.
R8 Core 590-4 vs Centric 905-4 vs Air 2 9’ 5-wt vs Asquith 590-4 vs NRX+ 590-4
Lines: Rio Elite Gold
The Loomis Asquith 590-4 sets the bar for raw performance. No rod can match the casting prowess of this assassin. It wants tight loops at every distance, a little impersonal, perhaps, but for sheer energy, nothing can touch it. The accuracy and intuitive nature of this rod allow the angler to make more quality presentations with a dry fly, dry dropper, streamer or full nymph rig than with any other fly rod. Some anglers will find the rod to be too “automatic,” however. Feedback to the hand is middle of the pack. It feels synthetic and a bit detached from variations, intentional or otherwise, in our casting strokes. Rich summons it up for all of us by saying, “I rely on visual loop shape feedback rather than what I can feel in my casting hand, but this thing throws daggers.”
The NRX+ 590-4, on the other hand, is like “Grandpa’s favorite hammer.” We keep Rich hanging around because he says sh** like this. It’s stiff from tip to butt, ideal for driving your cast into the wind without having to wait on the rod. You can rush it, pound it, overline and over terrain this fly rod without concern. Lovers of this rod interpret its heft as an assurance of durability. All other rods in this comparison are durable too, of course, but this rod undeniably makes an impression that it won’t break anytime soon.
Sage fans will find the R8 Core 590-4 to be less al dente than former fast action front runners, including the X 590-4, ONE and XP. This rod strikes us as “medium fast,” rather than “fast.” Of all the rods in this group, the R8 590-4 casts with the most relaxed cadence. You can’t push it or pop it, but the rod casts from short to quite long with very little physical input from the caster. More patience is required than with most other fast action fly rods, but like some of the other models in the R8 Core series, you just need to relax and let it go. This rod doesn’t like heavy headed fly lines, streamers or any aspect of rigging that throws the rod-and-line algorithm out of whack. It’s more of a dry fly 5-weight than the NRX+, for example, which relishes awkward rigging and formidable casting challenges.
Next to the Asquith, the Scott Centric 905-4 gets our vote for “highest performing fast action 5-weight.” With a Rio Gold, it’s lively and eager from 20 feet to the end of your fly line with no asterisk for fly size or leader length limitation. It’s a bomber, but not a one-note canon like the Asquith. The Centric impresses as a light fly rod, but has more mass throughout the blank than the Asquith. This gives it slightly greater ability to handle aggressive fly lines and it mends with less muscle from the angler. It has advantages on both the plus and minus side of the power fishing axis, but would still finish second to the Asquith in terms of lightness and energy transmission. The Centric’s custom full Wells grip is preferred by many anglers who like to “stay on top of the rod” while casting for distance or with large flies. The front lip of the grip braces the thumb and prevents leveraging while casting, maintaining the impression of lightness and reducing hand fatigue.
The Winston Air 2 9’ 5-weight is so joyful it’s easy to overlook how refined it is. From short to very long, the Air 2 casts a Rio Gold as well or better than any other fly rod. From short to very long, it loads incrementally and communicates magnificently with the caster, electricity charging down the blank into the palm and forearm. This rod is A1 for feel and fun. “So good, so fun, so playful. I just want to hang out with it,” says Rich. We are hopelessly smitten with this rod. It looks and feels wholly organic, born from the elements of this sport. On first impression, it’s as light as the Asquith. It awakens with a mere twitch, finding the fly line and leaping into the dance. This fly rod makes coffee at sunrise and mixes cocktails in the evening, serving the angler, a friend and partner for life.
Lines: SA Amplitude Infinity
The Centric 955-4 is all business, a standout for line speed, range, stability and overall confidence. Cast it with a long stroke or drop the hammer. This rod is ready for the biggest water you fish, whether a stillwater or a western classic like the Yellowstone, Gunnison or Deschutes. The Centric 955-4 is adaptable to almost any fly rig, whether it’s a wind-resistant salmonfly on 2X, two rubber legs deep under a yarn ‘cater or a conehead streamer. Choose your fly line for your fishing. Don’t worry, the rod can handle it.
The R8 Core 596-4 compares favorably for overall capability, but feels lighter in hand and trades a bit of power for touch. More line sensitive than the Centric, the SA Infinity taper overloads the rod with all but the most patient casting stroke. A Rio Gold loads the rod perfectly, with a wonderful sense of the rod winding up to deliver a long and lively cast. It is more sensitive than the Centric, but like many other rods in the R8 Core series, the angler needs to cast with discipline to allow the surprisingly resilient butt section to engage for extra length. This rod plays sweet music for the adept caster, however. At every distance, the tension between rod and line is like a taut bowstring, ready to fire. Mending and roll casting come naturally to this medium-fast action rod and the tip is light enough to fish dry flies on rivers like the Henry’s Fork and Green, where extra length really helps. For a variety of techniques on big water, this is one of our favorite rods in the R8 Core series.
While more of a 1-tricky pony, the NRX+ is an excellent nymphing rod, designed with a stiff tip, stiff butt and relatively soft mid-section, which causes the rod to flex toward the middle on every cast, whether short or long. The caster with a patient stroke can make it work at all distances, but this rod calls the shots, rather than enabling the angler with loop control. Parker says, “There are 2 different fly rods in this fly rod.” It’s true, the tip and butt feel somewhat disconnected, but the rod will do a lot of work with little effort because the relatively stiff tip drives through every cast with a pleasing snap. This rod almost belongs in the NRX+ LP or Winston Pure series. Rich describes it as, “purposeful, but not empowering.”
All of us have something good to say about the Winston Air 2 9’6” 5-weight, but we have concerns about how this rod will perform under less-than-ideal conditions. It’s wonderfully springy. Rich says, “I particularly like the feeling of picking up line to start a cast.” John describes it as, “loose and lively,” but Parker’s observation that, “it’s not really sure what it wants to do” is telling. It feels great, but the butt section needs more rigidity to cast in the wind. It roll casts convincingly with a small dry fly, but lacks the backbone to confidently pull a nymph rig from deep water. This would be a fine rod for fishing small and medium sized dry flies, a dry dropper or light nymph rig on a calm day.
Lines: SA Amplitude Infinity
These three outstanding fly rods empower the angler to fish at greater distance with tremendous casting control and line mending capability. Game changing fly rods, anglers who don’t own a 10’ trout rod should put one in their quiver as a dedicated nymph rod or specialized stillwater tool.
The R8 Core 5100-4 earns high praise for lightness, feel and loop control. Nothing happens particularly fast with this rod, but it’s an easy caster at typical 10’ fly rod fishing distances of 30-60’. It may be the best line mender in this group. We fish 10’ rods for line control, not casting distance. It’s all about the dead drift, and this rod manipulates line on the water with nimble, tactile precision.
At the other end of the spectrum is the NRX+ 5100-4. This is the fastest action rod in the group, a tip-casting magic wand with a relatively stiff lower blank, a light, flexible tip and a well-defined casting flex point high on the blank. The best pure caster in the group, the NRX+ 5100-4 is tops in the wind, longest for covering stillwater or broad rivers and best with a dry fly or streamer. Roll casting and line mending require a little “chop” from the angler. For overhead casting, the rod responds to a short, staccato stroke, rather than the long, coasting stroke preferred by the R8 Core 5100-4.
The Centric 1005-4 is the most “progressive” rod in this group. It has a bit more heft than either the Sage or Loomis, but ultimately offers the greatest versatility because the rod flexes evenly relative to the amount of fly line under load and power input from the caster. It’s not the lightest of the three, but the rod follows through with power and stability, a work horse for fishing sinking lines or long, heavy nymph/indicator rigs.
R8 Core 690-4FB vs Centric 906-4 vs NRX+ 690-4 vs Asquith 690-4 vs Air 2 690-4
The Air 2 is a dry fly and light nymph 6-weight, much “touchier” than the other rods in this group. A lovely caster with a Rio Gold, we found both the Infinity taper and Titan Long to be too much line for this rod, “Tail wagging the dog,” in Duncan’s words. Don’t hesitate to fish a light streamer on this rod, but don’t buy this rod specifically for streamers. It will work just fine with any fly small enough to be fished on a Rio Gold, rather than a specialized, heavy-headed streamer line.
We cast the Sage R8 Core 690-4FB over and over, baffled that such a light rod can handle heavy lines. This rod doesn’t really care for short casts “off the tip,” but at typical 6-weight distances (anything beyond 25 feet), the resilient bottom end takes over. Rich says that streamer fishing is all about “PPM,” presentations per minute. The R8 Core 690-4 “gets on target really fast,” picks up a streamer with confidence and delivers the next shot, “shockingly well.” This is an impressive rod that you could throw all day without tiring, drilling the bank and keeping that streamer swimming.
The Centric 906-4 feels miraculously tuned to the SA Infinity Taper WF6F. It throws the longest, most controlled loops with the least effort of any rod in this group. Cast with your eyes closed. You’ll feel each incremental foot of fly line engage the sensitive but stable rod blank. Scott’s progressive action design is really on display in this model, among the finest of all Scott fly rods. The rod hesitates just a little with an SA Titan Long, but with lighter streamer lines, including the regular Titan and various iterations of the Rio Predator, the Centric 906-4 is world class.
The Asquith blank, like others in that series, is the most powerful of any rod under comparison. No fly rod generates more line speed with greater command. It’s a miracle of engineering, but the Asquith 9’ 6-weight is fitted with a traditional, smallish grip rather than a stream-style Wells. We would choose this rod above all others for dry flies and modest nymph rigs, but when you really need leverage on the rod (streamer casting and heavy nymphs), the tapered handle just doesn’t support the thumb-forward grip that most of us use when throwing for power and distance. If this doesn’t bother you, then the Asquith might be your rod.
The NRX+ 690-4 casts and fishes high in the 6-weight line category. It’s a very comfortable fly rod, a little on the heavy side but familiar in feel and casting cadence. Performance with the SA Infinity taper is terrific, but the butt section lacks the torsional stability to control the extra long and heavy head of the SA Titan Taper. Pair this rod with less aggressive streamer lines for best results, or go up to a 7-weight. Make no mistake, this is an excellent streamer fishing 6-weight, but the Titan Long is a little too much. Fish a Rio Predator or regular SA Titan for best results. The tip-to-butt stiffness of this rod lends to streamer fishing and large dry flies, like salmonflies and hoppers, but less to nymphing because it requires disproportionate power from the angler to mend or roll cast.
Lines: SA Amplitude Infinity
Like the other Winston Air 2 9 ½’ rods, this 6-weight offers a lovely casting experience but is limited in fishing applications. The rod flexes and recovers with a pleasing spring from the tip all the way into the butt, so it roll casts, mends line and protects tippet better than most fast action rods. This would be a lovely rod for swinging wet flies and fishing dries or dry-dropper rigs, but limited in lake fishing applications where long casts in the wind are required and not at all well suited to streamer fishing.
The R8 Core 696-4 and Centric 956-4 are distinct in character, but both are likely to exceed the expectations of the big water trout angler. The R8 Core 696-4 is remarkably light with unusual feel and touch for a rod with so much power. This is a rod you can fish both short and long. Duncan says, “it maintains a playful personality, unusual for such a serious fishing tool,” which jives with Rich’s remark, “I’ve never felt a rod in this category with such an amazing combination of touch and power. Chrome velvet.” The Centric possesses more blazing power, but the R8 may be a better nymphing rod at short and mid distance.
The Centric 956-4 best embodies “fast action 9 ½’ 6-weight.” Long trout rods tend to settle into the “medium-fast” action category because the caster must wait for the longer implement to flex. The Centric sacrifices nothing in casting efficiency. The rod is tuned flawlessly to cast any length of line without wasted energy. This rod has the highest ceiling for power and distance, but would still be described as “progressive” in its even flex, which makes it super intuitive for an angler to pick it up and cast successfully on the first try. This is the best rod in the group for heavy nymph rigs, longest distance fishing and the potential to fish a streamer, if necessary. Richard observed that he would choose this rod above all others for heavy stillwater fishing, even over the Centric 1006-4. The Centric 956-4 will handle any 6-weight fly line, including the whole array of sink tip and full sinking lines.
Lines: SA Amplitude Infinity
These fine fly rods offer something unique for anglers of varying fishing styles. The NRX+ 6100-4 is classically fast action, responding to a short, well-timed stroke to throw tight loops off the tip. It is the best pure caster of the group, the best in the wind, best for distance and most capable with heavy sinking lines. It feels lightest in the group, but requires well-honed casting skills because the stiff lower sections provide less feedback to the angler.
The Centric 1006-4 is rangy and progressive with remarkable stability for a rod of this length. Parker describes the control and balance by saying, “the tip doesn’t walk away from you.” Indeed, the sense of “follow through” and control is exceptional with this rod. It’s a little heavier than either the NRX+ or Sage R8 Core, but the extra mass helps do the dirty work, including single hand Spey casting, at which it excels. The Centric is the best roll caster and line mender in the group at mid-to-long range. Both the Sage and Loomis feel more electric in hand, the Sage due to its lightness and feel, the Loomis due to its zippy line speed and feathery swing weight, but the Scott Centric is perhaps the most utilitarian and versatile 10’ 6-weight.
Richard notes that the R8 Core 6100-4 has tremendous appeal to a range of casters because it offers the best mix of easy load, line speed and control. This is a surprisingly accessible fly rod in a category that sometimes proves too much for the all-day angler. Fatigue is a real concern when swinging a 10-rod for hours or days, but, mysteriously, the weight of the R8 Core 6100-4 seems to diminish on longer casts. The tip is very light, but we also notice how easily the rod and line engage. Finely tuned to its line weight, the R8 fishes better at short distance than either the Scott or the Loomis. It is also a terrific single handed Spey caster and the best line mender of the three.
These outstanding rods are equal in quality. In order of action from fast to moderate, it goes Loomis, Scott, Sage. Choose based on your casting style and fishing locales.
Lines: SA Titan Long
Every angler should own a 7-weight for heavy streamer fishing. For some reason, many of us grow up believing that a 6-weight is the top end for trout, but streamers are often way too heavy for a 6-weight line, especially the plus-sized patterns popularized in recent decades by pioneers like Kelly Galloup. A size #2-#4 Butt Monkey, Ditch Witch, Dali Lama or Rusty Trombone is almost an 8-weight fly, yet these are lethal catchers of the largest trout. A 7-weight rod, aided by the mass of a proper 7-weight streamer line like the SA Titan Long, casts these flies with much less overall effort than a 6-weight rod.
So which rods are up to the task?
We assumed this comparison was a formality in the coronation of the Asquith 790-4. Indeed, this rod makes the heady SA Titan Long feel, “trouty and nimble,” in Duncan’s words, an impressive combination of lightness, stability and ripping casting power. This is a rod that rewards power with power, more often chosen for saltwater than fresh, the top of the elevator for aggressive trout streamers. The ASQ 790-4 is also a marvelous rod for bass because it easily handles “Bass Bug” lines with their short, extra-heavy heads. That would wrap it up, if it weren’t for the Scott Centric.
Everything about the Centric 907-4 feels optimized for streamer fishing. In Rich’s words, “This rod personifies an ideal streamer rod taper.” Parker’s statement, “The Centric has the most range, but still feels like a trout rod,” speaks to the same characteristics. Duncan observes, “The Centric has the best stability-to-weight ratio.” Parker concludes that, “Jimmy [Bartschi, rod designer) is an evil genius. This rod doesn’t make sense.” The Centric 907-4 is a rod that defies logic. When actually casting, it feels lighter, more stable, longest-casting and easiest of any rod in this group. It’s fishable in saltwater, too, and throws a bonefish taper with wicked line speed, but you’ll buy this rod for streamer fishing and hand it down to your children.
The NRX+ 790-4 is highly compatible with heavy streamer lines, too. In fact, the SA Titan Long brings this rigid fly rod to life, making it springy and lively in a way that only a heavy line could. It lacks the lightness and casting ease of the Asquith or Centric, but is certainly up to the task for hammering bulky flies under compromised conditions.
The Sage R8 Core 790-4 casts better with long, gentle line tapers than with aggressive streamer lines like the Titan. We like it with a Rio Predator, but the awkward head on the SA Titan Long is just too much for this rod. This rod makes a better nymphing 7-weight than most others in the field because it flexes deeper and has a looseness in the mid-section that allows the top of the rod to follow through easily with line mends, but this same quality makes it not-up-to-the task with heavy streamers.
Lines: SA Infinity
Both of these rods feel light and modern, fine choices for the steelheader. Like other 10-footers in each series, the NRX+ is truly a “fast action” rod, featuring stiff butt and mid-sections with a light tip. It requires a short casting stroke and throws tight loops for great distance. The swing weight is impressively light in this model. On the water, it requires a bit of pop to mend line at long distance but has the overall backbone to fish heavy sinking lines and for lifting weighted flies from deep under an indicator. This rod emphasizes power over finesse, but feels great in hand and swings effortlessly.
The R8 Core 7100-4 uses more of the rod, requiring patience on the overhead cast but ultimately offering more in the way of subtle line control techniques. Just rock the rod back and forth and watch it work. This is a marvelous single handed Spey rod, flexing deep enough to put some real graphite behind each motion, setting the line head and forming a casting loop with little physical effort from the caster. While producing less line speed than the NRX+, this rod was truly designed for the all-around techniques that result in more caught fish, with a special emphasis on line control.
Lines: Rio Elite Perception
These two rods mirror the 10’ 7-weights, both outstanding tools, but unique in character. If you seek maximum casting distance, choose the NRX+ 8100-4. It’s light, powerful and nimble. If you are a fast action rod fan, this is your stick. However, if you are the angler who keeps the line in the water, using alternative casting methods such as single hand Spey, roll casting and informal techniques of every description to keep your fly wet, then choose the R8 Core for it’s ability to move your fly line with subtle swings of the 10’ rod. Full 2-handed fly rods are rarely “fast action,” because a rod that doesn’t bend isn’t doing any work. A rod like this R8 Core 8100-4 comes alive in the hands of the creative angler.