Sage X Rod Review
I was first introduced to the new Sage X fly rod back in the late spring during their “On the Water” tour. Russ Miller showed up at the shop one afternoon in the Sage VW bus with some samples, blanks, and various odds and ends of all things Sage. Russ was checking in to make sure that we were all “up to snuff” with the current lineup in addition to giving us a chance to check out the new Cronk coming down the pipe later in 2016.
I caught a few snippets but didn’t pay too much attention to it, to be honest. I mean really, who cares what the technology is called or how it’s made? It all sounds great and I’m yet to come across a manufacturer that claims to be releasing a new flagship product that “sucks in comparison” to their competition or their previous model! So, as Russ is rehashing the difference between Konnetic and Konnetic HD to me for the third time in 10 minutes, I opted out of the conversation and checked into lining up a rod and giving it a good ol’ fashioned parking lot hurl.
We put some line on a 590 and headed out to the asphalt garden between Fins & Feathers and Mama Macs. What I found was that the rod was surprisingly light in hand and full of life, whether I was picking up 30’ or punching 70’. I walked away thinking that this might be a badass line of rods coming our way.
I’m not one to jump too high right out of the gate when it comes to a new line of premium fly rods. Too often, I’ve bought into the marketing hype and convinced myself that this is the “best ever” way before I’ve even given the rods a fair shake. Anyone can look at deflection charts and run a rod through its course in the parking lot or playground field. The real measure, however, is how a rod performs while fishing. You just can’t simulate an indicator and split shot, or a sinking line and weighted streamer in the parking lot! It’s harder to give an honest opinion until I have fished a rod for a while. They all feel great in the parking lot.
As I prepared for my trip to Brazil last October, I decided to add a Sage X 890 to the quiver for the trip as I was “8-Less” at the time. Hard to believe but the 8 is the only line weight that I don’t own between 2 & 12. My intention was to line it up with a floating line and to use this to fish mostly poppers and surface flies for Peacock Bass. I like throwing heavier rods (9’s and 10’) so I wasn’t sure how much use I would get out of the 890 X on this trip. I hoped to get enough to know if I liked the rod or not and whether it was as nice to fish with as it was to throw around the backyard and parking lot.
Needless to say, the rod performed flawlessly and was a pleasure to fish with whether I was stripping streamers or chugging poppers. Throwing large bass poppers like Puckerlips & Pole Dancers creates its own difficulties as the flies are extremely wind resistant and tend to cause your cast to fizzle on long casts. The 890 X handled it as well as anything else with significantly less fatigue. I found myself going to the X setup throughout the day when my arms and back ached from throwing the heavier stuff for hours and hours in the jungle heat.
A great example of how well this rod performed in terms of its “ease of fishability” (I know…hard to quantify that one) was the story around my largest and last fish of my week at Rio Marie with Untamed Angling. The rain had been relentless and the river surged, pushing most of the fish further into the inaccessible reaches of the jungle. Still, we plugged away at the jungle edges and creek mouths with full sinking lines and 10” streamers with rattles and flash in hopes of finding a few stragglers that had resisted the urge to head for cover during the rising water. We found a few that morning, but by 2 or 3 in the afternoon, it was obvious that things just weren’t going to happen.
It was 95 degrees with similar levels levels of humidity and the bees were out by the millions as we steadily covered a very large lagoon void of wind or shade. I actually crawled under the poling platform for a while just to get out of the sun and heat that day. My casting arm was becoming worthless, so I decided to go back to the light rod – the Sage 890 X – and just fish a popper the rest of the day as that’s way more fun and heckuva lot easier to cast at that stage in the game.
We had seen very little in terms of fish movement to strikes for several hours by this time of the day and our general optimism level was pessimistic at best. I made yet another long cast as close to the jungle edge as I could get and let things settle.
Accuracy is important with this type of fishing because the typical cast is in the 50-70’ range and you generally want to put the fly into the gaps between structure along the banks. Too far and the boat has to stop and go retrieve the fly, too short and there will be no fish. The dampening provided by the HD (High Density) of the graphite in the Sage X seriously improves accuracy and line control. This is something that I have a hard time judging and appreciating until I spend some time om the water and this trip was an excellent place to understand the accuracy that these rods deliver.
Anyway, the fly settled and there was the slightest bit of movement on the water’ surface, - almost like a faint riffle from an isolated breath of air moving. The guide asked if I saw that and I said that I did, then he said that there is a fish there and I saw that too. I started the retrieve with a subtle tug, just enough to make the fly quiver. An enormous Peacock exploded on the fly and started ripping away and heading for those inaccessible reaches of the jungle. I was fishing 5’ of 50 pound Rio Saltwater Flouroflex tied directly to the fly line so I clamped down on everything rather than let the fish run, hoping to keep it from the heavy cover. It lasted a few seconds and everything went limp and the Puckerlip slowly gurgled its way back to the surface, fishless once again.
That half a minute or so of action was the most we had seen in hours and all I could think about at the time was that was by far the biggest fish I had seen all week. A 20 pound plus Peacock Bass on a popper is quite the experience, but if I had let the fish run it would have disappeared into the timber and I would most likely would have lost part of my fly line in addition to the fish and the fly. The Sage X 890 has tremendous amount of power and I experienced much of it at that moment as I stopped that fish in full run with a bend in the rod.
I think we were all in shock at that moment. I remember looking at that popper and wondering if I should leave it, pick it up, or fish it on out. The fish was gone and the disruption had been violent, I didn’t expect another grab but my fishing partner kept plugging away so I opted to fish it on out rather than disrupt his Mojo. The fly was maybe 50’ out this time and I started stripping it back with long, heavy pulls more out of frustration than hope. Two Peacock Bass appeared out of nowhere, just below my fly, not 5 feet from the boat. They were “lit up” surging and pulsing in frantic circles as the I kept things moving right to the end of the rod, a foot from the boat. They settled and appeared to have lost interest as I twitched and tugged the fly around at the end of the retrieve. I picked up the fly and made another cast, right over the still lingering one of the pair. He absolutely destroyed the fly, not two feet from the boat.
The fish ran out and under the motor and then circled back around the bow with me running barefoot across the deck trying to avoid stepping on the bees and breaking my toes on something. It made a hard run back to the jungles edge and I clamped down om the line while I tightened the drag on the Sage 6280 reel and furiously fumbled my way through the process of getting the line back onto the reel. I got tight to everything once again and held tight and the fish turned. This time, the hook stuck and we managed to bring it all home for a truly memorable moment in my fly-fishing adventures. The fish turned out to be just shade over 22 pounds and was earned in some difficult fishing conditions.
I use this story to try to highlight the practical “awesomeness” of the Sage 890 X as the rod delivered at the highest of levels time and time again on my couple of weeks of jungle fishing. However, it is rare to be able to describe how everything about a rod comes to light in just a few minutes of fishing. The ease of loading at distance is to be expected in a modern, fast action rod, so the 60-70’ cast was no surprise. The ease of accuracy, however, was exceptional and became apparent as I knew that every cast I was making was within that “dinner-plate” area in which I would find the fish if it was there. I could feel the power in the butt section of this rod and be confident in putting a heavy bend in it to help turn and control some very large, aggressive fish. The rod also loads very easily in close, with minimal line, to deliver accurate and controlled presentations.
There is nothing that I enjoy more than fishing with a fly rod in hand. Although I get to do this more than most, it still just isn’t as often as I would like! My time on the water is special, as it is for all of us, and good gear is essential to helping me get the most out of that limited time. For my money - outside of the right flies – the single most important part of the whole fly fishing equation is the rod. The Sage X delvers as well or better than any other rod that I have come across in quite a while.
As with all Sage fly rods, the Sage X is made in the USA and come with a limited lifetime warranty to the original owner. This is the ‘flagship” series in the Sage lineup and is available in a wide range line weights and configurations for everything from Trout to Tarpon.
The X rods feature Sage’s latest graphite technology and is known as Konnetic HD (High Density). The blanks are made with a unique, proprietary graphite/resin composite. Slimmer profiles and denser fiber placements result in lightweight blanks that are durable, accurate and efficient. Attractively finished in Black Spruce with premium components and cork, the Sage X is a spectacular fly rod in the hand and on the water.
At Fins & Feathers of Bozeman, we offer most of the rods in the Sage X family (as well as most other Sage single-hand rod models) and even have a few for demo and rental options too. Stop by our Bozeman fly shop and test cast one with one of our knowledgeable experts the next time you are in the area. In addition to Sage, we offer fly rods from Orvis, Scott, Thomas & Thomas, Clutch, Hardy, Redington, and Echo so it’s easy to compare models all in one place. You can always browse or purchase from our fly shop online as well, but we would much rather see you in the store when it comes to helping you pick your next fly rod.