I’ll admit it, I was as anxious as Pinocchio during a termite hatch after selling off my three- and four-weight Sage Circas only to learn that they were discontinuing them with no replacement anytime soon. As much as I love fast rods, even down to little three-weights, the slow stuff has a time and place and the Circas were—are—incredible tight-water rods that have few equals for feel. So why sell them if they are so great?
Because, in my humble opinion, the line between what’s possible with a slow- and a fast-action rod from one of the fly fishing industry’s best is now so blurred that I’m running out of ways to describe this new middle-ground and, as a gold-plated fact, with every new generation these rods get better and better. Maybe not in massive leaps and bounds, but always better. Don’t believe that? Cast an RPL+, SP+ or XP side-by-side with the new X and get back to me. (A long winded way of admitting to being a tackle tart?)
Around the same time I pensioned off the Circas, Sage announced they were replacing the ‘One’ series with the new X series and not long after I was lucky enough to get my hands on a sample of the ubiquitous 9’ five-weight model for a few hours at one of Peter Morse’s casting clinics not far from home. (read the review here)
Not long into the testing I was thinking that the new action would be very well suited to a lighter, shorter rod in three-weight and might even bridge the gap between the need for both fast and slower action rods. I soon set about hiding my pennies from the wife, kids and government over-reach to get one.
First impressions out in the yard are that, like the five-weight, this rod is slower in action than the One, and works further into the blank, but is still more powerful overall. Sage call the X fast-action and while they may be masters of that space, and that might be true for the heavier models, I would say the 7’6 three-weight action is flirting with intent, but not committing, to medium. It’s more than supple enough to feel the rod working, but generates higher line speeds than the One. The other main improvement—and again, it’s in steps not kilometres—is that the new rod is smoother than the previous and irons out casting bugs beautifully.
Like I said in the five-weight review, these are great fast rods for people that aren’t into fast rods or that think they’re casting isn’t up to the top-shelf stuff.
All my lines went pretty well, but for tight small-stream work, I would recommend a slightly aggressive taper over the presentation lines to keep the blank working in close. That said, like the five-weight, the littlest X doesn’t benefit from being greatly over-lined.
On stream, especially the small, nasty and overgrown ones, the X is a little missile launcher and any cast under about thirty feet is normally just a quick flick, while bigger casts are easily dealt with a single-hauled backcast. Looking for distance with a lot of false casting is completely pointless unless you want to hook trees or are showing off.
Accuracy is excellent thanks to the tight, well damped tip that provides a huge amount of feedback and with a little concentration on tighter loops, hitting the hard spots is easy. For water hauling, the little three-weight X matched with the RIO Perception line is a beast and to date, the best I’ve tested.
Wind? Who cares. Tighten up your cast and laugh heartily but without malice so as not to offend a vindictive and sometimes downright mean Mother Nature.
Like all Sage rods, the build of the little X is near perfect without being in any way showy and, apart from the black anodised aluminium up-locking real seat with its rod weight etched into the locking cap, they look much the same as the One model before. The cork is as good as it gets with the ‘snub-nosed’ half-wells-style grip and Vera wood insert and, though small, fits my big mitts well and the blank itself very, very dark green with black wraps over snake guides.