If small stream fly-fishing is a knife fight, the Circa three-weight is like having a… ummm… well, a knife, but oh what a glorious little knife it is!
Now, before you fire off that angry comment or email banging on what I said about the Sage One being Bruce Lee with guns at a knife fight, and what kind of fool brings a knife to a knife fight, rent yourself Kill Bill 2 and slow down all the parts with Uma Thurman, in tight yellow leather, swinging around that sword with all it’s associated splatter and gore and tight leather and yellow and Uma. Did I mention Uma ?
Now forget Uma for a second and think of a thin bladed stiletto designed to slide gracefully between a couple ribs before a quick, killing twist in the heart. That, my friends is a knife.
So I was recently asked, and in fact it’s a common question: “If you could only have one rod?”
That’s a stupid question really, because why the hell would you only have one rod? No money? Rob a bank; fly rods are important. But what the hell—let me try to answer the question anyway.
If I could only have one rod, for where I generally fish now, it would be the Circa #3. Why? It’s the middle ground done so well I could learn to live without the extremes at either end. The One #3 (review here:) at the fast end and the Scott F2 (reviewed here:) at the slower end would be sorely missed for their respective power and poise, but the Circa is a bit like both of those rods carefully wrapped into one.
It’s slow enough to make you all happy-go-lucky like glass, but has just enough reach to make some longer casts as well. In a word, it’s low-maintenance and well sorted for purpose and easily the best up-close-and-personal trout rod I’ve ever had the privilege of pointing at the trout.
Too good to be true?
No, not really. Sage, though more well known for powerful 9’ rods, has made plenty of sweet, short stuff over the years going right back to the 6’6 #3 LL of 80’s vintage. That rod was a real honey and some of the SLT’s, ZXL’s and TXL’s have also rung my bell.
Recently, while fishing in Tasmania for an upcoming Flylife story with Riverfly 1864 Guide Daniel Hackett I asked him what he thought of the Circa 3 as he uses one regularly as well.
“Twigging the Tasmanian creeks is almost second nature for me. We’ve been guiding on the north-east granite springs for thirteen seasons, and fishing them my whole adult life. Through that time I’ve gone through a number of rod-selection trends. The first trend was to (sensibly!) ditch the nine-foot five-weight, and go for something lighter and shorter: seven foot, three weights. But after a season or two we found our limitations with these extra-short rods. The grass-lined, meandering creeks required a bit more length, to make sure we could mend around bends and reach around tussocks. So we moved on to rods in the 7’10 range (the old Sage TXL’s were crackers!). This proved an ideal length.
Next on the wish list was a rod that could cast a leader-length, and not much more. Fast action is no good for this, a much slower, relaxed taper is much better. Combine these two rod attributes, and the three-weight, seven-foot-nine Sage Circa is my new favourite creek rod. During the past week of fishing the Circa 379-4, the length has been ideal for reaches and mends, and great for sneaking tight loops under overhanging bushes. Most importantly, this rod was the best I’ve used for casting a nine-foot leader, and not much more. The relaxed taper of the Circa could be manipulated to cast a fast-line speed, or slow-line speed, open or tight loop, with not much more than a foot of flyline out the tip, which is the typical situation we find ourselves in when fishing these crystal clear streams.”
A few years back, I might have picked a two-weight as a ‘If you could only have one rod’ rod, but, as much as I love them, they can really struggle once you start chucking late summer big hoppers around.
That said, the two-weight Circa is winner—read my review of an HCE custom build version here—and life with just one rod could still be pretty hard to beat. As soo as I dream up a new and cunning plan to sneak one past my wife, I will probably add one to the collection.
The four-weight, at just under nine feet is a brilliant larger water dry fly rod and might be my pick for a solo rod collection if I fished larger water more often than the twiggy stuff. Its slower action brings control to presentations and it will drop flies with the sort of subtlety that Kanye could only dream of. The action, like the three-weight, is totally forgiving, easy to control and relaxing to fish with—all day long. It’s also the perfect shock absorber for long fine tippets and bigger fish when fishing somewhere like the Mitta Mitta River on an evening rise.
On both the three- and four-weight Circas I’m happily running RIO Perception lines, but both rods can also be strung up with softer lines like the Light Lines or the In Touch Trout LT’s if more subtlety is required.
The Circas—any of them—might not suit you if you only like fast rods and can’t change down to the lethargic casting style that suits them best, but if you’re into glass you should definitely have a look at what graphite has been up to recently.
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