It’s a little bit of a shock to hear Sage are discontinuing the One series rods as I think the 9’, closely followed by the 10’ #5’s are my favourite bigger water trout rods and I think they would be hard to improve on.
Still, when Peter Morse tells me he’s getting the new X model in a 5 weight and that I can borrow it for testing for a day, it’s hard not to be excited.
On first cast of the new Sage ‘X’ 9’ #5 weight, it is utterly clear that feel was a big priority in the design and my first, and most immediate thought, is that this would be a great fast rod for people that don’t like, or don’t think their casting is up to fast rods.
My second thought is that it’s not all that fast – maybe not even as fast as the One ?
Though Sage describe the ‘X’ as having a ’fast action’, it’s power is not as immediately obvious as it is in the One and initially, casting them side by side, it did feel a little slower.
After a couple of hours getting familiar with the action, and it took that long, I found loop control almost mindless and accuracy, even near the end of the line, easy thanks to how clearly the loading, and the unloading of the blank are telegraphed into the hand.
That’s also the point I worked out that even though the rod is working well down the blank I was getting higher line speed and easier distance.
The feel is the key and the workings of the X, both on loading and unloading are very obvious and where the rod is different Make no mistake though, it is a very powerful rod and surprisingly, cast side by side with the super fast Method I would say it’s only a little behind in absolute line speed yet not as stiff and ahead in feel.
This is where I think the X will find favour with people that don’t like fast rods because you don’t need to be an awesome caster to get the most out of it and it also won’t spank you for being a beginner. That said, it’s not a rod you pick up and instantly get if you’re an experienced caster and it took me a while, and a little back and fourth casting with other rods to really understand it’s true talents.
It’s very hard to describe a fly rods action and feel in words, but if I could put it into small car terms, ‘fast’ in the X is like the turbo diesel model. It’s numbers expressed in power and torque terms might not do the engine justice and if you’ve not driven one, you won’t understand.
At the end of the day, the X rod is an evolution rather than revolution in terms of swing weight, physical weight and power over the One, but an absolute game changer in the balance of feel and power over any rod. If it sang, it would be Barry White, smooth, deep and full of soul.
In testing the X, I tried my favourite trout line, the RIO Perception and a borrowed RIO Gold in WF#5 and both were well matched with the Gold loading the rod up a little faster and the Perception a little smoother. Moving up to a WF6 Perception I found overloaded the rod and cancelled out a lot of the benefits of the X’s extraordinary feel and unlike the Method I would recommend sticking to prescribed line weights to get the most out of it.
Whatever line you like, I bet you’ve never felt it work a rod like you will on the X and you’ll soon work out if it’s the best match.
Cosmetically, the rod is no radical departure from the One. The reel seat now has black hardware with the rod weight engraved on the top of the locking cap should you need reminding and the blank is black with a very very dark green undertone and a few blingy silver highlights. The rod comes in a dark green aluminium tube with the Sage lifetime warranty and will be available in August.
I write and photograph for Flylife MagazineAustralia – check them out.