As a long time and very vocal fan of Sage rods over many years I’ve heard the claim of some new, Asian made and budget priced rod being just as good, but at half the price more times than Keef has self medicated.
Now, before you throw me up against the wall for being a snob, know that I do think you can get some very good fly rods these days without spending huge money and the differences between the best stuff and the cheap stuff are not always as great as the price might suggest.
While this is particularly true in medium to slow action trout rods where only there’s plenty of honey to be had for less than $500, the argument, in my experience gets more difficult when it comes to fast actioned rods where I’ve found a lot of the copies I’ve tried would be more at home in the broom closet at Sage than with the rods.
Sage, arguably the masters of grunt in graphite, have sought to address the issue by making their own cheap copy of a Sage rod and given us the Foundation for less than $500. ($325 USA)
Straight out of the bag and onto the lawn, the 4-weight Foundation feels like one of Sage’s old-school grunt sticks from the peak of the power era in the early 2000’s – it’s fast, in fact very fast, and not un-like an XP, TCR or even a TCX. The materiel, Graphite IIIe, is certainly of that era, but A Sage materials engineer I spoke to at Icast told me the taper, blank thickness and resin technology are all up to the minute.
Putting that in practice, the feel the rod is marginally slower and harder working down the blank than a TCR and a little more forgiving than an XP and, despite the knock-off price, all American and all Sage.
To me, 9’ 4-weights are an any water general trout rod that need to do everything from streams to light lake work and, in that regard, the Foundation ticks all the boxes except maybe in the very tight stuff where a short 3-weight would be better suited. You will forgive it that the first time you need to throw a very long line in a South Island head wind or decide to turn downstream and swing a Wooly Bugger at the end of 80 feet of line and leader. In this regard, the Foundation is a budget beast.
For an experienced caster the rod is accurate with easy tight loops and easy distance, but a beginner might consider up-ling one weight to get more feel from the blank or in situations where most casts are short to medium.
Saying that, I tried it with both 4- and 5-weight RIO Perception lines and would lean towards the up-line option only on a particularly tight river or perhaps throwing bass sized flies.
And while I haven’t yet tried the rod with a single handed Spey line, I get the feeling it would be a real good choice amongst the tree’s here in Northeast Victoria.
On the water, on my favourite mid-sized river, the power theme continues and anything in the 30 – 70 range was mindlessly easy and show-off casts not much harder, though, just like the old TCR’s, you need to be right on your game casting-wise to keep it pretty at 90+ feet.
It’s worth mentioning, that being stiffer in core, the Perception lines I use iron out a lot of the bounce in the blank while leaning on the power and gift it forgiveness you wouldn’t expect from a rod in this price range with this much beef. That said, when comparing it directly to my 9’ 5-weight X at over twice the cost, total forgiveness in the recovery no matter how hard you haul is the thing you didn’t pay for.
In build the Foundation is all that you would expect from Sage being simple, solid and well made and the only obvious difference I can see between this and my more than twice the price X is in the quality of the cork. It’s good and probably about right for the money, but not brilliant like the top-shelf stuff.
The minimalist matt black finish, Sage’s first ever matt finish rod in fact, looks great in my opinion and works well with the simple black anodised up-locking aluminium reel seat and hard chrome snake guides.
Foundation rods are available from 4- to 8-weight and are all 9’ in length.
They come with a partitioned Cordura tube and the same Sage Lifetime warranty as the rest.
Whatever rod and lines you have, at whatever price, they can only really perform as well as your casting. To get help with that, weather you’re just starting out or been around since the Flintstones were considered a modern family, get in touch with Peter Morse about one of the small group casting days he runs around the country.
It’s money very well spent.