I penned this gear review for Fly Rod & Reel’s winter issue and thought it was worth sharing here. These are top-end rods and might outclass most of us financially, but they sure are worth visiting your local fly shop to throw. Maybe you’ll like this stick so much you’ll just have to have one and can do a layaway or something. I’d love to own one of these, that’s for sure.
Sage’s One: I have a friend who once believed that every fish could be taken on a five-weight rod, much to the dismay of friends, guides and, mostly, those fish he tortured through elongated battles. Then a migratory Key’s tarpon just flat-out wrecked his outfit and that “five for all” mentality changed.
These days he’ll throw any rod that works, but he still takes pride in snapping sticks and does so in stride, as if that awful crack was the first songbird chirp of spring, as if hand-lining fish after weaponry failure was admirable, as if these modern rods cost little more than a fifth of his beloved Knob Creek and didn’t garner a $500-plus fee.
Still, it’s difficult not to catch this friend’s enthusiasm for snapping rods, despite a disparity between our income levels—he’s an Alaskan lawyer. I’m simply a gear-mooch. So, when I was fishing ultimate Thule in July, way out past Cold Bay at the tip of the Alaskan Peninsula, I put a bend in Sage’s new ONE rod, and surely thought it would break. The quarry was king salmon, gear-wreckers extraordinaire. I set hard on fish. I put everything into legs, back and shoulders, trying to turn fish away from in-river obstructions. I cranked the drag to train-stoppage. And, get this, the rod held, for a week straight, on at least 20 fish that ranged between 18 and 30-some pounds. My friend, on the other hand, snapped two eight-weights from notable brands.
The rod I fished, and that survived, was Sage’s new 9-foot 9-weight ONE, which weighs in at a svelte 3 3/4 ounces. I threw large flies off floating lines; I threw large, weighted flies off sink-tips; I threw both offerings into winds that blasted my face at 50 miles an hour or more. And the rod performed admirably.
After Alaska I took this stick to a lake in Montana where some 10-pound rainbows and browns are sometimes found. I handed it to a trout-savvy engineer friend and said, “Don’t look at the description. Tell me what weight this is.” He threw and said, “Six.” I laughed and told him the answer. I can’t transcribe his remark, but it ended with the word, “me.”
After Montana I went to the Big Easy and sneaked away from the city for a day on the marsh. I was suffering with a minor hangover (thanks to Bourbon Street and the Old Absinthe House) and packing a nine-foot eight-weight ONE. I threw it all day for redfish, got one 10 or 12-pounder and landed a few other babies. And then I decided to try a mid-level saltwater rod from a competing brand; I picked it up and by the second backcast I wanted the ONE back. My companion on that trip tried the secondary stick, too, and her casts turned to goo. We rod-tubed our research and just got greedy—for the rest of the day we threw that ONE, snapping off long-reaching and accurate casts within inches of the banks.
Accuracy. That’s what Sage really touts in its ONE marketing material. I’m always a skeptic of these pronouncements—hey, I’d say something catchy, too, if I were trying to sell a rod—but this thing is accurate—a serious noted improvement over the other rods I throw. I’m no engineer so the following words may mean more to you than me, but here is the nitty gritty on why this rod is so light, fun to throw and, as billed, accurate: it’s a fast action stick that uses new Konnetic technology in its construction and touts a sweet spot that I felt while using the rod; it carries hi-end fuji ceramic stripping guides; it has hard chrome snake guides; when fishing this stick you’ll wrap your hand around a high-grade, custom-tapered and shaped cork handle; the rod looks beautiful with a walnut wood and golden-bronze aluminum anodized reel seat and unique, black blank coloration.
There. You’ve got the specs. For me none of that matters. I just know, from hard use in the field, this rod stands out as one of the smoothest casting sticks I’ve ever thrown, if not the smoothest. It’s sweet looking and offers all the punch and fighting power of the line-weight it’s rated for, while casting like a stick that is, say, two line sizes less. All the power of a heavyweight minus all-day drain on the throwing shoulder. Come-on, guys, can I have that demo rod back? For more information visit sageflyfish.com —Greg Thomas