The advanced, leading-edge material behind R8 enabled Sage to shape a rod with a stiffer, stronger backbone but also with a more sensitive tip and more connected feel. The secret is twofold: first, a proprietary aerospace composite with a greater hoop strength to dimensionally grow taper diameter more quickly from the tip; and second, a nano-sintered resin application which increases axial resilience, enabling more fiber to be packed into the blank, resulting in that true two-way connection from hand to fly and back for greater feel, flow and control.
Mike and Jules Stevens of the Essential Fly Fisher put this day together. Mike got in an early shipment of these new rods known as the R8 Core series, and true to the request of the people at Sage he kept them under wraps before the official launch date. I flew down to Tassie to be part of the launch, and this was to be the first time I’d cast the completed models. My interest in a new series had been whetted by an #8 prototype I’d been sent a year earlier, and I was excited about the changes, and the evolving design philosophy behind the new flagship series.
Sage manufactures a wide range of rods, but the core series is the line-up of rods that reads like a history book for fly fishers. The R8s were preceded by the Xs, before that the Ones and the Z-Axis etc stretching back into the mists of the dawn of carbon fibre rod technology. In terms of rod stiffness, often described as “speed”, they also released a line-up of super-fast rods, (currently Igniter, before that Method, TCX, and the legendary TCRs). Alongside the flagship series is a line-up of premium, medium-fast rods for trout fishers (currently the beautiful Trout LLs). The parallel to the flagship series will also be a line-up of rods designed for saltwater fly fishers (currently the Salt HDs).
Then there’s a series of rods at price level below the flagship line that utilises older technology.
The flagship rods utilise the very latest in carbon fibre technology and, in time, the five-year development process that goes into those rods will filter into all the other series.
This new flagship series is a tad slower than the previous line-ups so the gap in stiffness between the fastest rods, (currently Igniter) and this new flagship freshwater series, is noticeable. Sometimes in the past that gap has been tight, like the difference between 90 kph and 89kph. Now it’s more like 90 and 84, and the result is an absolutely lovely rod that I describe as completely friendly. It bends deeper into the blank during casting, and has quite fantastic damping and feel.
Straight out of the tube, I gave a #6 the kind of waggle you’d give a rod in a shop – usually doesn’t tell you much – but the tip of this thing just stopped dead! I was immediately impressed but also noted the incredibly light “swing weight” of this and all the other rods. This is a function of material and design, but it’s the kind of blank construction detail that comes from hand-made rods. It’s impossible to create this kind of finesse in mass produced blanks.
The line-up we had for public casting were only 3 rods: #4, #5, and #6 all in 9 footers. It was a windy day and on the private lake Mike had booked for the day we had a turn-up of 40 Sage enthusiasts. The rods were all strung of with RIOs Elite Gold line and it was a wonderful combination. Something that struck me was that right from the start I saw some really great tight loops getting thrown in the windy conditions, no one seemed to need to adapt their stroke to fit the rods; the rods fitted them. Deeper-bending rods require a wider casting arc, but a wider casting arc also means we can generate more line speed because the tip of the rod is accelerating over a greater distance.
The shop guys disappeared around the lake with a couple of the rods and came back with big grins, thumbs up, and pics of some lovely brownies.
These really are lovely fishing rods – smooth, sensitive, and incredibly light in the hand, yet powerful. Sage has done it again.
The R8 Core series comes in rods from #3 to #9 weights only, and in lengths from 8’6” to 10 foot. The Australian RRP is currently around $1560.