A fly rod’s worth is a very subjective thing. Therefore I think any critical review of a fly rod is just as subjective. So I must explain the context in which I write about these 10-ft 7-wt sticks of high tech graphite. Otherwise this whole exercise would be total folly.
This is about single hand salmon and sea trout rods, and I think that 10-ft 7-wt is the sweet spot. First off, why 10-ft and not the more standard 9? It’s about the way many of us fish for salmon with one hand. I use a combination of overhead casting, spey techniques, snake rolls and the like. The longer rod is better for spey, especially when teamed up with a long front taper line, like an Air Flo Delta, or Wulff Triangle. The longer rod also gives an angler better line control and mending ability on the water.
Is size 7 a tad light for salmon? No, I’ve brought big silver salmon to hand in short order with a 7-wt, and in quite heavy currents. It is plenty of rod for the silver king. And besides, any heavier than 7-wt is extremely tiring to cast continually in a 10-ft rod. I have tried. The only 10-ft Sage Method available is in a 7-wt version. And any longer than 10-ft and I’m using two hands.
An opinion or review is bias by nature. I am telling you what I like. I have briefly described my philosophy of use for 10-ft 7-wt rods. It is spey and overhead with lots of mending and adjusting on the water. If you fancy this style read on.
I have used many 10-ft single hand rods, not just Sage, but just about every graphite stick maker’s wares on planet Earth. But this review is about Sage and its higher end offerings over the past five years or so.
For two weeks last summer five of us put a bunch of Sage 10-ft 7-wt rods through their paces on Labrador’s mighty Pinware River. The fishing is technical and challenging and we demand a lot from our rods. It is one thing to cast 80 or 90 feet on a soccer field in a gentle breeze. It’s quite another to your waist in a river. Shooting line off grass is easy. On rivers you must hold lots of line in the air and shoot less. It is a demanding game. Holding line in the air with control and power is what separates these rods for me. The Sage Method is king, the standard by which I measure the rest of the gaggle. They include the latest, Sage X-rod, the discontinued One, and the earlier generation TCX.
First let me explain the pedigree of these casting sticks. The X is the latest iteration of Sage’s top of the line rod for all casters, expert and learner alike. Going back in time, X-rod, One, Z-axis, XP, and RPL. Sage calls them flagship rods, each in its own era. I have cast them all in some configuration but not all in 10-ft 7-wt. And I will never part with my XP’s.
In 2002 Sage revolutionized the game with its introduction of the TCR, or Technical Casting Rod, a graphite blank designed for experienced casters with a strong hankering for speed. We are talking full afterburners. The company followed with the TCX and most recently the Method. I think Method is the current epitome of raw power with a reasonable degree of control. It can cast a short line. I have a Sage Method 9-ft 9-wt strung with a #6 line, just for fun on the grass. It can hold 100-ft of line in the air, but still place yarn in 18-in hoops at 30-ft. That’s impressive I think. Anyway, back to the Pinware and our 10-ft 7-wt Sage showdown.
The Method is the best I can buy for my money. It works well enough at close range for both dries and wets. But having said that, you have to work the rod crisply, quick stops, and hauls to pierce the wind with tight loops. It is not a beginner’s rod. It tracks well and is deadly accurate, given Sage’s Konnetic wizardry of materials engineering. Technology aside ,it works on the water and that’s what counts. At distance the Method is a powerful beast. It can hold line in the air out to over 50-ft., not including leader and tippet, with tight loops and accuracy, so I can get my distance with less line in the water about my feet. Well done. On top of that, I can single hand spey to well over 80-ft in angling conditions. It is the best 10-ft 7-wt I have ever used, all brands included.
The TCX for me is like the Method untamed. Being an earlier generation it doesn’t have the Konnetic magic, and it shows. The TCX doesn’t track as well and seems to be more oriented towards tip action, a stiffer butt and softer tip. The Method loads deeper I think, and is a more progressive action. For all that, TCX gets the job done on the Pinware. It carries line just as well as the Method overhead, but falters a little in the spey and mending departments. I’d blame that on the tip action focus.
I like the One. I’ve fished this rod in other line weights and like them also. The 9-ft 7-wt One is presently my favorite bonefish stick. On the Pinware the 10-ft 7-wt One is a very good performer. It lacks some long-range power compared to the TCX and the Method, but it gets the job done admirably on all but the longest casts. And the One is a better choice for less experienced casters, given its slightly softer friendly feel. At close and medium range the One is an absolutely outstanding salmon weapon, accurate and effortless. I am sad it was discontinued.
To conclude. First off I must say that I am not generally condemning Sage’s new flagship offering. I have used only one single hand Sage X. It is just the 10-ft 7-wt under very challenging fishing conditions that I do not like. As I said earlier, we were using all these four test rods with 6/7-wt AirFlo Delta Taper lines. The X-rod fell short of the One in its overhead line carrying ability. This is very important to the way we fish. Bluntly, it lacked power to the point of being a serious liability. It spent most of our two-week fishing trip in camp. Maybe I will try it another time with a 5/6 line. I hadn’t one in camp on this trip.
For our philosophy of use for two weeks on the mighty Pinware, I prefer the Method by a mile. It does everything. The only downside is quick timing, as I said not for beginners. The TCX is my second choice but the One is very close, and better at close range. The TCX tops the One a bit on longer casts, although the TCX requires near perfect timing to wring out its full potential. The X-rod is a beauty at close range and easy to cast. It is a flop for distance. It may shoot a long line off grass but holding line in the air is not possible for me. Thumbs down.
I’m certainly not selling my X-rod, as there are other on-water philosophies. And I’m waiting with anticipation for what possibly will top the Method someday.
Words + Photos by: Paul Smith