As trip hosts for Frontiers, Cathy and I travel throughout the year to a lot of pretty cool destinations. In our travels we are often, asked where is our favorite place to fish? It’s always a hard question because for us our answer would have to take into consideration, for starters, the time of year and whether it would it be fresh or saltwater. When it comes right down to it, we probably don’t have a favorite destination anyway — we like them all. But if someone were to ask what is our favorite rod, now that would be easy — Sage.
I grew up in a Mom and Pop sporting goods store with a fly fishing department. We were one of the early Sage dealers in the Keystone State. As a much younger man, I fell in love with the brand. Now, more years later than I like to count, and after a long, rewarding relationship with Sage which started out with Cathy and I on the Advisory Board and later to Team Sage, and today as Ambassadors, we still love the brand.
When it comes to favorite rods, there is little question that a 9 foot 5-weight is the preferred rod for most trout anglers — as it should be. One can cover a lot of real estate with a basic “9 for 5”. My bet is that if we were to ask Marc Bale, V.P. of Sales at Sage, what Sage’s best-selling trout rod is, he would say the 9 for 5 outsells everything else.
It would, however, be very hard for me to limit myself to just that one outfit. If hard pressed to do so, my choice would definitely be a 5-weight, but it would be a 9-1/2’ length. I may be opening up a can of worms with this statement, but let me explain why. First of all, I don’t fish a lot of small, tight water. Secondly, I do often find myself wading deep to reach a fish that is just out of reach. The deeper I wade, the closer my rod is to the water and the extra six inches helps a lot (and I am 6’1”) by keeping my back cast high, which is especially important if there are weeds behind me. The extra six inches also help a lot when I am high sticking nymphs with mending line and line control, both of which are crucial to success. In addition, I am also more comfortable with my 9-1/2’ rod from a sitting down position when in a kayak or raft or drift boat.
For most of my life I have been a trout hunter; sight-fishing and stalking. For me, it’s especially exciting when it’s a wild, wise brown that I’m after. Presentation is the key to success and keeping a low profile can often make or break it. I often find myself casting from a kneeling position and again, the extra six inches helps again.
From the first cast with a Sage X, I knew it was a winner. Whenever I find myself in trout country, I will have a brace of X’s; the 597 and the 796 are my must-have rods. Is there a downside? Sure. Fishing a small stream where you’re cramped for space is certainly not the place for a long rod but, again, most of my fishing is on bigger water.
A week ago I spent the day with Bill Hudspeth, a friend from Virginia. Bill is an accomplished angler and has fished just about everywhere trout live. We got to the stream to find high, fast, cold water. I remember thinking that this was going to be a tough day. I had the 597 X already rigged and suggested that Bill try it. We got into position as best we could in the high water and Bill started fishing. It was an upstream cast with two heavily weighted nymphs, a strike indicator, in strong, deep current. Two hours had gone by when I heard him yell, “Fish on!” After an epic battle, a well-conditioned rainbow lay in my net. Bill was all smiles and after grabbing a few shots with the camera, he asked, “What kind of rod is this?” I answered, and he was impressed with how well it handled the conditions. The extra six made a difference and made him a believer.
If a new fly rod is in your future, consider the extra six... and a Sage, of course.