A good buddy of mine, who’s a guide on the Green River in Utah, makes fun of me for being such a “gear nut.” Apparently, even a professional guide thinks having 14 fly rods is about 8 too many.
That’s just the number of rods I currently own. I’ve fished and owned nearly 30 rods over the past few years. From the Scott Radian (I fished it for all of 4 hours) to the Winston AIR, Sage MOD, and a ton of Redington sticks, rods tend to blur together after a while. I’m partial to Winston rods and by Boron IIIx 9’5wt is my favorite rod – that I currently own.
Enter the Sage X. This isn’t another rod released simply to tap into anglers’ desire to have the latest and greatest. This is a true masterpiece of a fly rod in the 590 configuration. Coming from someone who considers Sage’s last great rod to be the LL (the XP is top-5 in the all-time best rods argument), that’s a high compliment.
Sage has made their name on fast-action rods, designed to be easy to cast for beginners and experts, and throwing line in laser-tight loops through wind and across rivers. Their last flagship rod, the ONE, wasn’t a rod I’d pick to be my 9’5wt go-to dry fly rod for small Rocky Mountain freestone streams and spring creeks. It’s too stiff for my liking, with a tip section that I wouldn’t trust to protect 6x or lighter tippet.
Then Sage up and made the X and I’m thinking my predominantly Winston-green quiver will have a new black rod in the mix sooner than later.
The X is everything a modern 590 rod should be, albeit with just a few minor things I’d change. It’s outrageously light, accurate at every distance I’ve fished, and surprisingly incredible at fishing dry flies. I loved the old LL line of rods because they were superb dry fly instruments. The X felt an awful lot like a Winston when throwing dries – a just barely crisper Boron IIIx style action. Hooksets with dry flies were quick and firm, and the tip is light enough I’d trust it with tippet down to 8x.
The other impressive factor with the X is the backbone it packs for being such a light rod. Lately I’ve spent time working on my cast and one of the tips I’ve received – from JC here at Fishwest – is to focus on presenting a fly within three casts. The fewer false casts results in fewer opportunities for fly line to spook trout.
Whether I fished a size 2 streamer on a 7’ sink-tip line or a size 20 dry on a 12-foot 6x leader, I had no problem picking up and throwing line in tight loops, within about three casts, to any distance.
The only things I could say aren’t outstanding with the X is the tip section. It feels softer than my Boron IIIx, and even with the new KonneticHD technology to improve rod tracking and torsional stability, the tip wobbles some on the hookset. Two friends of mine – both guides with 15+ years of professional experience – noted the same issues with the tip when they continuously missed fish on streamers with the X. A strip set negated the tip issues with streamers, and that’s the only instance in which the X faltered. For nymphs and dries the tip worked flawlessly.
Lastly, while the X packs a punch it does falter against a tough headwind. Where the ONE could punch straight through just about any gust of wind, the 590 X just doesn’t have the oomph. However, I see that as a good thing. This is a 590, not a 690. I’m not supposed to be able to punch through crazy wind with a 5wt rod.
The tip and power issues aside, the X is a rod I wouldn’t hesitate at all to buy. It retails for $895 and while that’s certainly a high price, it’s lower than the new Winston AIR ($945) and the G. Loomis Asquith ($1,000+).
I’ve reviewed a lot of rods in my work as a fly fishing writer, but there’s only been three that were exceptionally hard to give back to the shop rep or the manufacturer.
The 9’5wt Orvis Helios 2 tip-flex, 7’2wt Winston Boron III LS, and the Sage X 590.
The X is the first rod I’ve fished since picking up my Boron IIIx that made me think my go-to Winston had competition at the front of my quiver. For any die-hard rod fan (I own Winstons from every production run except the window when G. Loomis rolled IM6 blanks) to make a switch like that is a heavy statement. Yet it’s one I’m comfortable making in regards to the Sage X. My lucky fishing hat’s off to Jerry Siem and the design team at Sage. They knocked it out of the park with the X.
Spencer is a novelist, outdoors columnist, and sports writer from Utah. Connect with him on Twitter/Instagram @Spencer_Durrant, or on Facebook @spencerdurantauthor.