I’ve logged two full seasons on the rivers of the Gaspésie in Quebec and the Restigouche and Miramichi systems in New Brunswick with the Sage ONE 8136-4 (13’6” for an 8-weight), ONE 9140-4 (14-foot for a 9-weight) and ONE 10150-4 (15-foot for a 10-weight) rods. While there are many other capable rods in the Sage ONE series, this trio of rods sets a new standard of performance when fishing big rivers from shore.
I prefer longer rods as casting tools. Their fish-fighting capabilities may be up for debate, but their water coverage is unparalleled. I figure I have to hook a fish before I worry about playing and landing it, so I lean toward longer sticks. June salmon in eastern Canada, Norway and Russia can be close to the bank. They can also be out in the middle of the river despite strong, early-season flows. I like a rod that allows me to play either card when I’m hard up against cedar trees or alder bushes.
The Sage ONE 8136-4, ONE 9140-4 and ONE 10150-4 feature similar bend profiles. Sage describes the ONE Spey Series as “fast-action” rods. This description is accurate, but not in the way you might think. For many anglers, “fast action” denotes a rod that bends primarily at the tip, with a stiff mid-section and a very stiff butt section. The caster makes short casts with the tip of the rod, mid-length casts from the middle of the rod, and longer casts by loading the rod into the butt. Most anglers use the term “progressive” to describe this action.
The Sage ONE Spey Series retains this progressive action but with a twist. The design of the rod allows the angler to flatten the tip of the rod in order to easily engage the mid- and butt section when making change-of-direction spey casts (e.g., c-spey, double spey, snake roll, single spey). This bend profile provides tremendous control when you “turn the corner” with a spey cast. You feel like you have all day to execute even deceptively difficult casts like the single spey with the Sage ONE. Your rear loop (i.e., the D-loop or V-loop) ends up directly opposite the intended direction of the forward cast every time. This ability to control the precise angle of the rear loop is the acid test for a properly executed spey cast.
Once you’ve formed the rear loop, the Sage ONE unloads in a progressive manner. You don’t have to change your forward stroke to accommodate the rod. You may find that you can back off on the power during the forward stroke. The Sage ONE loads easily into the mid- and butt section of the rod, slingshotting your line, leader and fly to its intended destination. Recovery is lightning quick, enabling exceptionally tight loops with a rod that feels remarkably similar to the “through-action” rods of yesteryear (without any of the disadvantages of these older rods). As far as I can tell, the benefits of Konnetic Technology® are true: The fly line lays out straight as an arrow on the water.
Here are some specific notes on these three models from the Sage ONE series:
Sage ONE 8136-4
Lines used: RIO Scandi 510, RIO Scandi 520, RIO Scandi VersiTip #8 (510 grains).
The Sage ONE 8136-4 is unequivocally my favorite rod in the ONE series. If I had to select one rod to fish for Atlantic salmon and Pacific steelhead, the 8136-4 is the rod. The Sage ONE 8136-4 strikes a perfect balance in terms of length (not too short, not too long) and line weight (not too heavy, not too light). It commands medium-sized rivers with authority and has the cojones to land large salmon and steelhead in a timely fashion.
I’ve landed more than a dozen Atlantic salmon from 24 to 31 pounds with the Sage ONE 8136-4. I have also been spanked on three occasions with this rod. The Sage ONE 9140-4 or ONE 10150-4 would have been a better choice on the day. It’s hard to pry the ONE 8136-4 out of my hands.
The Sage ONE 8136-4 excels with Scandi-style heads from 510 to 520 grains. If you look closely at the RIO Scandi line-up, you’ll notice that there are two different head lengths for two similar head weights: The RIO Scandi is available at 510 grains (34 feet) and also at 520 grains (38 feet).
I select the shorter head length (510 grains at 34 feet) for the Sage ONE 8136-4 when using a 10-foot RIO Light Scandi Versileader (+ 8 feet of tippet). I typically use a Versileader to prevent a wet fly from skating or waking on the surface. The shorter head balances better, to my tastes anyway, with the Versileader than the longer head (520 grains at 38 feet).
I use the RIO Scandi 520 grains (38 feet) on the Sage ONE 8136-4 when using a 15-foot (or longer) monofilament leader. The slightly longer head adds a few more grains to make up for the absence of a Versileader. I also use the longer length of line to help “grab my anchor” for touch-and-go casts (i.e., the snake roll or the single spey). In spey-casting terms, I use more of the fly line to form the anchor when using the longer head with a monofilament leader. When casting the shorter head (510 grains at 34 feet), I use less of the fly line to form the anchor due to the additional weight and the extra “stick” of a sinking Versileader.
For winter steelheading, the Sage ONE 8136-4 is “spot on” with a RIO Skagit Max head at 575 grains and a selection of RIO Medium Skagit MOW tips.
Sage ONE 9140-4
Lines used: RIO Scandi 580, RIO Scandi VersiTip #9 (580 grains), Nextcast Winter Authority 45 #7/8 with RIO 15-foot #7-weight Sink Tips (95 grains).
The Sage ONE 9140-4 heralds the return of the .30-06 (“thirty-aught-six”) to the realm of double-handed rods. Not so long ago, the vast majority of salmon and steelhead anglers used 14-foot rods for a 9-weight line. Rods from 12’6” to 13’6” rated for 7- and 8-weight lines are far more popular today.
Enter the Sage ONE 9140-4. The rod weighs a scant 8 and 1/8 ounces, matching the weight (and the diameter of the butt section) of a 13’6” rod for a 7-weight from not so long ago. The swing weight—the perceived weight of the rod in hand, particularly when stopping the rod during the casting cycle—is breathtakingly light.
I prefer the RIO Scandi 580 on the Sage ONE 9140-4 with or without a Versileader. The RIO Scandi 580 is precisely calibrated to my stroke, and the length of the head (39 feet) strikes a balance between optimal flight time and the amount of space I usually have behind me to form the rear loop (usually little to no space). All things being equal, longer heads fly farther than shorter heads. At least on the rivers I fish, the benefits of the longer head seldom outweigh the penalty exacted by streamside vegetation.
For what it’s worth, you may not be stripping as much line as you think when fishing a Scandi-style shooting head. With a 15-foot leader and three feet of overhang (running line beyond the tip of the rod), a proficient caster may cast a fly to a distance of 71 feet with the Sage ONE 9140-4 and the RIO Scandi 580 without shooting any line (14-foot rod + 3 feet of overhang + 39-foot shooting head + 15-foot leader = 71 feet). Assuming an average cast of 90 feet and an average length of three feet for a single loop of stripped fly line, it should take six strips of shooting line to cast a fly to 90 feet. That distance will catch you a lot of salmon or steelhead on the rivers I fish.
The Sage ONE 9140-4 is the finest 14-foot rod I have cast. When coiled and ready to spring, this glistening black mamba unleashes a precision strike on the far side of the holding water. I’ve done a lot of fishing with the Sage ONE 9140-4 this season. In fact, I’ve done so much fishing with the rod that it almost certainly makes me a bad person. I plan to remedy this deficiency in my character by doing more fishing with the same rod.
Sage ONE 10150-4
Lines used: RIO Scandi 640, RIO Scandi VersiTip #10 (650 grains), Nextcast Winter Authority 45 #8/9 with RIO 15-foot #8-weight Sink Tips (109 grains).
I typically opt for a 15-foot rod on exceptionally wide rivers (the lower Restigouche) when I’m convinced the resident bank dwellers have been thoroughly covered by other competent anglers. Testosterone (which is in shorter supply every year) used to dictate the selection of a 15-foot rod. When other anglers are belting out line to infinity and beyond, I’m now more likely to rein it in, fish a shorter rod and see if I can hook a fish or two in and around their boots. It’s called wisdom and proximity to an AARP membership.
The Sage ONE 10150-4 has all of the features of its previously discussed siblings—similar bend profile, exceptionally low swing weight for a given length and lightning-fast recovery—with the added value that the benefits of Konnetic Technology® are more fully realized the more graphite you use. The rod is freakishly light for a 15-footer.
When I uncase the Sage ONE 10150-4, it’s usually to solve a particular angling conundrum: the pocket through which the fly swings too quickly when fished with a shorter rod; wide rivers where a few fish truly are out in the middle of the stream (summer-run steelhead on the Clearwater); or medium-sized rivers when I plan to fish the far bank. If you can reach the fish with a 14-foot rod but not without tearing your underwear, a 15-foot rod may actually be less tiring at the same distance.
I tend to use shooting heads up to about 45 feet or so even with a 15-foot rod. The sweet spot for a Scandi-style head with the Sage ONE 10150-4 seems to be a 40- to 41-foot shooting head rated for 640 grains. Longer heads fly farther, but they can make it difficult to select the correct angle on rivers with back-cast restrictions. The water may call for a longer head, but you’re far better off, in my opinion, casting a shorter head at the correct angle than a longer head at an exceptionally acute angle (which draws the fly too slowly over salmon).
If you like to air it out a bit and have room behind you to do so, try the RIO Short Head Spey #9/10 (650 grains with a 48-foot head) or the RIO UniSpey #9/10 (675 grains with a 60-foot head) with the Sage ONE 10150-4. The Nextcast Fall Favorite 55 #8/9 (650 grains) flies with the ease and grace normally reserved for a Scandi-style head. For what it’s worth, the Sage ONE 10150-4 appears to eat as many grains as you throw at it. Simply flatten the tip, take a deeper bend into the butt, and make sure you’re not standing on your shooting line.
Topher Browne recently released Atlantic Salmon Magic (Wild River Press) and 100 Best Flies for Atlantic Salmon. He is a Sage and Patagonia ambassador and serves on the RIO Advisory Team.