Sages Through The Ages: A Shootout between the
Sage Graphite III 9140-3, TCR 9140-4 and ONE 9140-4

Fly cast in motion

Sages Through The Ages


Topher Browne
New fly rods are usually greeted with a healthy mixture of curiosity and skepticism. The desire to cast the new rod is frequently tempered by a guarded cynicism regarding advertising claims. I’m often asked, “Is there a difference between the new rod and the old rod?” To which I usually answer, “Let’s cast them and find out.”

Last week, I compared a new rod with two old favorites. It’s March in Maine. Superstorm (a popular term around here lately) Nemo dumped a record 32 inches of snow in my backyard, so getting to the river is a bit of a chore. The mercury has dropped below 0 degrees Fahrenheit on several occasions this winter. Water in liquid form is in short supply. Ice shacks dot the frozen waterscape. I need open water or tiny grappling hooks on my leader to anchor a spey cast to the ice.

Layered in the depths of my tackle closet—behind the 389 LL, the 586 RPL, the 590-4 Z-Axis, the 890-4 XP, the VT2 7130-4 and the Z-Axis 7136-4—reside two of my all-time favorite rods: the Graphite III 9140-3 and the TCR 9140-4. I still fish these rods, but it’s been a while since I uncased them. The challenger, a fine layer of cork dust on the grip, is the new Sage ONE 9140-4. In order to keep things apples-to-apples, I’ll cast each rod with the same line: a RIO AFS 9/10 affixed to 50-pound RIO SlickShooter, a 10-foot RIO Intermediate VersiLeader and an eight-foot-long tippet.

First up, is the Graphite III 9140-3. Age, as always, before beauty. Göran Andersson, the father of the underhand cast, played a role in the development of this rod. The Graphite III 9140-3 still commands a healthy respect in Scandinavia, where many consider it the finest 14-foot rod ever built. The price for a specimen in mint condition usually exceeds the original retail price. Bidding wars on eBay and Internet bulletin boards are common. I spent the better part of a month in Norway chasing salmon a few years back. I ran into one angler on the Gaula who said he would trade his first-born for a new Graphite III 9140-3. You get the picture.

9140-3 Graphite III

Piecing the rod together, I am struck by the diameter of the butt section and the corresponding robustness of the cork. The grip is fairly chunky by today’s standards. The British-style reel seat is perhaps out of place on this definitive Scandinavian-style two-hander. The rod feels light in the hand, a byproduct no doubt, of its three-piece configuration (the rod will not fit in the trunk of my car). The 9140-3 feels top heavy with a reel of 8 ounces, yet balances perfectly (to my tastes) with a more substantial salmon reel of 13 ounces.

When casting in a straight line—i.e. a switch cast or an overhead cast—I’d stack the Graphite III 9140-3 against any 14-foot rod I’ve ever thrown. The bend profile is effortlessly smooth and without flat spots at any point along the blank. The recovery is fairly snappy considering it’s built with graphite from the Reagan era. The rod dampens well. It is always difficult to evaluate tracking as this quality rests equally in the hands of both designer and caster. Let’s just say that when this rod fails to track in a straight line, the operator is at fault. The rod works best with a fairly short, compact stroke.

A single spey is automatic out to about 45 degrees (where 0 degrees is directly downstream). Beyond 45 degrees, I have to pay particular attention to make sure I initiate the angle change with my hips well before I throw the rear loop of the spey back cast. The 9140-3 delivers its payload quickly. Loading and unloading is a fairly rapid process. The rod is reasonably forgiving of small errors in timing. Paired with a single spey, it’s not an ideal rod for your first day with a two-hander. When you line everything up the way you’re supposed to, the RIO AFS shooting head flies farther than you’re ever likely to fish.

The Sage TCR two-handed series features a quartet of rods. The TCR 8123-4 and TCR 9140-4, though fast in action, are less demanding to cast than the über-quick TCR 9129-4 or the TCR 10150-4. Assembling the TCR 9140-4, I notice that the fore grip is longer and the lower grip is shorter compared to the Graphite III 9140-3, with a higher grade of cork throughout. A fully machined up-locking reel seat has replaced the lightweight aluminum hood and cork spacer of the 9140-3. The fit of reel to rod is more secure on the TCR as a consequence. The two stripping guides are smaller and of higher quality, and the color of the rod—chili pepper—is an arresting departure from the Sage brown of old.

9140-4 TCR

Putting the rod through its paces, the TCR 9140-4 delivers a satisfying “whuump,” to use Mel Krieger’s term, during recovery after the forward stop. I’ve never felt the like on any other rod series. The rod catapults the RIO AFS shooting head through the air with startling line speed. The stroke is short, compact and not a little vicious. I can also find this sweet spot on the TCR 8123-4 and, with practice, on the TCR 9129-4. I’d need to go on a steroid regimen to find it on the TCR 10150-4, which may be the stiffest and most powerful 15-foot rod around which I’ve wrapped two hands.

Finding the sweet spot on each and every cast with the TCR 9140-4 requires practice. The rod has what I describe as a narrow performance window. If you operate within its proscribed parameters, you cast like a hero. You can see yourself at Golden Gate Casting Club peeling more monofilament shooting line from your reel than World Spey Casting Champion Gerard Downey. The pond may not be large enough. Release the hounds!

If you miss this performance window, you are quickly brought back to reality. You secretly hope no one saw your last cast. The transition from Spey god to Pee-Wee Herman is both miraculous and instantaneous (only you didn’t mean to do it). I fished this rod for a month straight in Norway. You fish around the clock there—it never grows dark. It’s easy to cast yourself into a state of oblivion. When I grew tired, I noticed I was in the latter category (auditioning for the remake of Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure) more often than I was in the former.

Enter the Sage ONE 9140-4. Removing the black rod from its dark sleeve, I find it hard to believe I’m uncasing a 14-foot rod for a 9-weight line. The diameter of the butt section and the svelte nature of the cork grip more closely resemble the proportions of yesteryear’s 13-and-a-half-foot rod for a 7-weight line. A traditional down-locking reel seat is standard on the ONE, replacing the up-locking reel seat featured on previous generations of Sage two-handed rods. The ONE 9140-4 is exactly two ounces lighter than the TCR 9140-4 and, in four sections, 1 and ½ ounces lighter than the three-piece Graphite III 9140-3.

ONE Two Handed

Assembling the ONE, I am struck by the size of the ferrules. They are virtually non-existent. It could be my imagination, but the male-to-female fit of these ferrules seems even more precise on the ONE compared to either the Graphite III or the TCR. The ONE balances perfectly with a reel of 8 to 9 ounces. I am also satisfied with the balance of the rod with an S-handled salmon reel of 13 ounces. The down-locking seat seems to accept a wider range of reel weights, accommodating those of us who like to stare at a classically proportioned reel when the fishing gets slow.

I make a series of switch casts with the ONE and the RIO AFS shooting head. The bend profile is an emphatic departure from either the Graphite III or the TCR. In fact, there is little in the DNA of the earlier rods to suggest a common bloodline with the racer-thin black mamba in my hands. The ONE loads more deeply into the middle and lower third of the rod than either the Graphite III or the TCR. I am able to flatten the upper third of the ONE when making an angle change, while maintaining a smooth and even load in the lower two thirds of the rod. As a result, I can make angle changes greater than 90 degrees as a matter of routine when executing a single spey.

I tend to cast best when progressively bending a rod from the butt to the tip. The ONE effortlessly allows this bottom-to-top progression while still permitting a pure tip cast at short distances. The rod has bucket loads of control without tipping over into the regressive feel of a long-belly rod in the British style. The action remains firmly in the progressive camp. It has a smooth, slingshot feel in contrast to the abrupt, catapult-like action of the TCR. I am able to lengthen my stroke, slow down and smooth out the application of power, yet still maintain perfect tracking. The timing of the ONE is relaxed and casual, the effort slightly above minimal. Missing the performance window of the ONE is about as likely as a joint literary venture between Philip Roth and the Kardashians.

There is an entrenched belief along the banks of many North American rivers that double-handed rods designed for Scandinavian-style spey casting are or should be fast in action. Pool cues. Smoke poles. Fast, faster, and fastest. I’ve fished with many of the finest casters and rod designers in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Few if any of their designs or preferred actions are lightning quick. Instead, they are smooth, deep-loading affairs with an abundance of feel and enough power in reserve to cast a weighted tube into a north wind.

It turns out that all the qualities of a good mid-belly rod—a progressively loading butt and mid-section smoothly ascending to a firm, authoritative tip—also define the qualities of a superior rod for Scandinavian-style spey casting (or any shooting head for that matter). I personally believe we are going to distance ourselves from double-handed rods designed for niche markets within niche markets. A good rod is a good rod. It should be able to cast a Scandinavian-style shooting head, a skagit head, a short- or a mid-head line with equal facility. The Sage ONE is that rod.

It may be too soon to declare the winner of this three-way shootout. I wish I could say that any conclusions are the result of a rigorous commitment to the scientific method and efficient double-blind testing protocols. If it makes you feel any better I did do a fair bit of casting with both my eyes closed (which is about as close as I get to the latter). There are enough hanging chads in this shootout to tip an election either way. The established favorites held their ground when confronted with the unforgiving pace of technology. The old guard acquitted itself well in a showdown with the young, the bold and the new. If shove comes to push and I am forced to commit, I can say that like the man who sang the “Folsom Prison Blues” and “A Boy Named Sue,” my streamside ensemble includes a healthy dose of black this season.

Topher Browne is an ambassador for Sage, Patagonia and a member of the advisory team for RIO Products. He co-wrote the spey-casting DVD, Spey to Z, and recently released Atlantic Salmon Magic (Wild River Press, 463 pages) and 100 Best Flies for Atlantic Salmon (Wild River Press, 244 pages).

Sage Offers Anglers More Options with New Fly Rod Models

New Sage Fly Rod Handles

Sage Offers Anglers More Options with New Fly Rod Models
April 1, 2013 (Bainbridge Island, Wash.) – Fly fishing industry leader, Sage Manufacturing introduces several new fly rods offering anglers a wider range of tools for a multitude of fishing scenarios. The new rods include an addition to the European Style Nymphing (ESN) family, a 9-foot 12-weight single hand ONE rod, two new 6-piece spey rods within the ONE rod series and two new specialty rods built to target pike and musky.

Sage’s ESN family currently has four rods each measuring ten feet in length. The new 3-weight rod reaches 11 feet to give competition anglers and recreational Euro-style nymph anglers a more effective fishing tool in situations where added reach is required. It also features a mini fighting butt providing leverage and rod balance against the angler’s forearm while high-sticking. Retailing at $695, this rod will be available at participating retailers starting April 1st.

For anglers chasing pike and musky, Sage offers two new fast-action rods in the specialty category. The PIKE rod is a 9-foot 10-weight, and the MUSKY version is a 9-foot 11-weight. Sporting the same cosmetics as Sage’s popular BASS II series, these fast-action rods have extended fighting butts and oversized stripping guides and tip tops. Each model comes with either a RIO Products Pike or Musky WF F/I line and will retail for $595 with an availability date of April 1st.

A new addition to the ONE rod family is the 1290-4, a 9-foot 12-weight rod with enough backbone for targeting species like tuna, giant tarpon and sailfish. The new 12-weight will be available on April 1st and retails for $795.

Further additions to the ONE series include two 6-piece spey models incorporating the same technology and cosmetics as the rest of the line. A 13-foot 6 inch 7-weight and a 14-foot 9-weight will join this family as more travel friendly 6-piece versions. These two models provide traveling anglers more versatility, covering numerous casting and fishing styles for steelhead and salmon. Available May 1st, retail for the 7-weight is $1200 and $1275 for the 9-weight.


Five Fly Fishing Tips For The Season

Checking Guides

Five Fly Fishing Tips For Gearing Up For The Season
Finally the start of the 2013 fly fishing season is almost here for most of the country. Be sure that you are ready to hit the stream on opening day by getting your gear ready prior to your first outing. Here are five simple tips from Sage ambassador and Davidson River Outfitters owner Kevin Howell to help you get ready to hit the stream on opening day.

1.) &#160 Check your gear for anything that may nick or cut the fly line. Small nicks, scrapes, and grooved guides will cut fly lines or leaders and tippets, and may cost you the fish of a life time. To check for burrs, take a small piece of nylon pantyhose and pull it back and forth through your guides. If it tears or hangs, you have a burr or nick and that guide needs to be replaced. For best results, return your rod to Sage and take advantage of Sage’s great warranty program. Not only will the Sage Repair team replace the damaged guide, they will examine the entire rod and may find something that you missed. By checking your rod this time of year you will find the repair time is less, as opposed to sending it in May when everyone else realizes that their rod needs some work. You should also check the strike plate of your favorite reel to be sure that you have not worn grooves into it over the years of fishing.

Reel Strike Plate Grooves

2.) &#160 Examine your fly line for cracks or cuts. Most of us end up stepping on our lines at some point in a year of fishing. While a small nick does not affect the way the line cast, an errant step with a cleated wading boot can cut the core of your line enough so that when you come tight on old Leroy Brown your line will break. Replace any lines that have cuts or nicks that reach the core of the line. Also, redo all nail knots and loop knots that are over 1 year old. Then clean your entire line with mild soap and water and then coat with good line dressing like RIO Agent X Line Dressing. You will be amazed at how much this helps the performance of your line.

3.) &#160 Replace your old tippet spools. Most tippet will breakdown in about 6 months after it has been exposed to UV (sun) light. If you are like me and have dropped it in the water, or have possibly fallen in, then your tippet is going to be very weak after its long winters nap. Check the strength on your entire tippet selection and especially its knot strength, as that is where you normally will see signs of weakness first. If your tippet is over a year old, then I am a firm believer in recycling it and purchasing all new tippet.

4.) &#160 Don’t end up with wet legs. Leaky waders make for a long day on the water in the early spring, so thoroughly check your waders. Look for any leaks or dry rot that may have occurred over the winter or since the last time you fished, also look for any signs of delamination in the material. Turn them inside out, get in a closet with them, place a flashlight in them and see if any light shows through. You can also put them on and wade in the neighbors pool late at night – just be sure not to scream like a little girl when cold water leaks in. Regardless of how you find leaks or problems send them into the factory for quality service and repair.

5.) &#160 Don’t let rusty hooks ruin the day. Rusty fly hooks have saved more fish than any catch and release program. Rust and moisture in your fly box is like the flu, it is going to spread to every fly in your box if you don’t isolate it. That rusty hook is a sure indication that the hook will break with a little pressure from the hook set. So go through and remove any flies with rusty hooks, because there is not a worse feeling in the world than missing several fish in a row only to realize that you are fishing a fly without a hook.

Good Fishing,

Kevin Howell

Fishing Colombia’s Rio Tuparro for Peacock Bass

Sunset Fly Fishing in Columbia


For the past four years Joe Daniel has attempted to get clearance to travel into northeastern Colombia along the Venezuela border to the headwaters of the Tomo and Tuparro Rivers in search of fishing for truly record-size peacock bass and payara. Every year he gets a tentative okay but then it gets shut down at the last moment by the government. This region has been a major stronghold of the Colombia cocaine cartels for decades and hence has been pretty much off-limits for tourists. Each time he’s tried to go, the Colombian government has eventually deemed it too unsafe for gringos. It was also considered too dangerous for anyone else other than the indigenous indian tribes and those in the drug trade, so hundreds of miles of prime Amazonian jungle lagoons and waterways have been virtually unfished for twenty or thirty years.

Over the past two years the Colombian government has waged a highly successful war on the drug cartels, capturing the kingpins and destroying much of the infrastructure. There has been a lot of press on this lately including reports from 60 Minutes and CNN. This very positive development has reopened Colombia as a tourist destination, and has finally persuaded the powers-that-be to grant him the necessary permits to travel through Tuparro National Park into the honey water beyond. Of course upon hearing this we jumped at the opportunity to work with Joe on covering this story. Below is an update on how it’s going so far:

Hola Sage pescadors!

Out of the jungle, safe and sound after quite an amazing fishing adventure last week! It’s hard to believe we flew to Puerto Carreno on the Venezuela/Colombia border just a little over ten days ago. This part of the country is considered the wild frontier, and for good reason. Basically a sleepy little town that makes its living from the drug cartels and running contraband from Venezuela.

We spent the morning getting our final provisions – limes, yucca root, juice pulp and rum – then drove 200 kilometers due south out across these amazing open plains on a rutted, dusty dirt track. Got slammed by a torrential rain along a ridge of lava that left 300 foot high waterfalls cascading like thin silver ribbons down the black rock. It looked like the mountain was crying. We crossed three rivers and had to ferry our trucks across on these old flat barges. We were completely devoured by sand flies at these stops and my legs look like I had the pox.

We drove onto the little town of Garitas, which was the scene of a deadly shoot-out between the military and the local drug cartel about three years ago that left 13 soldiers dead. There are bullet marks on many of the houses! This is where we met our outfitter who had set us up a camp across the river on a huge beach. They had a big pot of fish soup ready for us to eat, which was all we could handle before everyone collapsed in sleeping bags right on the sand.

The next morning we got all sorted out, loaded all the boats properly, and headed up the Orinoco on our adventure. Huge river with lots of rapids, we finally got to the Rio Tuparro which is much smaller. We turned up the Tuparro and into the Tuparro National Park.

Sage Bass II Rods

We began fishing in earnest, and it was fantastic. Peacock bass averaging three or four pounds but getting as large as twenty. Late in the evening of our second day as our Colombian host Nicolas and I were returning to camp the park ranger showed up in an orange Zodiac raft. He was agitated about something and pulled Nicolas aside to talk with him. I thought we might be in trouble for camping still within the park. (we knew our beach was right on the border), but it turns out that there was a cartel operating a hundred cocaine labs along the river above us and they had seen us filming and they were NOT happy. They had sent us a message that we had 24 hours to leave or else!

We actually didn’t want to leave but we also really didn’t want to find out what “or else” might be so we spent a fairly restless night and packed up everything early the next morning and retraced our route, portages and all, back down to the Orinoco and then to the Rio Tomo. Since we still had five days we decided to explore this river, which was larger than the Tuparro but had lots of smaller tributaries. We motored up the Tomo over a hundred miles and it was incredible. Caught hundreds of fish, found another excellent beach campsite, survived crocodiles, freshwater stingrays, bad bugs and more extreme weather, from dead still 110 degree heat to some kind of jungle typhoon that hit our camp like a tornado and sent tents tumbling a hundred yards down the beach.

Peacock Bass

Great adventure, great filming, great story! The Sage Peacock Bass rods truly worked phenomenally allowing us to throw the big flies required to catch big fish.

Many thanks again for the support!


Joe Daniel

Hervey Bay Black Marlin

Black Marlin


Sage Ambassador Peter Morse: Hervey Bay Black Marlin

There’s a migration that occurs only once or twice a decade and it’s of juvenile black marlin that migrate 3,000 kilometres from the tropical waters of north Queensland all the way to southern New South Wales. We know when they’re coming because they begin to show up off Cairns in June and July and they move south in their thousands over the next 9 months as summer comes on. In several locations they become very accessible to anglers in small boats, and in one place in particular you can sight fish to them on the flats. This year we hit the weather right and enjoyed some amazing days of fishing. The rod of choice was the new 1190 ONE and the reel an 8080 Pro. An #8 reel on an #11 rod might seem a little wrong at first but this reel has everything going for it. For a start it’s a big reel for an #8 with 400 yards of 50lb gsp backing and as it turns out it has the best drag of any reel I’ve ever used, it is so silky smooth and at its highest setting feels like it would stop a train – and that’s the 8 weight, I can’t wait use the #8010 and the #8012 on some BIG fish. While we were there some big tuna turned up on the flats as well, many of these were over 50lbs and we were sight casting to them in 6 feet of water as they cruised the beach. It was a great few days with guide and good friend Mark Bargenquast.


Black Marlin Breach

Black Marlin Breach

Along side the boat

Along side the boat

Sight Fishing

Sight Fishing

The Big Tuna

The Big Tuna


Peter Morse is a good friend and our Sage Ambassador for Australia. Along with being a fisherman and photographer he is the author of the new book “A Few Great Flies….. and How to Fish Them” which can be found through


Sage Continues its Awards Winning Streak

Sage Luggage

February 28, 2013 (Bainbridge Island, Wash.) – Sage, the leading manufacturer of fly rods, reels, apparel and accessories, continues to earn awards and recognition for both fly rods and reels.

In the Field & Stream March issue, the Sage CIRCA won the ‘Best of the Best’ award. Reviewer Ted Leeson notes, “these rods are far better suited to the trout fishing conditions most of us routinely encounter, where precision and delicacy count for more than distance and power.”

The Sage CIRCA also won the Sporting Classics ‘Award of Excellence’ for fishing. Senior Editor Todd Tanner calls the CIRCA “…one of the sweetest, smoothest casting rods to ever grace a trout stream.”

Fish Alaska awarded both the Sage ONE 590-4 fly rod and the 3850CF reel with gold medals in its annual Gear Awards edition. The new 4260 reel received a silver medal, and the ONE fly rod in both single-handed and two-handed models received the ‘Retailer’s Choice Award’.

Every year the International Game & Fish Association recognizes manufacturers whose products caught more world record fish than any other. For the 2012 fishing season, Sage wins the fly rod category again with 40 record-breaking fish caught using Sage rods. The award will be presented to Sage at the Tenth Annual World Record Achievement Awards ceremony in April.


Award Winning CIRCA

Award Winning CIRCA