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Gear Review - Sage ONE 490-4 Fly Rod

October 5, 2011
Author: Tucker Ladd

What do you do when a complimentary Sage 490-4 ONE shows up at your door step to fish and review?  That's right, take the day off of work and go fish it!  There are many perks to my profession, but the one I enjoy the most is testing out new gear.  I have always believed that we can better serve our customers by fishing the gear we sell, so if it means taking a day off work to try out one of the most talked about fly rods in years, well I guess I'll take one for the team.  The testing grounds for the day were The Historic Lincoln Hills Fly Fishing Club, a rehabilitated section of South Boulder Creek chalk full of big fish.  While it may not be the stream that the average angler would be fishing this rod, I figured it would be a great place to see if it would live up to the hype.  The day was ideal with highs in the upper 60's, plenty of sun, active bugs and hungry fish.

Initial Impression

This fly rod is just sexy.  From the "ice black" blank to the powder-coated tube, there is a lot to like about the ONE just by looking at it.  Once fully rigged, the first thing you'll notice is how light weight it is.  At 2.5 oz. for a 9' 4wt, this fly rod is one of the lightest on the market today.  The other noticeable feature is the "half" wells cork grip.  Available in all 3wt - 5wt ONE fly rods, this grip is somewhat of a hybrid of the standard cigar shape and the full wells that are found on most big game fly rods (i.e. 6wt and up).  The picture on the left is of a Sage ONE (left) and a Sage ZXL (right).  You can see how the ZXL handle has a more tapered design to it, where as the ONE grip has a larger profile at the end.  Whether or not you'll like it is up to the individual, but I think the other benefits of the ONE will far outweigh your feelings regarding the cork grip (I know it did for me)

On the Water Review

Sage has proclaimed that the ONE fly rod is the "one" fly rod you'll ever need.  Well to put this claim to the test, I wanted to be sure and fish this rod in every type of angling situation fly-fishers would typically find themselves in.  So I'm going to break this part of the review into 4 sections: nymph fishing, dry fly fishing, dry-dropper fishing, streamer fishing.

Nymph Fishing - 5 of 5

The ONE would definitely fall under the "fast action" rod category, which I'll be honest is not my favorite rod action for this type of fishing.  I find fast action rods don't allow for the delicate mends and roll casts needed to be an effective nymph fisherman.  That said, I was very impressed with the abilities of the ONE in this type of situation.  During the course of the day I fished a variety of nymph rigs, from heavily weighted tandem set-ups, to small and delicate rigs for shallower water and spooky fish.  In all these conditions, the 490-4 ONE performed beautifully.  Roll casting was a breeze, and the tip of the fly rod allowed for surprisingly delicate and accurate mends.  All in all, this fly rod pasted the nymphing test with flying colors.

Dry Fly Fishing - 4 of 5

This is another method of fly fishing where I would normally prefer to have a medium fast action fly rod due to the precise casts and delicate presentations needed, as well as the need to turn over dries on long leaders.  Being late September and with hopper season slowly fading away, I knew that the recipe for success was going to be small dries and wary trout.  Once again the ONE totally surprised me and performed wonderfully through this exercise.  I was lucky that there was a great BWO hatch going off most of the afternoon, allowing me ample time to cast line towards multiple fish.  My only hang up is that the ONE did at times lay the fly out a bit hard, resulting in spooked fish.  I'm not going to hold this fact against this fly rod, as I feel this was more to do with the rods fast action than it was its ability to perform. 

Dry Dropper Fishing - 5 of 5

Before I even threw a dry dropper rig with this rod, I had a hunch it was going to perform well as most fast action fly rods do.  My only hesitation was how well a 4wt was going to be able to handle this type of fishing.  So to be sure I made a point of tying on a big, foam, wind resistant hopper, with a size 12 tungsten stonefly trailed about 2 feet behind and a small BWO emerger as my trailing fly.  Right off the bat it was apparent that not only could this fly rod hand this load, it exceled at it.  Long casts into the wind were a breeze, as were shorter casts in pocket water and rolls casts in tighter spots.

Streamer Fishing - 4 of 5

This is another category where I was sure the ONE line would perform well, but how would a 4wt do throwing big and bushy streamers?  The answer not surprisingly was very well.  From Slump Busters to Sex Dungeons, the ONE performed well at both short and long distances.  That said, I wouldn't throw a sink tip on this particular rod, as that added weight would likely be too much for this 4 weight.

There is one other aspect of this fly rod that I wanted to touch upon for this review, fish fighting.  Not many people qualify a fly rod by how it can fight fish, but it is a very key component to the performance of any rod.  A fly rod can be great at getting fish to eat, but if it stinks at getting the fish to the net what's the point?  A flaw I have found in many "fast action" fly rods is that the stiff tip often makes it very hard to fight fish that are pulling hard and fast.  Because the rod won't bend enough with the pressure, fish are often broken off, particularly when using light weight tippet (5X - 7X).  So to really put the ONE to the test, I made a point of fishing 6X leaders and tippets to a couple large fish just to be sure this fly rod could do what Sage says.  Although the ONE is a "fast action" fly rod, it fought big fish more like it's medium fast action counterpart, making it possible to use light weight leader and tippet very effectively.  This is something no other rod in this category can do.

Closing Thoughts

At the end of the day I was pleasantly surprised to see that all the hype Sage has generated around the ONE fly rod is 100% justified.  This fly rod was able to do everything I asked of it, and do it well.  This is something I can't say for any other fly rod on the market today, which is why I will be the first to say it... the Sage ONE is the one fly rod you need, period.

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