Trouts Journal

It's All About Application

Tucker Ladd / Jan 16, 2020


The sport of fly fishing is a pastime of experiences. There is no determining factor of a day’s success or a measure of value to time spent on the water. We all go fishing for our own reasons and pursuits, and it is because of this fact, that the sport of fly fishing offers such unique and one-of-a-kind experiences.

Yet an often overlooked and misunderstood component of a good day on the water is the tool of the trade, a.k.a. the fly rod.

As a purveyor of fly fishing goods and services for two decades, I’ve seen and experienced a great deal as it pertains to anglers and fly rods. It is my opinion that the number one determining factor in choosing a fly rod should not be the action of the fly rod, but instead the application for which the rod is to be used. In essence, you should be thinking about where and how you are going to use a fly rod, as this will help ensure you’ll get a tool that truly meets your needs on the water.

To better understand this concept, we asked five Sage Elite Pros what their preferred fly rod is for their typical day on the water.

PAT DORSEY | Sage Elite Pro and Professional Fly Fishing Guide

Home Waters: Colorado
Fly Rod of Choice: Sage LL 490-4

“As a walk wade fly fishing guide that specializes in fooling finicky tailwater trout, I’m always looking for the perfect rod for technical dry fly fishing. Most of my dry fly encounters are in tight quarters, targeting super-selective surface feeders within 15-25 feet. I’ve really come to appreciate the Sage Trout LL family of rods because they stack the odds in my favor when I’m fishing with small dry flies and light tippets. The medium action aids in a smooth casting stroke with a precise, yet delicate delivery. Toss in a supple tip to protect the spider web thin tippets in the heat of battle and you really have something. My go-to rod is the Trout LL 9-foot, 4 weight.”

DYLAN MENDOZA | Sage Elite Pro and Professional Fly Fishing Guide

Home Waters: Texas & Colorado
Fly Rod of Choice: Sage PAYLOAD 789-4

“When I’m bass fishing in central Texas, I always find myself reaching for the PAYLOAD 789-4. The Payload is able to cast wind resistant flies, such as deer hair poppers and large articulated streamers more effectively. Its fast action tip allows you to have a powerful pickup when bank fishing, where longer and more accurate casts are needed. The rod also features a softer butt section that helps with leverage when trying to keep bass out of structure. For those advantages, that are unmatched by any other rod—I always keep a couple of these rods in the boat.”

JON B. CAVE | Sage Ambassador and Professional Fly Fishing Instructor

Home Waters: Florida
Fly Rod of Choice: Sage SALT HD 890-4

“Obviously, no single fly rod will handle all fishing situations, but, if I had to rely on only one for the majority of my fishing in Florida’s waters, it would most certainly be the Sage SALT HD 8-weight. Like all SALT HD rods, it delivers exceptional performance at all distances, from the longest presentation to the shortest; throws a super smooth line with extremely tight loops; and is a delight to cast even when the wind is blowing hard. The rod also has more than enough lifting power to effectively fight big fish, yet it can quietly present a fly to a tailer without spooking them – even in calm water.”

ROB PARKINS | Sage Ambassador and Public Waters Access Coordinator for Backcountry Hunters & Anglers

Home waters: Idaho
Fly Rod of Choice: Sage X 590-4

“As an angler who usually fishes Yellowstone area rivers from a boat, I am spoiled in the way I get to choose the appropriate rod for a specific application. With no weight or space restrictions, on most days there are 3-4 rods per angler in my boat, which allows us to easily switch rods depending on what method we are utilizing at the time. Life would be simple if this was always the case. Many times, due to time constraints, water conditions or the lack of fishing partner, I set out on foot. While wade fishing larger streams such as the Henrys Fork or the Yellowstone inside the park, I prefer to be mobile and not carry additional rods with me, so I need one rod that will do everything well, such as the Sage X. Using the 9’ 5wt X I can make delicate presentations with small dries, launch long casts with streamers, indicator nymph or make accurate casts with large stonefly patterns tight to the bank. While not perfect in all cases, I feel confident that I can utilize that one rod to catch trout in most situations.”

RUSSELL MILLER | Sage Ambassador, Team USA Traveling Member and Director of Marketing for Umpqua Feather Merchants

Home Waters: Colorado
Fly Rod of Choice: Sage ESN 4100-4

“What makes the ESN suited for euro style nymphing? First, the long length gives anglers the ability to reach across complex currents to keep their flies drifting at the correct speed. With so many rods, as you lengthen them out, you start to lose recovery time in the blank and you get a wobbly tip, that shakes your sighter, which makes strike detection impossible. This is not the case with the Konnetic HD material that the ESN is built with, it provides quick tip dampening and an extremely light blank to make all day high sticking easier on your shoulder. The action of the rod is designed to be able to cast long leaders and light flies, but more importantly protect extremely light tippet. There is a difficult balance between a rod that is too soft and cannot appropriately fight fish - and too heavy that you run the risk of breaking light tippet. The ESN walks that fine line perfectly. It is my go-to for double nymph rigs, dry dropper, single dry fly fishing, and jigging streamers.”

TANNER SMITH | Sage Elite Pro and Operations and Fulfillment for Rep Your Water

Home Waters: Colorado & Wyoming
Fly Rod of Choice: Sage DART 376-4

“The Sage Dart is my go-to small creek rod, the 376 being my model of choice. The variety of different water small creeks present an angler, means you need a fly rod with a wide range of capabilities. Whether I need to stick a dry fly into a tight pocket between overhanging willows or air it out a little bit to rising fish in a beaver pond, the fast action of the Dart provides versatility that allows me to deliver accurate casts in any situation. It is also packed with a ton of feel. I know a lot of people associate small creeks with classic slow action rods but trust me, if you take the Dart to your favorite brookie or cutthroat stream it will become your go-to as well.”

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