Sage X 990-4. The best flats rod in NZ, without the jargon.

Posted in 06 March 2017

Reading fly rod reviews and seeing words like “track” and “stiffness” are not a turn on for me. Fly rod jargon is useful to those who spend hours locked in laboratories casting rods in perfect sterile conditions... ...and salesmen. On planet earth in 20knots winds, those words fumble about trying to describe real world scenarios. 

So I will keep this simple. There are already screeds of reviews on the new Sage X series rods. Google is your friend here. Google is not gospel, just a warning.

When the Sage X series were first introduced to New Zealand in winter 2016 a herd of trout guides in Aoteroa jumped in and purchased one or two. The traditional 9ft 5wt and 6wt versions being big sellers and they continue to sell well. So what feedback have I heard about the Sage X rods personally? Well from that initial outflow it has been nothing short of great to outstanding and beyond, both when referring to how it casts different types of lines to how it handles fish that look like they demand a heavier weight rod. Indeed this new material developed by Sage called KonneticHD is something rather special and leaves people struggling to come up with words to replicate “tracking” and “stiffness”. They just head to “wow” and “omg”. Terms that bring out the emotion of fly fishing. I think I’ll stick with those terms also.

Tailing kings on the flats at sunrise. The 990-4 X rod delivered crab fly patterns with deadly accuracy at these apex flats targets.

Primarily fly rods are designed to cast fly lines and when I wrote about the first ever Sage X 890-4 to land in NZ some time back I described casting it as like “being tricked”. Like the team at Sage put something in there that somehow did something without me knowing. I too came out with “wow” and “omg”. Sage have also nailed the look of this X series of rods and the feel is typically one of a quality product.

To the water: Being a yellowtail kingfish junkie who has a rack of 9 and 10wts rods I had to know how the 9wt X would go on the best flats target NZ has on offer. You will find reviews on the 8wt X rod if you surf about and wont be dissapointed if that is where you head but personally I think an 8wt is a tad under-gunned for serious flats work in New Zealand. Given the variable weather conditions, size of the flies and the size of kings one can encounter without getting ones knees wet around here the 9wt is the best match. I've caught enough kings to know when I've been spanked and should have holstered a bigger gun.

I coupled the rod with the new Sage 6210 reel. Peter Morse has reviewed these fine reels and I concur with his thoughts. They are super smooth and put together like a jewellers watch. A jewellers watch that can handle being dumped in a saltwater sand flat environment for hours and still perform like a F1 race car when you need them to day after day. The reel has next to no start up drag inertia, something invaluable when prolonged battles with kings soaks up a hour of your day. The drag knob is numbered 1-20 and is easy to locate without looking. It just ticks every box a saltwater fly reel should.

The 990 X rod has a hook keeper built into the black anodised reel seat. Perfect for crab flies if that is your fancy. The 6210 balances this rod perfectly.

The 9wt rod feels exceptionally light in the hand. Like “wow” light. It is ridiculously easy to load and cast and can manage a wide variety of line types. I took a complete beginner to fly fishing out with me for a day and had them throwing useable loops at targets within 10 minutes. Over a couple of weeks I managed to target kingfish from 56cm to 121cm (pictured here). The 990 X rod performed exceptionally well, could cast line at any distance with ease and with crazy accuracy. You can cast this rod like a "moderate" action rod and feel like you're in the 80's but don't be fooled, power this KonneticHD material up and you will soon discover a new definition of line speed and loop control. The 9wt X rod had enough grunt in the butt section to handle a 50lb king yet was sensitive enough to land a crab fly within inches of smaller fish tailing. A novice would fit straight into this high end offering from Sage and be set for their fly fishing career. The expert caster will discover things they never thought they could do. This is where the “omg” can be used. Harry Potter could probably use the X rod to make kings appear in front of you, it is that magic.

Nice 78cm model king. Hooked tipping up on a crab fly and made it into deeper water. The 990 X working well down deep to win it over.

I've got a 10wt X rod heading to my collection now. It just had to happen.

So what else can I say? Well, I could probably ramble like a car salesman or you could find one and cast it in the real world for yourself. Just take your credit card with you because like most people who have tried the X rod, you will end up walking out of the shop with one.