Sage TXL Fly Rod Review
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Being subjected to a non-stop barrage of advertisement, from Yoda hawking Diet Pepsi, to the mortgage refinance offer that just popped into your email inbox, has served to turn us all into cynical, battle weary veterans of an unending onslaught of marketing. So when Sage talks about “Generation 5 (G5) Technology” and a “Modulus Positioning System (MPS)” as breakthroughs that allow them to build this fantastic new fly rod, it’s only natural to think, “right, probably just a new coat of paint enhanced with Price Jacking-Up Technology (PJUT).” It’s natural to think that until you actually pick one up, that is.
The TXL series contains eight rods from the new 00 (double-ought) through 4 weight, in lengths from 7’0″ to 7’10”. They have been designed as high performance, light line rods for anglers looking for a new tool to add to their arsenal of 4 – 6 weight trout rods. Staff in the shop and guides in the field have been casting and fishing the TXL’s since their introduction – here are our impressions.
Sage has been making beautiful, high performance fly rods for a long time, but the last few years has seen a real emphasis on making them look as good as they fish. Most fly anglers, that actually fish, will put a premium on performance over aesthetics, but when you spend $500 or more on a rod, it’s reasonable to expect it to look like a $500+ rod. From the golden amber SLT to the dark sapphire Xi2, to the chili pepper TCR, to the new golden olive TXL, Sage has enhanced the look of all their new high-end series with subdued, yet striking, colors that do justice to the high-end performance that you expect from these tools. The TXL has a six-inch cigar grip and a nickel-silver reel seat with a Vera wood insert.
Aside from the eye-catching look, when you pick up the rod you’ll notice something else – it’s light. Really light. In fact, the TXL is about 20% lighter than comparable rods in Sage’s SLT & XP series – no technological slouches themselves. Five of the eight rods in the TXL series weigh in at less than 2 oz., the other three at just a shade over that mark. Now, making a light rod isn’t necessarily difficult – you can save a lot of weight by making the blank more slender, using thinner sheets of graphite, finer and lighter guides and reel seats, etc. What is difficult, however, is reducing weight without sacrificing performance and this is where the advantage of G5 Technology becomes apparent.
Fishing the TXL
The reason people are interested in ultra-light fly rods is fairly obvious, the vast majority of trout caught are less than 10″ long and are more fun to catch on a light rod than a heavy rod. In addition, that same vast majority of trout are caught within a short distance of the angler (less than 40′), casting the entire fly line to reach your quarry is rarely necessary. However, the popularity of ultra-light fly rods has been limited because, far too often, they are mushy, whippy and ineffective casting and fish landing tools. Sure, you’d love to use a light rod, but they quickly become unusable in any kind of wind and tend to fold up when pushed. The TXL is different. With the proper line, this is a rod that has a smooth stroke, even when you lean into it. There is enough power in the butt section to contend with wind and the longer (7’10”) rods are effective roll casters. Having said that, please note the phrase above, “with the proper line.”
Every rod has certain lines that maximize it’s performance and others that inhibit it. The TXL series seems to be especially sensitive to being lined properly. The same all-purpose, weight-forward line in use on your other trout rods will dampen the sensitivity and casting performance of the TXL. The best complement to the TXL is the line that Sage designed specifically for the rod – the
Taper. In addition to the Sage line, the Rio Selective Trout double taper is also a good match. If you fish the “double-ought” line weight, you really don’t have a choice, the Performance Double Taper is the only line currently available in that size.
So, with the right line, the TXL is a nice, tight, accurate casting tool. It has a light touch and allows the angler to present small dries and nymphs with great delicacy. There are certainly faster, more powerful casting tools in light line sizes available (Sage XP for one) but a better casting tool is often not a better presentation tool – fishing small waters with small flies places a premium on presentation over raw
power. Where the TXL really shines though, is with a fish on the end of the line. I can honestly say that I have never fished another rod that feels as
vibrant while hooked to a small fish. I’m guessing that it’s the very light weight of the rod coupled with the high modulus, G5 graphite, that allows it to transmit so much of the action. It feels kind of like holding onto an electric fence, but without the pain.
Of the eight rods in the series, the 7’10”, 3 weight & 4 weight rods are the consensus favorites – perfectly balanced and very smooth. The 00 & 0 weight rods are neat, but are meant to fill a niche – perfect for that late evening, windless stroll to the beaver pond, but not suited to handling any kind of wind or bigger flies.
Technology, as they say, has always been a disruptive force. I’m pretty sure that we won’t be putting G5 and MPS in the same historical category as the printing press or the internal combustion engine – but it does make a difference. For those of us, especially in the western states, that have been resigned to leave the featherweights at home, just in case conditions aren’t ideal, these are rods that can be used with confidence. I can think of a couple of 4 weights that will be gathering dust in favor of the 7’10”, 3 wt, TXL – it casts equally as well and is a heck of a lot more fun to fish. And that’s the rub isn’t it? How do I maximize the amount of fun that I can have, during that time on the water that seems to grow more scarce every year? If this is what Sage had in mind when they developed the TXL, job well done.
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