The five weight fly rod is widely considered the trout fishers most all around choice. Anglers use five weights for dry fly fishing, nymph fishing, hopper dropper rigs, and even streamer style methods. There are many fine fly rods being manufactured today and I was fortunate enough to fish two of the very best on a recent trip. The Sage ONE 9ft 5wt and the Sage Circa 8’9″ 5wt are fantastic trout fly fishing rods.
The Sage Fly Rod Company has been an industry leader in fly rod manufacturing and design for years. Chief rod designer Jerry Seim is universally considered the guru of fly rod action, design and casting. Sage’s recent move to “Konnetic Technology” in it’s graphite production has allowed design and function to reach new levels of performance. The two five weight fly rods discussed in this review/commentary utilize “Konnetic Technology” and yet when one shakes or feels the rods side by side they are vastly different. On the stream performance between these rods varies considerably as well. Hopefully this discussion will shed light on two incredibly fine fly rods, or as Sage calls them “Fly Delivery Systems”.
Over the course of approximately 10 days I carried both rods with me on varied freestone waters. Both rods had 4200 series Sage Fly reels, the Circa a 4230 and the ONE a 4250. Lines were weight forward Rio Golds, and leaders Rio 13.5ft Suppleflex leaders. Leaders were added to in most cases but largely maintained a 13-15ft total length.
Both the Sage Circa 5wt and the Sage ONE 9ft 5wt are great fly rods. The fact that both of the rods perform beautifully will be a recurring theme in this discussion but breaking the rods down based on specific situational fly fishing aims to help anglers understand the difference between the two.
Dry Fly Fishing
For smooth casting medium to smaller flies in close quarters with little wind I found the Circa to be an absolute joy to cast and present flies. It quickly became the rod of choice when just casting a single dry. You would expect this from a rod designed to get back to the traditional feel of a slow action rod. The ONE responded better when shooting line and “over-powering” (not necessarily a good thing) the rod. Is the ONE a joy to cast dry flies? Yes it is but in pure dry fly situations, utilizing a relax casting stroke the Circa is the pick.
We had some serious wind on a few of the days on our trip. Wide open river valleys on the South Island and a North West Wind create problems for the fly angler. This is where you would expect the ONE to perform far better than the Circa. In using the Circa however I found it better than expected in the wind. The slow action did require a better timed cast, but it did get the job done. Despite a slow action, modern materials and Konnetic technology kept the line incredibly straight to target through windy conditions. The ONE would power through the wind with a “harder” more forceful stroke while the Circa would fold up a bit with this type of casting stroke. Overall if I had to fish in the wind most days the ONE is the best choice between the two as it’s stiff action made it more forgiving when casting in wind.
Nymph Fly Fishing
Living in the Pacific Northwest I fish with indicators and heavy nymphs in early Spring a lot. No rod has done a better job delivering heavy nymphs, split shot and indicators for me than the Sage ONE. For dedicated nymph fishing there is no doubt that the Sage ONE is the rod. Is the Circa useless when nymphing? I think it depends upon the style of nymph fishing you do. On this trip I fished with some Kiwi’s who simply put a slip knot in there leader, inserted a bit of yarn and fished one or two light nymphs upstream to blind or sighted fish. The Circa 5wt performed very well with this rig. Heavy double nymph rigs are not the norm for me in New Zealand. But on a tough day this trip I employed some dredging tactics with both rods and the ONE 5wt stayed stable throughout the “chucking” of heavy flies while the Circa labored. As you would expect the ONE 5 is the choice in most nymph fishing situations.
Two Fly Rigs
Hopper Dropper rigs that employ a dry fly and a nymph either tied off the bend of the hook or mid leader are very common in trout fishing worldwide today. The Sage Circa is being marketed largely as a slow action rod with performance. In casting two flies you get to see the performance aspect of the Circa. It cast two flies with relative ease up to around 50ft when relaxing the stroke and using a wider loop to deliver the flies even in wind. The Sage ONE casts two flies with ease in close and at distance.
Short Casts and Long Casts
As discussed previously the Circa 5wt cast better than anticipated at distance and the Sage ONE excels at distance in wind and with two fly rigs and nymphs. Now let’s look at the majority of your trout casts. Even with spooky fish in New Zealand casts over 50 feet are pretty rare. Most of the fish catching casts we make occur within 40ft. Both the Circa and Sage ONE deliver flies of most sorts well within these distances. Both rods are light, easy casting and incredibly accurate as well. So it gets down a bit to what you are throwing, heavy flies, large wind resistant flies go with the ONE, medium sized flies, small and even tiny stuff with long leaders the Circa lands the fly with smooth delicacy. Pure dry fly presentation given most trout casts I found the Circa to be the go to rod.
Over-Lining the Rods
Many people like to “one up” the recommended fly line size on fast action rods. Rio Grand and Scientific Anglers GPX taper lines are “upsized” lines meaning a five weight is really a six in terms of grain weight. The Sage ONE handled being over lined just fine in all conditions. The Circa’s smooth yet fast line speed action was slowed by casting a heavier line. We consulted Jerry Seim at Sage on this one and his line recommendation for the Circa was a Rio Gold as the number one choice and the Rio Trout LT as number two. Bottom line is the ONE is more versatile/capable of handle a myriad of line types.
Both the Circa and ONE handled large fish well in close. Strength and durability have been greatly improved with the use of “Konnetic Technology”. Durability may in fact be the most underrated thing about Sage’s newest rods. The difference in the rods fish fighting ability was evident when a fish was running downstream or holding downstream at a distance and needed to be moved towards you in order to avoid rocks, logs, etc.. The ONE rod had more guts at distance and made it easier to steer a fish. I think 4-7lbs fish may be pushing things a bit in terms of what the Circa was designed for. That said, fish were lost because of the rod being to light in any regard.
Fly Rod Materials and designs have changed immensely over the years, in my opinion these changes are very much for the better, and allow fly anglers to push the boundaries of the sport. Although both rods are 5 weights, both great trout rods and both wonderful casting tools they do differ greatly. If you get a chance to cast one of these modern marvels I highly recommend them both.