Interview with the designer of the Sage One Fly Rod Jerry Siem

sage one rod and reel

Sage ONE interview with Jerry Siem, Sage Flyfishing.

No Introduction. Let’s not make it painful getting to the good stuff.  If you want to learn how this interview came about, you’ll find it at the tail-end of the post.

The following interview of an exchange that occurred between me, Jerry Siem of Sage, George Cook (Northwest Sage Sales Rep) is unedited and as such is not polished with marketing or promotional content. It’s just me asking a few questions that popped into my head as I was researching the Sage ONE..

The topic is the Sage ONE Fly Rod series.  Any errors in transcription are mine and mine alone.  Any information that appears confusing or conflicting or nonsensical in any respect is my wrongdoing.  Jerry and George bring a level of rod design and fly fishing expertise to the fly fishing industry that is – well – genuinely inspiring.


April 26, 2012:

Jerry, thank you so very much for your phone call.  I really appreciate your time.  Here are my questions, such as they are.  I fully expect that I have missed the mark on some aspects of the Sage ONE, so please don’t feel constrained by my inexpert phrasing.
Best Regards, Jay Nicholas (Caddis Fly Shop)

Q:  I understand the fact that Sage ONE technology creates a higher density shaft than anything yet delivered to the fly fishing rod line up. Does any other rod maker use this same technology to your knowledge?

A:  The purpose and result of a dense blank is to remove any voids (essentially, trapped air).     Sage builds blanks only for rods that are Sages and we are ever experimenting with methods and materials that allow us to have cutting edge blank performance.

Q:  I get the fact that the graphite fibers are more closely aligned and therefore denser in the Sage ONE shaft.  How much is this compactness achieved via fiber positioning and alignment in the fabric versus compression of the fabric after it is rolled on the mandrel?

A:  Alignment and density are two separate considerations.    Fibers are aligned prior to the rolling and cello/tape compression application, a process done immediately following the rolling which essentially provides an outer sleeve of plastic, tightly over-wrapped, that holds the fibers and the resin in place as it is baked in the oven. Removal of the “cellophane” shows the ridges of resin you would see in a raw blank.  Compressing the fiber/resin occurs as the plastic tape is spiral wound over the mandrel on top of which is the pattern/patterns of fibers/resin.  Fabric is not a term I would associate with the materials being used in these graphite rods.  The blanks are built with fibers and resin.  I view fabric as a weave, which is NOT a version of the materials we use in the rods.  Boat builders would use this and it is strong and tough for different reasons but the woven fibers would not be of benefit to the blank as in a 50/50 weave, 50% of the fibers would be “unaligned”

Q:  Did Sage have to design a completely new graphite fabric to use with Sage One shafts or is it an assembly technology that achieves the shaft compactness?  Is the fabric simply thinner, with a higher density of more precisely aligned longitudinal fibers, or is it most likely more complicated than my question poses?

A:  New materials ARE used in Sage’s ONE rod shaft.

Q:  We have been trained by the Industry to think in terms of a modulus rating of graphite fibers.  Does the Sage ONE represent a higher modulus rating than the Z-Axis, or is this question even relevant, given the higher density of the shaft that you achieve with the Konnetic technology?

A:  While the question of modulus isn’t currently on the radar, I will say that fiber is what is being used to carry the strengths of the flexing spring, while the resin’s primary purpose is to hold it all together.  Resins offer varying properties and selecting the right resin will add to the durability of the package and somewhat in stiffness and compression resistance but it is critical to bring together fibers and resins that benefit from each forms strengths.  There is more than meets the eye here, literally, since it is impossible to see how high density cross-linking resins do their job!

Q:  How about resins?  Is this a completely new resin Sage is using in the ONE shafts?

A:  Sage uses custom tailored resins, unavailable to the market place.  We benefit from the toughest, strongest resin used in the sporting goods community.

Q:  Mandrels? (These are the metal shafts that graphite cloth is wrapped around to form the taper of each rod) Did Sage design completely new mandrels for the full line of Sage ONE rods?  Or were you able to adapt existing mandrel tapers with different fabric templates to achieve the Sage ONE actions?

A:  Sage ONE rod blanks are individually designed from tip to butt to be unlike any other shaft we have produced.   Using a combination of new mandrels and a selection of mandrels from the vast range of tapers we have in house we were able to deliver these unique new flex profiles.  If there is one technology that doesn’t change much it is the mandrel construction.  Rod TAPER can be confusing.  While the mandrel provides the inside taper and while the outside of the finished blank mostly follows this contour, material modulus and quantity of these materials and where they are positioned add to the “taper” of the rod shaft.  Ultimately, we are creating a long tapered spring and the rate at which the spring stiffens from the tip to the butt is the effective taper of the rod.  For example, two identically appearing shafts of the same weight can have vastly different stiffness’ if the modulus of only a single section is replaced with a higher or lower modulus.  This is one of the difficulties for a consumer who looks at all these long narrow (more or less) rods in a store….how can they be different?  But as a rod designer I recognize that even a few thousandths of an inch can make immense differences in performance.  So, long version, it is putting materials on diameters with a purpose that allows me to make rods that perform differently.  And I only build toward a feel I have acquired in my mind’s hand to create….., (then I go out and) wrap something up get a feel (for how the rod shaft performs – compared to my expectations.)

Q:  I have heard that torsional instability has been completely eliminated with the Sage One.  Is a fair assessment, or is it more realistic to say that the One fly rods “practically” eliminate rod horizontal wiggle?

A:  Casting a fly line likely doesn’t create a force great enough to test the limit of this concern.

Q:  Durability is one of the characteristics of the Sage ONE that has been promoted b the marketing folks.  Has the One fly rod achieved a lower on-stream breakage rate than the Z-Axis?

A:  A narrow shaft like the ONE inherently has a nice wall thickness.   The ratio of diameter to wall thickness make it a very tough tube.  Our resin system provides maximum protection the fiber bundles.  The Z-Axis is a very durable product.  The ONE Series is (yet) another step toward our lofty goal of Perfecting Performance.

Q:  Sage ONE rods are called “all water rods” or something like that.  I assume that these will be at home fishing Tarpon and GTs, Permit and Bones as well as salmon and steelhead.  So, if this is the case, were you concerned that the Sage ONE might compete directly with Xi3 series?

A:  Feel free to use the ONE rods anywhere comparable models exist.  I tend to advise someone living on saltwater to buy the XI3 rods and anyone traveling to saltwater/freshwater to consider the ONE.  They are both great products.  The XI3 product line obviously provided much heavier lifting rods, such as the tremendous off-shore 1680-4, and we have no plans to replicate such a rod within the ONE series.   Since I travel to do most of my saltwater fishing I like the ONE’s more than anything else as they are fantastic flats tools; being light in the hand and quick to the target I can place a fly to the fish literally in seconds and I like to move my fly line close to the water and don’t give the fish much chance to see where the fly has come from.

Q:  I focus a lot of my fishing time on fishing for King Salmon here in Oregon.  I typically fish 9 and 10 wt rods with fast actions and either shooting heads or integrated shooting head lines.  One feature of a fly rod is its “lifting power” or the ability to lift a fish under the boat and this requires butt strength.  How would you describe the Sage ONE in terms of lifting power and do you think I could fish an 8 wt for modest size kings (say in the 15-25 pound range) or should I stick with my traditional nine and ten wt single hand rods?

A:    I love fishing Kings myself and wouldn’t advise using an 8 weight where a 9 or 10 is clearly the better choice.  For Kings, I don’t believe the 8 has any advantage at all, not that a good angler couldn’t put a fish to the boat with it; but as light as the ONEs are there is no need to consider it.  The 10, on the other hand, is more than you might want to blind cast all day, as it is a rod some use for modest tarpon fishing (30-70 lbs), so I’d go with the 990-4 ONE – a great shooting head rod.

Q:  Given your range of 7 and 8 wt. Sage One rods from nine to ten feet, I would like to fish the 9 1/2 foot rods for silvers and modest size king salmon here in Oregon.  Will the 9’6″ rods in these weights have the butt strength of the 9′ rods?

A:  A 9 ½” rod is essentially a 9 foot rod with 6” added to the bottom of the rod, so, yes, the rod stiffens up over an additional portion of the butt.  The leverage of the longer rod gives the rod a different feel but with regards to strength of the butt, this is where the extra 6” is added and since the shaft continues to grow in diameter and the wall thickness remains constant, math would tell us the butt is getting stiffer.

Q:  How about casting poppers in wind on the bays here?  Will the 9’6″ 7 wt and 8 wt ONE rods track as well as the 9′ rods?

A:  I’d say the 9 ½’ rods are better river rods.  The 9-foot rods are better wind rods.  If you stick with the 7 line on the 7 and the 8 on the 8, the rods will perform well but as you know, often-time while pushing poppers someone will up-line and THIS, not the popper, will affect the rod’s unloading characteristics (performance).  Using a 9 on a 9 weight rod will give the angler the advantage we are building into a rod, using a 9 line on an 8 will allow the rod to cast a popper more easily but if you are looking for a searching, distance cast the rod will be over matched.  That said, over-lining these rods will not damage it and if shorter distances are being fished this is a nice way to get more out of your rod.

Q:  Regarding the Sage One Spey and Switch rods you will be bringing to market soon:  when will we be able to order these rods?

A:  See what GC (George Cook) has to say about this.  (Note:  George expects the Sage ONE Spey and Switch rods to begin shipping to dealers sometime as early as June.  The actual timing of Sage’s release of the ONE seems shrouded in mystery and conflicting information.  Shipping could even begin in May, but we can not promise when until we learn more.)

Q:  Will Sage make the entire line of Spey and Switch One fly rods available at the same time, or will certain models be available sooner and some models later?

A:  See GC.  (As far as we have learned, not all models of Sage ONE Spey and Switch rods will be released for shipment at a single time.  We may need to wait a little to get access to the full line.)

Q:  I understand that both the Spey and Switch ONE rods will be rated as “fast action” rods.  That said, will I be able to feel these Spey and Switch rods load through the butt?

A:  You will feel everything.

Q:  In terms of casting ability, how will the One compare to the TCX?

A:   The Sage TCX is a highly specialized casting/fishing tool that is most appropriate for top level casters.  The ONE series is built for 99% of the anglers with casting skills that range across the entire spectrum of ability.

Comparing the ONE to the Z-axis:  an in-house Caddis Fly Shop Note. George Cook brought an unmarked DEMO ONE 8134-4 k two-hander to our Spey casting clinic this spring.  Our clients and Pros cast this rod along side many others, including the venerable Z-Axis.  Everyone noticed the differences between the two Spey rods – the ONE was obviously lighter and provided superior performance for a wide range of caster experience levels.

End of interview with Jerry Siem.

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Communiqué from George Cook to Jay, April 26, 2012:  Jay, now that is Flat Ass AWESOME !  Let me know when you want some  Sage ONE Spey & Switch rod commentary. Georgie

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Communiqué from Jay to George Cook, April 26, 2012: How about now?

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Communiqué from George Cook to Jay, April 26, 2012: Sakge ONE Spey and Switch rods are: A) Freakishly Light.  B)  Scary-Stupid-Dumb LINE SPEED.  C) Will produce the Straightest/Cleanest Directional/ Longest cast in the History of Spey Earth !  D) Simply have to try to believe!  E)  Spey target critters globally have been “Put on Notice” !  Georgie

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Post Interview Introduction: This interview was my effort to dig deeper into the Sage ONE fly rod series.  Chris Daughters has been fishing Sage ONE fly rods since mid 2011 and loves them.   NW Sage Sales Rep Gorge Cook made his visit to the Caddis Fly about a month ago to discuss ongoing 2012 orders for Sage and other fly fishing goodies he Reps. Since George was taking orders for the new Sage ONE Switch and Spey rods, he was also kind enough to hand-scribble an “exhaustingly” detailed list of line matches for the two hand ONE series (a mouthful in its own right). These line matches are transcribed in our online catalog at ONE Spey rods and ONE Switch rods We begged for two hand DEMO rods, but George only laughed and added us to the bottom of a LONG waiting list.

Chris has many hours under his wading belt fishing Sage ONE single hand rods and loves them.  His experience includes fishing for trout and  steelhead on the Willamette and McKenzie rivers; fishing for Bonefish around Abaco Island in the Bahamas; and fishing for big New Zealand trout.  My assignment was to dive into the ONE series and write about the rods.  Chris was already clearly enthused.

So I read, listened, wiggled, cast, fished.  I liked what I felt.  I fished ONE 496-4 and a 2100-4 ESN (European nymph rods, both built with Konnetic Technology).  I now share Chris’ enthusiasm.  I just spooled a shooting head onto a fly reel and hung it on a ONE 990-4.  I asked Chris if I could borrow his 796-4 ONE for the next six months;  he’s still laughing at the thought.

Most sincere thanks to Jerry Siem of Sage Flyfishing and George Cook of Anglers Rendezvous for granting the preceding interview.

Jay Nicholas

May 2012

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