Sage R8 Core Fly Rod Field Test: 9' 5 weight (590-4)
With every rollout of new product from the fly fishing industry, its highly recommended that you adopt a measure of skepticism. You can hear or read all about the latest and greatest and still wonder is this product for me and why is it better than the previous models that were heralded in a similar fashion.
After spending a day on the notorious Metolius River in Central Oregon these are my initial impressions of the new Sage R8 Core 9' 5wt.
First off, the Sage R8 Core fly rod is a really, really nice rod. From the beautiful Silver Pine color to the premium cork and Fuji guides this rod is high-end and slightly understated. Besides its attractiveness and typical Sage attention to detail, the rod is very light in hand and is super fun to fish.
Is it "better" than the X, One, Z-Axis or prior generations of Sage rods? That is a tough question and the answer is not a Yes or No. I will say that this rod has a lively feel with a more forgiving sweet spot than the more recent flagship Sage rods. If you'd like to give it's more refined feel a word, lets call it "fishable". This rod is very fun to fish. I'm not sure this rod will win distance casting competitions in a head-to against the X but how important is that? Casting heroics are not as important to most anglers as having a fun and productive day on the water. In my opinion, the 5 weight R8 Core is "funner to fish" than the more recent top-end Sage rods. This rod is made to fish. Mending and line control is excellent and user feedback is high. You will feel everything with the Sage R8 Core.
This rod will perform better with light tippets than the One and likely better than the X. If you fish 5x and 6x tippet on pressured waters (like most of us here in Central Oregon) you will benefit from a rod that protects light tippet. This continues to be a sore spot with most of the best rocket launching 5 weights on the market. Great ability to deliver a fly and poor ability to keep the fly buttoned without breaking off is the modern rod dilemma. If you have had lots of breakoffs in the past or wary of running 5x and 6x tippet on your 5 weight rod, this may be an outstanding tool for you. Even though this rod protects light tippet surprisingly well, don't consider this a light presentation rod like the Winston Pure or Scott G Series. This is a modern fast action rod with a very capable and strong backbone and delivers the goods when wind is in your face.
Backbone is good. While fishing a Chubby Dropper rig with 5x Fluorocarbon between the Chubby and the Caddis Nymph dropper I was fortunate to hook and land an absolute stud bull trout. It's a Metolius thing. Nice peaceful day fishing for lovely rainbow trout interrupted by battles with big char with bad attitudes, large teeth and a penchant for caddis. It would be a lie to say I wasn't sweating it a bit (Ok, a lot). As the beast was running downstream towards structure I thought how embarrassing it would to be the first to breakthe first R8 in Central Oregon. Alas, the rod did amazingly well under difficult circumstances. I hope you have a similar opportunity someday.
The Sage R8 Core will cover the all-around anglers needs in a 5 weight. This is not a 1 Trick Pony. From throwing size 18 Blue Wing Olives to running a Chubby Dropper or Indicator rig with split shot, the R8 Core is a great choice for the angler that likes to catch fish and isn't afraid to change tactics through the day. For my day on the water, I ran a Rio Premier Gold WF5F but the Technical Trout from Rio is also an excellent choice as is the SA Infinity Taper. Unlike prior models you won't feel the need to overline this rod.
Overall this rod shined as strong as a March Central Oregon day. We will start selling them in store and at finandfire.com on April 5th. Have a great year on the water!