Sage Z-Axis 9 ft 6 wt Fly Rod Review

Sage Z-Axis 9 ft 6 wt Fly Rod Review

The Sage Z-Axis 9 ft 6 wt for this review is a 2009 model I purchased last summer. I have only fished the rod once and caught a nice 19 inch brown and a 17 inch brown, lost a brown that would have been over 20 inches and a bunch of smaller fish on that one trip.  Long Meadow Ranch Trip

The rest of the time has been grass casting in preparation for the Federation of Fly Fishers Certified Casting Instructor test.

This Z-Axis is not a fly rod for the faint of heart. It is a very powerful fly rod with an action for the expert caster. It is not a rod for the beginner or the intermediate. These last two comments are only about my experience with the 6 wt that I own. That may not be true with a 9 ft 5 wt or a 9 ft 4 wt.

Casting Characteristics

  • The Sage Z-Axis is listed as a fast action rod but I would call it more of a stiff action. In all my casting practice, I have only seen the rod bend past the halfway point once. It takes a lot of power to bend the rod past the mid-point.
  • I found the tip area to be reasonably flexible and sensitive both during the pickup and in the backward and forward strokes. If the stop was too hard, the tip would flex causing waves in the backcast or could cause a tailing loop on the forward cast. But this flexiblity is also good for nymph and dry fly fishing. The tip flexibility is why I would not call this rod a fast action fly rod.
  • It has taken me over 3 months of one to two hours a day 5 or 6 days a week
    of casting practice to get my stroke to fit the rod. Most of my 41 years of
    casting experience has consisted of medium or medium-fast action rods so the switch over has not been easy. 
  • That being said, when you get your stroke and timing correct, the Z-Axis will sling line like crazy. My personal best is 83 feet, 81 feet, 80 feet and a host of 75 or 74 foot casts. (The 75 foot cast is the last part of the CI Test.)
  • The rod bends in the top 15 inches of the rod under a normal 30 foot line load.
  • The rod recovers quickly after being put under load. Recovery is defined as returning to a neutral position after the rod unloads. In other words, when the rod unloads at the end of the back cast or the end of the forward cast, it will bend briefly in the opposite direction then return to a straight position. Ideally this bend in the opposite direction should be slight and only once. Not a vibrating back and forth which sends waves into the cast. As best as I could tell, the Z-Axis bends once to unload, transfer power to the line and then straightens out.
  • On short casts of 20 feet, I used short casting strokes about one foot in arc to make the back and forward casts. In these short casts, the tip area (top 10 inches of the rod) would bend to cast the line. Use a gentle touch and this rod will make delicate casts.
  • On medium casts of 30 to 45 feet, you can feel this rod bend into the top 25% of the rod. This is where you will really start to feel the power in the Z-Axis.
  • From 45 feet to 80+ feet, you will feel and see the rod bend into the middle of the blank. Even on my 83 foot cast the other day, I only needed to whump the rod hard enough to bend it into the middle of the blank. Then let the rod take over and sling line.
  • Blanks are a nice deep green color, guides are hard chromed and guide wraps are neat, even and covered with an even coating of rod epoxy
  • Available in sizes 7’6" through 10 ft and line weights 3 through 10
  • The Z-Axis is not for those on a limited budget. The MSRP is $695 for the 9 ft 6 wt. 

As I said, most of my casting experience has been with medium or medium-fast action fly rods. Also the casts were 50 feet or less which is a normal casting range for Colorado fishing. So it has taken me a lot of practice to adjust my stroke to the Z-Axis stiffer action. If you are willing to spend the time practicing, you will learn to use and like this rod.

If you are on a budget for fly fishing, this is not a rod for you. The Sage Z-Axis retails at $690 to $715 depending on the model. You can find them cheaper on eBay or during fly shop sales. But I do recommend you go to a shop and actually cast one of them before purchasing one. If you are going to buy off the web, carefully read the return policy and and associated fees.

Sage has a good warranty for the life of the original owner. But be aware, you are required to send the rod in with $50 to cover return shipping and insurance. Plus you will spend about the same to ship it to them if shipping within the USA.

The Sage Z-Axis 9 ft 6 wt 4 pc is a good all around freshwater rod that will cover most of your heavy trout or bass fishing situations. Those situations that require big nymphs, streamers or bushy dry flies and it will still cast a smaller 3 nymph rig easily.

Update to review 11/02/2010 — After more work, I have been getting my stroke better adjusted to the Z-Axis. In today’s practice, I was able to throw 3 seventy five foot casts with a 25 foot line shoot. Today I eased off on the power and focused on applying power more smoothly. This combination will work well with your Z-Axis too.

More Information … Sage Fly Rods

Tight Lines,

Marshall, Publisher

Posted in Gear Reviews | Tagged fly rod reviews, sage z axis 690 fly rod review, sage z-axis 9 ft 6 wt fly rod review, sage z-axis fly rods | Comments Off

Scam Alert

Today I got a call from what was supposed to be the Colorado Business Development Office asking me if I was planning on moving my office next year.  When I *69 the phone number, I got this for a phone number 000-000-0000.

So I called the Colorado Business Development Office. A very nice lady told me there is a company pretending to be the CBDO calling people. The Development Office has worked with the Colorado Attorney Generals Office and their own attorneys to try and stop these people. She even had them call her at work one day with their scam.

If you get a call from someone saying they are from the Colorado Business Development Office, get their telephone number and check it against the official number.

I suspect this is some kind of phishing scam. So please don’t fall for it.

Marshall, Publisher


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Clearwater II Fly Rod Review

Clearwater II
9 ft, 5 wt, 4 pc Reviewed

I received an Orvis Clearwater II 9 ft, 5 wt, 4 pc midflex 7.5 for Christmas 2007. After having used this rod for fishing for 2 and a half seasons and for my fly casting class, I have some definite opinions about the rod.


  1. The rod is well constructed with oversized guides which I like. The blank is a beautiful blue color.
  2. Guide feet are securely wrapped and covered with rod epoxy.
  3. The grip is a half wells with cutout for the top reel foot.
  4. Reel Seat is an uplocking style with double locking rings. For an uplocking reel seat, I like the double rings because you don’t have to overtighten the locking rings to secure the reel. I have a tendency to crank too hard on single rings. (Over time tightening the locking rings too hard can force the bottom of the reel seat off the blank.)The reel seat itself is woven graphite to reduce weight and the same blue color as the blank. The reel seat hardware is high quality anodized aluminum.
  5. The cork grip is premium grade with any holes filled and sanded smooth. The half wells grip is one of my favorites. I can use the smaller cigar part of the grip for most fishing which is less tiring for me. Then switch farther back on to the butt of the grip for long casts.
  6. The guides appear to be the standard hard chrome snake guides with an oversized stripper guide lined with an insert to reduce line wear.
  7. The rod comes with a handsome cordura covered hard case with zipper closure and an internal divided sock.
  8. Priced between $169 and $219, the Clearwater II is a bargain at these prices. Rod weights 4-6 are available in both 4 and 2 piece models. Models range from 4 weight through a 10 ft 8 wt.
  9. The Clearwater II series is covered by the 25 year Orvis 100% satisfaction guarantee.

Fishing Characteristics

I do a lot of nymph fishing so I like mid-flex or medium fast rods. Generally I only have to cast 50 to 60 feet max to reach my target. My Clearwater II 9 ft works well for Czech Nymphing, regular high sticking or long line nymphing out to about 30 feet which is my comfort level on drift control.

The rod is sensitive to subtle strikes when used without a drift indicator. The mid-flex action allows the rod to do some of the work of setting the hook. (The fish will take the nymph and turn to run hooking themselves.)

Casting Characteristics

The mid-flex 7.5 casts extremely well out to about 60 – 65 feet for me. After 60 feet I have to put some muscle in it to reach 70 feet. My casting instructor tried this rod in my last class and reached 78 feet and 75 feet. So the rod has the capability if the caster has the skills.

The Clearwater II also comes in a 9.5 tip flex action for those that grew up with and like fast action rods. I have come to the conclusion that there is a point in distance casting where the rod action does start to make a difference along with the ability of the caster.




Posted in Gear Reviews | Tagged clearwater II fly rod review | Comments Off

Best Fly Rods

Finding the best fly rod for you


Marshall Estes on Bear Creek West of Denver Sep 04 with G. Loomis Rod

Ask a group of fly fishermen which is the best fly rod and you will find various different opinions.  Many are based on the level of experience of the fly fishermen, where they normally shop, what magazines they read, income levels and so on. 

For example, those who have used St. Croix Fly Rods may prefer the Legend Elite or the Avid series. Those that have fished a lot with a Sage Rod will most probably recommend Sage or perhaps a Redington as their choice for Best Fly Rod.

A lot of the preferences are based on trust and the fishing experience of a shop owner or information on a website.  If a customer feels comfortable, they will be more likely to spend their money there.  Higher end shops attract higher end clientele, middle class shoppers will be most comfortable in a middle class shop.  The bargain shoppers go to the big box store, a local sporting goods chain or a discount sporting goods store.  They will purchase an inferior outfit and end up with an inferior experience.  


Fly Rods for the Discriminating Angler


Sage Fly Rods
Sage Z-Axis Fly Rods
 Sage VT2 Fly Rods
Sage VT2 Fly Rods
 Sage Fast Action Fly Rods
Sage Flight Fast Action Rods
 Sage TXL Fly Rods
Sage TXL Fly Rods
 Sage ZXL Classic Series
Sage ZXL Classic Series
Fly Rods
 Sage Xi3 Saltwater Series Fly Rods - New For 2010
Sage Xi3 Saltwater 
Fly Rods
Sage TCX -Technical Casting Ultra Fast Action Fly Rods
Sage TCX Ultra Fast Action Series Rods
 Sage Z-Axis Fast Action Switch Fly Rods
Sage Z-Axis Fast Action Switch Fly Rods
 Sage Launch Fly Rods
Sage: Launch Series
Sage Fly Rod Outfits
Sage Flight Fly Rod Outfit 9 ft 5 wt 4 pc
Sage Flight Fly Rod Outfits
Sage Intro Bass Fly Ros Outfit
Sage Introductory Bass Outfit
Sage Flight Spey Fly Rod Package
Sage Flight Spey Fly Rod Package
Sage Elite Trout Fly Rod Outfit 
Sage Elite Fly Rod
Package Trout
Sage Flight Spey Fly Rod Outfit
Sage Elite Spey
Fly Rod Outfit
 – All Around 8 wt in a 14 ft rod

Sage: Elite Fly Rod Package Big Game
Sage Elite Steelhead Fly Rod Package
Sage: Elite Fly Rod Package Steelhead

Sage: Elite Fly Rod Package Light Switch Rod
Sage Elite Tarpon Fly Rod Package
Sage: Elite Fly Rod Package Tarpon

































, will provide you with 

  • History of Fly Rods — Information about how fly rods were made.  An overview from medieval times to present.

  • analysis of fly rods – how to tell a premium fly fishing rod from a cheap one

  • how modern fly rods are manufactured

  • how to choose fly rods

    • information to help the beginner pick a fly rod or fly rod outfit

    • how to pick fly fishing rods suited to the type of water and species you normally fish.

    • recommendations on the best fly rods available for Fly Fishing Colorado, Utah, Montana, Wyoming and New Mexico.

  • basic 2 fly fishing casts — you should master to be a successful fly fisherman in Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico  (Yes only two and neither of them is the overhand cast)

  • nymph fishing — Why you should fish nymphs more than dry flies!

    • Basic Stream Entomology

    • How to set your rod up for a 2 nymph rig 

    • Using strike indicators or not

We do not attempt to cover all brands of fly rods nor do we cover all rods within a specific brand.

Suggestions about specific brands we think are good. Plus the recommendations of professional guides and shop owners too.

We will leave the salt water fly rods to others better qualified to cover salt water fly fishing.

Fly Rod Brands we present are  Sage, Redington, Scott, G. Loomis.





Posted in Fly Fishing Gear | Tagged best fly rod, best fly rods, sage fly rods | Comments Off

Nymph Fishing

Nymph Fishing

Why you should fish nymphs more than dry flies!


The answer is very simple.  You will catch more fish.

Several studies have shown that 80 to 95% of a trout’s diet is sub-surface.

A trout is a predator.  Predators hunt.  Trout must get more energy from the food they consume than the energy it takes to obtain the food.  Or they will die.  It is a simple equation.  Energy in must be > Energy out or Death occurs.

So which is easier to catch.  Hundreds or thousands of sub-surface insects or something flying around mating and dipping down to deposit eggs.  Pretty simple — nymphs are easier.


Basic Stream Entomology — the short course

A trout’s 6 basic food groups (This is primarily in Colorado but applies to much of the surrounding states too)

  1. Mayflies
    Consists of clingers and swimmers
    First hatch of season (BWOs can be in March to May and last of season in Sep and early Oct)  Exist in hundreds of thousands in some areas of steams.  Fly pattern olive body with white antron yarn wing RS2 sizes 18 through 22.
    Other mayflies during warmer months of May through July


  2. Stone Flies
    Clingers or crawlers mostly — You can find them by turning over rocks.  Colorado doesn’t have the salmon fly hatches of Montana but where there are hatches of large stoneflies, you can see some hot action.  

    Hatch usually by crawling out onto stream bank for large types like salmon flies.  Once on the South Platte River below Waterton Canyon, I saw a hatch of large stone flies.  The beach was alive with them crawling out of the water.  One I let sit on my hand had a body about 4" long.

    Yellow Sallies and small black stones are also a choice food group. I like the gold ribbed beadhead prince nymph in sizes 12 through 18 as a general pattern for black stones.  Fish straight upstream or quartering upstream, drifting down and then swing in toward the downstream bank before pickup.


  3. Caddis
    Cased, crawlers and net builders are the main types.  Caddis are perhaps the most important food group for trout next to the midges. There are over 2,200 different species of caddis.

    Cased may be attached to twigs or small rocks and have a wood casing.  Some caddis form cases of small rocks with their saliva and attach themselves to rocks until time to hatch. 

    Crawlers — are free type worms that look like a meal worm or grub.  Generally represented by the buckskin nymph in sizes 16 and 18.  These can be found by turning over rocks or sticks.

    Net Builders — can be found in shallow riffles of areated water where they build silken webs to catch their food brought by the current. Sometimes they can also be found with a web between twigs on a sunken branch.

    Caddis can be represented by gold ribbed flashback bead head hare’s ear. or the plain head gold ribbed hare’s ear sizes 14, 16, 18.  Elk hair caddis for the mature adult if you are fishing dry flies.  Fish the nymph dead drift the use the Leisenring lift at the end of the drift to simulate the rapid rise to the surface of the emerging caddis. During a Hatch fish a Caddis dry trailed by an emerger.

    All caddis in Colorado have 6 legs total.  3 on each side of their head.  A black head.  Body may be tan, whitish or green.


  4. Midges
    Are the year round food group in Colorado Fly Fishing.  There are millions of these insects in the streams.  They are small with sizes often running 20 to 24.  But the trout easily pick them out and eagerly consume them. Gray, olive or tan RS2 can be used to imitate them.


  5. Terrestrials
    Ants, beetles, grasshoppers or other terrestrials that fall into the stream may be eagerly sought out by trout.  Trout seem to favor the acid taste of ants in particular.  (Large ones of course)


  6. Other sub-surface food groups such as crawfish, sculpins, minnows, eggs during mating season of other trout species, other young of their own and other trout species.

    A nuclear egg pattern representing a fish egg surrounded by milt can be deadly fished on the bottom.  Bill Louthan of Alpine Angler in Aurora, CO caught an 8 lb rainbow on an egg pattern in Troublesome Creek last year (2004)

    Sculpin and streamers would represent small fish that trout prey on.

  Continue reading

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