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.
- 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.