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.


Tight Lines,

Marshall, Publisher

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.




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., 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.

History of Fly Rods

History of Fly Rods

 An overview of history of fly rods from
200 A.D to 2000s

One of the most interesting histories of fly fishing and fly rods was written by Dr. Andrew N. Herd of England.

Dr. Herd traced fly fishing back to 200 A. D. in Macedonia. The Macedonians used a wooden pole with a line and a bit of crimson wool attached to homemade hooks to catch fish.  Doubtless this was a solid pole and not very flexible but nonetheless a fly rod by definition.

The Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle was published as part of the second edition of The Boke of St. Albans in 1496.  This book describes in detail how to construct a fly rod of the period.  The base of the rod was hazel, ash or willow, with an insert second top piece of smaller hazel.  The final part of the top section was “a fair shoot of blackthorn, crabtree, medlar, or juniper”.  The Treatyse describes a lot of soaking, drying, hole burning, fitting, binding and so on just to get a fly rod.  No running out to a store for instant gratification here folks.

These rods were massive affairs and not the little light weight 00 – 5 line weight rods we enjoy today.   The Treatyse also talks about how to make colored braided horsehair lines of different thickness for different fish species, how to make your own hooks, floats, weights, fish species and when to fish for them.  Lines were about 16 feet in length so “casting” was more or a dapping or short pickup and drop technique.

Continue reading “History of Fly Rods”

How to Choose Fly Rods

 How to Choose Fly Rods

 description of rod actions,
tests to use in choosing a fly rod,
how to save money on a fly rod

Fly Rod Actions

are described in a variety of terms depending on the manufacturer.  But essentially each description relates to where the rod flexes under load when casting.

  • Fast, tip action or tip flex — main flex is in the top 1/3 to 1/4 of the tip section depending on manufacturer.  This action loads very fast and requires precise timing and control.  (Usually reserved for advanced or expert casters)
  • Medium or Mid-flex — rod bends in the middle 1/2 to upper 1/3 of the rod.  This action is good for beginners to advanced casters who just like a “forgiving” feel.
  • Slow or Full-flex — rod bends from tip to butt section.  While very forgiving of casting mistakes, this type of rod action produces a slow rod recovery rate.  In my opinion, a slow action can be so slow that it can interfere with hooking fish.
  • Progressive — No noticeable difference between the stiffer and more flexible parts of a rod.


How to Choose a Fly Rod

As a beginner starting out there are a bewildering number of fly rod choices ranging from 6 feet to a monster two handed 13 to 15 foot spey rod.  For fly fishing Colorado and surrounding states you obviously don’t need a two handed rod.  Choosing a rod suited for Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah or New Mexico depends a lot on understanding that most trout are caught at distances under 20 feet from you.  This is not just my opinion but the opinion of fly fishing great and fly rod builder Tom Morgan, “During the last 40 years, most trout have been taken from 20 to 40 feet and I expect the next 50 years will be the same.”  (From fly fishing legend Andre Puyan’s column in the 2004 Gear Guide in Fly Fishing America on page eleven.)

A professional guide I know teaches her students to fish within 10 to 12 feet. I have caught fish within 3 feet of where I was standing so long casts are not always needed.  But good presentation is a necessity. (

A trout can take a fly and spit it out in less than 1/10 second.  Do you really think you are good enough to put out 60 feet of line, mend it for a perfect presentation, detect a strike and set the hook with 60 feet of line out in less than 1/10 second. “Let’s get real here.”  If you are planning on purchasing a rod and line to put those 60 foot casts, stop reading here.  What I have to say will be of little interest.

Line Weights

Line Weights are one of the most important considerations in choosing a proper fly rod outfit.  Lines range from Sage’s 00 to a 16 for use in salt water fishing.

Bruce Richards, former product engineer and fly line designer for 3M Scientific Anglers says that the delicacy of presentation is determined by the mass at the front of the fly line.  A DT and a WF line with the same taper and tip diameter will deliver the same.

The trick to roll casting with a DT or a WF line is to make sure the larger diameter belly is in the rod tip.  If you are trying to transmit energy through the smaller diameter running line, you will not transmit enough energy to the belly to make the line do what you want.

Almost all WF lines have heads that are 44 to 49 feet long.  Remember that most of us don’t have the need or the ability to roll cast longer than 45 feet.

Basic fly lines for use in Colorado and surrounding states are:

  1. Double Taper — A 90 foot long line tapered equally at both ends.  The first and last 15 feet of line are tapered to increase in weight from the tip to the belly of the line.  Then the line diameter and weight is constant for the next 60 feet.  Next the line starts to loose weight and line diameter until it reaches a tip size equal to the front section of the fly line.Usually marked as DT1, DT2 and so on through DT6.  When one end of the line becomes worn, you can turn it around and use the unused tapered end.Janice O’Shea , a professional fly fishing guide recommends a DT5 weight line as a good starter line for fly fishing Colorado.
  2. Weight Forward — The first 30 to 50 feet of the 90 feet fly line contain most of the weight.  The line behind the head is a smaller diameter line.  Noted as WF5, WF6, WF7 and so on.  Generally weight forward lines are used on rods for 7 weight up.  A weight forward line will load a rod quickly.  They are good for casting heavy nymphs, bushy dry flies and terrestrials into a stiff breeze.


Choosing a Balanced Fly Rod, Reel and Fly Line Combination

In my research, I have found these three considerations seem to be common.  Continue reading “How to Choose Fly Rods”