A healthy amount of the angling done during my teenage years was spent trout fishing with ultralight spinning tackle. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I didn't have easy access to beautiful high-country waters, but rather a handful of stocked urban lakes filled with trout that were often pretty dang big! Using mostly 4lb test line on rods as short as 3 feet (not a typo!), I caught an untold number of trout up into the 9lb range—and was really good at it, might I add!
While I have a bazillion hours of fishing time using some of the smallest spinning rods around, I've never spent any time with truly ultralight fly tackle. Opinions may vary on this, but I personally consider fly rods in this category to be 2-weight and under. I've had my eye on several options for a review, but when the Sage DART series was released late last summer, I knew one of these HAD to be tested.
Line Weight: 1
Measured Weight: Approx 2 ounces
Stripping Guide: Stainless Frame / Alconite Insert
Snake Guides: Chrome Snake Guides
Reel Seat: Vera Wood and Anodized Aluminum
Rod Tube/Sock: Yes/Yes
The DART 1-weight is not the lightest rod in the lineup—yep, you can even get a 0-weight if this one is too much stick for ya! Still, it's hard to explain what this rod feels like in hand without personally holding it for yourself. Simply put, it's real light and feels real small.
You'll find typical Sage quality and beauty here. The blank is finished in a glossy "Sapling Green" color and wraps are bronze with some gold trim around the logo and at the two ferrule joints. The guide setup includes one tiny stripping guide accompanied by chrome snake guides, while at the base of blank is a small hook keeper and aluminum winding check.
I've been a fan of the snub-nosed grips ever since Sage started putting them on their lighter fly rods. They just plain work and I personally feel that they are more comfortable over something like a reversed half-wells or cigar grip. Luckily, this 1-weight is no different and gets a snub grip made from super-grade cork that's both tight and super bright in appearance. To match the rod's wraps, the reel seat has bronze anodized-aluminum hardware with a gorgeous Vera Wood spacer. Classy good looks, check!
Initial quality/craftsmanship issues with the DART? None. This is a beautiful, well-made rod.
Here in South Florida, I had panfish and other small finned creatures in mind for this rod. For testing, I took it to a truly exotic and hard to reach location—a pond located behind some medical offices. The line of choice was a RIO Creek WF1F that is a sweet little line in its own right—supple, smooth, and very thin.
I was expecting the DART to feel kind of noodly being it's so dang thin and rated for such a small line, but that's not the case at all. Featuring KONNETIC HD, it's rated as a fast action which I totally agreed with after my first presentation was made. The blank is remarkably accurate and punchy for its size yet still allows for fantastic feel in very close or out far.....far being a relative term with this little rod. While most work with the DART 176-3 will likely be in pretty tight, I could still get a fly out there 50+ feet or so. The short length may rob you of additional yardage, but the 7'6" size makes it far easier to maneuver or cast/roll cast around brushy shorelines.
Wind may seem like the ultimate enemy of this little stick, but it doesn't have to be completely dead calm to cast the thing. Most casting occurred in winds of maybe 5–10 mph, but one day was pretty blustery with gusts to about 15 or so, and as long as I angled my casts to the wind, the Sage DART performed well. I also found the rod isn't strictly relegated to just tiny nymphs and dries. Little Woolly Buggers and even tiny Clousers with little dumbbell eyes were not a problem! I was very surprised by this rod's capability, to say the very least.
"This is one heavy rod"........... said nobody ever. Swing weight is a non-issue here. In fact, it kind of feels like you're not really holding much of anything! Combined with the Sage CLICK 0/1/2 reel and fly line/backing, the whole package only weighed about 4.86 ounces on my scale. Balance is excellent and it's really a load of fun to cast if you've never fished such a diminutive setup.
The Sage DART 176-3 is an absolute hoot to fish. Whether you're looking for a rod to fish technical water on a heavily-pressured spring creek or simply want to maximize the enjoyment of catching your local farm pond bluegill, this little dynamo delivers. Catching fish on a 3 or 4 weight is surely a blast, but a 1-weight? That's fun on a whole new level!
Interested in a Sage DART fly rod?
Try Trouts Fly Fishing