Retro is and has always been cool, but it seems like there's been more of a resurgence in recent years. Cars, clothing, and yes, even fishing gear are just some of the products designed with an old-school flavor. I certainly appreciate classy-looking things, but I also appreciate modern performance. Hey, why not just blend the two together?
Sage did just that with the new TROUT fly reel series. This small family of reels might look like they were produced before some of you were born, but these are anything but old and clunky. I had very favorable impressions right out of the box and also had high hopes the performance wouldn't be a letdown!
Line Size: 4/5/6
Advertised Weight: 5 3/8 ounces
Diameter: 3 1/2 inches
Width: 1 1/4 inches
Backing Capacity: WF6F = 100 yards / 20lb
Drag: Carbon Fiber (fully-sealed)
Tested Max Drag: Approx 2 pounds
Machined/Cast: Machined 6061 Aluminum
Spool Release: No Tools Needed
R/L Convertible: Yes
Colors: Stealth/Silver and Bronze (tested)
Reel Pouch: Yes
Spare Spool Available: Yes ($187)
Tested Reel Price: $375
You'll also be seeing this reel in my upcoming review of the new Sage TROUT LL fly rod. Simply put, the two go together like peanut butter and jelly. Not only do they each have a classic vibe, but the beautiful bronze color of my 4/5/6 tester complimented that rod awesomely. The satin-bronze finish keeps the overall appearance somewhat subdued but does announce itself nicely in bright sunlight, while the classic round-hole porting is a nod to fly reel designs of the past.
The spool is constructed with a concave arbor which Sage explains here....
"Our concave arbor design creates a curved surface that increases structural integrity. The result is a drastically improved strength-to-weight ratio, meaning we can put less into the reel so you can get more out of it."
A relatively unique design feature is the full frame design. Ever had your line slip in between the frame support and spool, only to get caught or possibly even scuffed? The full frame will prevent this from happening. The only thing I found here is that if I wasn't careful enough, sometimes the line could get pinned between the frame and spool channel when putting the spool back on after removal.
This undoubtedly feels and looks like a high-quality reel. It has a very rigid frame/spool connection so there's no slop when reeling, all the knobs feel firm, and the finish/machining is an A+. Nobody should be dissatisfied with the overall presentation here.
The drag featured here is Sage's SCS system which uses carbon/stainless surfaces and is fully sealed from the elements. The result is silky-smooth performance without even the slightest hint of startup inertia, even at full tilt. Since this reel is geared towards trout, the maximum drag shown in our tests was around 2 pounds of pressure, but that's more than adequate for the vast majority of trout fishing scenarios. All in all, it's a very sweet system and will do a super job of protecting light tippets. Finally, despite the full frame, the spool rim is completely exposed so there's no issues at all with palming the reel if needed.
For drag adjustment, there's a large rear dial that's easy to grab with excellent surface grip. Only one revolution is needed from minimum to maximum drag tension and the dial offers crisp clicks along the way. I also really like that the knob stops abruptly on either end so you know exactly when you're at minimum and maximum drag. Also of note, even at the lowest setting, there's still just enough pressure there to prevent bad spool overruns.
Drag pressure is pretty light throughout the first half turn but starts getting into more of what I'd call the most "usable" after that. For those that adore the sound of a screaming drag as a fish runs, this reel offers some excellent acoustics. No cheap, dull, tinny sounds here.
Taking off the spool is simply done by unscrewing the spool center cap which is tall enough for even the chunkiest of fingers. The spool comes off and goes on easily, but like I previously mentioned, be careful not to pinch loose line between the frame and spool channel when reattaching. The center cap stays connected when the spool is removed as an added safety feature—always a plus.
That solid feeling mentioned earlier makes for a really crisp, confidence-inspiring feel while reeling. Like the drag, the retrieve sounds great as well. The handle is pretty basic and offers no texturing or contour, but it does the job and has no play/slop whatsoever. Retrieve rate was also good thanks to the large arbor. From the front this reel could be mistaken for a standard-arbor reel (now THAT would be retro!), but there is indeed a large arbor hiding out in there. I also love the narrow reel design for sleek looks and ease of leveling line back-and-forth quickly.
Sage TROUT reels currently come in 2/3/4, 4/5/6, and a larger 6/7/8 for big trout or even light steelheading. This was a fine reel to spend a couple weeks with and offers a tantalizing option among more futuristic and pricier options on the market.
While fitting on any fly rod you may own, these go especially well with classic or classic-inspired rods and should be equally awesome on your favorite bamboo or glass stick. I couldn't find anything I disliked about my 4/5/6 test reel and the $375 price point is right around where it should be. This reel totally rocks, and that's why the Sage TROUT fly reel is our latest #FlyGearTopPick in the Fly Reel category.....nicely done, Sage!
Interested in a Sage TROUT fly reel? Give Trouts Fly Fishing a try!