By Louis Cahill
I’ve been fishing a new Sage Bolt 8 weight for the last month and it has surprised me.
It’s not unusual for me to read reviews of a fly rod, even the ones written by people I respect, and wonder if we’ve been fishing the same rod. That’s never been more true than with the Sage Bolt. In the end, any rod review is just someone’s opinion and the same rod is different in every angler’s hands. I’d never encourage you to spend a wad of cash on a rod without forming your own opinion about it first. That said, here’s my opinion of the Bolt, and why I don’t think it’s getting a fair shake in the press.
To be clear, I have only fished the 9′ 8 weight and I have only used it as a streamer rod. In my opinion it’s a fine tool for the job, and I’ll get into that in a minute, but I have not fished the other members of the Bolt family.
There are two types or reviews you’ll see on the Bolt. The first praises it as the next great ultra-fast Sage in a great line of such offerings. The other cites it as a huge disappointment. This review isn’t going to be either and the folks at Sage may have mixed emotions about it.
To start with, the Bolt I have does not strike me as ultra-fast.
I mean that as a compliment. I’m not afraid of fast rods. I’m a serious saltwater angler and I know my way around a fast stick, but in my experience, ultra-fast usually means too stiff and no feel. That’s how I felt about the Bolt’s predecessor, the Method. I didn’t care for it and the only one I ever cast and liked was over lined by 2 1/2 line weights.
Again, that’s my opinion. It doesn’t mean the Method will not cast great for you. In fact, it casts great for me, I just don’t care for it. I’m not criticizing Sage. Jerry Siem is a brilliant rod designer and solidly the most influential figure in modern rod design. The man knows what he’s doing. But I’m not the first to say I haven’t felt love for many of the newer Sage designs. In their defense, when you’re Sage, the bar is pretty high.
The Bolt is plenty fast. You’re not going to pick this rod up and feel a deep progressive bend. It has serious backbone and an authoritative recovery. It is not a broomstick, however. Not just a tip on a stick. That’s really important in a streamer rod. When you are casting heavy flies and sometimes sinking lines, you need a rod you can load easily.
Streamer fishing is not flats fishing, where you make a measured number of considered presentations.
You’re pounding the bank cast after cast. You’re reacting to conditions, new water, the movement of the boat, or a sweet piece of structure you just noticed. Every cast is not a perfect scenario. If your rod is too fast, you’ll end up wearing yourself out by lunch. On the other hand, if your rod is too slow, your loops will collapse, you’ll miss opportunities and still be exhausted early in the day. You need a Goldilocks rod. Not too fast or too slow. One that’s just right.
Boom! There’s your Sage Bolt. Right in the sweet spot.
That’s reason enough for me to like this rod, but it gets better. I approached the Bolt based on what I’d heard. “Ultra-fast Sage rod.” I over lined it mercilessly, matching it with a 9 weight RIO Outbound, which is really a 10 weight line. Yep, that slowed it right down. It fished well. It cast quickly and accurately enough to feel like I was covering the water thoroughly. But then conditions changed.
Next I lined it up with a heavy sink tip. I was on the boat with a couple of hardcore streamer guys and within a few casts my buddy asked, “What line is that? It turns over really well.” It wasn’t the line. Honestly, I hate the line but the Bolt made it sing. The line turned over nicely because of the smooth powerful action of the rod. The loops were tight and smooth. Remarkably nice with a sinking line and the consistency and accuracy translated again to covering water effectively and catching fish.
The next time I pulled the Bolt out was in Argentina for dorado fishing. A completely different scenario. This time I was fishing big streamers on a floating line. A tropical saltwater line, because it was 115 degrees. This time I used an actual 8 weight line and the Bolt handled it beautifully. It loaded perfectly and made consistent long, accurate casts. It allowed me to drill targets as fast as they could come, all day long.
I don’t know if I’ve ever fished a rod which could handle such a diverse selection of lines so seamlessly.
It slowed down without struggling when matched with the heavy lines, but it still loaded fully and was pretty forgiving with a true line weight. That’s a pretty impressive trick and not what I’d call an ultra-fast rod.
It performed well, even in high winds when throwing big rat patterns. 80 foot casts, no problem. Put the fly six feet in under a low hanging tree, done. There was no situation where the Bolt did not deliver. It cast slow and easy when things were relaxed, and when the pace picked up it never missed a beat.
The Bolt has taken a little heat for being a touch heavier than some other rods on the market. I’m not a guy who judges a rod on the numbers. It does not feel heavy and it doesn’t fatigue me to fish it. The swing weight is good and regardless, the reel you put on it makes more difference than the weight of the rod. It is bright orange, which I like, but I have heard negative things about that. Personally, I don’t choose rods for their color.
The hardware is all very nice. It’s all corrosion resistant, as the Bolt was designed to service fresh and saltwater. Cosmetically it’s beautiful and the slim wells grip is both comfortable and efficient for demanding casting. It’s all of the quality you’d expect from Sage.
If you’re looking for a good streamer rod that will fish well in a wide variety of conditions and with a variety of lines, the Bolt is a great choice. It’s one of a couple of Sage rods I’ve fished recently that impressed me. The Bolt was a nice surprise, from what I’d read, and with a $650 price tag it’s a lot of rod for the money.
Get your Bolt HERE.
Louis Cahill Gink & Gasoline www.ginkandgasoline.com firstname.lastname@example.org Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter!