Sage One Elite Review

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Sage takes its award winning ONE, One better. 

It’s an interesting task, to take a fly rod which has been called the best ever made and make it better. Apparently Sage rod designer Jerry Siem felt like a challenge because he’s done just that. Before I give you my thoughts on this rod, I’ll start with a little disclaimer. 
This rod is not cheap. I’m sure we will hear about it from the peanut gallery. I’ve written plenty about cheap rods and I’ll write more in the future. If you’re not interested in an expensive rod, stop reading now. If, however, you are at the point in your fly fishing where you are interested in investing in something really nice for yourself, or a lucky loved one, read on. 
The Sage ONE Elite is a 9′ 5 wt limited edition version of the lauded ONE series with a few very special tweaks. It features all of the same basic elements that make the ONE what it is. It is a very high modulus carbon fiber rod which is extremely light with a very fast recovery rate. Sage called this combination of material and process, Konnetic Technology. I have no idea what that means. I can tell you this. Jerry did an interesting demonstration for me in the lab at Sage. He dropped two sections of rod blank on the countertop. One Konnetic and one not. The Konnetic blank made a beautiful pinging sound and jumped twice as far back off the counter. It could be Flubber, who knows?
The result, as you know if you’ve cast a ONE, is an especially crisp and precise action that’s a pleasure to cast? Like fly rods from any maker, some weights and tapers are better than others. I’ve cast a few ONEs that I didn’t care for and some that are just phenomenal. As you might guess the 9′ 5 is one they really worked on. The standard rod is nice, the Elite is amazing. 

What’s different in the Sage ONE Elite?

Sage-One-EliteThere are just a couple of differences between the standard ONE and the Elite. The taper is slightly different. The tip is just a little lighter, is my understanding. It does make a beautifully delicate presentation without sacrificing power. It’s extremely accurate, much of which it owes to being effortless to cast. It makes laser tight loops and delivers the fly smoothly at any distance. It’s versatile enough to through nymph rigs and streamers but it’s at its finest as a dry fly rod. Just too sweet for words. 
All of the hardware is titanium, including the reel seat. This buys you a couple of things. Durability for one, even in saltwater should you choose. The big plus of the titanium reel seat is the weight. It’s precision balanced to give the rod a super light swing weight, which is infinitely more important than total weight. All the titanium gives the ONE Elite a very “down to business” look. It’s an elegant machine. 
Possibly the biggest check in the plus column is the second tip. Just like the old classic bamboo rods the Elite comes with two matching tips. It’s a simple detail that could save a trip if a tip gets broken. This happened to a buddy of mine who stuck his rod in a ceiling fan before making his first cast on a very expensive fishing trip. He was lucky I had a spare rod. 
The finish of this rod is beautiful, of course. That almost goes without saying. I will make a point of talking about the grip. It is absolutely the nicest grip I have ever seen on a fly rod. A sort of truncated half Wells which is remarkably comfortable in the hand. It’s designed to work equally well if you grip the rod toward the top of the cork, or right back against the reel like a distance caster. It is also the finest cork I’ve seen on a rod in quite some time. 
The rod is a limited edition of 400 and they are numbered. Mine is #314. I didn’t buy it because I thought it would be a collectors item, but I suppose it might work out that way. It should have an excellent resale value at least, like I ever sell a rod. Still, that will appeal to some folks. 
The Sage ONE Elite retails for $1350. They are almost all gone, but you can get them for $850, as I did from Chicago Flyfisher. Click the ad to the right to go the their page. That ad is an affiliate link, so I make a couple of percent if you use it and it’s greatly appreciated. I need the beer money. I have known Andy Kurkulis, the owner of Chi Fly for years and he’s a good straight up dude so you can buy with confidence. 
If you’re ready to treat yourself, or someone special to a really fine fly rod, this little beauty is hard to beat. And at $850, the price of a standard ONE, it’s a great deal on a phenomenal fly rod. 

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12 thoughts on “Sage One Elite Review

    • As an alternative? Very different tool for a different job. I love the Solar as a saltwater rod, but for trout, for example, it’s out of place. The heaven tip will break off fish, it’s not a good rod for mending line or roll casting in tight quarters. Got to use the right tool for the job.

  1. Another $1000+ fly rod that saves the world and makes you a better fisherman. I’m told it will even make a cup of tea, and fetch a pizza when require to.

    I’m always happy to read good reviews, but when in the past decade has an expensive rod had a bad one? Rods that sold for $1000 last year are being knock out at half price this. What does it say about our tackle industry?

    Good review all the same Guy’s, thanks.


    • Richard,
      I do often feel like I’m talking to myself. You were supposed to stop reading. Any way, I’ll answer your question. Please excuse me if I get fired up, but I get tired of taking the heat for,quality rod prices.

      What this says about the tackle industry is, if you want an American made rod you are going to have to pay for it.

      Now this rod is a special edition and you’d expect to pay more for that. In fact, you aren’t. As I said, you can buy the rod for $850, not $1000+. And it’s a great deal at that price. You’re getting an improved design and extra tip for the cost of the standard rod.

      Here’s the part you don’t want to hear. I’ve been to the factory. Not just the Sage factory, but most of the American rod factories. I’ve also made quite a few rods myself and I know what it costs and the labor that goes into them. In this case highly skilled American labor. Here’s what I’ve learned.

      Rod manufacturers make about $100 on a fly rod. Across the board that’s about what it works out to. Remember, an $800 dollar fly rod sells wholesaler for $400. It cost about $300 to make. So Sage, for example, employs a couple of hundred Americans, warehouses $1000000 worth of carbon fiber, employs marketing professionals, sales reps and sells at cost to guides, and then stands behind a lifetime warranty, all for $100 per rod. We’re not even touching on product development. Thrust me, they work their ass off for their money.

      If you want a cheap rod buy one from Asia. Like everything else you own. Funny, it always seems to be the same guys complaining about expensive rods who scream, “Buy American!” Well, buying American cost money.

      Now, let’s look at the other uncomfortable truth. No one wants to criticize fly shops, everyone loves their fly shop. Well, those guys make $400 (- their overhead) on that same rod. Four times what Sage makes and they employ a handful of guys. No marketing. Very little trickle down employment. I’ll get ripped for saying it, but if you want to complain about rod prices, the fly shop is who you should be complaining to. Better yet, buy the rod you want and shut up about it. Everything is expensive these days and if you want to change that the place to do it is at the ballot box, not Gink and Gasoline.

      • I’ll take that on the chin Louis as your entitled to your view, and I respect that. But you did not answer the question about the fact that despite you saying what the rod cost to produce, it will be half price when the new model comes out in 12 months time. Are you saying the shops will be making a loss on those rods?

        • That’s not complicated. Everyone in retail has to move inventory. If you get stuck with a pile of yesterday’s papers, you lose money. A half price rod is sold at cost.

  2. Louis, Sage makes a great rod. I have a number of them. No one can argue about that. What I do disagree with you is the “attack” on retail stores. All retail stores, with few exceptions, charge a one hundred percent markup on products. Whether it be fly rods or fish food. If a product costs them $5.00 they have to charge $10.00. Retail stores have rent, insurance, electric, etc. to pay every month. So that markup is not really one hundred percent when their overhead is taken into account. It is called capitalism. The ballot box has nothing to do with this. conversatism..

  3. When a rod goes on sale or close out you guys who do not understand retail need to know by that time the manufacturer and the retailer have made their money off the products and can sell the leftover inventory at a cheaper price. Example; 10 rods at wholesale cost fly shop 4000. They sell those 10 at retail for 8000. Profit of 4000. Now that they have a profit they can afford to either make less of a profit or even lose money if necessary on existing inventory.

  4. I was interested in the elite as I’ve found a used one for sale and your review mentioning a different taper and lighter tip caught my interest.

    I called Sage yesterday and spoke to someone and they said the Elite rods were from the same blanks as the regular One and don’t cast any differently. The guy also stated that the Ti reel seats were a bit heavier the normal aluminum ones but most of the additional weight really had no negative effect.
    I was actually disappointed to hear that it was the same exact rod as I was looking for something not quite as fast as the One I tried.

  5. Second tip? They should provide a second butt section! I broke an 8 weight sage one at the butt on a king salmon. I had to go buy a backup on my trip. That’s when I quit fishing Sage rods and went with Loomis.

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