Sage's Ultra-lightest lines
are Rio lines now and re-defined!

This article covers changes which have occurred since my last writings on this subject in 2007, and bring us to the present. I have written this article to bring some perspective to some fly fishers who seem to need more.

Historically - in 1982, Orvis rod designers Jim West and Howard Steere brought us into the world of Ultralight fly fishing. In 1997, rod designer Jerry Siem at Sage made his place in ultralight design history by creating the first of four revolutionary unrivaled families of ultralight fly rods: In 1997 the SPLs; in 2002 the SLTs; in 2007 the TXLs; and most recently the TXL-F family of rods.

Siem's groundbreaking work in 1997 created the original Sage SPL ought weight, and the double ought weight. Just a few years later he introduced us to the triple ought weight rod. Siem was the first to co-design rods and lines. This was all brilliant, edgy, and envelope pushing work. I've enjoyed using these products for years.

A few years back, Howard Steere died, leaving Orvis' Jim West and Sage's Jerry Siem still pushing the envelope on ultralight rod creation at their respective companies. We owe these rod designers, line manufacturers, and their companies so much. Don't forget to think of them when you are catching fish in situations when only true ultralight fly tackle will do the job.

Keeping in mind that almost everything has been changing the past few years economically, politically, world wide -- we've also seen changes in the fly fishing industry. I am very thankful that the industry is still bringing us top quality light/ultralight fly fishing gear. We need to be able to REALLY enjoy something. For many of us, fly fishing is that something to really enjoy.

Recently I went to the Sage website, to look at information about the latest generation TXL-F fly rods, and their matching fly lines. I found the rods readily, but found no mention of fly lines on Sage's website. Knowing that Sage bought Rio fly line company in the recent past, I just moved to the Rio website and found the line selection that covers the TXL-F 3/0 to 0 and 1 weight fly rods, and so many more lines and accessories.

The Rio Trout LT lines are double taper floating lines in weights intended for use with their respective Sage rod counterparts - the 3/0 through 1/0 rods, plus heavier rod weights. The Rio Trout WF line is available in many line weights, but strictly in a 1 weight for the ultralight crowd. Obviously these lines are well made and will fish well on many manufacturer's rods. One thing for sure is that the old fly lines are gone...unless you can find new old stock.

Why the loss of Quiet Taper, Quiet Taper II, and Double Quiet Taper lines? These lines were originally created as OEM products for Sage by Jerry Siem at Sage in concert with Bruce Richards who was at 3M/Scientific Anglers. Things evolve and change. According to Jerry Siem "...with Sage’s purchase of RIO it was necessary for Sage to have its lines built elsewhere." Since their collaboration on the original Sage lines, Bruce Richards left 3M/Scientific Anglers, and has retired.

Since Sage purchased the Rio line company, Rio began to manufacture Sage's selection of lines. Since Rio was a better known fly line brand in the worldwide market, recently Sage quit selling fly lines under the Sage brand in deference to the better known Rio brand.

Today, materials and manufacturing methods have changed, and so have these currently available Rio lines. The specs have changed some also because of core materials, exterior materials available, and even the manufacturing process has changed. According to Jerry Siem it is a most difficult process manufacturing these light, fine lines. So the lines have changed.

Some have raised questions about the weight in grains of these new Rio lines. Before we demand that these true ultralight 3/0 to 1 weight fly rods conform to an AFTMA standard, let's ask ourselves "What is the AFTMA ought, double ought, and triple ought standard?" To my knowledge, there has never been an official AFTMA grain weight standard for Ought, double ought, and triple ought fly lines. One could interpolate numbers if he desired, but you won't find them on an AFTMA weight chart.

My first encounter with the AFTMA fly line standards was in 1967. In a book entitled Trout Fishing by Joe Brooks, the AFTMA rating covered 12 weights at 380 grains to 1 weights at 60 grains per 30 feet. Even then in the 1-5 wt group of lines there was a defined variance rating of 6 grains.

In lines 6-8 wt there was a variance of 8 grains, 9-10 wts had a variance of 10 grains, and 11-12 wts had a variance of 12 grains. By their definition, a 1 wt line could weigh from from 54 to 66 grains.

By the early 1960s definitions, an Ought weight line should weigh 40 grains, + or - 4 grains, or a 2/0 line weigh 20 grains + or - 4 grains. Then a 3/0 would have to weigh Zero grains + or - 3 grains. This linear weight progression can't be done with manufacturing techniques and currently available materials.

Want to see today's AFTMA standards? Just look at my table below. You won't see any Ought, 2/0, or 3/0 rated line weights on this table.

Line Rating ---- Line weight ---- range for line rating

12 weight | 380 grains | 368 - 392 grains
11 weight | 330 grains | 318 - 342 grains
10 weight | 280 grains | 270 - 290 grains
9 weight | 240 grains | 230 - 250 grains
8 weight | 210 grains | 202 - 218 grains
7 weight | 185 grains | 177 - 193 grains
6 weight | 160 grains | 152 -168 grains
5 weight | 140 grains | 134 -146 grains
4 weight | 120 grains | 114 -126 grains
3 weight | 100 grains | 94 -106 grains
2 weight | 80 grains | 74 - 86 grains
1 weight | 60 grains | 54 - 66 grains

Note: on my table above there is NO AFTMA definition for ought, double ought, nor triple ought lines (depicted by 1/0, 2/0, 3/0 nomenclature).

Neither will you see rod wts 1 to 3/0 weight labelled as ultralight fly rods. That is because the two men in the world best suited to defining those rods are the two remaining rod designers who first created these rods: Jim West and Jerry Siem, not AFTMA. I consulted with them in 2007 and we all agreed that 1 wt to 3/0 weight represented the new Ultralight fly rod group. I wrote my article in 2007 announcing that the ultralight paradigm had shifted with the advent of these off-the-charts lighter rods. Apparently many fly fishers haven't quite embraced these concepts. Maybe in time.

Over the past months I have spent time discussing many issues with Jerry Siem. We've spoken about the changes that have occurred in the past few years when Sage line production was taken over by Rio. It basically boils down to large companies, major manufacturing changes, and getting all of the people from many departments on the same page.

Sage and Rio have gotten their respective people together, and the normal focus is present again. The latest generations of Rio lines are being manufactured NOW! to replace the previous family of lines. You can look at the new lines and specifications at Rio Trout-LT-WF lines. This link covers the light weight forward 1 weight line now available in the new formulation of Rio Trout lines. If you click on Rio Trout-LT-DT lines you'll see the selection of the light double taper Rio trout lines available including the 1/0, 2/0, and 3/0 lines. The Rio website does not currently display the line weights of these lines in grains. My table below does.

You may find Sage lines available on websites and as new old stock all over the internet. If it is described as a Sage line, it is pre-Rio production. This may include the original Quiet Taper, Quiet Taper II, or Double Quiet Taper lines. If stored properly these lines are still good. The new Rio lines are in boxes as you see left.

For the sake of clarity here are the new line specs for Rio's Trout LT-DT light/ultralight fly lines. The 3 wt and 2 wt specs are included so you can see the downward progression of line weight from 3 wt to 3/0 wt., however, the downward progression of line weights is NOT linear:

3 wt -- 100.3 grains
2 wt -- 81.63 grains
1 wt -- 60.18 grains
1/0 wt -- 53.24 grains
2/0 wt -- 47.07 grains
3/0 wt -- 40.12 grains

Remember - there are many factors other than pure line weight that affect how a line casts on a fly rod. The stiffness of the core, the weight created by the location of the front taper, the belly, and the running line, even the materials in the skin of the line that may or may not reduce drag in line guides. So, don't go JUST by grain weight ratings when selecting a line or lines for a rod. In the 3/0 to Ought lines, don't let grain weight numbers be your only consideration.

When selecting one of these lightest weight lines for any rod, remember -- the process is MOSTLY subjective. I have all three Sage rod weights and plenty of lines for them. I have many hours fishing them all. Assemble the 1/0 to 3/0 system you feel suits your fishing style best and enjoy. One other alternative is to have one of each.

Deciding on what fly fishing lines and systems to fish is totally subjective. It is all about what you can feel, use, and enjoy. In my hands there are discernable differences and uses for each of these 3/0 to 1/0 lines and rods. If you can't feel the differences, it isn't a case of something being wrong with you. It is about your perception. Don't worry about it. Regardless, in the right hands - these rods and lines won't let you down!

Jerry Siem, Sage, and Rio are still on track creating light/ultralight fly tackle for us. Even though worldwide we comprise a somewhat small market, they really appreciate the light/ultralight market. Just consider what they've done for us. Enjoy your time fishing the gear they've created for us. Don't forget to let them know if you really appreciate their work creating great fly tackle for us.

Bill Byrd