Ultra-lighter All Over Again!

In 1982, Orvis rod designer Howard Steere brought us the Orvis Superfine 2-weight, then the Orvis Superfine 1-weight. With those two rods fly fishing truly became ultralight. A few years later, rod designer Jerry Siem who came to Sage from Winston Rod Company made his place in ultralight design history. Jerry moved us ever farther into ultralight fly fishing by designing the first of three revolutionary families of truly unrivaled ultralight fly rods. LEFT is the latest of Jerry's creations -- the Sage TXL double ought weight rod. Now, more UL history.

In the fall of 1997, ultralight fly fishing enthusiasts worldwide were presented the newest "LIGHTEST" weight fly rods in the world at that time. The whole family of Sage SPL ultralights were ground breaking. They were made of the latest newest materials with considerable strength and plenty of backbone but were the lightest in hand I'd ever fished. The result: marvelous performance from a low weight, low mass rod and co-designed line!

The Ought weight cast its 54 grain line without any effort for undetectably stealthy fishing. The Ought weight rod also cushioned hook setting and playing shock on very light tippets. I enjoyed maximum pleasure from catching 18 inch high mountain Colorado trout, super scrappy big bluegills, or brawny 1 to 7 pound largemouth bass on my ought weight.

The Sage SPL Ought weight was by physical weight and by the ought weight line it flawlessly cast, the very lightest rod in existance. Two major things distinguished the ought weight: (1) the rod would beautifully cast a 54 grain line, the lightest line ever made, and wasn't "wimpy" doing it. (2) Bruce Richards of 3M/Scientific Anglers worked with Sage's Jerry Siem to co-develop the Sage Quiet Taper line along with the SPL Ought weight rod to create the perfect marriage between rod and line.

When the Ought weight first hit the market I called Sage and ordered an Ought-weight. I immediately began fishing it like I had done the Orvis 1-weight when it first joined my ultralight rod collection. I didn't fish either as "specialty" rods, I fished them hard, every day. I found my new Sage SPL Ought weight to be incredibly light weight, AND found that it had plenty of backbone. It has also held up in demanding circumstances.

I have landed several bass over 4 pounds (RIGHT) with that rod, plus many panfish and fat trout. My largest Ought-weight bass weighed 7 pounds! The SPL Ought-weight isn't wimpy, and it will protect light tippets WELL! When Sage announced the discontinuation of the SPL series in late 2001, I purchased an SPL 1-weight. I just had to have one in my UL rod collection. Research and Development moves on constantly. Each succeeding year I wonder "What will be next? These rods can't get any better!" Then they get better.

The SLTs

In 2002 the next generation of Sage ultralights -- the SLTs appeared in major fly shops, so I cast the 3-weight four piece version, and fished an SLT 1-weight. My impression was that although the color and materials had changed, the Ought through 2-weight rods had the same feel, performance, and dimensions as the SPLs. I weighed my SPL and compared it to the new SLT 1-weight. They weighed the same. In on-water fishing, I believed they fished the same.

Next Siem and Sage had moved in a slightly different direction with the SLT rods. To understand what this move to Sage SLTs will mean to us all, I spoke with Jerry Siem, Sage's rod designer and father of the SPL series rods. This interview shared some of Jerry's comments about the new (at that time) SLTs with you. Click here for my 2002 SLT article.

Rod designers can't quit pushing the envelope. When Jerry and I conducted his SLT interview, we discussed the next lightest rod -- the double ought weight. He had a prototype built and was developing the rod even in 2002. Jerry sent me a double ought weight prototype line to fish and compare on the ought weight rod. I found it was a little lighter but the ought weight cast it well. I couldn't wait until the next new lightest rod and line were released.

The TXLs

Click for Sage TXLs

Now for 2005 Jerry Siem has created another generation of incredible ultralights -- the TXLs. The new double ought weight rod is this new family's new star ultralight weight member. Click on the Logo above to go directly to Sage TXL information.

As is the case with new rods, the manufacturer has to build them for demo, reps, sales people first. Then the rest of us gain access to these new rods.

My double ought weight has arrived! Wow! First I weighed and compared the new TXL to my Sage SPL 0 weight. The two rods weighed about the same on my postal scale -- with the 00 just a little lighter at 1 7/8 ounces. At 7 feet 10 inches the 00 is the perfect length and power for the 00 line.

Then I cast the 00 with my 2 year old prototype 00 weight line and the rod loaded and cast the line smoothly. This new generation rod is designed to nicely cast the latest 00 weight line -- a Double Taper for the quietest presentation possible. It has the familiar feel that I want in a fly rod even at this LIGHT weight.

In the right circumstances being able to cast such a fine diameter line can make the difference in catching spooky fish or not. I have fired a three weight line over fish in clear water and watched them scatter. I test cast over other schools of fish in that same water with an ought weight line and the fish didn't even notice. Fine lines can make a huge difference in the right circumstances!

We had freezing temps and possible snow coming to Atlanta. Timing is everything isn't it? On the afternoon of December 4th, I went to the water. Talk about mid winter reprieves. There was enough air temp to be shirt sleeves with a polar fleece vest on. My graph left show a water surface temp of 49F. I fished water that was as cold as 47.8F. The fish I released were physically COLD! There weren't many other fishers on the water that day - just me and my new Sage TXL 00 weight.

Actually the only other fisher I saw up close was this bundled up Great Blue Heron right who was also angling in the sun. Talk about patience. He has to be still and spear his fish. Don't guess he's interested in catch-and-release.

Jerry Siem on TXLs

Jerry Siem (left) and I discussed the TXL series rods very recently and the following includes our comments:

Byrd -- Jerry what are the differences in the TXLs as compared to the earlier generation SPL and SLT rod families?

Siem -- "I believe that the SPLs and SLTs required a little finer hand (more feedback and casting skill) to cast them. Many casters used more power than they needed to and applied more power to these very light rods to cast them, because they felt a little soft in the middle and top sections of the rods. In the TXLs there is more power in the center and upper sections that makes today's casting a little easier. The TXLs track straighter, are physically smaller, weigh less, and exhibit more sensitivity to the light weight lines."

Byrd -- How do you believe these rod characteristic changes will affect fly fishers?

Siem -- "More and more fly fishers will need to adjust to the feel of the 2 weight and 1 weight lines. It takes a little time to recognize and be accustomed to the feel of that line weight in the air. When you drop off the scale to the ought and double ought lines, you have to adjust your sensitivity to feel these lines as you cast. Then you can adjust your casting power and stroke to complete consistently good, accurate casts."

Byrd -- The TXL family is built double ought to 4 weight so that should provide rods for many fly fishing species and situations. What do you believe the role for the ought and double ought rods is?

Siem -- "Anytime a fly fisher is going to be fishing a size 18 or smaller fly, the ought or double ought rods will really help. Trying to fish size 18 or smaller flies with a heavier rod and line is a real handicap. The beauty of these ultralight rods is that you can shorten the leader and present these tiny flies with a minimum of water surface disturbance much more accurately than you can with a heavier rod. If you are fishing a size 22 fly with a 5 weight you are going to need a long leader, say 15 feet, and the heavier tackle really makes it hard to cast that small fly accurately. Change to a 9 foot leader on an ought or double ought rod and you can drop that same fly on a leaf, time after time."

Byrd -- In addition, I have experimented on gin clear waters in shallow water fishing situations and found that even a 3 weight line cast over a pod of fish will cause the pod of fish to spook and just vanish. Casting a one weight down to double ought line over those same fish, I found that they don't even notice the smaller line. We gain stealth, accuracy, tippet protection, and pure fun from the one to double ought weight TXLs.

Siem -- "To me that is something a fly fisher has to experience to believe. Also how well these lines cast. In a little bit of wind it is such a fine diameter line the wind barely bothers it. Fly fishers aren't handicapped in wind by fishing ultralight tackle. Balancing our light weight lines with the slightly faster action rod gives it a casting sensation and tempo like your heavier outfits. It is like taking your 9 foot 5 weight and scaling down every part of the rod, reel, line guides, and line to ultralight proportions. The it produces the "familiar feeling" that you are accustomed to, only in a MUCH lighter fly fishing system."

Byrd -- I have written articles about that very thing. "Conventional wisdom" suggests that you have to go to bigger, heavier line in wind. If one considers the reality of the situation -- the diameter of larger lines increases and actually presents more surface area and resistance to the wind. The wind can exert more force on the larger line. I have fished one weight and ought weight systems in winds to 15 mph with no problem. I wasn't making 40 foot casts with giant flies, but with size 14 or smaller light flies, I have no problems in wind.

Byrd -- When you set the design for the new TXLs how did you create an even better ultralight fly rod for us?

Siem -- "To put the whole TXL ultralight rod package together I developed a new tiny little nickel silver reel seat, finer than anything else out there, a small light handle, thin, light line guides, and every component of the TXL rods has been designed to compliment those TXL rod blanks. Then we developed the new Quiet Double Taper fly line and we have a fly fishing package that is quite unique. It also sells at an affordable price so many fly fishers will be able to experience true ultralight fly fishing."

Byrd -- Jerry, in the late 1990s when you developed the Sage SPL family of rods, you were the first rod designer I had ever heard of who actually co-developed your lines with your rods for absolutely the best performance from the rod/line system.

Byrd - comment: With the SPL family of rods the original Quiet Taper lines were co-developed. With the SLT family of rods, the Quiet Taper II lines were co-developed. Now Sage continues to manufacture the latest generation of Quiet Taper II lines, plus the new Quiet Double Taper line was co-developed specifically for the TXL rod family. The Quiet Taper II lines are still great lines for stealth, making a borderline underloaded rod cast better by loading it better due to its WF taper. The new Quiet Double Taper line was designed with a reduced tip diameter, allowing us fly fishers to make delicate presentations with a shorter, more accurate leader length, and a narrowed body to help us shoot the line farther. We have the rods and lines to meet most stealth needs.

Siem -- "Yes, these lines are dialed into and will maintain the ultralight category. These lines roll cast well, pick up off the water quietly, gently lay up under overhanging cover. Combined with the TXL rod it is a better fishing system. Some people may not want to drop down to an ought weight or a double ought weight, so I believe that the one, two, and even three weights will be a lot of fun. Even if the three weight is the lightest a fly fisher goes, I believe I've accomplished a lot in opening his eyes and getting him to try ultralight fly fishing."

Byrd -- Jerry, you certainly have worked hard to create three families of Sage rods that have set the benchmark for ultralight fly rods over the past eight years. First the SPLs in 1997, followed by the SLTs, and now the TXLs. Ultralight fly fishing must hold a special attraction for you.

Siem -- "I've always felt that the ultralight fly fisher out there includes quite a group worldwide that takes great pleasure in fishing ultralights, so we took no short cuts in putting this whole TXL package together. It is evident that the TXL package was well thought out."

Byrd -- Finally, with the TXL double ought weight rod, we have the lightest ultralight fly rod in the world again. Is there still a lighter rod on the drawing board for the future that may come from Jerry Siem?

Siem -- "In my imagination there could be, but for all practicality I believe that this gets down to as light as necessary right at this time. Until there is a major change in rod materials or fly lines change a lot, I believe the double ought will be the lightest rod there is. I will keep the option for a new design open, that's for sure."

There you have it. A new generation of three - to double ought-weight fly rods which are a joy to fish, will not physically tire us, will allow us a marvelous QUIET presentation, will give us unbelieveable feel and casting control all the way to the fish's mouth, and will protect our light tippets needed in today's fly fishing. Then they'll allow us to put MORE pressure on our fish to land them faster!