Hello friends and thanks for checking in at the O’Grady Fly Fishing Adventures. If you have been a long-time follower of the blog and have read my many product reviews, then you know that my reviews are anything but normal. Rather than just tossing out a bunch of technical specs, I try to paint a picture of the usability of a product. I have been a trout guide and a part time fly shop employee for about ten years and although it may be sacrilegious, personally I don’t think castability is the most important part of a fly rod. This is a review of the new Sage Igniter fly rod.
I wanted to start by giving my first impressions of the Igniter. As a long-time shop rat and an obsessed fly fisherman, every time a new rod comes into the shop I have to pick it up and get that initial impression. I have picked up and examined hundreds and hundreds of rods over the years and came away with a whole array of first impressions. The first Igniter I got to play with was my wife Cat’s 9 foot 5 wt. The color was interesting to say the least. I have never been one to think that color will ever make the difference in catching fish but if you are going to spend that much money on a rod, then you want it to look good. Cat liked the color so much that she matched her fingernails to the rod. Picking up the rod the first thing I noticed was that it felt a slight bit heavier than the Sage X. Looking at the specs, it is about quarter of an ounce heavier. Once we added a reel, the weight difference was negligible and when holding upright I didn’t feel the weight but could definitely feel the stability. The next thing I did was give it a good shake and there was absolutely no jiggle in the rod, it flexed down and up and came back to center almost immediately. I loved the feel and the look but was worried the flex may be a little stiffer than I like.
Now here is the part of the review that I hope the rod designers never read. In the opening of this blog I stated that personally as a trout guide, I don’t think castability is the most important part of a fly rod. A few weeks back we had a client that was getting ready for his trip to Colorado and was telling my wife that he had been practicing and he was pretty confident at casting up to about sixty feet. When Cat told me that I laughed and asked if she explained we were only going to be fishing one river at a time. The majority of my fishing is done at twenty-five feet or less. I have guided many clients over the years that can cast a mile but the most successful trout anglers are the ones that can control their flies once they hit the water.
Last week I headed to the Western Slope to visit my son and spend some quality time on the water with him, I brought Cat’s new Igniter to give it a test run. The rod was set up with a Sage Spectrum Lt and a Rio Grand line and I began with 5x fluoro. The river was super low and really clear so the majority of our fish were sighted out. I started by landing a few cutties in the 14 or 15 inch range that had been sitting about fifteen feet away. I use a roll/flip cast and found the rod to be deadly accurate. The fight on the smaller fish was more enjoyable that I expected. I can’t stand the super stiff rods that don’t give you the ability to feel the fish. The wind picked up early afternoon and the rod never lost a beat even tossing it into the wind. The second day we found some bigger fish and eventually had to go down to 6x, I hooked a pretty big fish but he got me into the rocks before I could really get a feel for him, but caught several in the 14 to 17inch range and the tippet was protected fine. When I got home, I enjoyed the rod enough that I ordered my own in a 4wt and have now had the chance to fish it several times. Now here is the thing that I don’t really understand and am trying to wrap my head around, when I have fished really fast rods in the past, the energy from the fish ends up going straight into my forearm. And sometimes the slower rods get to a certain flex and then stop and I end up with the same forearm strain. Here is what I absolutely love about the Igniter the most. I have now landed a few fish over twenty and today landed one that measured 23 and was a fatty. I fight fish quick and got this one landed quickly. I hooked him on 5x fluoro and the DMZ was the soft seam between the current and the dead water I was standing in, he didn’t want to leave the current and I wasn’t going in. I kept the 5x as close to the breaking point as I could and I could feel the flex deep into the rod, but never felt like the flex was at its end. When I finally got his face to the surface I steered him across the surface and into my incredible wife’s net. After a few quick pics and a healthy release, I began to think about the rods performance and I am still smiling. The rod not only protected the 5x tippet but it also absorbed the strength of the fish and kept the stress from my arm.
Now as for the casting of the rod, we have taken it out a few times testing and it really casts well, a haul or double haul can cast as far as you want. We were really happy that the rod doesn’t seem to be stuck as a one-line pony. A Rio Gold line still loads the rod but just lands a little softer, and the Rio Grand line can turn over a fly even if it has to go through a wall, but how often do you really cast to fish behind a wall.
Now is the new Igniter for you, that is hard to say but I am a huge fan of both the X and the new Igniter. I think Sage has put it in the specialty category but personally I think it’s a great all around nymphing and Colorado rod. If you want to toss more dries then stick with the X, but if you want a beast to go head to head with the piggies, this rod might just be for you. Stop by the shop and give one a cast, or better yet, fish one and feel the excitement for yourself. As always, Connell, Cat, Winston, and the Drift Fly Shop want to thank you for reading……..