October2011

Sage ONE: a review

I’d been wanting to test cast the new Sage ONE ever since hearing about it a few months ago, but due to high demand in the world of rod reviewers I had to wait my turn. Recently on a particular Wednesday I learned that it was my time. Two days later it showed up via my favorite brown parcel delivery van. That’s the kind of power and influence the Unaccomplished Angler has. Or it could just be that Bainbridge Island-based Sage manufacturing is only a short ferry ride from Seattle, and Seattle is only 25 miles from the testing facilities of the Unaccomplished Angler. Whatever the case may be, I wasn’t expecting the rod to arrive so quickly. After opening the box I took a few moments to stare at the pieces that I held in my hands. To clarify, the rod was not broken into pieces during shipping; all was as it should be. I just wanted to take it all in for a bit before piecing the rod together. The ONE is aesthetically easy on the eyes; understated, but with a certain cool factor. The blank is “black ice”with bronze-toned wraps. A walnut and bronze-colored, aluminum anodized up-locking reel seat. Chrome plated guides.

What? Another Review?

There are many reviews out there for this rod, with more likely being added daily. So how is another review beneficial to you, the reader? Many reviews will regurgitate the same information, and regardless of what the reviews say, all are subjective and may mean nothing to you. Casting any rod is the only way for the individual to know if it’s the right one for you.  In this review I will draw comparisons between the ONE and my Z-Axis that I’ve had since the Z was first introduced. Since the ONE is replacing the Z-Axis the comparison makes sense in that regard. For me personally, it makes even more sense because I absolutely love my Z-Axis. It’s my go-to trout rod that I begrudgingly set aside only when conditions call for a 6 weight. For a 4 wt rod, the Z has a lot of backbone so I use it most of the time. If I were going to be replacing it, the ONE would be a natural rod to consider.

Kicking Tires

Anyone who has ever grabbed a rod knows that the old “wiggle test” really tells you nothing meaningful about the rod’s casting characteristics. It’s akin to kicking tires when you go to look at a new car. But it’s something most of us do, so once I assembled the ONE of course I gave it the old wiggle test. The rod I wiggled was a 486-4, meaning it’s a 4wt, 8’6″ 4 section rod. At 2-7/16 ounces it felt not-surprisingly light in the hand. My Z Axis 490-4 (9 foot, 4 piece), at 3-1/6 ounces, is a little heavier than the ONE but the difference could not be noticed from my perspective. The Z-Axis  has a reversed half wells grip that I am very accustomed to, so obviously the ONE, with its full wells grip, felt different (not a bad thing). The full wells grip will make the rod more comfortable in large hands (not a problem for me). The side-by-side wiggle test did reveal that the ONE is stiffer than the Z-Axis–there is noticeably more flex down the shaft of the rod with the Z. But both are considered fast action rods.

Out on the Lawn

I’d read about the incredible tracking and accuracy of the ONE and was eager to get it out on the lawn. There’s been a lot of talk about Konnetic™ technology, whatever that is. And Sage uses the tagline, “Accuracy Redefined” to describe the ONE, which is said to have virtually no lateral or torsional movement. I was curious to see if I would notice, or better yet–if I could defy those claims. I decided I would grip the rod incorrectly with my thumb to the inside, and break my wrist (not literally, mind you) to see if I could thrown some line off course. Then I gripped the rod properly, with my thumb aligned down the spine of the rod, locked my wrist and employed proper technique. I noticed two things: First, casting poorly comes easily to me; secondly, the ONE does a very good job of maintaining a true course. In other words, I noticed that it does have very little lateral movement and the energy seems to flow in a straight line, as is intended. But if you use improper technique you will not get the casting results you want, even with the ONE.

While not an apples comparison due to the additional 6 inches of length with the Z-Axis, I was able to cast equal amounts of line with the ONE. The lawn casting session revealed that in my unaccomplished hands, the ONE felt very similar and yet different than the old Z-Axis. I definitely felt more flex down the blank with the Z, but that’s not to suggest that the ONE is anything resembling a broomstick. On the contrary, due to it’s slim profile you can definitely feel it load, and it does so quickly. But lawn casting isn’t the ultimate test for a fly rod–getting it out on the water, actually fishing it was what needed to happen next. For the record and much to my dismay, while lawn casting I did not hook up with a single Lawn Trout.

One fishy rod

Fortunately within a week I had an opportunity to test the rod on the water and off to the Yakima River I went, with the ONE cradled safely within the rod tube for my Z-Axis (the demo rod didn’t come with a tube). I will say that while no rod will make you a better caster, the ONE may make you a better angler. At least this ONE might because I caught a nice rainbow within 5 minutes of the put-in. Believe me, that doesn’t happen very often (if ever) on the Yakima. I landed half a dozen fish on this day: enough to discover that quick hook sets are a snap due to the tip flex of the ONE. And when the fish put their noses down in some heavy current, the rod flexed enough that I enjoyed playing the fish. The tip is quite sensitive such that the 5X tippet was well protected. Casting my weight forward line with a large single dry fly or a large single dry fly with a dropper was a easy. One thing I’ve always really liked about my Z-Axis is the rod’s ability to pick up a lot of line off the water and get it moving in the air quickly.  The ONE did not disappoint in this regard. The wind blows often on the Yakima and thankfully it wasn’t much of an issue on this particular day. Still, it blew for a while and the ONE punched through the gusts in fine form. The rod put my fly where I wanted it to go and did so very efficiently. By the end of the day I felt that while perhaps not quite an extension of my arm (as Sage says), the ONE felt like an old friend: very similar to my Z-Axis, but different. A bit more nimble perhaps? Casts that really were right on track? I don’t want to say too much for fear of pissing off my Z-Axis, which has been very good to me and I need to continue being good to me for years to come. It was bad enough that I left the Z at home and borrowed it’s rod tube for this day on the water with the ONE. If I say anything else flattering about the ONE, I’m likely to regret it.

Premium rod

With a retail price of $715, the rod as tested is going to cause many to roll their eyes and make snide remarks. Others will openly admit they wish they could afford it and will hold out for the time when they either win the lottery or the ONE can be found on the used market. And then there will be those who will buy the rod without blinking an eye. Me? I’m not parting with my Z-Axis any time soon, but after my kids are both done with college in a few years I may have some disposable income once again. Then I’ll go shopping for a ONE.

If you’d like one of two free Sage ONE hats, quickly head over to my Unaccomplished Angler Facebook page and leave a comment where indicated.

 

BASSCAR: It was bound to happen

I was recently driving back from an Unaccomplished Elk Hunt (more to come on that later), crossing the vast expanse of Eastern Washington. Helping to ease the pain of the fruitless hunt and 6 hour drive was a Fish Schtick podcast in which professional bass fisherman Darren Gallaher was interviewed. Now I’m not a particular fan of a tournament bass fishing (nothing wrong with it, just not my cup o’tea per se), but I do like fast boats so I listened with great interest as Fish Schtick host Teeg Stouffer (of Recycled Fish fame) recalled his butt-puckering experience of racing across the surface of a lake at well over 70 miles per hour. Apparently he left behind some brown stains on the upholstery of Darren’s boat. Good stuff right there – recommend you listen to the podcast HERE.

Another sport of which I’m not a particular fan is car racing, although I do appreciate fast cars (unfortunately I do not own one or the trip would have taken far less time). As I listened to the Fish Schtick podcast I couldn’t help but draw similarities between professional bass tournaments and NASCAR.  With the emphasis on speed and uniforms adorned with sponsor logos, they share much in common, not to mention there are a lot of southern accents in each sport, too. Undoubtedly there is also some overlap with the fan base of each sport. My revelation isn’t anything new, but I’ve yet to see a formal proposal for a new sport that combines the two so here it is…BASSCAR: The inevitable union of NASCAR and Professional Bass Fishing.

NASCAR race cars are to be fitted with hitches (which will attract new sponsors from the hitch manufacturing industry), to which will be coupled bass fishing boats/trailers. Obviously some alterations would have to be made to the trailers in order for them to be able to withstand speeds approaching 200 mph, but that won’t be an issue for the motor heads out there that love to tinker. Lightweight alloys, racing wheels and tires, high speed axles…no problem.

The race courses will be a combination of oval tracks, open roads and boat ramps. And of course, waterways. The cars will scream around the tracks much like they do at NASCAR races, although the track segment of the competition will be considerably shorter so as not to bore the audience to allow for the remainder of the race to conclude within a reasonable amount of time. A certain number of laps would have to be completed before the cars pull into the pits and have their tires changed and bass boat trailers hitched up. At this point the cars, with their boats in tow, would exit the race stadium and hit the open road en route to a distant bass fishing body of water, again at break-neck speeds. Obviously roads would be blocked off to prevent civilian traffic interference. Wildlife that would wish to cross the roads during the race will be on their own.

Once teams have reached the destination waters the drivers will be tasked with quickly backing their trailers through a challenging obstacle course, again at the greatest speeds possible, before descending the ramp and getting the trailers into the water. Good brakes will be essential here. At this point the pit crew would be on hand to quickly unhook the boat and tie it to a nearby dock. A good pit crew will prove invaluable here, tending to matters such as insuring that the drain plugs have been installed and the beer coolers adequately stocked. Prime positioning will be on a first come, first served basis–an incentive to obviously do well prior to this point in the race. The driver must then quickly park his race car and trailer in a designated location some distance away, change out of their race suit and sprint to the dock where the vessel awaits. Once in the boat the angling portion of the competition begins and will play out very much like a bass tournament.

A sport like this would combine the skills of race car driving, recreational trailer maneuvering, and of course, bass fishing. But another aspect of BASSCAR would be physical fitness. The foot race from the designated vehicle/trailer parking lot would be far enough from the boat dock that the race entrants would be required to have a certain level of agility and fitness in order to be competitive. I believe that by including this element it would make the sport more appealing to a wider, west-coast audience, and would of course attract a greater number sponsors, such as Nike and other running/fitness industry companies.

I’m not sure how quickly BASSCAR will take off in popularity, but I do know that the Unaccomplished Angler wants to sponsor a team. Unfortunately there’s not a lot of money in our camp, so Team UA may not be very competitive.

 

I like Canada

In response to a bit of an uproar (from at least two readers, that is) regarding last week’s post about the Pebble Mine, I wanted to go on record as stating that I have issues with neither Canada nor it’s fine citizens. In fact, Canada has always been very good to me.

When I was a kid traveled to BC to play in a youth soccer game, and I remember the host family to have been the kindest of folks. When I was about 9 years old I endured a family trip to Victoria to visit Butchart Gardens. It wasn’t what I would exactly call an enjoyable time, but it was a forced family vacation to see decorative foliage so how what do you expect? Certainly it was no fault of Canada that I didn’t enjoy myself. That unfortunate trip was offset by another youthful trip on which I visited Bowron Lake Provincial Park to partake of a 10 day canoe trip with the Boy Scouts. That trip left me with fond and permanent fly fishing memories and was largely responsible for my current obsession. On at least two other occasions since then I’ve enjoyed the hospitality of Canada’s good people, most recently a year ago when I fished Nootka Sound. And I hope to be allowed back across the border for a trip or two to fish again in the future.

Canada is a great country with good people, and one needn’t look very far before it becomes readily apparent that Canada has greatly contributed to the world. In addition to this list of well known Canadians, I’d also like to add April Vokey.

I like Canada. I like Canadians. And I’d like to go fishing with April Vokey.

But for the record I do not like the Pebble Mine.

We are at war.

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time you know that the Unaccomplished Angler doesn’t very often (if ever) take things too seriously. Whether that’s a shortcoming or not, serious just ain’t my style; not what the Unaccomplished Angler is about. But this is some serious business that deserves some serious attention.

This entry was spawned by a writing prompt at the Outdoor Blogger Network. Trout Unlimited and the Bristol Bay Road Show, are encouraging bloggers to address the following questions:  How do you feel about a foreign company potentially threatening one of our country’s greatest natural resources? Although you may never visit Bristol Bay, do you believe getting involved can make a positive impact? Other thoughts?

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When a country is invaded by an enemy, that country must be able to defend itself against the marauding forces. If it cannot adequately repel the enemy, the consequences will be devastating. No war in history ever resulted favorably for those on the receiving end of the assault (just ask most of Europe after WWII). Even though the enemy was ultimately defeated, collateral damage and casualties were severe. Much was lost that could never be replaced.

Bristol Bay is under similar attack from foreign invaders. A Canadian oil mining company, if it gets its way, will create what would be the largest open pit gold mine in North America: smack dab in the headwaters of Bristol Bay. If built, the mine would produce up to 10 billion tons of toxic mine waste that would have to be treated for hundreds of years.

Bristol Bay is a long ways away.

If you’re like me, you’ve never been to Bristol Bay, or even Alaska. Tucked away in a remote part of the Last Frontier, Bristol Bay is out of sight, out of mind, right? One has to assume that’s exactly how the enemy wants/expects us to feel. Look at the map – Bristol Bay is a long way from anywhere. How can environmental destruction and devastation to the last great salmon runs in North America possibly affect us? And what about the loss of 12,000 jobs and $500 million in economic benefits that are under threat from the proposed Pebble Mine? That can’t possibly effect my quality of life, right?  Out of sight, out of mind. That’s what they want.

Although armed with impressive spawning canines, the salmon of Bristol Bay cannot defend themselves against this threat. Nor can the voters of Alaska – the people whose cultures and livelihoods depend on the salmon. We must come to their collective aid, as a band of brothers, and take a stand.

Salmon – Bristol Bay – Alaska – the United States of America – is under attack. We are at war.  How we respond will determine our future for generations to come. I’d like visit the region one day. I’d like my descendents to be able to do the same. Will we sit idly and allow the enemy to run roughshod over what is ours, or will we resist?  It’s in our nature as Americans to oppose tyranny.

Please join Trout Unlimited and Save Bristol Bay in this battle against an enemy that would invade our soil. Let us bring the fight to our enemy. Visit www.savebristolbay.org and see how you can help.

Disclaimer: Neither the UA, the USA, AK, or Bristol Bay are at war with Canada. Please be sure to read the comments from our Canadian brothers in the comments section of this blog entry. Some valid points are raised.

Mr. Salty and Pink Salmon

Just two. That’s what my dad used to say to three year-old Emily Bean (not her real name) when she would reach for the ever-present bowl of Mr. Salty pretzel sticks: “Just take two.” Emily spent a fair amount of time at our house when she was a tot. You see, my mom used to provide daycare (before it was called daycare) for Emily while her mom was at work a couple of days a week.

Emily remembers standing in our kitchen, being just tall enough to see over the bright orange counter tops in our kitchen (it was the mid 70’s after all, and in addition to orange our house was appropriately decorated with harvest gold, avocado green, and every shade of brown). Now these countertops may seem like a fairly non-memorable thing to remember, but it’s what she saw on top of the counters which left the indelible mark on her memory: car parts.  More specifically, Corvair parts. You see, my family collected Corvairs like some people collect fly rods, and my mom was the chief mechanic. If you needed to find her, chances were that she’d be in the garage. When she rebuilt the engines, the parts were cleaned in the kitchen. What? Didn’t everyone grow up with a mom who rebuilt car engines? I recall making her a mechanic’s creeper in wood shop and giving her a pair of coveralls for Mother’s Day one year. My mom was special. I think about, and miss her, every day.

This is not a '65 Corvair. I wish we'd collected these instead.

I used to also babysit for Emily and her younger sister through my early teenage years. We had a tightly knit neighborhood, and before I got my own car (a Corvair, no less) and became distracted by all the freedom of the open road, I spent a fair amount of time playing in the back yard with the little kids who lived in every direction from our house. Yes, I spent time hanging out with kids my own age, too, but I liked playing soccer and baseball and tag with the younger kids because I could win they looked up to me, literally and figuratively. They thought I was cool, which isn’t something the kids my own age would have said about me.

The backyard gang including Emily Bean, circa 1977-ish

Through the power of the internet I’ve been able to keep in contact with Emily and her family through the years, although it had been over 10 years–since Emily’s wedding–that I last saw her in person. Emily’s dad is an avid fly fisherman so it came as a great delight when I discovered that Emily also grew into a fly angling person. It wasn’t until recently that we actually got out to wet a line together.

It was decided that we’d hit a local river and try to entice some Pink Salmon to accept our artificial offerings. Emily had been out recently with a friend and had no luck. Similarly, I’d been out recently with a friend and had the same success. Employing my algebraic approach to fly fishing, I figured two negatives would make a positive and we’d get into a bunch of Pinks. Or at the very least, just two.

On a foggy morning that came on the heels our first significant rain of the season, Emily and I met along the banks of the Snoqualmie River. What I’d have known, had I checked the USGS River Flow Charts, was that the river would be running at 3 times the volume that it had been 3 days prior, with about 3 inches of visibility. Ultimately the infusion of fresh water would be good for the fish, providing them with better traveling conditions as they made their journey upstream to spawn. It would likely also bring in a new wave of migrating fish. Of course because I did not check the flow charts I mistakenly thought the fish would show a little respect and indulge us for a bit of sport.

As we approached the familiar run, I was amazed at how much the rain had caused the river to swell. It must have been a LOT of rain up in the mountains to cause the water to be this high and this off-color. In what would typically be a very shallow run that would normally be thick with Pinks, we could barely make out the occasional dark shape of a fish in 2-3 feet of fast-moving water. And the fish had an even harder time seeing our flies, apparently. We worked through the run as the thick fog slowly began to lift. It was an enjoyable morning on which to be standing in a river waving a stick, which is essentially all we were doing because there was no chance in Hell we were going to catch a fish, or even just two. As the morning wore on the sun burned through the fog and removed the chill from the air. We enjoyed the solitude and the chance to catch up with each others’ lives, reminisce about the past and of course talk shop (it’s what we fly anglers do). Perhaps the fish sensed that we didn’t want to be interrupted because they left us alone. They were either exceptionally polite in that regard, or they were simply giving us the cold shoulder. Assuming the latter, we took the hint and moved on to another location nearby where we continued to ply hopeless waters. In a stretch of river that would typically be teeming with fish, we saw one beat-up lone warrior fighting his way upstream. This fish had clearly seen better days, but despite his haggard condition he proceeded on with undaunted courage and determination.

Lacking the same perseverance as the old buck, we decided, as a large flock of turkey vultures began circling symbolically overhead, that it was time to call it quits. But before doing so I gave Emily a brief introduction to the way of the two-handed rod. Defying my own advice, If you don’t Spey, don’t start, I may have knowingly set into motion the inevitable financial demise of a friend. For that, Emily Bean, I am sorry.

If at all, Emily will only succomb to the Dark Side of her own accord. After all, she’s a mature grown-up with kids of her own now. She can stay home alone without a babysitter and have as many pretzels as she wants.

And she no longer looks up to me.