While this is a rod review it’s not necessarily to benefit my readership (all 11 of you). Rather this is a purely the result of a selfish endeavor to determine if the new Sage ACCEL might be the next addition to my quiver. You see, I am looking for a very special 4 weight rod.
My favorite rod, overall, is my Z-Axis 490-4 that I’ve had since Sage first launched the Z-Axis series in 2007. I’ve fished this rod so much that it’s like an old, reliable friend: always there, always willing and always able. The Z-Axis has a sensitive tip section and plenty of backbone: in my opinion, a perfect combination that makes the rod light to cast and fun to catch small fish on, but capable of handling fish up to 20 inches (as if I ever catch fish that size). I’ve shuddered at the thought I should ever lose it or break it (knock on wood) and not be able to get it fixed (does Sage keep a large stock of old blanks?). And so to ease my anxiety I recently began looking for another Z-Axis in the same configuration to have as a back-up; finding one in excellent condition has proven impossible so far. It was during my quest for another Z-Axis that a discussion came up with an associate who had tested the new ACCEL. In his estimation the ACCEL felt a lot like the Z-Axis and he suggested I give it a go. But you can’t take another’s word for something like that—fly rods are highly subjective things.
Upon my request I received an ACCEL 490-4 demo rod from Sage to test out. The rod was brand new and had not been out of its green ballistic nylon tube yet (except obviously before the rod was placed into the tube at the factory). I’ve always preferred the aluminum tubes with a screw-on lid and gasket seal, but Sage has always offered their less-than-top-of-the-line rods in nylon tubes with zipper closures. Nothing really wrong with that, unless you automatically (and inaccurately) associate a lower-priced rod with less than top-of-the-line performance. I have many different Sage rods, and all but one have the aluminum rod tubes. What does that say about me? (Don’t answer that question). I should point out that that I’ve never had a zipper fail on an aluminum tube, and the aluminum doesn’t hold any moisture after sitting in the bottom of a boat. Other than that, my take on the matter is that the style of rod tube has more to do with perception of the rod’s quality. Both style tubes will protect their contents, which is all that really matters.
Many people look at the history of different rods from a manufacturer and try to draw relationships—create a family tree, if you will. Well, don’t try to do that with the Sage line of rods. Instead look at each new rod as just that: all new. I actually spoke with a source from Sage and they had this to say:
“New rod designs are based on the materials (mix of graphite and resins), tapers, components, etc. available to the designer to create something completely new each time. Each rod family is created to be unique with its own purpose and personality. Sage does not see the lineage story as essential to the Sage customer and that is not how they are developed.”
So there you have it: the ACCEL is neither a cousin to the Z-Axis, nor a half brother, or anything of the sort. And the ACCEL certainly isn’t the red-headed step child of the Z-Axis, or any other Sage rod (it’s green, after all). The ACCEL is a new rod all its own. Acknowledging that, I will be drawing comparisons between the ACCEL and the Z-Axis.
Despite that the name “ACCEL” conjures up images of speed and acceleration, Sage has dubbed the ACCEL a medium-fast action rod. The Z-Axis was labeled fast action. The Sage ONE is also a fast action rod, which I’ve cast (and reviewed HERE), and I would agree that it is. By comparison to the ONE my Z-Axis is noticeably slower—still fast, but definitely more flex in the tip than the ONE. Personally I like the feel of the Z-Axis better, despite liking the ONE a great deal. But the question on this day is, would I like the ACCEL?
I don’t particularly care a whole lot about aesthetics when it comes to rods (or clothes, according to my wife). So the fact that the ACCEL is an attractive bright green blank, considerably lighter in shade than the Z-Axis, didn’t factor into my assessment of the rod one way or another. The Z-Axis was made with a reverse half wells grip while the ACCEL comes with a a full wells grip. I prefer the look of the grip on my Z-Axis, but again that’s merely personal preference. The ACCEL is a nice looking stick, but I wasn’t looking to judge a book by its cover—I was looking for feel.
I always start with what some consider a worthless act: the old wiggle test. Side by side, the Z-Axis and ACCEL both look and feel nimble. To the average eye, the blanks are the same diameter. They’re both made from the same generation 5 graphite technology. The ACCEL (2-5/8 oz) is actually lighter than the Z-Axis (3-1/16 oz), but again for the average person, which includes me, that’s not a huge difference: both are light in the hand. When wiggling the rods side by side, the Z-Axis recovers a bit faster than the ACCEL, and I could see and feel the ACCEL flexing farther down the blank than the Z. But there was a definite similarity.
Next up was the lawn test. I mounted my go-to 4 weight reel lined with RIO Gold WF4F line and began waving the ACCEL back and forth with only 15 or so feet of line out front. Gradually I began feeding more line, but living in suburbia has its limitations and my restrictive homeowner’s association doesn’t allow me to cast farther than about 30 feet (remember, 60 total feet is required to cast a forward distance of 30 feet). Because lawn casting didn’t really afford me a true assessment of the ACCEL’s range capabilities, and no lawn trout were biting anyway, I took my Z and the ACCEL down to the river. There, I had more than enough room needed to test the
limits of my casting ability rods.
The ACCEL threw as much line as I was capable of doing, and it did so nicely out to about 44.5 feet. Compared to the Z-Axis it didn’t quite seem to have the same “punch” that can shoot an extra few feet, but for the intended purposes of a 4 weight rod the ACCEL will cast as far as I need it to: after all, a 4 weight isn’t exactly a power tool. The ACCEL is smooth and effortless to cast, and it throws nice tight loops. It’s no slow action rod by any means, but it bends farther down the blank than does the Z-Axis, which accounts for why I can cast a bit farther with the Z. The ample tip flex makes mending a breeze, a downfall of stiff, fast action rods. The Z-Axis has ample tip flex so mending has never been a problem with that rod. Again, a similarity revealed itself. The ACCEL felt remarkably like an old friend. I fished for the better part of the day, throwing Reverse Spiders for coastal cutthroat trout, of which I only caught one. It wasn’t a very big fish so I wasn’t able to enjoy the true fish fighting capability of the ACCEL. I also threw a few tungsten cone-head streamers and the rod did a fine job of chucking those heavy flies. It wasn’t an ideal match-up, but these weighted bugs are better suited for a 6 weight. By the end of the day I forgot that I was fishing a strange new rod.
Conclusionary thoughts: The ACCEL feels quite like the Z-Axis, despite that the Z-Axis was, at the time, the premium offering from Sage and came with a $700+ price tag (and an aluminum rod tube). The current top shelf, all-around rods from Sage today are the Method and ONE, with price tags of $800. The ACCEL comes in at $595, making it a step down in price and perhaps perceived quality. But based on my observations, which are my own and may have little bearing on you, the ACCEL is my first choice of the current all around rods from Sage, making it the best—for me. The ACCEL may be a bit a slower casting rod than my Z-Axis, but that’s OK because I’m slowing down a bit myself.
So, to answer today’s question, would I like the ACCEL? Yes. So much so that I’ll have placed an order for one of my own before this review is read by all 11 of you. And if I find that I can’t live with the ballistic nylon rod tube, I’m sure I can find an aluminum replacement.
An upcoming event at the Filson Flagship store in Seattle area looks to be a great evening to learn about and celebrateour state’s free-flowing waters. Attendees will enjoy films, photography, and presentations celebrating the wild rivers of Washington State.
Featuring Emcee, Dr. David Montgomery, renowned river systems expert and author of King of Fish, Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, Mountainman Crafts and Skills: A Fully Illustrated Guide to Wilderness Living and Survival and more.
There will also be a silent auction of outdoor equipment, books, and art to support conservation efforts in Washington State.
Admission is free! Doors will open at 6:30 for a social hour, and the program begins at 7:30.
Appetizers from Blueacre Seafood will be served; and beer from Sierra Nevada and wine from Troon Vineyard and Waterbrook Winery is provided with your pint cup from your favorite river conservation organization that you can acquire for $10 at the event.
Wild Rivers Night is hosted by American Rivers, American Whitewater, Filson,Northwest Rafting Company, Save Our Wild Salmon, Sierra Club, Washington Wild,Wild Washington Rivers and Wildwater River Guides.
I’ve been a supporter of the online magazine, Kype, for a several years now, having contributed to content and always posting their current issue in the sidebar of my blog. Kype is now under new publishership, with my friend Aileen Lane, of MKFlies at the helm. Aileen has great enthusiasm for the whole fly fishing thing and I’m sure her energy will take Kype to new heights, despite my contribution to the current issue.
There are some great articles to be found as well as some marginal writing on page 22. So enjoy, and please support Kype. You can visit their website and subscribe so that you never miss a new issue, or you can come back here to the UA and always find the latest issue in the sidebar (look to the right and scroll down—there it is).
And if you’re looking for some expertly tied custom flies, give Aileen’s website a look.
On a recent Friday while I was someplace where I was unable to answer my phone, and in fact had it on silent mode, I received a text from my son, Schpanky:
By the time I saw the message he had, of course, left for his weekend to chase salmon on the Kalama River with a buddy. Honestly I didn’t give it much thought as I assumed he knew full well which rod to take—his 8 weight. Coupled with the fact that I didn’t have my reading glasses and couldn’t see the photo on my phone very well, I gave the matter very little thought. However, when I got home later that evening I looked more closely at the photo and realized Schpanky had taken the wrong rod. He had grabbed one of my Spey rods: the Sage Z-Axis 8134. An 8 weight for sure, but it probably wasn’t going to serve him too well.
It’s not that the 8134 isn’t the right tool for the job—it would do just fine with the right reel and line. However, when paired with the wrong line, no Spey rod is going to perform properly—especially if the line isn’t even for a Spey rod. So unless he had grabbed the right reel, containing the right line, things weren’t going to go so good for the lad.
The reason for my doubt is that there was no way he’d have known which reel to take, as my drawer full of angling tackle contains a confusing assortment of different reels, spools and such. And they’re not labeled in a manner that anyone other than myself would be able to decipher (heck, sometimes even I get confused, and rather than taking the wrong reel I just forget to take a reel, period). Had I known he intended to take a Spey rod I would have set the proper combination of tools out for him ahead of time. It was my assumption that he’d be taking his own gear. And he did, partially: he took his own reel, spooled with an 8 weight line.
For a single-handed rod.
I’d introduced Schpanky to Spey casting briefly a few years ago, and he did quite well because he’s a natural when it comes to things like that (and tetherball). But he hasn’t done much two-handed casting since then, and what I didn’t explain, apparently, was that Spey rods require specialized shooting head lines. I should have made it very clear that just because a Spey rod has the same weight designation as a single-hander, that does not mean they are the same thing or even capable of interchanging reels and lines. I chuckled at the thought of him trying to cast the combination of rod and line he had taken with him. I may have chuckled repeatedly.
The next day, after he’d been on the river with the wrong combination of tools, I checked in with him to see how it had gone.
Somehow, according to him, he managed to get about 50 feet of line out, which is probably better than I’d have been able to manage. No fish were hooked, or landed.
I may have failed as a father, but I’ve succeeded in creating another generation of unaccomplished angler.