It might seem an odd place for it, but since opening of the trout season was still a couple of weeks away, I couldn’t think of a better place to road test a small stream rod. Apart from there being no water and no trout, it is just right for testing this little gem: tight and narrow like my favourite streams albeit with some unusual hazards: rubbish bins or the odd car.
The dart has a stealthy Sapling Green blank, perfect for blending in to the natural small stream environment. Sage describes the Darts as fast rods, and I like fast rods for fast tight accurate loops, but sometimes they can feel a bit stiff and lifeless. Somehow the designers at Sage have managed to make the Dart’s action fast enough to deliver smooth tight loops, but still feel lively and responsive over a range of distances.
I put the rods to the test through a range of casts. Starting with short little casts with less than a rod length of line, all the way out to a 75 foot double haul.
In close (no more than a rod length of line) the 3 and 4 weights both have a smooth crisp recovery that delivers the fly predictably and reliably. Yet the tip is responsive and will allow the caster plenty of control. It feels alive. As you increase the line length they both load progressively and evenly. At around 30 ft. , the 3wt starts to behave more like a mid action rod, and that will please those that prefer a softer dry fly presentation. The taper on the 4wt provides a slicker action than the 3wt, yet the tip of the rod is still very responsive and gives great feel and accuracy in close. It has the power to hold up 40 – 50 ft. of DT line without losing its crispness, which is more than enough for most small stream fishing. I would advise against up-lining these rods as I believe it would dull the action down too much.
Next, I pushed the rods around to see if they were well behaved when delivering some specialty casts; slack lines, curves, over and under powered at various ranges. For fast tight loops the top third of the rod delivers them with speed and feel. It is easy to use just the tip if you wish, yet the butt is supple and powerful enough to be used when desired. For throwing controlled curve casts the tip recovers quickly and even at long range.
On the Water (Jan 2019):
I needed to replace my favourite small stream rod (a 3 piece that is now a 4 piece), so it was an easy choice: the 7’6 4wt. With Hopper season upon us I had the chance to put this to the test. The water is low, the trout hungry but very spooky, long leaders and big flies. Better fish could be had with long accurate casts in and around structure. The Dart excelled, with great accuracy and control. Any such cast was rewarded with a splashy take and a satisfying bend in the Dart.
The folks at Sage have outdone themselves in producing these Twigs. They are sweet fishing rods that balance speed and precision with the feel essential for fishing enjoyment.
They are destined to become a classic for small stream specialists, who I doubt will ever give them up . Mine you would have to prise one from my cold dead hands I fear.
PS: Those familiar with the Italian Style of Dry fly fishing will go crazy for the 7’6″ 4wt, it is the first commercial rod for ages that seems designed for this style.
Models tested: the 7’6″ 3 weight and the 7’6″ 4 weight.
Line used: a true to weight DT floating line with a 9 foot simple front taper.#
Leader/Fly : Long 15 foot Tapered leader/glow bug yarn the size of a #10 Royal Wulff*, on the water I used a #10 Foam Hopper
# I prefer to use a true to weight double taper line with a simple fairly standard front taper for my rod tests. Using a true to weight line with a simple front taper, ensures that the way the rod load is experienced is not affected by a specialty taper. The line has a consistent weight distribution through the belly, and being a double tapered line the belly is 80ft long. Which means each additional foot of line in the loop beyond the front taper adds the same incremental amount of weight to the load. This is the fairest way to see how a rod loads over different distances. Any flat or dead spots in the rod become quickly apparent.
* When I am fishing a dry fly on smallish streams I use a leader between 10 and 15 feet, and dry flies up to the size of a #10 Terrestrial. So I like to test rods with a long leader and suitable fly size as cast this leader/fly combination a 3 to 4 wt rod needs a tip that can generate a good tight loop.