I am the definition of a beginner when it comes to fly fishing. Growing up in Ohio, a land renowned for its polluted rivers and land locked status, the spinning rod was king and blue gill and bass were the only real available targets. However, now that I'm in Charleston, South Carolina for college fly fishing is a lot more feasible. Charleston is only a few hours from prime trout waters and only a few minutes away from prime red fish waters. I decided to purchase a nice 8 weight rod to hopefully take advantage of the flats that were so close.
So after a six hour lesson I asked Mike, a fly fisherman working for the Charleston Angler (an excellent store) to go out to the parking lot with me and help me decide between the Winston Vapor, The Sage Fli and the St Croix Legend Ultra.
First I tried the Fli (four piece 8wt, 305$) and it was a mess. I couldn't establish a rhythm and at best my casts made it about 25 feet. I simply couldn't feel the rod feed and as such kept trying to over extend my back cast. During the lesson I was casting much better with a base line TFO 8wt rod even though the spool I was casting with had three weight line (something I wish I would have noticed at the beginning of the lesson). I'm sure the Sage is a fine rod, but to say it didn't fit me would be a gross understatement.
Next up was the Vapor (another four piece 8wt at 295$). It fit a lot better than the Fli, but Mike and I both agreed that there was something off. Half of the time I would get a nice tight loop but occasionally it'd tail and I had no idea why. Mike, who had been fly fishing for about 20 years, experienced the same thing. Also when I tried casting into the wind I was having a very hard time pushing the line through. It's a shame as the rod looked fantastic and the cork only had one or two little spots of filler. There were 700$ rods in the store with worse cork.
finally I tried the St. Croix and the rod clicked in a way I didn't think was possible. After my third cast I was getting about 60 feet, and this was with lousy old line and a headwind. I only cast it for a couple of minutes but it was eminently clear that it was the rod I wanted. Of course it was also the most expensive rod at 350$ for a four piece nine foot eight weight rod. I had it paid for less than five minutes after my first cast with it, and I am not an impulse buyer, it won me over that quickly. The cork is sub par, but everything else seems perfect.
The finish of the rod is striking, it changes tone depending on the way the light hits it and there are subtle horizontal bars that can only be seen in particularly bright light.
It's worth noting that they've moved away from the little ball shaped fighting butts shown in the original review for a more traditional taper.
Even though I've only spent a few hours with this rod I feel like I've been casting it for a month. It's a shame about the cork but other than that I couldn't be happier. It's not cheap but I certainly thought it was worth the money.