Rod Suggestions Please

Hardscrabble

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I fish a lot of pocket water, mostly in medium to high gradient small mountain streams, lots of plunge pools, close overhead, lots of laurel and dog hobble crowding the streams, the trails and every cast. I fish close-in paying attention to careful wading so I don’t alarm fish (that seldom reach 8”) but mostly so I don’t roll the wrong rock and ruin my day.

I constantly switch between surface flies up to size 10 elk hair caddis, etc and down to 22 bead heads, Likely 60% of my small stream fishing is done with a 14-18 EHC with a 16-22 tungsten bead head as dropper, and inside 30 feet, mostly
much closer. But, 40% of my fishing isn’t: dries, streamers indicators all might be on the menu in the same afternoon and the water longer, wider and deeper than a plunge pool. The need for flexible equipment capable of some wider ranging utility is a common one, I know.

I’ve been through short and light (fished a 7’6” 3 wt for years until I tired of the compromises). I still pack a dry fly rod (an original LL 864-2 that is nearing retirement), a streamer rod (if the water is up) and an SLT 9’ 4wt that pulls the yeoman’s work with dropper rigs, weighted nymphs, indicators and an occasional woolly bugger when I’m too far from the truck to switch out. The SLT’s are good rods, I have more than one, but I find myself needing/wanting to upgrade. The old LL is...well, I don’t want to break it, even if it is a one-trick pony, and a 2-piece rod won’t travel. I don’t want to ignore material improvements that might make my time more enjoyable.

I have identified some priorities. I know that all this stuff is highly dependent on ability and proper line structure. I get it, but I like a rod to work with me a bit, as opposed to being fussy.

-MUST ROLL CAST like a champ
-preference for 8’6”, not a requirement
-4wt a requirement, lighter not for me on steep creeks
-slightly faster than mid-flex preferred
-but enough punch to turn over a long leader at, say, 30-40’
-placement and sensitivity important, distance not so much

I have done some research and 3 alternatives have floated to the top:

Taylor Fly Fishing Anomaly Z 486-4
Douglas Sky G 486-4
Stickman P4 490-4*

(Akos said he would put me on the list for his new 8’6” P4, release date uncertain, and I will likely buy one as another addition, but I’m going to buy a creek rod before then.)

I would be very grateful for any comments regarding these rods and especially appreciative for “this is the rod I bought (or would buy) because...” comments.

The knowledge I have gained cruising around this site for a week is incredible! Thanks!
 

Meuniere

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I'd strongly recommend the Scott GS 844 or 884. They're spoken of as mid-flex, but are indeed a touch faster. Either will do what you ask of it, with the 8'4" version perhaps better suited to close-in fishing. Great placement and sensitivity, no sweat performing along the lines you require. Also, I would consider picking up a second-hand Sage ONE 8'6" 4wt, they are superb, though the Scott may be slightly better at roll-casting. We might see if we can get Sweet & Salt to opine on this, he's fished about every rod ever made, I think!
 

Hardscrabble

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Thanks. A very positive review of the series by Telluride Anglers and they seemed to particularly like the 8’4”. I’ll look at that one. Never owned, fished nor even touched a Scott. Likely a failing.
 

jayr

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From your location and description of water you fish, you and I probably fish a lot of the same waters.

I have a Sage 486LL as well and use it, but mine is the 3 piece and I get what youre saying about yours being a two piece. You might also consider the same rod in the new Trout LL as the 486 gets some really great reviews and it is a 4 piece. Compared to your original LL, I think there would be a noticeable difference, enough to warrant a purchase.

As for the Scott, those are not in a lot of shops here in East TN, but Little River Outfitters usually carry them and I bet you’re not far from them. At least this way you could cast it first before buying. The GS 884 has a really good rep as well. I have the 883 and use it in the mountains as well. I got a good deal on mine and could not pass it up otherwise I would have gotten the 884.
 

OKplus

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Why not throw the newer Sage Trout LL into the running? Is there something in your familiarity with the original LL and the later SLTs that leave you wanting more than the newest technology for somewhat related purposes?
 

Hardscrabble

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I wouldn’t want to have to walk to LRO but I could if I wanted. I’m on the ‘$100 Program’ down there...can’t leave until I’ve spent it. I try to limit my visits for that reason, but I’m tying to fill my boxes so I’m not doing too well. Some olives coming off in the park but I haven’t been this week because of weather/water.
 

Hardscrabble

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Why not throw the newer Sage Trout LL into the running? Is there something in your familiarity with the original LL and the later SLTs that leave you wanting more than the newest technology for somewhat related purposes?
Nope. I’m sentimental about both and they both fish perfectly well. My new streamer rod is an X 976-4, but my old XP still fishes fine. I try not to bite too hard on hype, but those three rods I mentioned are getting a lot of positive attention. I can’t try any of them locally, so I’m looking for a bit more feedback here. It’s tough...everybody likes what they like and want everybody else to like it, too. Worth a try, though.
 

sean freeman

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Sage X 486 for me, I do a lot of technical dry fly fishing as my club water is dry only with no wading and the X has become my right hand man for that job, line control is important without being able to wade into position but the 486 is fine undertaking the task (the 9’ would probably be better at this but I preferred the 8’6”) the taper is hard to describe, it’s fast, smooth and sharp enough to punch a tight loop in under cover, but at the same time it’s forgiving and bends quite deep with a good fish on, maybe lacking a little bit of feel in close but it’s laser accurate casting off the tip anyway.

I honestly couldn’t want for another #4 but I do love my two Stickmans and I have a #7 on the way. I’d bet that Akos 486 will be extremely impressive, I can’t wait to test one against my X.

A summer midge sipper on the X.. I can’t wait for winter to be over!
DAB9DF62-EB54-45EB-9D7A-FC3E7DA8B582.jpeg
 

jjcm

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The One 486 and the X 486 are both sweet. If wanting to acquire a rod soon, the X might be better because there are more available; Sage Ones are getting harder and harder to find. I picked up a One 486 recently and took it on its maiden voyage just the other day. Ended up on some small streams in the Driftless and it performed flawlessly for me.

There are different approaches to acquiring rods and augmenting one's quiver. I love all the rod companies. But I have fished more Sage rods than others and generally find myself going back to them more and more; I default to my Sages. All the rods you mentioned are Sages. If your happy with them, you will most likely be happy with a Sage 486 flagship rod, like a One, X, or LL HD.
 

Hardscrabble

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Thanks. I have a local shop that stocks Sage and Scott. I plan to drop by there tomorrow and try the GS and the Trout LL, if they are available. I do have a bunch of sage rods, from the old RPL, an original LL, SP, a couple of SLT’s and XP’s, a Z Axis and a new X 976 I haven’t fished yet. I like them (I sold the rods I didn’t). The SLT has been a steady performer, and if I had it in 8’6” I might not be looking, but it’s a 9’. Still, after 30 years or so, the 8’6” 4wt LL is the most fun to fish, but it’s a 2-pc, would be very difficult to replace and I’ve been fishing it less and less. I’m looking to replace it.
 

Hardscrabble

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I might add that I have never been one to spend a lot of money on lines. Even out west I tend to choose the smaller water over the better known rivers. I’ve been fishing creeks for better than 50 years and I’m happiest knee-deep wearing tennis shoes. I can’t see a small fly at any distance anymore and I don’t get a kick out of guessing about whether it was a rise or a take. So, if one isn’t trying to wring the most out of the rod, cheap lines make a lot of sense.

I replaced several reels and lines this winter. In the process, I tried the new lines on every rod I have. I hadn’t fished my RPL 905 or my SP 905 in years, and I don’t remember ever being overly impressed by either as newer designs came along, keeping them mostly because I traveled with them extensively and both caught a number of fish. I was very pleased and surprised to learn that an SA Amplitude Trout, a Rio Gold, or an Amplitude Infinity all get that SP singing again. The LL picked up a step on Rio’s Technical Trout. The RPL felt great with the 5w Gold. Just goes to show a fellow might save some money fishing double tapers on everything, but it also takes twice as many seasons to get around to trying something new.
 

jayr

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As lines go, look at Barrio lines. They are made in Scotland and are cheaper than anything here. They are true to weight and they make some really great DT lines. Being a small shop, COVID has hit them hard but they keep their web site updated really well.

 

Hardscrabble

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Thanks. I checked their website and they are out of stock in the small stream and DT 4’s. I made a note and will give them another look when they recover.
 

proheli

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This might be a small thing, but maybe not. The GS884 will probably roll cast better than the 844. The 884 blank bends pretty far down into the blank and it is remarkably stable, yet still light and fresh in recovery. One other thing, and I realize you know this, but a lot of the rods mentioned are 904’s. Me personally, 9’ is too long for small water. There is just a lot of difference between 9 and 8’6. If 40’ really is your max distance, the that extra 6 inches just slows things down, gets ini the way. Yes, it’s good for mending, but small water mending is not as drastic and big water mending.
 

OKplus

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Hardscrabble,

Don't ever hesitate to acknowledge the preference for your Sage SLTs and LL. I commend you for wanting to grow beyond the easy, excellent and familiar. At first it was a difficult choice for me. You'll be rewarded with technology that will blow you away, even if it's not Sage. You'll also be thrilled every time you go to pick up those older rods and feel the familiar sweetness in them. You'll fish them still, but now know their exact limitations. At that point - it's a happy one - you'll have the best choice imaginable.
 

burk48237

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You might want to go closer to an 8 footer versus the slightly longer rod. They just get a little tough to handle in some of the tighter quarters. Remember, mending almost a non issue on that water. And the kind of distances you're talking an 8-4 weight will roll cast just fine. I use to fish up there quite a bit when covered TN for Cortland and Hardy, called on both LRO and SMA, great people. Most of their guides consider the 8'4 to be the ideal rod. I preferred a 7'4 Diamondglass, although I occasionally threw my Winston TMF. Don't be afraid of Glass, Echo makes some very nice options. And the previous recommendations here for the Sage LL and Scott G are spot on. Fast, high performance graphite has it's place but I'm not sure roll casting 15-25 on a creek is a great application for one. I love my Bamboo for small streams but wasn't nuts about using it in the Smokies due to the chances of taking a tumble in that rocky stuff. But for Brookies in MI it's my go too. The Douglas Upstream may be worth a look too.
 

jayr

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Thanks. I have a local shop that stocks Sage and Scott. I plan to drop by there tomorrow and try the GS and the Trout LL, if they are available. I do have a bunch of sage rods, from the old RPL, an original LL, SP, a couple of SLT’s and XP’s, a Z Axis and a new X 976 I haven’t fished yet. I like them (I sold the rods I didn’t). The SLT has been a steady performer, and if I had it in 8’6” I might not be looking, but it’s a 9’. Still, after 30 years or so, the 8’6” 4wt LL is the most fun to fish, but it’s a 2-pc, would be very difficult to replace and I’ve been fishing it less and less. I’m looking to replace it.
As one who has a couple of the older LL's and also has the new Trout LL, I can tell you the difference is very noticeable. The swing weight is even lighter and rod a bit crisper if you will. The physical weight is also less on the Trout LL.

As for lines, I am a big user of AirFlo lines. the Super Dri Elite in either WF or DT works well on these rods in the waters I fish, primarily what you fish from what I can tell. I also have one Barrio line but use it mostly on my Orvis 804 Western. Yet another line choice that should work very well on the LL's and Scott GS are those made by 406 fly lines in Montana. I have yet to get one, but keep hearing many good things on these lines especially with more moderate actions. You may want to check them out.

Last time I was at LRO a few weeks ago their rod selection was okay but I know the guys at 3Rivers as well and the supply of rods is extremely tight right now and has been due not only to Covid, but increased numbers of people getting into fly fishing. Be prepared, they may not have exactly what you are looking for.
 

sweetandsalt

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Welcome new member, Hardscrabble. It happens your inquiry is right up my ally except I don't roll cast as much as you and tend to fish lower gradient waters. But I own almost all the rods mentioned here. Your initial list is spot on too.

Starting with Sage which is making some the most superb 8 1/2' rods now, both X and T LL are out of sight, both with RIO Tech Trout. I definitely prefer new T LL to my original 8'9" LL and this 8 1/2'/#4 has supplanted my same age Scott GS 8'4"/#4. Oh, the Scott is terrific and you must cast it but the T LL is feather light and slender with miraculous touch and perfect for the short distances you like to fish. Casting it beside the X though will illustrate that X has a lot more in the tank and is a more technically precise instrument...were it not for my love afair with ONE in this size I would have X too.

When talking about rods for your intended usage, Sage and Scott are most often referred to as they are beloved and trusted makers with great rods in this size. Enter Douglas SKY-G and Taylor Anomaly Z. Here are two advanced material science rods featuring nano graphene infused resin systems that are both super light weight and fascinating. In production form I received both early this winter so have not had the opportunity to do more than lawn cast them though I did fish a proto A Z earlier in the fall. My initial observation is absolutely, yes, these are at least competitive with the vaunted Sage and Scott. The slightly softer tipped and a bit deeper flexing SKY-G against the Scott and the sharper A Z comparing to the X. I know already that they are both excellent but won't really have an evaluative opinion until spring mayflies arrive. I believe both companies will send them to you with unconditional return in pristine condition for you to test on your own. It is harder to find theses smaller, newer makers in most fly shops.

And that is not all. There are three 8 1/2'/#4's I've yet to see. One is new Scott Centric, a second intriguing one is Hardy's new Ultralite NSX (I do fish and love its 9' sibling) and last and excitingly is Stickman's forthcoming P4 8 1/2' model. As if I don't have enough rods in this configuration.
 

dr d

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I fish a lot of pocket water, mostly in medium to high gradient small mountain streams, lots of plunge pools, close overhead, lots of laurel and dog hobble crowding the streams, the trails and every cast. I fish close-in paying attention to careful wading so I don’t alarm fish (that seldom reach 8”) but mostly so I don’t roll the wrong rock and ruin my day.

I constantly switch between surface flies up to size 10 elk hair caddis, etc and down to 22 bead heads, Likely 60% of my small stream fishing is done with a 14-18 EHC with a 16-22 tungsten bead head as dropper, and inside 30 feet, mostly
much closer. But, 40% of my fishing isn’t: dries, streamers indicators all might be on the menu in the same afternoon and the water longer, wider and deeper than a plunge pool. The need for flexible equipment capable of some wider ranging utility is a common one, I know.

I’ve been through short and light (fished a 7’6” 3 wt for years until I tired of the compromises). I still pack a dry fly rod (an original LL 864-2 that is nearing retirement), a streamer rod (if the water is up) and an SLT 9’ 4wt that pulls the yeoman’s work with dropper rigs, weighted nymphs, indicators and an occasional woolly bugger when I’m too far from the truck to switch out. The SLT’s are good rods, I have more than one, but I find myself needing/wanting to upgrade. The old LL is...well, I don’t want to break it, even if it is a one-trick pony, and a 2-piece rod won’t travel. I don’t want to ignore material improvements that might make my time more enjoyable.

I have identified some priorities. I know that all this stuff is highly dependent on ability and proper line structure. I get it, but I like a rod to work with me a bit, as opposed to being fussy.

-MUST ROLL CAST like a champ
-preference for 8’6”, not a requirement
-4wt a requirement, lighter not for me on steep creeks
-slightly faster than mid-flex preferred
-but enough punch to turn over a long leader at, say, 30-40’
-placement and sensitivity important, distance not so much

I have done some research and 3 alternatives have floated to the top:

Taylor Fly Fishing Anomaly Z 486-4
Douglas Sky G 486-4
Stickman P4 490-4*

(Akos said he would put me on the list for his new 8’6” P4, release date uncertain, and I will likely buy one as another addition, but I’m going to buy a creek rod before then.)

I would be very grateful for any comments regarding these rods and especially appreciative for “this is the rod I bought (or would buy) because...” comments.

The knowledge I have gained cruising around this site for a week is incredible! Thanks!
due to your "to do list" i recommend strong cts affinity m 8,6f #4 - since some times they offer
complete rods on highest level but you can do also custom.i published a test some time ago
here.

good luck.

thomas
 

burk48237

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If you haven't made the journey to Fly South in Nashville it might be worth your time. It is no doubt one of the premier Fly shops in the country. And he carries lots of different Fly rod companies, as far as I know just about everything but TFO. And he has not only a lot of high tech stuff for the tail-waters over there, but he carries the more traditional stuff for the creek guys.
 
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