It’s one of fly fishing’s eternal conundrums and perhaps it’s most hotly debated. Are “premium” fly rods worth the price? Does an $800 stick fish better than one purchased for $100? Does dropping the big bucks insure longer and more accurate casts, better fish-fighting capability, or more angling mojo?
Do you need to be Steve Rajeff to tell the difference?
Well, I’m no Steve Rajeff and the majority of fly rods in my fishing closet didn’t set me back a boatload. With the range of fishing opportunities I have here in North Carolina – the trickles of the Appalachians three hours to my west, the Atlantic seaboard three to my east, and a Piedmont full of farm ponds and warm water rivers in my own backyard - I am loaded from 2wt to 10 in a variety of tapers and lengths. Had each run me $700, I’d be poor as a pauper.
But this past month spent pitching the new Sage Accel has me thinking.
I have long believed that you get what you pay for and fly rods seem to follow the rule. The question is, “Can the average Joe Caster tell the difference?”
And we all have “that rod” – that Especial that we paid $75 for on closeout that has just the right taper, just the right fit, and we wouldn’t trade it for a truckload of premiums. Mine’s an old 7’6” 4wt Redington CPS that’s my go-to trout stick. It hasn’t been made for years. I love it and the clearance price it rode in on.
But those bargain basement gems are few and far between. And when you break one, there’s no replacing it.
Which brings me around to the Accel. I didn’t want to be impressed with it because the last thing I need is a taste for the good stuff. And since my casting is “functional” at best, I figured that I wouldn’t feel the difference. I was wrong.
So here’s where this “review” falls apart. Former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, when grappling with the definition of pornography, relented and simply said “I know it when I see it.” Well, that’s about where I land with the Accel. I know a good rod when I feel it.
Sure, there’s much to say about the technologies (Generation 5 and something-or-other) but it would be disingenuous of me to regurgitate that here as if it made sense to me, average Joe Caster that I am. Sage describes it well on their web page so give it a look there. I’ll simply say that I pitched this medium fast 6wt at cutthroats in British Columbia, big rainbows and browns on Montana’s Missouri River, smallmouth bass in the Shenandoah, and largemouths in my own back yard. It carried within it an easy power and I simply didn’t want to put it down. I hated sending it back when my time with it was done.
On every fly fishing forum there’s dozens of threads that start “I’m looking for a new rod. Which do you suggest? Rod A or Rod B?” There are always a few half-hearted attempts to analyze and contrast the two, but then someone ends the thread by saying, “Cast them and you’ll know.” That someone is right.
I’ve casted the Accel and I know.
Does that mean that premium rods are worth all that? That’s for you to decide. But don’t buy into the notion that you won’t notice the difference without seeing for yourself. You might be surprised. I was.
I’m a better caster than I thought.
The Accel is a lovely piece of gear. I’m a sucker for green and the pristine black guide wraps and Stealth Black anodized aluminum up-locking reel seat make this a pretty thing to behold. Yeah, that doesn’t catch fish, but nice is nice. Admit it.
I believe that here is a place where the better rods shine. The handle on this Accel was as smooth as silk. And I like the half-wells handle as opposed to the cigar shape. My big-rod salt-water side showing, I suppose.
Confidence and Performance
At the end of the day, it’s nice to have confidence in the equipment you’re pitching. Sage is as solid as it gets and the Accel feels like a fly rod is supposed to feel. Easy power and nice touch. It put my other 6wts in their places.
Actually, all this talk of “premium priced” rods is a bit overboard with regards to the Accel. At $595 it isn’t cheap, but there are a lot more pricey sticks to be had. Middle ground, perhaps? Well, not quite. But it’s a start.
Whether premiums are worth it or not will always be debated? Those that can afford a Porsche will buy one and those who can’t will think them indulgent and unnecessary (but dead sexy). Let’s just say that now that I have all my fly fishing bases covered, 2wt through 10, I’ll be more discerning as I replace or augment my arsenal. It’ll either be something silly fun and dirty cheap (like a $20 Eagle Claw Featherweight) or the other extreme, a higher end piece of fishing gear, especially in the key slots; 5, 6, and 8wts. It’ll be worth it, to me.
And you can expect to see an Accel in the mix soon.