Review: Sage TROUT LL fly rod

Can Sage's new TROUT LL fill the big shoes of its beloved predecessor?
sage trout ll fly rod
Photo: Cosmo Genova

The rod tube hadn’t been on the counter for more than ten seconds before a voice from behind me perked up: “Is that the new Light Line?”

In the hour I spent at the fly shop, I was approached by numerous similarly intrigued anglers, a couple of which had owned the previous iteration of Sage’s dearly beloved LL (or Light Line) series of fly rods, designed by Sage founder Don Green over 30 years ago. I had not had the privilege of owning the original LL, and that was why I was there—for some shop chatter with those who had.

I had gotten my hands on the newly released, modern incarnation of the Sage TROUT LL—in a 9’ 5wt—and wanted to get my buddy’s take on it. He manages the shop, and I hold his words on fly rods and technical trout fishing in the highest regard. He's a master explainer and can turn seemingly complex topics like rod actions, line weights, tapers, casting strokes, and the lot, into something logical and digestible.

On paper, the Sage TROUT LL is a series of specialized medium-action rods ranging from a 7’9” 3wt to a 9’ 6wt which draw inspiration from the trout-focused Light Line rods of the past. Described by Sage as a “versatile tool designed to cover the majority of scenarios faced by a trout angler,” and having a “modest casting tempo” and a “smooth but versatile action,” the TROUT LL is fundamentally a dry fly rod that can do everything else decently well too.

I liked the TROUT LL from the very first cast, and so did those I shared it with. Far more than a casting pond prodigy, the rod was a joy to fish, and within a relatively short time on the water I could see why the old Light Line had developed such a dedicated following.

True to Sage’s description, it’s a silky smooth caster and a rod that does everything you ask of it. Sage has a winner on their hands with this rod, whether you were a fan of the revered LL of old or are new to the series. If you love dry fly fishing and prefer a medium to medium-fast action, you’re going to be very pleased with how this rod performs.

What works

Quality

When you’re talking about high-end, premium fly rods, it's hard not to compare them. But ultimately, selecting a rod in this “class” will come down to individual preferences, as you’re unlikely to find rods that are objectively bad at that tier of the market. While more budget-friendly options may be capable of getting the job done, it's hard to argue with the level of quality, control, and flex recovery that premium rods offer over their less expensive counterparts. And when we further narrow the topic of conversation to making perfect casts, mends, and drifts on tough, dry-fly-sipping trout, being armed with a rod from that premium tier can truly make a difference (I can hear the frantic typing of the keyboard warriors already). Do I own many flagship rods? No. Do I think they’re typically better? Of course.

Case in point: the Sage TROUT LL. This rod oozes quality. The Konnetic HD mahogany blank comes with Fuji ceramic stripper guides and chrome snake guides wrapped with bronze primary and gold trim thread wraps. The grip features a walnut wood insert, a bronze up-locking reel seat, and a Super Plus snub-nose, half-wells cork handle. The rod also comes with a really nice cloth rod bag and brown powder-coated aluminum rod tube.

sage trout ll fly rod
Photo: Cosmo Genova

But most importantly, it performs like an $800 rod ought to. Having cast and fished many of the big-name trout rods in the game, I would certainly say that the TROUT LL deserves to be uttered in the same breath by nearly every metric. In terms of quality of the product and performance on the water, the TROUT LL is a premium piece of kit.

Flex appeal

While I couldn’t get my hands on an old Light Line to compare, from what I’ve gathered from the internet, talking to folks who have owned them, and my fly-shop-buddy's sage (pun intended) wisdom, the TROUT LL is a comparably better rod than its predecessor. Like other contemporary top tier rod series with a legacy, the TROUT LL has the same feel and flex that people love, but with the benefits of modern graphite technology. The TROUT LL’s Konnetic HD blank material greatly improves accuracy and loop control and provides more power and feel. My fly shop buddy explained that while some might confuse a deeper loading or slower rod action with "feel," that is not really the case. In reality, the design and action are fundamentally the same, but the rod flexes more and recovers faster. This deeper flex and faster recovery greatly improves your perception of the rod’s load (what some might describe as feel), which ripples into pretty much every aspect of your casting and fishing.

Control

What I like the most about this rod is its control. It responds immediately and accurately, and because the rod recovers so quickly, it allows you to make split-second adjustments without fighting collapsing loops. The rods feature a relatively supple tip that transitions to a “smooth easy-loading mid-section that increases feel and feedback throughout the casting stroke.”

The commanding medium action is a joy to cast, mend, and fish and the delicate tip really helps on quick hooksets and fighting fish on light tippet.

Though the TROUT LL might not have the same punchiness of a faster action, distance oriented rod, this thing can fling. While it shines in 30-60ft range, it's not terribly difficult to send a full line across the casting pond. And when rises start popping up around you, you’ll also really appreciate the close-quarters accuracy and finesse of the TROUT LL. I fished the TROUT LL paired with the RIO Technical Trout, RIO Trout LT, and Cortland Finesse II in WF5F and enjoyed them all.

sage trout ll fly rod
Photo: Cosmo Genova

Just as noteworthy casting prowess is the control the TROUT LL provides on the water. Mending, feeding line and managing slack are some of the most important aspects of dry fly fishing, and here the TROUT LL also excels, making long drag-free drifts a relatively easy task both to perform and control.

Versatility

The TROUT LL is unquestionably a dry fly rod—topwater is where the LL is really going to shine. If your primary goals are laying down the pinpoint, delicate casts, setting up the perfect drift, and nail a top-feeding fish, the TROUT LL is a helluva good choice. That said, there’s nothing about its design that would prevent you from effectively drifting an indicator or throwing a streamer—two things that many of us also like to do when chasing, well...trout.

What doesn’t

Looks

Sage went with a no-frills, classic look for the TROUT LL that may leave some wanting. I like the simple look and the fact that the LL’s performance is left to speak for it, but some might want to flaunt the fact that they just spent $800 on a graphite stick. Based on looks alone, you’d be hard-pressed to guess the price tag from across the river, but in the hands of a competent angler, you’ll likely be able to tell once they start fishing.

Final word

The Sage TROUT LL carries on and improves upon the Light Line rods of the past. Benefiting from advancements in modern material technology and manufacturing processes, the TROUT LL offers the classic feel that people have grown to love from their legacy Sage rods, while also providing faster flex recovery and better all-around performance. With an $800 price tag, this rod is marketed towards the high-end dry fly fisherman, and if you’re a committed guy or gal who appreciates top-tier gear and spends their time and money chasing trout on technical water, the TROUT LL is for you.

Wherever you’re fishing, the medium action is delicate enough to drop flies on spooky trout yet powerful enough to reach across the river and turn over long mends with relative ease. In addition, the soft tip does a great job of hooking and fighting fish on light tippet—and its classic aesthetic lets its performance do the talking.

Despite the fact that it may sound cliche to say so, the TROUT LL is a rod that truly becomes an extension of your body, smoothly and intuitively reacting to your commands and enabling you to create the exact presentation you’ve imagined.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE SAGE TROUT LL (via Sage)

Comments

Would be great to compare it to the late Sage Circa. Though labeled “slow” it’s definitely faster than the original LL series. Thoughts?

I couldn't disagree more with the "What Doesn't" section of this article. When this rod hit the market, my first thought was, "Finally a classic looking rod that doesn't sport an ugly white bumper sticker on it so everyone on the river knows what I'm fishing!" The classic looks of this rod are right up my alley! Before this rod came out I had my heart set on a Scott G-Series as my next trout mostly dry-fly rod in a 4wt. Now I need to go and see if I can cast this one side by side the G-Series. I'm truly excited for this one. Great job Sage!

Nice review. I have four original Light Lines- 9-4 two piece; 9-6 two piece and two 9-4 four piece. They belonged to friends now fishing in heaven (probably with St. Peter's LL. Like you I went to my local fly and clothing store- Silver Creek Anglers- and brought my four piece 9-4 with me. We did a modest shoot out in the parking lot and the assembled "experts" were all impressed with both rods. I didn't see enough to spend the $800 but encourage those of you without an LL to do so.

I fish the four weights about four or five times a week an the Brodhead in PA (April-June) and Silver Creek, Picabo, ID (aka the "Crik") (July-August). The nice thing for the Crik is that it is very accurate short with long leaders. There is plenty of power but even more finesse.

If you want to try one or all of the originals, email me and we can fish the Crik with the two or four piece 4. You can also cast the 9-6 which I use mainly for big bugs. Thanks again for the review. Ed DeSeve

Enjoyed your review very much. I’ve been an avid fly fisherman for about 50 years and now live in Oregon. I’ve owned a Sage LL, 2-piece, 9-foot, 5wt since about 1986 (I believe the year they were introduced). It has always been a favorite. At the time it was a lot of money and for many years it was the rod I used 99% of the time. While I now own several fine Sage rods, I still often use my LL when delicate presentations are in order. Contact me if you’d like to do a side by side comparison.

It all sounds as though the wheel has been reinvented.

My wife always insist on using her first SAGE rod, the entry level LE 5Wt. two piece from year's past, that, if still made, might command a MRSP of USD 300.00. Though we have other SAGE rods in our quiver, I cannot argue with her as she excels at catching 20+ on the old workhorse.

I would buy the new LL Trout but for the fact I could not afford the divorce lawyer after the purchase!

Is it worth more than our low end SAGE and mid priced SAGE rods?....I think not!

This rod scored really low in a recent 5wt "shootout". I was very unimpressed with the review and seriously wondered about the writers qualifications.

Glad that you guys gave the Trout LL a proper review. I fish one and think it's a stellar fly rod.

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