Sage introduces new R8 Spey rods and reels

The Bainbridge Island rodmaker brings its venerated R8 technology to a brand-new two-hand lineup
sage r8 spey rod
Photo: Far Bank Enterprises.

There may be few other fly fishing disciplines as physically demanding as the one practiced by Spey anglers who pursue fish returning to freshwater with a season’s worth of ocean-spiced strength and vigor. In an arena that requires long days spent wading, long casts, the patience to put in the hours and the ability to react on a moment’s notice, the two-handed angler is both artist and athlete.

In the next logical step for its new graphite fiber tech, Sage has unveiled its new line of SPEY R8 two-handed rods that are designed to help die-hard Spey and switch anglers match any situation they might face. From fresh-from-the-Pacific kings to rocket-fueled Atlantic salmon, Sage’s new Spey lineup is about as nuanced as two-handed fly fishing itself.

Featuring four “actions,” the SPEY R8 family offers a number of choices for Spey aficionados to consider, from light-weight switch rods to heavy-duty, 15-foot titans bult to battle fall kings as they arrive in the waters of the Northwest on tides that match their attitudes.

“In designing our new SPEY R8 rods, we recognized there isn’t a single rod action appropriate for the wide variety of Spey fishing applications found around the globe,” says Sage rod designer Paul Schmierer. The four applications identified by Schmierer and his team are now matched by specific rods — each model made to address unique challenges. Within the SPEY R8 family, there is an emphasis on how rod action meets the needs of each individual application.

This, Schmierer says, ensures “anglers have the most fine-tuned Spey rod for their fishing. Across the family, our Revolution 8 technology ensures a remarkably smooth and intuitive feel, no matter the line configuration.”

While the basics of Spey and switch casting never really change — it’s all about lift, load and delivery — Sage’s new SPEY R8 family of rods is designed to help anglers accomplish the foundational elements of the mission while customizing the gear to the different fish and situations anglers might face.


Max Versatility
This version of the SPEY R8 is built for the avid winter steelhead angler, Atlantic salmon enthusiast or sea-trout caster who casts a variety of tips, lines and leaders. These rods range from 12.5 to 13.5 feet, and open up smaller rivers to Spey casters because they allow for easier on-the-water line control, Sage says.

But the Max Versatility rods aren’t just for tighter quarters. They are also designed to be able to throw longer heads and shoot light, long-belly lines, making the Max Versatility model a rod worthy of its name.

Lightweight Linespeed
This SPEY R8 rod is designed for smaller steelhead and salmon and, as Schmierer puts it, “oversized trout.” This “discipline with the discipline” requires anglers to turn over flies and push through the wind, all while making spot-on casts.

These lighter rods come in 5- and 6-weight options so as not overpower the fish the anglers are after. Despite their smaller weights, the rods are designed to make the transfer of power from the rod to the line as seamless as possible while still allowing casters to achieve accuracy and, when casting dry flies or Atlantic salmon flies, a touch of delicacy.

Most Powerful
As the name implies, these SPEY R8 offerings are built for two-handed anglers that go after big, bright, powerful salmon and trout. Featuring rods in weights 8 through 10, the Most Powerful SPEY R8 rods stretch the tape to 15 feet (and come in six-piece models for ease of packing) and feature more intense blank strength that’s needed for heavy lines, weighted heads and, if all goes as planned, big kings, trophy winter chromers and giant Atlantic salmon.

At 11.5 feet, the new SPEY R8 Switch rods are built for close-quarter angling and varied two-handed casting techniques. The Switch versions of the SPEY R8 family give anglers the ability to cast a variety of lines and heads, and are ideal for smaller waters — rivers like the Trinity and fish like its renowned “half-pound” steelhead come immediately to mind.

Sage has been building Spey rods since the 1980s, and while this new line of technically advanced rods is the culmination of years spent on the water (there may be no better laboratory for Spey rod designers than the Pacific Northwest), the company pays homage to its history as a premium rod maker. The rods are traditionally outfitted with the expected quality hardware. They do feature a new smaller-diameter handle, but the rest of the product will look happily familiar to Sage’s longtime customers.

All of Sage’s new R8 Spey models will be available through authorized Sage retailers beginning January 16, 2024. MSRP $1,300.


sage r8 spey reel
Photo: Far Bank Enterprises.

The SPEY Reel

Sage’s new SPEY reels feature the company’s sealed carbon system drag that includes newly designed O-ring seals and a new custom dual-clicker. The sealed drag system is built to withstand more compression and features a numbered drag-setting dial. This, according to Sage reel designer Joseph Conrad allows “for precise, consistent and reliable drag settings” that can be dialed in to help anglers battle big anadromous fish.

Unsurprisingly, the new reels are designed to match with the various SPEY R8 rods. Another important note: the reels sport a full-frame design. This is important when considering how often the longer, lighter bellies of Spey lines can sometimes get caught between the spool and the frame. The reels easily switch from left-handed to right-handed retrieve with the flip of a clutch bearing.

“The SPEY Reel aesthetic is an amalgam of influences from the past and present, a nod to Spey traditions and innovations of our own making as well as those from the greater anadromous angling community,” Conrad says. “The reels’ porting shapes and laser engravings call to mind classical designs while the depth and layers of the frame and spool are never-before-seen. The colors were developed to be alluring but modest, and the anodized finishes add character while also providing corrosion resistance and surface protection.”

Like the new R8 Spey rods, Sage’s new Spey reel will be available from authorized Sage retailers beginning on January 16, 2024. MSRP $550.