Sage TCX/RIO Bonefish Line Review
Much discussion about flats fishing tackle has occurred in this forum and I have often contributed my opinions. However, my remarks have usually been of a conceptual nature and I have rarely referred to specific brands. Having recently returned from a windy week of challenging angling in the Bahamas, I was so impressed by two new-for-2009 products that I want to share a 'review' of them with you, my Reel-Time Tackle Forum frequent readers.
Sage has enjoyed accolades from an elite, passionate cadre of fly fishers who swear by the virtues of their TCR, Technical Casting Rod, series. Extra fast and powerful, these rods deliver a fly with precision at any distance by virtue of their extraordinary line speed and bullet-like loop formation capability. They are not for everybody and Sage says so in their literature; they demand impeccable timing and good technique to extract any portion of their performance potential and they are not easy, "sweet" rods to fish all day with.
Enter their replacement, the new TCX. Using construction technology developed for the super smooth casting Z-Axis line of rods, TCX is lighter, has more flex in the tip section, feature much clearer feed-back as to what is happening with your line and has been transformed into a rod that is fun to fish as opposed to a rod to be admired for its capabilities. But those capabilities are still there! It is still a fast, powerful rod with all the performance characteristics of its predecessor it is simply and brilliantly re-designed to provide a lighter touch and more communication. It is even a more attractive bright olive green color. Quality cork work and clean functionality of its reel seat which neither jammed nor became balky after a week of intense salt exposure and no disassembly (I did hose it down upon return to camp each evening before the conch fritters appeared) are typical well thought out Sage features. My only negative observation is the inclusion of a hook-keeper in the typical spot in front of the grip. Few anglers use these today, especially on salt water rods, and that loop of wire occasionally annoys my fingers while fighting a fish. This minor caveat aside, though I had 3 to 4 rods in the skiff with me each day, the 9', 4 pc., 8 weight TCX saw the lion's share of use because of its facility to help me show my flies to fish while wading or perched upon the boat's bow. Light, crisp, accurate and intuitive, this is a fabulous flats fishing fly rod.
Of course the best rod in the world is a dog without a perfectly matted fly line. To this end I mounted Sage's own Equator Taper II pale olive 8 weight floater with the TCX. My initial impression of this line was very positive, however, seeking a lee up a creek early in the trip (and the wind just got stronger as our week progressed) a bonefish nailed my shrimp fly and proceeded, at considerable speed, to weave my line through the knarliest encrusted maze of red mangroves it could find. Well, after visiting the RIO booth at Somerset this past winter, I was anxious to fish their new Bonefish line anyway. I rig all my reels with a Bimini loop in the backing to facilitate easy re-rigging with a different line and on went the RIO. I fished this line all week and it is terrific. I have had some memory and twisting issues with older RIO tropical lines but not only did that not occur with this one but, when it was my turn to sit in the boat and manage my companion's line to avoid any entanglements, I found the new RIO to be among the least likely to knot up. It's running line floated and maintained straightness especially well while wading too. And man did it cast; slick and smooth, no noise and with stable loop formation regardless of distance. A long belly, weight forward design with an emphasis on weight up front to quickly load a fast rod like the Sage, it features a compound tapered head and two stage very elongated rear taper which eliminates the hinging found in lines with more abrupt transitions from head to running line. That graduated transition also seems to smooth the loop to better deal with wind penetration and this line turns over the 12 foot leaders I favor with authority. Its tan/blue two tone coloration is a nice assist in determining how much line you have out in preparation for making a cast.
A super high performance 8 weight line perfectly matched to a super high performance 8 weight rod was almost as important a contributor to my enjoying this trip as my 8 old friends that daily raised their glasses around those conch fritters.