March 29, 2022
The new R8 Core ($1,050, farbank.com) is quite literally the most important product innovation to come from Sage in about 22 years. The name is a reduction of “Revolution 8 Technology,” and according to Sage’s own timeline, it’s the eighth major rod-building innovation from the company since rod designer Don Green first introduced graphite rods in 1980, using the name Winslow Manufacturing Corporation. By 1983 the name had changed to Sage, and the company introduced G2 graphite, followed by GIII, GIV, and in 2000, IIIe graphite—the material used in the XP and SLT rod families. During the next 22 years, Sage introduced G5, Konnetic, and KonneticHD technologies in their Z-Axis, ONE, and Sage X rods, but these amounted to just changes in resin and in how Sage was able to align the graphite fibers more functionally. The Sage R8 Core is the first time since the turn of the millennium that Sage has unveiled a rod with a completely new graphite composition.
What does that mean for you when you’re fishing? Over the decades, when a company comes out with a new rod material, they often want to talk about weight or strength, since these are measurable and comparative qualities. But in releasing the new Revolution 8 Technology and R8 Core rods, Sage notably didn’t focus on strength or weight. The company’s press and marketing materials highlighted the fishing experience—a strategy that makes sense, because when fly fishers shell out more than $1,000 for a fishing rod, they expect more than a rod that is lighter or doesn’t break—they expect an elevated fishing experience. Sage has delivered on that promise with more than just a new material, but new performance parameters that deliver a noticeably heightened feel and connection, whether you are fishing, casting, or fighting a fish.
Over the last 42 years, Sage has made all kinds of fly rods with every conceivable action, but as a generalization it’s fair to say that historically, Sage’s top-tier rod families (most recently the XP, Z-Axis, ONE, and Sage X) have been powerful casting tools with stiffer butt sections and light top ends that allow you to make short, accurate tip casts, or to powerfully bend into the stripping guide area for long casts or to beat the wind. The downsides were that, due to the quick transition in the rod blank, your timing had to be on point to get maximum benefit, and a stiff butt section can be a bit of a dead zone.
The R8 Core is a departure from that, simply because there’s much greater sensitivity and connectivity down through the butt section and into your hand. “We’ve elongated the cast so you can have time for the energy transfer,” says Sage Fly Rod Designer Peter Knox. “We’ve also created a bigger sweet spot with the bend closer to your hand. It’s more efficient energy transfer for fishing—more feedback for mending, setting, and fish fighting—not just casting.”
That’s not to say this rod can’t deliver the heat when you need to—the R8 Core has all the power you need to bomb out long lasts or pressure a fish for a quick release. It’s just that the new graphite material gives you a greater feel for the energy transfer happening at every point in your fishing day. Whether that’s the subtle take of a nymphing trout, laying a dry fly on target to sippers, or swimming a streamer, it’s clear that the R8 Core is a rod designed around improving your overall fishing experience, and not just casting.
The rods have Silver Pine–colored blanks with slate primary thread wraps with graduated white and gray trim. The hardware includes Fuji ceramic stripper guides with chrome snake guides and tip-top. The rods are available in 3- to 9-weight configurations. The freshwater models have anodized aluminum uplocking reel seats with sustainable ziricote wood inserts and snub-nose half wells cork handles. The saltwater models have anodized aluminum reel seats with integrated “hidden” reel seat hook keepers, full wells cork grips, and fighting butts. The rods come in a black rod bag with new locking cord system, and a cream-color aluminum rod tube with Sage medallion.