$700 Fly Rod vs. $300 Fly Rod - Distance Contest

February 12, 2015

Do more expensive rods perform better?  We get this question all time.  I finally decided to put this to rest.  I felt that the easiest and most accurate way to test a rod's performance was to cast for distance.  A good distance cast requires a tight loop and it requires the rod to unload the stored energy at a high level of efficiency.  

The Test

I warmed up for a minute, then I took about 10 casts on each rod for maximum distance and see what happened.  I honestly didn't know what the results would be!  I was as curious as you are!  

I used the same RIO Gold line on a Sage ONE 590-4 and a Redington Vapen Black 590-4.  The leader was exactly 9' long.  I have cast both these rods a fair amount and am equally comfortable on both models.

Here are few notes that I want to make:
  • I took what I felt were reasonable and relaxed strokes. 
  • I didn't struggle to make these casts, they were all consistent.  Please know that there wasn't a "lucky cast" that was measured or a "bad cast" either.  I chose to mark the cast that appeared to be my best shot. 


As you can see in the video, the Sage ONE took the prize.  It was about 15' more distance which would have measured out in the mid 90' range.  I had about 95' of line off the reel, plus a 9' leader, there was definitely a bit of slack in the line.  I personally have a tough time getting to the 100' mark outdoors.  


Although this rod didn't win the shootout, keep in mind it is over $400 less money!  Also, it made smooth casts with very nice loops out to 80'.  I didn't struggle to make 80's shots with it and I actually really like casting this rod.  It has a slightly slower action (not much though) and it is a fine product..... but the proof is in the pudding.  The Sage ONE is built with better materials and simply stores and reflexes with more energy.  

I could fish the VAPEN for the rest of my life and be very happy.  Keep in mind that they also sell the Redington Vapen in a cork grip as well.  It is only $299.95 and casts great.  
  1. Great field trial Joe! That is the greatest question out there I find. Everyone knows that the Sage One rods actually are mislabeled (ie; a 5 wt.is actually a 6wt), see Yellowstone Anglers rod tests. More often than not the One rods have to be up lined to load well. So in reality you should be testing the 4 wt One against the 5 wt Vapen to make it a fair fight. For the record, I own 2 One rods and have had to go at least one line size up. My 5 wt Beulah is a much sweeter rod to cast than my Sage One at half the cost. Just my opinion.
  2. Sage ONE 5 Weight casts pretty good with a 5 weight line for me. I hadn't heard that around these parts. Interesting.
  3. So what causes this difference in the ability to cast further? More expensive materials?
  4. Kyle, you nailed it. I know they put an enormous amount of engineering time into all the rods they design. Perhaps even more into the less expensive models (in an attempt to do more with less expensive materials, therefore creating a better product for less money and a competitive advantage). The premium rods are built with the best possible ingredients.
  5. I get you are testing for distance and it's a cool experiment, but my advice to all beginners is to make short accurate casts that don't cross too many conflicting currents, and to learn how to wade quietly. A buddy of mine offered to get me a Shark Skin line cheap, I told him I didn't want it because I might be tempted to cast too far. It's a matter of personal style, the water you fish, whether you wade or float etc. In my opinion distance casting is better suited for contests and impressing others on the river than catching big fish. One last thought on the matter: When you wade in and boom out long casts, you pretty much guarantee that no good fish will rise in the water that is easy for you to reach. You will be throwing long all day, struggling to get a drift, and spooking fish . Fish a rod in your budget that feels good to cast.
  6. Jim nailed it. Wade carefully, fish close, and cast bamboo.
  7. Another person agreeing with Jim. I'm pretty new to fly fishing in rivers (Spokane where I live.). I quickly learned long casts result in a poor casts when using shot, indicator, & 1 or 2 flies. Then, there's loss of line control, mending. Our local club had guest speakers Kelley Galloup last month and this week, Rick Hafele. Both emphasize shorter casts for average nymph fishing.
  8. Nice demo Joe, While I would agree that 80% of my best fishing is within 50 feet. I know the value of being able to "get there" when you want to. I have distance cast to fish feeding with impunity at around 75 feet. Fully knowing that the minute I touchdown, I am at the mercy of dozens of micro-currents. However, on some occasions, the fish is taking actively, and I only need 2 seconds to hookup. Those can be the most exciting fish of the day. I noticed the position and casting stroke for both rods were practically identical, so I took some screenshots and when frozen, was able to see what you described. The loop symmetry was very telling. And I know if wind were a factor (almost always is), the line speed the sage offers will make the difference. *attachments in separate email to you. thanks, David
  9. All good points guys. David, nice snap shots BTW. We're off task here a bit. The test was to see that if you spend more, do you get a rod capable of storing and responding with more energy. It was pretty apparent that you do. Next question is that if you a higher modulus stick of graphite, i.e. Sage ONE, responds with more energy does it make your short and mid-range game better because you get better delivery with 15-20% less effort? Or what about distance recovery meaning less false casts? Some things to think about. I don't have all the answers but this video/blog wasn't intended to advocate the need for a 100' cast.
  10. Thanks for the demo, Joe. Glad you did it...and answered the question of what is the difference. I think I could hear the line speed changed when you started with the One. Of course 95% of one's stream fishing will normally be in closer. So...is there value in being able to cast 15% further? David W. put it very well. Some pretty memorable fish have come on long distance casts where I knew I'd only have a couple seconds of dead drift. Also, the value of longer casts is even more obvious while fishing lakes. That said, I've fished for 35 years without a One (though I did just purchase one), caught a lot of fish, and had a lot of fun. My point is, if you cast well...and can afford it...then the One may be for you. If you don't...or can't....don't worry about it. Just keep working with what you have...moving up in gear when you can afford to and as your skills improve.
  11. I fish winter steelhead with 10' 7wt rods. I've got the Sage One, Z-Axis, and an Echo. I bring all 3 with different nymphs and different set ups. What I've noticed is the accuracy is better with the better rods, and the fatigue factor is a lot less. I can cast the One all day long and not notice it. If I use the Echo all day, It wears me out. Just my $.02
  12. Craig, that is a really good point that I had meant to bring up but feared beating this to death. Better response requires less false casting too. For the record, I personally have 3 Redington VAPEN rods and love them. I think they are a great buy for $300, but there isn't much debate that a better stick of graphite is a better stick of graphite.
  13. Good test. However the One is a stiff rod. Never tried a Vapen but that rod like like a more moderate action rod. Moderate action just can't store the energy a stiff rod can. Maybe a stiff rod with a price tag that's also around half the price of the One would have been a more equal match? About distance (practice) casting: I tell people/students that distance casting practice isn't actually about getting the fly 100 ft away as such. It's more about 'doing everything right'. That's keeping a straight line path, strong stop, smooth acceleration, efficient double haul, etc. And yes, if done wrong you'll see all the errors enlarged. Once you get consistent 70+ ft casts with smooth tight loops, fishing casting distances are a piece of cake as you mentioned. Distance casting isn't suitable for beginners as they have yet to learn the basics.