Sage DOMAIN Fly Reel Review - The Best Reel for Switch Rods?

August 22, 2014

Certain product introductions in the fly fishing industry make sense.  Some make absolutely no sense AT ALL.  We try not to waste your time with product reviews that are bad.  "If you don't have anything nice to say... don't say anything at all".  Well, I have a lot to say about the new Sage DOMAIN fly reel.  It fits right into a perfect niche that has been hard to fill.  Finding an affordable, high quality, reel for switch rods and lightweight spey.

While Sage is not typically renowned for building the best fly reels available, their fly rods really overshadow their reels, they build reels with a specific purpose.  To make the best possible fishing product available and they don't let anything get in the way of that.  The cold forged construction, high quality components, and micro machining tolerances have really put them on the map recently. Their current reel line is pretty amazing, but under appreciated by anyone that isn't a Sage rod owner.  Very few folks are willing to put a Sage reel on a Winston or Loomis rod! For whatever reason folks don't like to mix brands.  Sage rod owners love Sage reels.  I wasn't a fan 10 years ago but they have earned my trust.

DOMAIN 5 - For the angler that has a 4 weight switch rod  or a 5/6 Single Hand rod and wants a full frame reel.

DOMAIN 8 -  This is will likely be the most popular Switch Rod reel we have ever sold.  Perfect for 6-7 Switch Rods or 6 weight spey rods.  This is a great match for the Sage ACCEL 7114-4 if you are looking for a reel that will work well for single hand casting, if you are mostly going to spey fish - the DOMAIN 10 is great for 7 weight switch rods.  

DOMAIN 10 - This goes on spey rods 7 weight and above, or your 8 weight switch rod that you plan to primarily spey cast with.  




Choosing a quality reel for switch and spey rods:

There are far more options for true single handers.  Hopefully this review and lesson on choosing a reel for two handed rods is helpful.  

Qualifications for a Good Switch Rod/Light Spey Reel

  • Good balance.  The same reel that works on your 790-4 isn't going to balance very well on a spey rod, and probably isn't the best for a switch rod.
  • Fully enclosed frame.  There is a phenomenom called "pull through" that happens with mono running lines while spey casting.  While it doesn't happen often it is a PAIN IN THE ASS.  This is when the line slips through the tiny gap between reel and spool.  Light mono running lines like the Rio Gripshooter are becoming more popular and this is becoming more common.
  • Big drag knob.  Being able to tighten/loosen your drag with gloves on is key.  About half your steelhead will be caught on a chilly morning while wearing gloves.  While that is not an exact stat, it is nice to have that feature.
  • Big reel handle.  Same deal, reeling with gloves on and fighting Steelhead and Salmon requires a big enough reel handle to grab.
  • Rim exposure.  Sometimes you have to take the fight into your own hands and palm the reel a bit.
  • Backing Capacity.  You likely won't be fishing for Brook Trout.  An angry Chinook or fast running Steelhead can take LOTS of backing.  Especially in swift current. The concave spool design allows for lots of backing but still maintains a high enough retrieve ratio to be considered a large arbor reel.
  • Good drag system.  You need to be able to count on a fly reel.  The Sage DOMAIN features an SCS (Sealed Carbon System).  This drag has been tested on a machine that pulls drag on the tightest setting FOR DAYS.  The carbon will glow red hot but always survives.  Completely sealed.
  • Saltwater friendly.  When you invest in a reel for a switch rod or spey rod, there is a chance that it might wind up in Saltwater.  Either on a beach casting at Salmon, Sea-run Cutthroat, Stripers, or maybe it will double as your big game reel for Tarpon, GT, etc.  This is just a smart move and makes good use of your investment.
  • Durability.  Most folks are traveling when they fish a two handed rod.  Don't let your reel, let you down. The full frame on the Sage DOMAIN keeps the relationship between spool and reel true.  

Planning Any Saltwater Fly Fishing?

This is somewhat of an aside, but if you plan to use a reel in saltwater, get a sealed system with a good andonized finish.  Check out this customer's reel after only a season of fishing the beaches of Puget Sound!  I'll bet he wished he put the $100 he spent on it originally toward a better reel.

My Overall Thoughts on the Sage DOMAIN Fly Reel

If you read through the list above, you'll see that the DOMAIN fills the bill for most spey/switch rod friendly reels.  It is a very smooth, attractive, and easy reel to like.  I handled it as much as I could in the shop but honestly haven't put it on the water yet.  I do however have a TON of water time with the legendary 4200 series reels from Sage and this has the same drag system.  That reel has been bulletproof.  We have used the 4200 on many of our higher level switch and spey combos but it was never the "perfect" reel for two-handed rods.  The DOMAIN steps in with more backing capacity, a bigger drag knob, reel handled, and a bit more overall mass to help balance the setup and dampen vibration from the rod during the cast.  It makes sense and Sage has really proven themselves in the fly reel market over the past several years.  Great product.

I personally like the Lime Color the best, it looks great with a fly line on it.  Especially on the New Sage ACCEL series of spey and switch rods.

Fully Sealed Tripod Disc Drag - Sage DOMAIN Fly Reel

The Floating Tripod Drag is one of the more unique configurations of Sage's Sealed Carbon System and stands by itself in the field. The Floating Tripod consists of a carbon disk riding on stainless steel rotors supported by a triangle of three smaller carbon disks. Like the three legs of a stool, the system is perfectly balanced and incredibly low weight, providing smooth resistance through its full range of settings. As with all of Sage's SCS (Sealed Carbon System) configurations the Floating Tripod is sealed and impervious to outside elements such as sand, grit and salt, requiring no maintenance beyond simple rinsing...tough, smooth, waterproof!

Sage DOMAIN Fly Reel - General Features

  • Cold forged construction and tempered for superior strength and rigidity (this is a lifetime reel).
  • Sealed Carbon System "SCS" drag system
  • Large arbor for fast line retrieve
  • Concave arbor for greater strength and backing capacity (while still maintaining the efficiency of a large arbor reel)
  • Full frame with palming access so you can take the fight into your own hands if necessary
  • Fully machined 6061-T6 aerospace grade aluminum (this reel is cold forged, then machined)
  • Super hard anodized finish for surface protection and corrosion resistance
  • One-revolution drag knob with numbered and denoted settings (very nice for spey fishing, you can fish with the drag light to promote better hookups and then quickly tighten to a numbered setting you are familiar with).
  • Easy conversion from left-to-right hand retrieve
  • Handled is easy to use with gloves on
  • Embroidered reel cover

Specs on the Sage DOMAIN Fly Reel

ModelLinesWeightYards (20#)DiameterWidth
DOMAIN 55-66.2 oz1003.6 in.1.4 in.
DOMAIN 87-87.2 oz2003.9 in.1.5 in.
DOMAIN 109-108.5 oz2004.3 in.1.7 in.

  1. I read your blog on the new Sage Domain reel. I currently have a Sage z-axis switch 7wt with a Lamson guru 3.5 on it running a Skagit line. I would like to get another reel and put the Rio switch chucker line on it. I was considering the Ross Momentum LT but after reading your article I am now looking at the new Sage Domain 8. I fish mostly southern oregon and my home waters are the upper Rogue and Applegate river for steelhead, nymphing and swing big leaches. I would appreciate your thoughts and input on my choice of reel and line for the fishing I do. Thanks for your time in advance.
  2. Bob, I am going to update this with a video that highlights some of these features. Although I really like Lamson reels, the Guru is really just a trout reel made large enough for a thick line. It doesn't have design features for larger fish the way the Sage DOMAIN does. Look for this video, I think it is pretty well explained.
  3. I have an 11 foot 8 wt Bastion (RX8) switch rod. Use for freshwater (SAC Trinity salmon steelhead) and Baja saltwater (shoreline) fishing. Your comments relate mainly to a 7 wt switch rod. Would this reel work for the above? I'm just uncertain as to it's line holding capacity. Mike
  4. just read your review of the new Sage Domain Reel. One thing you don't mention is the simple O Ring connection for spool to reel connectivity. I fish every day, and as you know rubber o rings perish very quickly. Is this perhaps a design fault. If that O ring perishes on fishing trip in the middle of no where in the Norwegian outback, you have a reel with a spool dropping off and completely useless. Your thoughts please ? Cheers....Derek
  5. Bob, I am considering a Sage 4 weight switch rod (11'-6") which is their Trout Spey rod.A fellow recommended using a heavier Sage reel on the rod for better balance.He recommends a Sage 4280.Is this a better choice and not too much physical weight when fishing for several hours in a session?Also,on this series reel,would you recommend 100,150 ,or 200 yards of say 30 lb backing to fill the reel for using a Rio Switch Chucker fly line with Rio Mow leader Thanks Bob,and love the heck out of your videos
  6. Have 2 Domains 9/10 weight and use them on both switch and spey rods. Great investment. Particularly good as the frame is a full cage. Plan on using them both in 2018 in Alaska.