Sage Trout LL Fly Rod // In Depth Review and Field Test

July 19, 2019

Summary of the Sage Trout LL Fly Rod Review

Originally I did a review of this rod like I often do, on the lawn in front of our fly shop. While its riverside... its not THE river.  Today I was sitting in the office starting to write this and couldn't stomach not doing a review where I actually put this rod to work.... So I grabbed one of the other guides, told him to hook up a boat and that we were going dry fly fishing.  We floated from 2 miles upstream of Red's and I went to work.  I brought 20+ fish to the fly in various water types during my testing, landed about 6 trout and 3 of which were 17" +. This was during the middle of the day, in July, when the fish are typically very selective and will only take the most convincing presentations. This rod made a difference.  Was it the only rod in the world that can do this?  Heck no.  But it would be among the top several I would choose from. The fishery I did this testing on required the fly to be within inches of the bank to be edible.  The Yakima River Canyon is one of the most technically demanding dry fly fisherines in the country during our summer becuase the water runs high and flush with the banks, where almost every trout is underneath a cutbank.  This requires precise accuracy, with reach casts, at close range.  Results are provided by presentation here, not distance.

I did a VERY detailed video field test of these rods.  What I found while dry fly fishing both large and small waters (I fished a couple of side channels), is that your rod must be forgiving every cast and it needs to do the "fishy stuff" like feeding line, mending, and setting the fly down extremely soft.  This rod is a fabulous dry fly rod, good looking, and a joy to cast.  The video is long, but it has some good dry fly fishing tips in there as well. 

A Modern Classic 

sage trout ll review and testing

This rod is a legacy reborn.  I had one of the original versions of this rod 2001 shortly after I first started guiding. It was the 8'9" 3 Weight and I loved it. Like many outfitters I wanted to keep up on the "latest and greatest" so I eventually sold it upgrade to a Sage SLT 389-4 which I love and still have, BUT.... nothing was ever quite as buttery as that old Sage LL.

the original sage trout ll fly rodThe original 590-4 Sage LL - This is one of my great clients that bought this rod new in the late 1980's and still uses it today as their #1 dry fly rod.  Ironically he was fishing the same day I did my field testing!

sage trout ll and 505 reel*This old 590-4 was paired up with one of original Sage Reels, built for Sage by Hardy, way back in the 1980's. Sage has a new reel appropriately named the "Sage Trout" that offers this classic styling with a carbon fiber drag.  It would be a nice match for the new Sage Trout LL.

This rod was in production at Sage for 11 years, from 1986 - 1997.  The longest running production time for a Sage rod ever.  Although known for their fast action models like the RPL, XP, Z-Axis, ONE, and X - the Light Line was one of their most successful models of all time proving that light action, moderate rods have a firm place in the angler's quiver.

Fast forward to 2019, this action was recreated with better technology and Sage's best set of materials, KONETIC HD technology. The same recipe used to build their esteemed X Rods.  This rod is very friendly, forgiving, and features the classic colors that Sage histoically favored.

Sage LL Lineup of Rods

sage trout ll 3 4 5 6 weight modelsI was able to cast and test 5 of the 7 models in the Sage Trout LL family and used various lines.  I liked all the rods of course, but depending on where you fish you might want longer vs. shorter.  All had a consistent action and feel, none of the models stood out as 'the one'.  No favorites here.

 

 
  • 379-4 - Creeks and small water
  • 389-4 - Great dry fly rod for big water, or larger creeks and small streams with moderate sized trout to 16".
  • 486-4 - Small water rod, capable of handling slightly larger fish. One heck of a Hopper Rod.
  • 586-4 - Hopper rod for supreme accuracy rod for working banks on a larger river.  Great for dry droppers, perfect rod for situations where highly accurate casts under 50' are needed.
  • 590-4 - Classic rod for western water. If you ever plan to throw a couple of nymphs under an indicator, start here.  Still forgiving enough to handle 15' - 20' casts when necessary.
  • 690-4 - Great big dry fly rod for big western water, but will handle light streamer work and 2 fly rigs.  Fishing places like Chile and Montana where wind can wreak havoc on dry fly accuracy. I used this rod quite a bit with the RIO Technical Trout line and really liked it. 

Line Recommendations for the Sage Trout LL

My experience testing these was only with RIO lines, but let's assume that some of the Scientific Angler's lines will translate.  

Gross Summary of RIO Floating Trout Lines

RIO Gold - Dry fly taper, better for delicate casting and performs at distance. Weighted according to a traditional standard.  Casters that like the RIO Gold typically are more experienced and have a knack for cast timing that is well developed. 

RIO Technical Trout - Dry fly taper, great control especially beyond 30' but still makes the short casts with the Sage LL rods.  

RIO Perception - All around taper, weighted 1/2 line weight heavy so its sort of like having a "5 1/2" weight line when its titled a 5 weight.  This line will allow the angler to sense the weight of the line a bit better than the RIO Gold and is great with fast action rods.  It's our most popular RIO fly line.  

RIO Grand - This taper is weighted more heavily, its 1 line weight heavier.  So what is called a 5 weight line, is actually a 6 weight line.  It's really for fast action rods or beginners.  Its a wonderful line for people to learn or practice casting with.

The bottom line on lines is that these rods are designed to give you an advantage with dry flies.  Let's respect that idea and focus on lines that will do the same.  I liked a RIO Gold and the RIO Technical Trout the best, followed by a RIO Perception and last... the RIO Grand.  The lines that are weighted more heavily Weight Forward made the rod sluggish. The lighter tapers like the RIO Gold and RIO Technical Trout brought the performance to life.

rio technical trout fly line

 

 

 

  1. Great Review Joe. I was the guys in the boat that asked what you were using during your 2 Mile float. Thank you for sharing and thank you for the fishing reports and the reviews they are always well done
  2. Please, can you review 389 Sage trout ll???? Thanks

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