Mar 14, 2013

Sage Circa Review

Fly Rod: Sage Circa 8’9” 5 Weight
Taper:  Slow Action
Best Use:  Light Line, Small Water, Small Flies, Trout
Best Lines:  Rio Gold or Rio Trout Lt

The Circa is Sage’s much heralded, light line, trout rod and I finally got to fish one out on the Yellowstone River yesterday. I would have preferred to get out on some of the high creeks, but they are still iced over, so I settled my hopes on some midge activity along the eddy lines and flats of the big river. At the least I could get out and cast a little and get an idea for what this rod is all about.

The color of the shaft is what they call “tea green” with olive colored thread wraps, which lends a sort of earthy-toned extravagance. The half wells cork handle is bright sand colored which adds a nice contrast to the vera-wood insert and black aluminum reel seat. The vera wood is a nice touch for sure. I think the rod looks good, far better than the color of the rod tube that resembles what you might find hiding inside a baby’s diaper. But at least the yellowish tube stands out and won’t get lost inside your rod quiver.

Like everyone has been saying, this rod is light. The blank is very very thin, which makes for exceptionally low swing weight. I got out there and tied on a few midge dries – one adult and one suspended midge emerger trailer and started picking apart this slow seam line about 20 feet from shore. I must say, it was an absolute joy to cast at close range and once I could slow my stroke down enough to find my groove, I could do no wrong as far as accuracy was concerned. Working the close-range water with these light dries made me curse my all-purpose 5 weight back in the rig and deem it as heavy, lethargic and overbearing. This rod just felt far more intimate in hand and more pleasant to cast. It loaded easily and sent graceful, unfurling loops with a soft lay down.

It became immediately clear that the Circa brings a heightened level of sensitivity. The cast, line adjustments - you feel it all right down into your hand. It flexes deep, but it’s not a wet noodle by any means. There’s a noticeable crispness to its response and delivery.

Once I opened up to see what this rod could do for long range casts, I was somewhat impressed considering its slow taper and its shorter length. I had heard that it had a bit more zip – capable of building faster linespeeds than your average slow action rod, and I would have to agree with these charges, but if your fishing demands distance casting on a normal basis I would consider a more all around rod, like a The Sage One. Don’t expect much performance past 55 feet, as your cast will start breaking down or require way more effort and flawless technique than should be tolerated.

A few things that surprised me: Well it’s inevitable that the wind is going pick up this time of year and it did this day. What struck me though, was how well this rod cut a line through the breeze. While casting upstream into a serious head wind, I was able to deliver some pretty tight loops and build some solid line speed to get that leader to unfurl straight down to the water. The other thing that I was surprised by was how well this rod rollcasted dries and small nymphs, which was useful once I started fishing with my back to a tall cut bank. But these two aspects just further highlight the added zest behind the easy- loading nature of this rod.

Giving in to my need to hook a fish I clipped off the dries and started dead drifting some small nymphs into a tight-line swing. For this technique, with no indicator attached, I thought the Circa performed really well. Granted I was working the water within 30 feet to shore. However, when this didn’t work, I added some weight and an indicator and although I was fishing, I was no longer fishing very well. This rod collapses under too much weight – which I found to happen with just 2 weighted flies, an indicator and two BB split shot. You get it out there, but it’s not pretty.

But let’s be clear. The Circa is not a do everything style rod. It is best fished at short range with light lines and flies and this should be considered when trying to review the rod. Is it an overly versatile fly rod? No. But it is going to be hard to beat for what it is meant to do, which is bringing a heightened level of intimacy and performance to your short range, dry fly fishing.

Rating Scale: 1-10 (1=Poor, 10=Best)
*Of course, these ratings are done with as much insight as the reviewer can afford. There is certainly a lot of subjectivity concerning the scale, with Aesthetics certainly the most “personal” by nature! We have attempted to simplify our reviews with this scoring system in hopes to better display our opinions about what should be considered.

Did I find a fish? Nope. I think it had something to do with the oncoming front dropping into the valley yesterday that had zippered their lips together. That is the easiest explanation anyway (the alternative being to doubt my prowess as an angler). I searched far and wide with dries for a rising snout, but none would surface. I swung flies and I nymphed. All in all, it amazed me while fishing in short with small flies. I'll get one next time...  I can hardly wait however, as hooking one on this rod should make for a pretty formidable handshake.

Have a good time,
The Gorge Fly Shop

"Fly Fish the World with Us"


  1. While you consider your rating subjective I must be a bit objective to your recent review. Since I own this very rod I will testify that your review of the rod itself is pretty much dead on but I do not understand your low scoring with the price and the distance. Although expensive, it’s no more expensive than any other American built premium rod so the least this score should be is average and according to your scale that should be a five. By your score of 3 leaves me to wonder if you feel all American Premium built rods are overprice! And the score of 3 for casting distance. What do you expect from a rod primary designed for the dry fly fisherman who is looking for a traditional feeling rod of yester year? Circa is after all the name! Also your choice of fly line may have altered the distance you achieved. I’m sure the Sage rod designers were not tuning the prototypes with a Scientific Anglers fly lines considering their well-known affiliation with Rio Fly Lines. Of course its all opinionated but I would certainly put this rod into the 9.? status it deserves.

    1. Much thanks for your comment. You bring up a very solid point concerning price and distance and possibly you have highlighted a major problem with trying to rate virtually any type of product across broader lines, like I did here. For price I looked at how the Circa’s tag measures up to all 5 weight rods. It is no doubt on the spendy side, but perhaps it is not fair to judge in this context, but rather best to determine if price is a fair representation of the rod’s quality. You are right in this regard, as one must expect to pay upwards for this level of quality and I do feel the Circa’s price is absolutely appropriate considering its nature. When it comes to distance, again, I considered all 5 weights and not strictly those in the light presentation category. So again, that may be a big misrepresentation and probably one I should clear up by saying I was really impressed by the distance that such a light rod could achieve, especially with respect to other rods in this slow action class. Thanks for helping me to reconsider the context for this grading process and I will keep this in mind as time goes. As far as lines go, well I don’t think I will get into that, only to say that the line is a SA mastery trout but you need only to glance into my gear bag to find heaps of Rio Lines (however none to fit the rod this day).


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