Sage recently unveiled their new ACCEL rod with fanfare at ICAST/IFTD, winning best new freshwater fly rod. The ACCEL series feature a medium-fast action and Sage’s Generation 5 graphite technology and come in line weights 3-9. The rod is an attractive emerald color and features a half-wells cork grip. Beyond the physical components, the ACCEL is great to cast, and we recently tested out the rod with Willy George in San Francisco.
Willy George has a reputation as a master caster and a gear fanatic, analyzing specs and performance to strictest detail. George is a professional fly casting instructor and is certified by the International Federation of Fly Fishers as a Master Casting Instructor, which is their highest level of certification. Also co-founder of the San Francisco School of Fly Fishing and an instructor for the California Fly Shop (a local Sage dealer), George was an excellent choice as a rod and casting expert to test drive and review the new Sage ACCEL fly rod.
I was asked by the Venturing Angler to review the new Sage ACCEL fly rod. I strung up a 9 foot 5 weight ACCEL on a quiet afternoon at the Golden Gate casting ponds in San Francisco. Since I hadn’t done any research on this new rod, it was truly a “blind taste test.” The rod initially felt light in the hand, of course a light reel can help there as well, but my first impression was good. I typically run a new rod through its paces by first roll casting it and then doing overhead casts. I start with a short line, about 20 feet of total casting distance, and then extend 10 feet at a time. I call my testing protocal “short, medium, long, and extra long.” I find that casting a rod to a single, standard distance, say 45 feet (i.e., with the design spec of 30′ of fly line outside the rod tip) doesn’t tell me much about the “range” of the rod and its true potential as a fishing tool. I cast the ACCEL overhead a few times and found that the rod bent fairly deeply especially at the medium through extra long distances. It was definitely a slower action rod than I was accustomed to for rods that had the word SAGE on the label. I wouldn’t say that the rod was “sluggish” but I did notice that I had to slow down my timing and widen my casting arc to maintain a straight rod tip path. I asked Tim what line was on the rod. His answer was a Scientific Anglers GPX WF5F. This started to explain things. I knew that the GPX lines were one half weight heavier than a standard line weight. I went back to my gear bag and pulled out a WF5F line that I knew weighed exactly 140 grains at 30.’ When I switched to that line the rod was much more responsive. It was still a slower action rod than we typically shake in the shops these days, but I would call it somewhere between a medium and a medium-fast action rod, relatively speaking. This was a true 5 weight that I was casting — that is a compliment, by the way.
I see this as some good news. It had been a while since I cast a graphite rod that had slower responsiveness. It seemed to me that year after year every new rod was stiffer yet and overlining by at least a half line weight had become the norm. But a slower action rod definitely has its place in a fly fisher’s arsenal. Casting the ACCEL reminded me of some of my favorite all-time rods like the Scott G-series rods and the venerable Sage SP series rods. I wish I could have done a side-by-side bake off with those two sticks and an ACCEL just for comparison. My sense is that the ACCEL is a bit faster action than the Sage SP but still a nice step away from the super fast rods of the Sage TCR and TCX eras.
I just returned from fishing the three famous Paradise Valley spring creeks near Livingston Montana – Nelson’s, Armstrong’s, and DePuy’s. I used either bamboo or my Scott G-series rods on these creeks. I like the gentler presentation and tippet protecting qualities of a slower action rod on this type of stream and I seldom find that I need to cast 80 feet to hook a fish. In fact, being able to make an accurate cast with only 5 feet of colored fly line out the rod tip is another advantage that a softer rod has over its stiffer cousin. I think the ACCEL would make a great spring creek rod. Whether you are on the Henry’s Fork, where I’ve spent upwards of 30 days each of the last few years, or California’s own magnificent spring creek, Fall River, I think the ACCEL would be a great all-around rod. I remember one day on the Fall River wishing that my fast action Sage rod could magically turn into a Scott G-series rod once I had hooked a fish on 6X. I believe the ACCEL could fill that gap with just enough punch to throw some tight looped distance while also providing a lighter touch to better hook and land fish.
Another perfect application for the ACCEL would be as a nymphing rod. I find myself using slightly slower rods for the various tight line nymphing techniques (aka Czech/Polish short leader and Spanish long leader) that I am using these days because I like the shock absorber qualities of these somewhat softer rods.
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