Fly Fishing Gear Review: The Sage SPEY Reel

Sage Spey Reel

It’s probably fair to say that anglers who fish with a Spey rod are picky. For the most part, these anglers are targeting steelhead or Atlantic salmon — fish that have experienced dwindling numbers and are hard enough to catch when populations are good. Like all anglers, time on the water is valued and often infrequent, and for many, getting to steelhead and salmon water requires some travel. Oh, and to make things even more tricky, productive time on the water is dependent on a range of factors from water levels to the timing of fish migrations.

Like many places, in California, the “off-season” can be brutal. The steelheaders in these parts count the days like an archery elk hunter waiting for September. At the Golden Gate Angling & Casting Club in San Francisco, many-a-steelheader passes the time casting hour after hour and day after day until the fall rains come in and the steelhead arrive shortly after. And when that time finally comes, it’s on!

Considering all of these aspects of what it means to swing, that time on the water is precious. Gear must be dialed and in many cases, rods and reels become more critical than ever before. After all, we’re chasing the “fish of a thousand casts!” Of course, a balanced rod and reel is critical, and gear must perform flawlessly. And don’t forget the aesthetics of the gear that is unique and important to Spey anglers.

Recognizing these factors, Sage stepped up this year with the new Sage SPEY reel. This specialty reel is a beautiful traditional-looking reel that perfectly compliments Spey rods with both look and weight and has already attracted many anglers simply with its classic beauty.

Sage SPEY reels

And beyond its looks, the SPEY reel has reliable Sage performance that anglers can count on when they finally hook into chrome. Balance is critical to a Spey rig, and Sage made this reel heavier to best work with modern Spey rods. Despite the old school look, the SPEY reel has Sage’s SCS drag that is numbered to 20 to give anglers the exact setting they prefer at all times. (When that steelhead makes the grab, you can’t blow the opportunity by having the drag set too little or too much.)

We took they Sage SPEY reel out on the XXXXX River in Northern California. Having discovered a note on our car that suggested a threat of death if we promoted the river, we knew we had a good spot. (Note how serious some steelheaders are about their prized waters.) And while we certainly won’t promote the XXXXX River, we surely can’t resist publishing our praise for this reel.

The Sage SPEY reel did in fact look and fish great. Paired with a 12-foot 6-inch 7 weight (7126-4) Sage IGNITER Spey rod, the combo looked killer on the water and naturally felt perfect in hand and suited my casting style. The large (and wide) arbor made it easy to pick up and move. It was a walking and wading weekend, and the Spey reel quickly picks up (and lets out) line and made me more efficient on the water. This is important as time and efficiency are everything for a steelheader. Additionally, I noticed I was no longer constantly checking my drag to make sure the setting was just right. Find your ideal number on the drag knob and stick to it. Easy.

The Sage SPEY reel is available now in Bronze and Stealth/Silver colors. There are two size options — 6-8, 7-9 — and the price of these reels is $475 and $500. These reels are likely everything you would want in a Spey reel. And for those who are wondering, yes, Sage did include a nice audible drag that’ll have a nice clicking sound when that reel does engage with a fish. Nicely done, Sage.

To learn more about the Sage SPEY reel, please click here.

Disclosure: Sage is in a professional relationship with The Venturing Angler. Though potentially benefiting from this relationship, we do not post what we do not believe to be true. To read more, click here.