May 20, 2013

NRX vs ONE...Who rules the flats!

Margaritaville
Recap Trip

2013’s Mexico trip came to an end on May 3rd. The gang packed it up and headed out of the little town of Punta Allen on our way to catch a flight in Cancun. The long bumpy gravel road from the lodge to Tulum seems twice as long on the way out. We had a great time at the Palometa Club. Good food, good drink and lots of good company swapping stories back and forth. The Permit were elusive to us this week but we had some good times with the Bonefish, watched Tarpon tail dance while spitting flies and the occasional Barracuda rip towards our fly at lightning speeds. A warm thank you goes out to Dick and Kaye, Host of the Palometa Club, for providing plenty of entertainment and Margaritas. Watch out for the third Margarita!



The Showdown

Many great rods are available today ranging from high quality imports to custom order built one at a time overpriced yesterday’s technology. I have to emphasize though that the rod market is in progress of a forward movement making what we know as traditional graphite obsolete. Certainly this statement I just made will continue to be argued over for many more years to come but never the less I am confident that a fly rod evolution is happening as we speak.

G. Loomis NRX vs. Sage ONE Showdown
Let the showdown begin...
They’re coming at you in many different names including Nano Resin (G.Loomis), Sintrix (Hardy), Fortified Resin Technology (St.Croix) and Konnectic Technology (Sage - although Sage makes no claims that this is a Nano Resin type of rod but I have to include it here because there is something very real about this rod). There may be others I am unaware of and certainly more in the making.
For the purpose of this showdown I am going to concentrate on just the Sage One and the G.Loomis NRX. Both rod series are available in a wide range of models from Lite trout rods to King Salmon size two hand spey models but I want to focus purely on the area that I feel all rods are tested and proven. The Saltwater Flats! Why saltwater flats is simple; the wind always blows and rarely in the direction that would benefit your cast, the fish are so fast they may be gone as soon as you see them, and when you do hook up any weakness in your gear is going to be exploited. The saltwater environment is both demanding on your equipment as well as your angling skills and the place where even a small improvement in either one can make the difference between trophy of a lifetime or a long ride home in miserable defeat. I have experience in both situations and can testify that the long ride home scenario will have you thinking about gear choices and skill level, (lack of skill level) for days to come.

The Equipment

I have been armed with 4 rods to test in matching configurations. Two NRX’s and two ONE’s. A 9’ 7wt in each and a 9’ 9wt in each. I have two different lines in each weight class; Rio 7wt Bonefish in standard head and the new Bonefish Quickshooter and for the 9 weights I have a Rio Tarpon and a Rio General Purpose Tropical line. To keep the playing field equal I will be using matching Waterworks Lamson reels for both sizes. A new Speedster 3.5 for the 9 weights and a ULA Force 3X SL for the 7 weights. No intentions are being made for line or reel comparisons but again just keeping to the idea of a level playing field.

Rod Scale Weight (actual) Construction Action
Price
(2013 MSRP)
Recommended Line
NRX 7wt 4.1 oz Nano Resin Fast $795 Rio Bonefish Quickshooter
ONE 7wt 3.6 oz Konnectic Technology Mod-Fast* $780 Rio Bonefish
NRX 9wt 4.3 oz Nano Resin Fast $815 Rio Tarpon
One 9wt 3.9 oz Konnectic Technology Mod-Fast* $785 Rio Tarpon
*Note: Sage rates this rod as fast but for a comparison purposes I chose to label it Moderate-Fast

Aesthetics

First up is the ugly duckling. The word beautiful has never been used to describe the NRX and in most cases it’s described as quite the opposite. The stealth black blank and blue thread wraps certainly has a way of jumping out at you in the usual field of green on your flyshop wall. So bad is it that a year after introduction it also became available in an evergreen color. Strangely the original ugly color grew on me. It has a certain attitude such as “Don’t judge me by my cover” or “I’m here to perform not win a beauty contest”. I find the evergreen color NRX to be like a wolf dressed in sheep clothing. Same rod exactly but tiptoeing thru the Bonefish flats. Being able to choose your look with the NRX is an interesting option in the fly rod world. Personally I choose the bold new look of stealth black and blue wrapped. This rod is different and no reason why it should not look different as well!

On the other hand the Sage ONE is quite appealing. The words I use to describe it are “Simple Elegance”. Just simple, clean and pleasing to look at. Quite the opposite of its counterpart but at the same time not just another version of classic green. The glossy black blank is deep and the thread wraps enhance the depth. I feel a certain mystique while gazing at the ONE and I will testify after much time casting the ONE that this mystique is far more than just skin deep.

The 7 weights –

I consider a 7wt rod to be the most versatile of all fly rods. You can take them Bone fishing, Bass fishing, Carp fishing, Large Trout and many more. Casting a 7 weight is powerful but yet joyful. The NRX and the One are about as close to perfection as a fly rod can get in my opinion. Having spent much time with an NRX 7 weight it’s easy to be a little biased toward this rod. I like its lightweight feel. The fast action is very forgiving and power comes easy. I have cast many lines on this rod and have found it does favor shorter head fast loading lines. Of the two Rio Bonefish lines I really like the Rio Quickshooter. It puts a deep load in this rod and the fast actions excels it forward with incredible line speed.

While the NRX has been a favorite of mine for some time now I must confess that the new contender has me thinking about what a fly rod can be. The One has a smooth relaxed stroke. I would not call it slow by any means but just as it displays a look of elegance, so too does it cast with elegance. Yeah it loads deep and comes forth with much power but the real quality is in the line stability. Ever since the first time casting the One I noticed something very different about this rod. It’s hard to explain but I’ll try to simplify it, I am an OK caster most of the time. Wish I was better and like most of us just need to take more time to practice. The first time I cast the one I realized that this rod instantly made me a better caster. Not necessarily more distance but better accuracy and line turnover resulting in an improved presentation. I noticed it on every line weight I cast. The konnectic technology is alive in the One and without a doubt going to change the way fly rods are built forever. Of the two Rio Bonefish lines I really favored the traditional taper with the One. The rod really carries the line smoothly and effortlessly.

The 9 weights –

So out came the 9 weights! The lines are a Rio tarpon taper and Rio General Purpose Saltwater. I’m not sure how much difference there really is in the two lines. The Tarpon may be a bit heavier in the head but both have the same head lengths. Both cast well on both rods. I seem to favor the Tarpon taper for its quick loading. These are not lines intended to carry in the air but instead are intended to line up on a back cast and shoot to your target. Both rods handle this with impressive power.

Rods of 9 weight and higher is where I start to consider them as clubs. I suppose if you live in the salt and spend all your time swinging 10 weight and 12 weights to goliath predators you would be conditioned to swinging these stout sticks, I’ll tolerate a 10 weight and absolutely despise a 12 weight rod. For the permit on this trip Travis and I chose to equip ourselves with 9 weights. While we might find ourselves a little under gunned on the possible big Permit, the nine will handle the average size just fine.

Let’s start with the Sage One and I have a story to tell. Not about a fish that got away but instead about mistaking the 9 weight for a 7 weight. I had these rods back at home and playing around casting in the yard with some different lines and reels. I unknowingly picked up the 9 weight and rigged it with a 7 weight reel and line. I just looked at the rod blank at the cork and thought yeah that’s the 7 weight. I was out casting it with the 7 weight line and although I was casting alright I knew something was different. Only when I went back in the house to rig the nine weights did I realize my mistake. The Sage One blank is so much thinner diameter that the 9 weight appeared to me as 7 weight in size. To say this rod is light is an understatement. So now properly rigged I stepped back out into yard to enjoy the casual stroke of the One Rod with its Simple Elegance. Slow down just a tad from the usual saltwater cannons and enjoy the load. The power in this rod is plenty if you take the time to let it develop. It handles the short loading Rio Tarpon taper with ease and I can only imagine the casting joy it would possess with a longer headed line.

The NRX 9 weight on the other hand is that true saltwater cannon pros will appreciate. It makes no apologies for its fast responsive action. While my skill levels were pushed to their limit with this rod I sat and watched several of our talented guides bring out the power from this stick with impressive results. Example; the backing hanging out the tip of the rod on a cast. That is simply something I’m not capable of doing with a 9 weight no matter what rod is in my hands. So while the NRX may have true saltwater bones I must remind myself that we are comparing it to a Sage One labeled as an “All Water” rod and not a Sage Saltwater rod the Xi3.

The Stand Out

Any time you put together a bunch of outfits there always seems to be a “Stand Out”.

The one that instantly becomes your favorite. The one that starts arguments over who gets to fish it today. It’s not just a rod or a reel that makes it perfect but it’s the combination that comes together to make a balanced outfit that just feels right. The agreement came quickly as we took turns casting to Bonefish. This year's stand out was a Sage One 7 weight equipped with a Hatch 7+ reel and loaded with the Rio Bonefish line in the new Orange color. The Hatch reel, although good looking enough to stand on its own also balances the Sage rod with perfection. The Sage rod already loves the Rio Bonefish line in its traditional form but now with the visual acuity of an orange line we can see it carry in tight loop form and witness the stability as it travels to its target. While many would argue over such a brightly colored line we never witnessed a problem of spooking fish because of it. Even our guides gave praise to it for the ease of better knowing where your fly is.

The Winner is?

So after all this testing and evaluating I still cannot find a clear winner. Both rods are extraordinary in their own way and if I had my choice some attributes of both would be rolled up into an absolute perfection of a Fly Rod. The NRX I tested with is my own personal rod and has been for a couple years now. I have developed a level of intimacy with it and not about to retire it anytime soon! The NRX comes across with commanding power that I believe more experience big rod casters will find pleasing. It’s hard to describe the feeling of casting the One. I would have to say with my casting skills (lack of skill) that I find the One a more comfortable rod for me to cast just due to its light weight and moderately smooth action. It feels in tune just like a guitar string under the perfect tension to create exact musical notes. The Sage is marketed as an “All Water” fly rod and for average anglers like me it certainly is a top choice for those rare opportunities I get to chase the salt species. I believe for the salt experience guys they may find it a bit slow for their taste. Our guides who are absolute awesome fly casters found it to be slow to their liking. I don’t believe sage built these to take place of a Xi3 or a TCX that these pros would find more fitting to their skill level. I suspect we’ll see that konnectic Technology show itself in the future refinements of faster action rod categories.

There exists a hole in my rod arsenal for a big gun... maybe a 9 or 10 wt. I may have to fill the slot with a ONE. Whatever I choose or you choose to add to the quiver one thing is certain, the evolution is in progress and without a doubt will soon change the way we think about fly rods.


by Greg Darling / the Tormented Angler
Check Greg out on Google +


Bonus Material from 2013 Mexico Trip



Charlie Casting demo filmed in Mexico

Appropriately titled: The Storm (filmed on location in Mexico)



"Fly Fish the World with Us"


2 comments :

  1. I have owned a 7wt.Sage ONE for three years and it's a great casting rod,but the NRX casts every bit as well and is a stronger rod on the saltwater flats.

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  2. I agree with you totally. The Sage One is a great rod but lacks the power needed for windy flats fishing. At the time I wrote this article the Sage One was the latest greatest...now we have the Sage Method. The Method would be a worthy contender for the NRX. I'll get to cast the new Sage Salt this week at IFTD/I-CAST. Can't wait to give it a swing!

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