Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sage CIRCA Rod Review

I was once reprimanded for speaking too readily. Many times, actually, at music conservatory. Lesson after lesson, week after week, my professor would stop suddenly: think about it first, he’d say.

And although I would then walk across San Francisco’s 19th Avenue with my feelings hurt, and once home vented the injustice of it all to my housemate Valerie (who responded, if I remember correctly, with the suggestion of chamomile tea. Soothing, I suppose in theory), I knew that my professor was right. I wanted to get things right, but even more than that, I wanted to know the answers. In many cases, those are two different things entirely. In fact, figuring out the answers most often results in getting things wrong, again and again.

And so I didn’t know them, not until long after I’d graduated and my guitar sat in its case under a bed -- and then a basement.

However eventually, I did.

I figured out that firsts (answers, marriages, kisses, cars) are not always the best, and that eager answers (no matter the amount of conviction behind them) are not always speaking the truth.

Now, it’s a long way to stretch this to the action of rods. 

Yet I’m going to. 
In fact, I already have.

So when I was contacted by Kara Armano about testing out the new Sage CIRCA, (given my penchant for bamboo, she said) I agreed.  


But I did think about it first.

And I think that I like these slow action rods for their reminder to measure…to sink into each cast and stroke. To find a rhythm, to find your own (because it’s not going to work with anyone else’s). It’s not easy. It’s not easy to think first, to count, to measure, and not be found wanting. As with most other things in fly fishing, I think it’s as much a reminder of life as an escape from. Here on waters we meet a microcosm of life refracting back to us – in lighting where we can see.  And we can rush through that (to hasten the catching of big fish and hero shots); or we can listen, thinking about it first. We can let the rod load, giving its answer back. Although it’s hard to wait. It is. But when we interrupt the cast fails, falling flat, spooking whatever fish to that point we’d snuck upon.

I fell in love with slow action rods (good, slow action rods), after making my own bamboo. The ritual of it, the reminder that we are all works in progress. The pride of our history.  Split cane and fiberglass. Words written long ago about contemplation. Penned perhaps, while waiting for a willowy rod to load.

Who knows.

However, I asked to test out the 8 foot 9 inches 4 weight CIRCA and proceeded to put this graphite rod through some paces. Like test-riding a horse, you want to see what it can do before you dig out the wad of cash in your pocket you stopped for at the bank on the way out of town.


So I cast it at a backcountry lake in gale winds, and caught in the salvation flowing down. Cutthroats and brookies in tight quarters, with a door quickly closing. The CIRCA proved responsive and light. And most importantly, extremely accurate. I was (and remain) impressed. The beauty of a slower action rod, I think, lies in this: the better caster you are, the more you can make the rod do. You can control angles and curves, getting the fly into those hard-to-reach pockets – the ones with low branches on which hang evidence of previous tries.

And the CIRCA can do a lot, as I discovered.


Because I also decided to take it carping. Now carp fishing on a 4 weight (and a slow action 4 weight at that) might sound like crazy talk. And I suppose it is. But I will take a responsive and precise rod over a stiff and fast action on the mudflats, any day. And really, carp fishing and small stream trout fishing require very similar techniques at reduction: stealth and precision. An accurate and quietly laid cast.  It took a bit more umph on this softer rod to set the hook, but it performed. In the end the point being, it can do it and it can do it well.

If you know how to ask the question, the CIRCA will have an answer for you.



53 comments:

  1. Jeez. You make a flippin' gear review read like poetry. I hate you. Okay, I really don't. But you do piss me off sometimes.

    No one does it like you, Erin. No one. Lovely review.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mike - Don't be pissed...please! I'll do "worse" (?) on the next one. ;-)

      Delete
    2. Oh all right. I can't stay mad at you. And please, please, please don't tank the next one just to satisfy me. That would hurt me even more.

      Delete
    3. Ah don't worry...I don't tank often, but when I do, it's not purposefully!

      Delete
  2. Never again (well, except maybe by you) will my name come up in a blog about fly fishing - what twists life takes, eh? :) (Great review! It makes me want to try it.)

    Btw, the best chamomile tea I've had yet? Numi Organics Chamomile Citrus. I still medicate my days with tea quite frequently! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Valerie - Life is weird. Believe me, every day I think it's weird I am writing a blog about fly fishing, let alone appearing on one. And I need to find that tea!!!

      Delete
  3. Great job, Erin. This, the T&T ESP Series, Orvis Superfine Touch, and Scott F2 are all jockeying for my hard earned money when I purchase a new 'small stream' rod in the spring. Have you had a chance to cast/fish any of the others, and if so, how would you compare this one to them?

    Thanks,
    Alex

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Alex - First off, thanks for the words! To your question -- I've never fished any of the others you mention. Although, I will say that I have not heard stellar things about the F2. If you're looking for strictly small stream, the CIRCA would be a strong contender. If I hear or get to fish the others you mention before spring, I will certainly let you know how they compare though!

      Delete
  4. I'm betting that you have have the first rod review ever with 40+ comments. You charm my sock off Erin...even in a rod review.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cofisher - hmmm...perhaps. ;-) And I must say that you've made my day today, Howard. Thanks for that!

      Delete
  5. GREAT Review, I have had the CIRCA in my hand but your words are far more eloquent than the supreme flex and soft load that this rod delivers. Everyone should at least give it a test drive for a few minutes. It would make a perfect small stream brookie tool~
    Tight Lines,
    Koz

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Brian - Thanks! It's definitely a fun rod to fish! And I love those small streams...except here, they're winding down. Fast! Thanks again!

      Delete
  6. Your comments made me smile, Erin. I look over in the corner at my Sage 3wt LL 8'9", used every season since 1989, and the T&T Big Creek 5wt, also a soft action, and of course the Heddon Black Beauty bamboo, and wink. "They are figuring it out" I say. The rod cases twitch in reply.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Should Fish More - Ah, indeed! (your comment made me smile! Love it!) I believe they feel quite vindicated. And I think my 'boo was starting to feel quite jealous...

      Delete
  7. I got to the end of the "story" only to remember that I was actually reading a fly rod review. Great writing to go along with the rod review. I may have to cast this rod sometime as it sounds like a lot of fun!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. David - Glad it was disguised. Like spoonfuls of sugar and medicine, or something like that ;). Thanks so much for reading!

      Delete
  8. Very interesting review Erin. Those of us who gave up on carbon a long time ago and went back to our trusty built cane rods for all the reasons you give above, may have to reconsider...

    Regular Rod

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Regular Rod - Ah, my bamboo will always be my favorite. :) But this is certainly a good one!

      Delete
  9. I'd love to see how you tackle the review of an item you don't like Erin. Now there's a challenge for you.
    Anyway, tackle reviews will never be the same again........... and I want to try that rod!

    So I guess you did good :o)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dave - I'm becoming more critical as I age, as my grandmother would say. ;) So we'll see! Thanks as always, my friend!

      Delete
  10. Just read the post and i liked it a lot. (Goes for your post before this one too). I've been digging up all I can about the Sage CIRCA (means "almost" in Swedish but spelled cirka). For all I could bring up about this rod it seemed all positive to mee. So, thanks for making this Rod Review,
    M.O.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Jassid Man - Interesting etymology! I do not know Swedish but my maternal grandmother's people had roots there. We always put a candle in the window at Christmastime. Thanks for stopping by to read!

      Delete
  11. my first graphite rod (non-fibreglass that is, never could afford bamboo) was a 1981 first-generation Orvis Spring Creek 9'2" 5wt. It was deliberately made to have a bamboo action, slow but beautiful.. wonderful rod. I fished it hard for twenty years until one day it delaminated explosively just above the handle, during a double-haul. Broke my heart, I still have the fragments in a rod bag. Maybe I should try the Circa..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Doug K - It makes me smile that you still have it, even remnants in a bag. And it sounds like you'd very much like the Circa. Thanks as always for reading!

      Delete
  12. You are certainly my trust-point on this topic, Erin, so--great review! Here's hoping I have a chance to use such sage advice in the not-too-distant future. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Emily - Ah! Are you going to pick up a fly rod? I remember your piece on fishing on Backcountry Journal. I'd say you have a knack for it. :)

      Delete
  13. Erin,

    My Autumn speaks her mind in varied company, I can just imagine you doing the same once as I learn your psyche through your writings, or my interpretation of them anyway. I was hoping you would test it with carp, actually I was fairly certain you would. Your review does read like poetry, especially compared to so many who parrot what the manufacturer states. I had a Sage LL 3 wt. years ago twice broken by my middle boy, the most impatient kid you'll ever know. That was sweet, while I still had it. Just bought a 6 wt. cannon, that will have to do awhile. By the time I think about another small rod, the Circa may not be around. But if it is, thanks!

    Gregg

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gregg - Your interpretation is right on. :) Thank you so much as always for taking the time to read and comment and for the kind words.

      Delete
  14. Great Erin - you have elevated slow beyond what may be the latest rod action craze... and apols if that sounds cynical, but I never really got the fast action thing and the pop and fizz that followed. Best, Andy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Andy - It does seem to be the latest thing...but I never really climb on those wagons. But I suppose that's obvious, eh? Thanks as always!

      Delete
  15. Nice mirror carp. My first encounter with one had me guessing the plutonium mine or refinery upstream polluted the water. Then I learned they all look like that.

    Exquisite review. Maybe one day I'll cast accurately enough to know what that accuracy thing feels like :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. M.A. - Ha! I had similar thoughts...they're so cool! But kinda look like someone goofed. ;o I just get to thinking my casting is okay, and then I fish with Jay and am quickly put in my place.

      Delete
  16. That might be the first review of anything I've read over and over. Mike said it best in the first comment, although you don't piss me off. Not much.

    And great mirror!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ty - Thank you! And I'm glad you aren't too pissed off. ;-) You and Mike, both.

      Delete
  17. "It’s not easy to think first, to count, to measure, and not be found wanting. As with most other things in fly fishing, I think it’s as much a reminder of life as an escape from."

    Finding those answers, whether on the guitar, with bamboo, or graphite...the search is always the best part.

    Great review!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sanders - Indeed! It's the seeking bit that's wearing ;-) Thanks as always, and Cheers!

      Delete
  18. A good informative and entertaining blog as always, with that added "umph" that you do so well Erin.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Richard - Thanks as always for stopping by for a read. And I'll keep "umphing" away! :)

      Delete
  19. I guess you won't be surprised that I am salivating more over that gorgeous mirror carp than the rod...Although the rod sounds like a winner as well. I grew up on bamboo and have discovered in the last year or so that some of the modern derivations of the "fast action" idea are almost un-castable for me. If / when I go seriously back to my high-country roots this rod sounds like something I will want to try.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Trevor - Ha! That is not surprising at all. And I would be too. In fact, I was. It was only my 2nd mirror...happened within a few weeks of each other. I was pretty giddy. :) And if you ever do get back to those high country streams, slow is the way to go methinks.

      Delete
  20. What a great review, Erin. I lean towards slower rods, as well. Maybe not this slow, but a BTII and G2 usually cover all my bases when hitting small water. Nevertheless, you proved the point with the carp, and now I must cast one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kyle - Thanks! Yeah, the G2 is a great rod...I fish mine a lot. My go-to. And the CIRCA is fun to cast, even more so to fish...definitely see about getting your hands on one!

      Delete
  21. Act in haste, repent in leisure.......................... never a truer saying LOL

    Lovely as ever.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tom - Brilliant. And why have I not heard it before!? I will use it in the future...thank you!

      Delete
  22. Erin- Great review. Nuts and bolts but some personal insight. Very real. I liked the thoughts on slow action and accuracy. Even more I like that the rod seems quite versatile. I think in this age of specialization, it's nice to have a jack of all trades. A good four weight seems to fill the niche. Wonderful,individual thinking.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Scott - Thank you! I have a soft spot for four weights. What I started on....good memories there. And thank you, as always, for taking the extra time to leave your thoughts. Cheers.

      Delete
  23. Well well well... look who did another review! Amazing as usual. My guitar is also in a basement somewhere. Hopefully, the fly rod never has a guitar neighbor.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. backcountryfishnerd - I know, I know! Should I hang my head in shame? ;) And I hope my fly rod never sits by my guitar, either...

      Delete
  24. Erin, you have the master's touch it seems with everything you touch. So I guess that's why it bugs me about that untouched guitar.And by the way (Okay...btw.)weird is way better than predictable.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hart - It will come back out someday...when I find a wealthy benefactor who wants to sponsor my life. Until then, it sits. Waiting. And I agree...weird is way better than predictable. Predictable is boring (if, albeit, somewhat comforting).

      Delete
  25. Erin, I must say that you certainly have a way with words. I got a link to your page from Tom Sutcliffe's weekly news letter. You just made my day. I had such a good time reading this. I recently built a Circa 279-4B with a palmgrip and a matte clear finish. I too was very impressed by this rod. What I don't get is the fact that even though this rod is fantastic as it is, it seems that its not really catching on with the the fishing folk out there. Some still prefer the TXL or TXL-F and even the LL as some have replied here. I would have thought that this rod would have taken off with the same might as the Apple I-Phone did worldwide.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Koos -- thanks for the good words! I certainly liked the Circa, but do have an affinity for slower action, so suppose that makes sense. Your build sounds wonderful. Hope you're enjoying it out on the water! Cheers. E

      Delete
  26. Erin you are going to love reading these articles...

    The first is the search for the Ultimate Small Stream Fly Rod...
    http://www.tomsutcliffe.co.za/fly-fishing/friend-s-articles/item/144-ed-herbst-in-search-of-the-ultimate-small-stream-fly-rod.html

    Second is the search for the Ultimate Small Stream Fly Reel...
    http://tomsutcliffe.co.za/fly-fishing/friend-s-articles/item/723-the-search-for-the-ultimate-small-stream-fly-reel-by-ed-herbst.html

    And thirdly here is a link to the Circa mentioned in the article...
    http://roddesigns.blogspot.com/2013/05/sage-circa-279-4b.html

    Some food for thought in those articles.

    Best regards from the Republic

    ReplyDelete