Back before the shit really hit the fan, Chris, Jon and I took a tour of the Sage factory up in Bainbridge Island, Washington. It was a really awesome afternoon and I wanted to take the time to share my thoughts about the experience.
Over the years, I’ve grown a real soft spot for a number of Sage rods and the good folks I’ve met who work for the brand. So it was no wonder that I was excited to have the opportunity to make it up to their headquarters and factory early this month.
Alex Blouin, Sage’s Community Coordinator took the time to give us a tour. The tour starts with samples of the graphite that Sage has used to build their rods for years in a few forms. You can see what the raw graphite looks like, which feels something like silk and is as thin as paper. There is also a section of a finished rod with the raw graphite fibers exposed and you can see the innumerable fibers splaying out from the rod. It was pretty eye opening to know that each fly rod you buy is comprised of so many, tiny, limp vertical fibers of graphite. It's through proprietary resigns that Sage is able to turn this limp graphite into the tools that anglers use to chase fish around the world.
An interesting process that we got to see firsthand was the silk screen labelling that goes on rod one at a time. Below you can see an image of the silk screens for their new Maverick series of saltwater rods. The second image is a catalog of every silk screen they’ve ever used on all their previous models.
If given the time, I would have loved to dive into some of the technical details that set Sage rods and their operation apart from other companies. But in the time that I was there, I was left feeling a few things: Primarily I feel a deeper sense of appreciation for the Sage rods I currently own and connection to the hands that built them. Watching the process up close gives you an awareness of all the hands that work on our rods at each stage and the manpower that goes into each rod. Finally, as I stood there in the factory, I remember losing count of all the Sage hats and shirts I saw employees wearing that day. I feel good knowing that the folks who build these rods and help sell and market them are as committed to the brand and stoked on the product as many of us anglers are out there.
After we made our way through the factory and took a quick look at the repair center, we headed out back to their casting pond. We strung up a 6, 8 and 9wt single handers. Jon, Chris and I took to the pond, along with Alex and their Sales Manager Zack Dalton. After Jon, Chris and I had each started shaking off the cob webs and lengthening out some line, Zack looked at us and said, "you guys cast like Spey casters." That comment has sat with me for the past few weeks and I still can't decide whether to be offended or encouraged by it. Anyway, below you can see that Chris' loop (on bottom) is tighter than mine (on top) which is often the case.
Regardless, that brief time on the pond made me realize I do want to have a renewed effort to work out the kinks in my single hand stroke. It was really something to watch Zack and Alex cast. All in all, it was a great trip up to the factory and I'd recommend it to anyone interested or excited about the brand. After these lockdowns are lifted, of course.
-Images by Chris Myron, words by Marcus Mattioli