A soft Irish rain falls on the surface of the River Nire as Cathy moves carefully into a casting position. Ahead three brown trout are lined up elevated and rising to small BWO’s as our guide Andrew Ryan points out that the lower fish looks like the best one. Cathy’s cast lands a bit left of the feeding trout, but the next cast is on the mark and we watch as her fly disappears and she sets the hook. Minutes later her first Irish brown trout in the net. The beautiful 14” trout is quickly released and I have to ask what she thinks of the X. Cathy’s answer doesn’t surprise me as there are still two more fish rising, she says she will let me know after she tries those fish.
The Sage X arrived the day before our Frontiers hosted departure to Ireland and I have to admit I am like a little boy on Christmas morning when it comes to opening a new package, so I popped off the lid of the cardboard tube and anxiously slide out the rod tube. I was immediately impressed by the color of the tube and the Sage logo on the cap, the usual rod information, but then handcrafted in the USA. Now that’s cool in a world filled offshore products. I pulled out the cloth rod sock and got my first look at the new X. Beautiful. From the logo on the butt cap to the flawless cork handle, I almost held my breath as I slid the rod sections together.
Cosmetics don’t make the rod but they don’t hurt either and I found myself in awe of the finish on the X. I remember a similar feeling the first time I walked into a Land Rover dealership and looked at a new tricked out Rover, the well-known oval green badge sported on a vehicle that was designed to go anywhere. The car beckoned one to put it to the test. I felt the same thing holding this fly rod. This stick was built to cast, so I found a reel lined with a five weight RIO Perception and headed to a casting platform on our pond.
At the pond, I found myself thinking that the X felt feather light for a nine-foot rod and as I started to aerialize some line I knew from the first cast that this rod was simply magic. I found it to be extremely accurate at all distances; short, long, in between. What more could one ask for in casting performance? But, how would it actually fish? I already knew the answer – after all, any rod that casts and feels this good had to be a winner on the water, but then the spring creeks of Ireland were on the horizon, so I slipped the X back into the tube and went back to packing.
I watch as the second fish takes, this one a chunky brown a little bigger than the first. I asked again about the X and mention that she made that last fish look easy. No answer from the angler as she moves upstream to another rise and starts to cast again. This guy is a different character and refuses the first cast and second casts. Andrew is watching from the edge and suggests a fly change which she does and recasts but to no avail. The stubborn trout continues to feed so they go through go another fly change with Andrew now at her side. It becomes the game of fly choice and presentation followed by refusal after refusal, but it’s a game that Cathy knows well so she continues undaunted until finally the trout slips up and the fly disappears. The rod lifts but the strike is a bit late and the fish wins. Well, two out of three isn’t so bad at least in my world, but Cathy shakes her head and apologizes to Andrew. He tells her not to worry, there will be more.
I ask again what she thinks of the X? “It’s awesome”, she replies and offers it to Andrew as we move on. Andrew is a guide and a fly shop owner of Clonanav Fly Fishing, Ireland’s best-stocked fly shop. He is an excellent caster and I watch as he puts the X through its paces. Perfect loops turn over the twelve foot RIO 6x tapered leader and as we watch him land two fish in a row. He thanks us and then Cathy is back on board and lands a nice 18” fish as we finish the pool. Andrew says it’s time to move so we head back to the car.
The next pool is as inviting as the first with beautiful lush green banks dripping wet from a light drizzle and more rising trout. Cathy and Andrew continue to take turns with the X and Andrew gives glowing compliments about this new Sage. Lunch time comes all too quickly and we head back to the fly shop where we meet our group and their guides to share fishing stories about the morning. We enjoy a grilled chicken and lamb lunch then it’s back to the river. More good looking water and fish to the net from Andrew and Cathy. Andrew looks at me and asks if I am going to fish, so I put my Nikons away and pick up the X. There’s a feeding fish tight against the far bank and my first cast goes directly into a tree branch. Feeling a little embarrassed I quickly retie a new 6x tippet and fly. I redeem myself with the next cast and land my first Irish brown trout on the new X. All good things must come to and end and we soon find our way back to our hotel and dinner with our friends.
Early the next morning our group is shuttled to the River Suir where we meet our guides and head for our assigned beats. The Suir is a much larger river and today it is slightly off color. Andrew says it’s still rising from yesterday’s rain. We park his Land Rover and start off by crossing a fence bearing a sign warning us of the bull. Again we hear that familiar “No worries”, from Andrew. Still, I keep a close watch, over the years I have had some run-ins with bulls that were less than friendly.
Our beat shows little promise but Cathy and Andrew give it a try, in the end, we saw one fish rise for the morning. We head back to enjoy a shore lunch with our group and their guides. Everyone had the same kind of morning with the high, dirty water so no one was in a hurry for lunch to end. One of Andrews guides ask if he could make a few casts with the X, and that started what would be an hour of everyone taking a turn. Our Irish guides gave it and unconditional “thumbs up”. The X won the day.
We had one more day on the Nire and unlike the Suir it fished even better than the first day. We hated to leave but our itinerary had us traveling west to the Owenmore River and the Ballynahinch Castle. It was a bittersweet goodbye. We wanted to stay and fish for a while longer with Andrew and his guides, but on the other hand salmon fishing in Ireland was calling and we were anxious to stay at the castle. We promised to return soon – and we will.