My Books

Ed Herbst on new 'Whisper' rods

Sunday, 26 September 2010 10:29

Sage and Orvis launch new “Whisper” rods

Fly fishing tackle junkies always look forward to the annual IFTD (International Fly Tackle Dealer) trade expo held in Denver in mid-September.

Dean Riphagen of Frontier Fly Fishing in Johannesburg, the Sage agents in South Africa, ( was there and I received the following SMS: “I’ve just cast the 2-weight and 00-weight TXL-F rods. They are awesome! Sage has also re-designed grips which will better suit most casters.”

There is nothing as yet on, this, the latest version of the Sage TXL range on the Sage website but we had received early warning on several other websites.

Here is what the Sage press release says:  

(Bainbridge Island, WA) – Sage Manufacturing, fly fishing industry leader, creates the lightest and most responsive fly rod series to date with the TXL-F family of rods. Successfully surpassing the performance of the TXL series, the TXL-F series of rods are beautifully crafted and are the ideal performance rod for fishing tiny flies with ultra light tippets.

With ultimate sensitivity in mind, the TXL-F family is reduced in weight from the TXL series by 33 percent by the development and use of Micro Ferrule Technology and an exclusive ultra-light guide package. The ergonomic, snub nose, halfwells grip handle offers increased feel and superior control. A sophisticated bronze anodized reel seat, with a natural walnut insert, gorgeously set this rod apart. The 4-piece configuration is ideal for travel as is the custom 1 5/8” Antique Bronze powder-coated aluminium tube.

“I set out to create a rod for the ultimate light line fly fishing experience, and thanks to some great breakthroughs in technology, it has been achieved,” notes Jerry Siem Sage Rod Design Engineer. “This rod series exceeds expectations in both weight and sensitivity to give the light line fly fisherman performance beyond belief.”
All rods retail for $625 (US)

A look at the specs shows that the seven foot ten inch 000 weighs 1 and 7/16 of an ounce – this despite the claimed reduction of one third in blank weight.  A substantial portion of that must come from the walnut reel seat. An all-cork reel seat with sliding rings rather than an uplocking reel seat would probably bring the new, four-piece 000 close to the magic one ounce (28 grams).

I was pleased to see that the reel seat components are not too flashy. The first rule of successful fly fishing is that the fish must not see you and the bright chrome-silver reel seats and guides that are fitted to most fly rods these days, along with immensely reflective varnish on the blanks, defeats the object of the exercise before you even start.

An advantage of the new Sage for travelling fly fishers is that they now have an ultra-light line rod that will fit in a suitcase, an important and reassuring consideration given the prevalence of airport theft.

Frontier says the TXL-Fs and blanks should be here by mid November or earlier and I can’t think of a better way of spending your thirteenth cheque.

However, the other big  “whisper rod” news from the IFTD show was that Orvis has done what I have long hoped it would and that is applied its Helios technology to the Superfine range in a series it calls the “Superfine Touch” which will feature the unsanded blanks which characterised the original Ultrafine, One Weight and One Ounce.

Here’s an extract from an Orvis press release carried on the Trout Underground blog

Superfine Touch rods are an entirely new rod series from Orvis.

Despite their retro un-sanded finish they utilize the latest in graphite raw materials, resins, and scrims and an entirely new taper that is as smooth and easy-casting as the original Orvis Superfine, but with more precision and accuracy.

It’s a fact that most fly rods today are optimized for casting 35 feet and beyond. When shorter casts are needed (actually in the range most trout are caught), the angler needs to adjust his or her casting style and work too hard to get the rod to flex properly at 15 to 25 feet.

The new Orvis Superfine Touch rods were painstakingly designed and tested to make perfect casts at distances less than 30 feet, even though with an adjustment in casting style they can reach out to 60 feet.

According to Orvis Marketing Kahuna Tom Rosenbauer:

“We went back to the drawing board–new mandrels, new material, new taper. What we came up with was a more progressive, less butt-flexing taper that loads perfectly at 10 to 25 feet.”

In the new Orvis catalogue, they provide more information calling it ‘A revered and historical action, wrapped in 21st century technology’ and using automotive terminology to describe the new blank.

‘A traditional, un-sanded chassis with a new graphite engine. The original Superfine rods were Orvis’ first graphite rods and through the years retained a loyal following of anglers who prize the delicacy and unhurried precision of the original full-flex rods.

‘That original Superfine heritage returns in the new Superfine Touch Series – a series that incorporates the lightest and most powerful graphite ever. Combined with our exclusive Load Ratio design, these Superfine Touch rods are classic in  look and full-flex performance but smother casting and lighter than ever before possible. Full-flex never felt so good.

‘These rods feature:

  • Classic unsanded, spiral wrap charcoal blanks
  • Uplocking birds-eye maple and anodized gold reel seat
  • Super grade cork handle
  • All titanium nitrite guides’

The Orvis wholesaler in South Africa, Jerome Goslett says the company has introduced a number of exciting new products most of which, including the new Superfine Touch rods, will be here by late January. Most of these products have not as yet appeared on the Orvis website ( but you can contact him at 021 557830/ This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Midcurrent website has video interviews with Jerry Siem on the new TXL and Tom Rosebauer on the new Superfine Touch.

It is going to be interesting to try Sage’s new  “ergonomic, snub nose, halfwells grip” on the TXL-F because a lot of small stream enthusiasts feel that the forefinger on top of the rod handle grip improves close range casting accuracy and the original Orvis Superfine handle tapered all the way to the blank to facilitate this. Dean Riphagen tells me, however, that although the new Sage TXL-F handle differs slightly from the norm, it is extremely comfortable and functional.  In the picture below Tom Sutcliffe is using this grip while fishing the Coldbrook tributary of the Sterkspruit in Barkly East, a delightful stream that can be accessed through the Wild Trout Association.

(Contact Dave Walker at 045 9749290 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)


Tom Sutcliffe fishing the Coldbrook stream in Barkly East and using the forefinger on top grip.


As elsewhere, the trout in the small streams of the Western Cape average from ten to 12 inches and live in clear, shallow water. One often fishes on very hot days and one can average two casts a minute when prospecting pocket water. Wind is not often a problem and it thus makes sense to use light-line, low mass and matte finish rods with minimal flash. One of the leading local guides, Tim Rolston, ( is unequivocal when he says that anyone fishing these streams with a rod heavier than a 2-weight is imposing an unnecessary handicap on themselves.

A few local fly fishers are experimenting with Tenkara rods and after reading The Angler and the Loop Rod by David Webster which was published in 1885 and can be read online and Fishing Tandem Flies – Tactics, Techniques and Rigs to Catch More Trout by Charles Meck (Headwater Books, 2007) which I bought from Craig Thom at Netbooks, I have become fascinated by fishing multi-fly rigs on very long rods. (

I have approached Mario Geldenhuys of Aliwal North ( who is building me an 11 foot 2-weight on a CTS blank (  It will have the all-cork handle   to reduce weight and will be used with a Vivarelli automatic fly reel. ( and I am hoping that the combination will give me Tenkara-type control with more versatility.

Mario Geldenhuys with the 11 foot, 2-weight CTS blank that he is building to the author’s specifications.


This matte-finish blank, which will be equipped with ultra fine wire, black snake guides, has to be custom-built by CTS and Mario says you are probably looking at a two-month delivery time after placing your order.

The new Sage TXL-F 000 is already available as a blank and it is to be hoped that Orvis will make Superfine Touch 1-weight blanks early next year.  Mario will be happy to build you the small stream fly rod of your dreams and to your exclusive specifications using these blanks.

He can also provide customised rod tubes and neoprene rod sleeves incorporating your name and contact details. With your name already inscribed on the blank, this provides increased security in case of loss or theft.

Mario Geldenhuys displays a custom rod tube and personalised neoprene tube cover that he made as a gift for Tom Sutcliffe.


Two websites worth visiting for those who enjoy fishing small streams with light-line fly rods and small flies are: and

In my next posting I will describe what I consider the ultimate small stream dry fly rod. Stephen Boshoff, who has a link on this page, is the son of a school teacher who taught woodwork so he is steeped in its traditions and a reverence for the craft was imbued in him from an early age.

He and I have worked together since 2000 in seeking to develop the ultimate light-line, low-mass, low-flash small stream fly rod. While his initial models were built on Sage and Scott 0 and 1 weight blanks his latest, uniquely in my experience and research, combines a centre axis reel, marketed briefly by Sage a few years ago, with a spliced-joint split cane rod based on the tried and tested Shenandoah Yellow Rose taper by Chris Bogart, a seven foot, 2-weight.


Ed Herbst (left) takes delivery of the spliced joint split cane rod equipped with a centre axis Sage Click 1 reel from Stephen Boshoff.


Spliced joint, split cane salmon rods, which have to withstand the rigours of Spey casting, have been use since the thirties and rod maker Ron Grantham still finds a ready market for such rods. He says: "…The advantages of spliced rods as opposed to ferrule-jointed rods are two-fold: first, the splices do not interfere with the action of the rod, insomuch as the rod behaves as one continuous length of cane; and secondly, a spliced rod will stand up to the torsion exerted by prolonged Spey casting whereas an ordinary ferrule-jointed rod will not.

You can see a picture of such a spliced joint on his website at:

The two triangular sections on Stephen’s rods are held together by two tiny rubber O rings and tape and the resulting rod has a beautiful one piece feel with none of the sensation of a dead spot which results from the use of conventional metal ferrules on split cane rods.









comments powered by Disqus