Steve Rajeff is a bloody hell of a flyslinger. You know that. He’s one of those übercasters that I look at a little like they’re family with Batman or something. He’s also chief designer at Loomis, and he’s responsible for that NRX line much talked about. These rods sell for an insane price, $750 up (which translates €800 up in France). A very silly amout of money if you ask me, considering all the tuition you could get for it, making you a far better caster than any rod ever will.
I just had to say it, and you’ll probably hear it on g0ne again.
... I actually had to steal one. That's the babe.
Anyway, I’ve got this mate, Greg, who’s a talkative yet superb fishing buddy, and Greg’s obsessed with fly tackle. He’s got unreasonable quantities of it. He’s got a joke of a car, but the trunk is full of badass carbon, and don’t get me started on his reels and his 3 cubic meters of tying stuff. So he’s my key to the world of silly priced rods, and since I find the stuff interesting I’ll give you my .02 about any rod on which I can lay a hand and have a serious go on the lawn.
For those of you who are not familiar with g0ne, let me briefly put some things straight. I a not a good caster (not yet antway). I may never be a great one. But I’m dead serious about casting. I’m dedicated. I decided I wanted to reach as far as I could in the realm of the line slingers, and one of the first things you learn in this endeavor is that there’s no substitute for the hours you put in on the lawn, doing nothing but trying to make the line an extension of your mind. Most of my training I did on a 4wt. I like light rods, I like that you have to make the line fly, and not only zing it and shoot because it weights a ton. I’ve usually hated the heavy lines I tried. Even a Triangle Taper feels heavy to me. It will prove of some relevance for the NRX.
So here I was the other day, sitting in front of my vice at Greg’s, sweating hard to properly finish the thorax of a chironomid buzzer (supposed to be stupidly simple), with that sonnovabitch peacock herl refusing to bow to my will. When I finally got the bastard nailed, I thought: “gosh, I could use some time on the lawn”. I know Greg’s with me in these situations (even if he’s a far better tier than I am.)
It was 5 below, but sunny and almost no wind, so the perfect manly conditions. We geared up and hit the lawn. The time to string the rods was all it took to freeze my hands blue. But as I said we’re dedicated. We wanted to warm up first, then go for some distance, then precision at 17m, trying to land the fly into Greg’s cap. To make things interesting, we had to switch between three rods, as dissimilar as you can get: a tiny Sage TXL 363 3wt, the 1088 NRX I’m talking about, and a bazooka in the form of a Sage Xi2 1090. Manshit rod, I tell you, the kind of stick you use to tame tarpons. Every time you switch, you have to rebuild your whole cast. So you have to pay extra attention to what you’re doing, and I find the exercise quite good.
Many are the sorrows of the wicked, But he who watches lots of MacPhail shall be blessed with good looking emergers. Not like this one. Notice Greg's handsome arm in the back.
But I hear you mumble, ‘come on, g0ne, shut up already and spit your review!’ Fair enough. Let’s proceed.
The (long awaited) review
First impression. The thing is impressively light. I wiggled a One, a couple of other 8wts, but this one is really really light. The swing weight is rather what you would expect from a 5-6wt. Really light. Obviously, the benefit is crispness. Very low back bounce, it’s easy to have the tip stop sharp.
Looks. The tube is gorgeous. Its lid is very well machined, and has an O-ring for waterproof closing. The rod socket is nothing to write home about (are they ever been?). The rod’s coloring is pleasing on the conservative side. I guess that the cyan wrapping of last year’s edition did not fare that well with the customers. The REC guides (single footed) are really cool. Hey, Sage, when are you going to let those frigging snakes go? With that and the carbon reel seat, it gives you a kind of ‘contemporary but not too much’ look that will probably please most. Alas, the craftsmanship was shitty, especially considering the price tag. My camera’s battery died before I could shoot the thing, I’ll post that later. Won’t hurt the properties of the rod, but come on, Loomis, WTF??
I did two sessions of 2 hours in total with the rod (on the second I was freezing my ass and switching rods, see above). Here’s what I learned.
I’ll put it simply, this is one hell of a rod. Strip 10m of line. Start false casting. The loops come right immediately, good form, good speed, without any special effort. No tailing loop, no problem loading the rod. It’s just easy. I proceed to lengthen the line. Up to 15-17m, it’s still effortless. The rod gives you lots of information about what’s going on behind your back, in case you’re not familiar with Mike Heritage’s 6th Essential (use your bloody eyes! And especially, watch that backcast!) Result: no whip cracking on the leader.
Who's laughing now, peacock herl? At that point, the camera died.
Around the 20-22m mark, I reach my own limits. Imprecise timing, bad tracking and improper application of force take their toll and my backcast starts looking like shit and everything collapses. With much effort and concentration, I manage an occasional shoot beyond that and land the fly around 25, a personal best. But nowhere I felt like the rod was a limiting factor, it just allowed me to cast at the best of my limited abilities. Can you ever ask for more?
The rod is quite powerful too. It picks up 15m of line out of the grass without protesting, and sends it straight in a good loop backwards.
Precision was a joy. Greg and I taking turns, the fly consistently landed within 1m of the cap 17m away. Often much closer. Honesty requires me to tell that I won, with 2 hits to none. That an average caster may (twice!) land a fly in a cap at 17m tells me, again, that the rod lets you do what you want to do.
Did I mentioned it’s light? My first session, after one hour and a half of non stop casting, I was still asking for more. Didn’t want to stop. I eventually had to because it was dark and cold, but I see myself playing with that babe a whole spring afternoon. One cool implication of its lightness was that it was quite easy to go back from the TXL to the NRX. 5 weights up, mind you. But the feedback the rod gives you is so sharp you don’t have to put yourself into a trance to adjust the stroke. Going from the Xi2 to the TXL was another story, though ^_^. Better format the hard drive (ie time for a cigarette) then start from scratch. Going from the NRX to the Xi2 was like jumping out of a Ferrari into a Panzer. Nice, in a way. But disorienting.
I just can’t wait to see what a good fish does to it. Already planning a pike session with Greg, and something about sea basses.
Yeah right. Just like that
So, bluntly, the NRX in 8wt is the dogs bollocks.
The guys at Yellowstone said so as well, and it’s probably wiser to listen to them than to me. But the point is: you don’t have to be a champ caster to see what that stick can do for you. Would I buy one? No way. More than $150 on a rod seems to me overkill, at my skill level at least. Maybe some day I’ll realize I have to rob a bank if I’m ever to see that backing, but we’re not there. Plus I suspect the crafty rodbuilder never needs such an expensive rod, whatever the casting skill, but I’m talking trough my hat here, I don’t even know what the regular joes in the casting tournaments are using.