by Steven Neely


Everything you need

If you have read part one, you’ll know it’s no secret how much I love this rod; from the moment I first laid eyes on it, I knew it was something special. In this piece, I will talk about perhaps the most important thing, what is it like to fish? You’ll know what I mean when I say that some rods are suitable for specific tasks but struggle to do everything you need them to do. For example, fishing dries and nymphs works fine on one rod, but try putting a sinking line on it, and the balance and control go out the window. So you can understand that after reading all the information about the new Sage R8 Core 10’0″ #7, I thought it was a bold statement to say it would cover all my stillwater fishing needs. Let me just say that at no point has the R8 Core come up short on any, and I mean ‘any’ stillwater method I’ve asked of it. On the contrary, this rod has far exceeded all my expectations!

The Bank Angler

To succeed on stillwaters requires us to use a range of methods. Sometimes the fish are super easy, and pulling lures is the way to go. On other occasions, a little finesse is needed, with a more natural approach, using lighter tippets and smaller flies. You need to be prepared to mix things up. I love fishing a floating line on the R8 Core; it feels right. The lines I favour are the RIO Gold, which I use with nymphs and dries and has a profile that lets me cast these with minimal effort. The other is the RIO Elite Stillwater, a vastly different heavy-headed floating line that allows me to easily punch out a bung or a heavy, bulky lure.

The makeup of these two lines is so dramatically different that in the past, I would have to switch outfits to facilitate them. A rod ideal for the lighter floater never had the backbone to cope with the Bung, especially on windy days. The R8 Core, on the other hand, has everything. The tip gives the sensitivity I need to get the most from the natural approach, but when it’s time for the heavy stuff, the rod has enough backbone that none of my fishing styles is compromised.

When fishing subsurface, I rarely go deeper than a fast-glass intermediate on small waters. It can be gruelling pulling lures from the bank all day, but the R8 Core’s action means you don’t have to put as much power through the casting stroke, making it far less strenuous over the course of a day. So many fast action rods need to be worked hard to get them loaded, but because the R8 Core prefers an easier, slower casting stroke, it’s effortless. You feel totally in control with smooth line travel; the precision and delivery are second to none. It’s an exemplary casting tool, and the feel and sensitivity through the blank when you’re fishing is exceptional.

On The Boat

Top Of the Water

The R8 Core’s abilities are not restricted to bank fishing. When it comes to the boat, it’s like walking hand in hand with a far more attractive partner; it puts a smug smile on your face. Boat fishing can be one of two extremes. On calm days we will be sedately fishing, dries if we’re lucky, or nymphing, either way, it will mean a more relaxed time on the water. Then there are days with big winds and heavy sinking lines, pulling lures for all you’re worth. No matter which method you employ, it’s mastered and enhanced, thanks to the R8 Core.

This 10’0″ #7 ability to deliver a fly exactly on target is astonishing. While fishing a single size 14, Claret Bob’s Bits, on a flat calm day on Draycote, I was able to place my fly within six inches of a rising fish, and that was using a 20-foot leader. In these conditions, the trout were so high in the water they would barely break the surface as they sipped down tiny morsels trapped in the surface film. When cruising that high, their vision window is small, and accuracy, speed, and a delicate delivery are all crucial to success. The R8 Core allowed me to pick up a decent length of line off the water, loading the rod and repositioning my fly’ right on the money’. This ability is priceless when fishing is as challenging as it was that day.

The Subtle Approach

In all its guises, nymphing is a favourite method for many anglers. If done correctly, it can be super effective, but a rod for this style of fishing needs to be more forgiving, and again this R8 Core proves ideal. The tip isn’t poker stiff, so line breaks from aggressive takes, something that happens far more often than we would like to admit, are no longer a worry. The lighter tippets that the R8 Core can accommodate let you present smaller, more delicate flies without the restriction of heavy mono or fluorocarbon dragging them down in the water column too quickly. In addition, as the flies are not as ‘tethered,’ they behave in a far more natural way, increasing the chance of fooling a trout into taking our artificial for the real thing.

Control With Sinking Lines

Because of the fast-action, the way the rod loads, recovers, and delivers its power is incredible and means it excels at sinking line work. But there’s no need for fast back-and-forth movements of the rod or massive line hauls as it doesn’t feel stiff. Instead, slow things down if you want to get the best from this rod. It’s astounding to see how far it will throw a sinking line, especially given how light and delicate it feels in hand. I don’t care what anyone says; there aren’t many rods that can cast a whole RIO Premier Fathom line like this can.

But it’s not all about casting. Unlike many stiff rods, where all you can feel is the weight of the sinking line from the moment the line touches down until it eases off at the lift and hang point, instead, with the R8 Core, you feel you’re fishing all the way through the retrieve, in contact with the flies, ready to react to the slightest touch. It has handled all the sinking lines I’ve threaded through its hard-chromed snake guides and relishes their short, heavy front sections, which allow the rod to load quicker and shoot line with ease. Thanks to its ability to cast a long line, you can sneak your flies ahead of your boat partner, which can be a real advantage if you are a competition angler.

In adverse conditions, the rod’s ability to roll a line out from an anchored cast can have huge advantages too. It can mean getting a line out when those trying to backcast can’t. For example, I recently fished a major competition on Rutland Water and on the second day, the wind was so bad that they ruled a lot of the reservoir out of bounds; it was just too dangerous in the conditions. My boat partner, an excellent angler, spent much of his day unpicking tangles. He was trying to cast conventionally, but the results were inevitable with such a strong wind stalling the back cast. On the other hand, I choose to roll cast all day, easily achieving a decent length of line with my trusty R8 Core. The result was zero tangles and three times as many fish as my boat partner.

Now, I’m not saying that the R8 Core will have trout climbing up your line, but it will, I promise, improve your stillwater fishing to the point where no other rod will get a look in. For me, it’s on another level, so light, immediately responsive, accurate and an utter pleasure to use. Casting it is effortless; the way the blank recovers back into shape in perfectly straight lines and transfers all the energy where it needs to go is a stroke of engineering genius. Combine this with the ultimate in fish-playing control, which fills you with joy from the initial hook-up to landing your quarry, and it’s a true two-way feedback loop from hand to fly and back.

The rod’s overall look is the perfect combination of style and substance, with cosmetic highlights throughout to heighten its appeal while simultaneously reducing weight to a minimum. It’s a rod that demands your attention. Add to this effortless energy transfer, a more connected feel and maximum versatility and the R8 Core is not just a standout from the crowd rod; it’s a rod that’s in a league of its own. It’s a remarkable piece of kit worth saving up for, just as I did with that original Sage RPL+ back in my early 20s. One thing’s for sure, you won’t be disappointed!

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