Sage Xi3 Rod
($705, 4-pieces, 9’, 4 oz., www.sageflyfish.com)
The Xi3 is the only rod that I could consistently lay out 100’. When I hooked a large and unknow saltwater species in Costa Rica, the Xi3’s strong backbone allowed me to efficiently and effectively turn the fish (prior to said fish being eaten). While it has extreme strength, the Xi3’s accuracy is slightly less than that of the Orvis Hydros at great distance and equal to or better than all of the others at distances less than 60’. Bottom line: The Xi3’s massive backbone makes it my first choice for casting to a tailing fish that is far, far away.
Sage 3810CF Reel ($300, 4.4”, 6.75 oz., www.sageflyfish.com)
Sage’s 3810CF reel features a carbon fiber spool to decrease the weight while holding 225 yards of backing, almost the same amount as the Orvis VO2 V. Additionally, the carbon fiber shaves off a couple of ounces compared to its equivalently sized competitors. Bottom Line: The drag system is firm enough for big saltwater fish while the weight is low enough to spend all week chasing freshwater prey.