Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sage 6080 Fly Reel

Fly to Water doesn't sell any fly fishing gear or offer commission-based links to companies that do.  When I write about equipment it's usually due either to reader inquiries or impressions I personally want to share.

Sites like MidCurrent do a fantastic job of emerging product coverage, including videos and a plethora of initial thoughts.

My reviews are based on long-term use as an angler.  In the case of the Sage 6080, I've been using the reel for 2 years.  Some of the species that have tugged on the drag include tarpon, snook, jack, tiger musky, bonefish, largemouth bass, and trout.  Living with a piece of gear for this amount of time tends to shed light on factors that might not be as readily apparent once the newness wears off.

What stands out about the 6000 series?  First and foremost is the spool release mechanism - there is nothing on the market quite like what Sage has accomplished here.  Depending on what kind of fishing you do, it may or may not be necessary to frequently change spools.  In my case, I change spools a lot.  During much of the year, the switcheroo is happening when it's cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.  Certain reel designs can range from slightly inconvenient to REQUIRING the use of galloping profanity in such conditions.  Not so with the 6000-series. Nothing could be easier under any scenario, with or without gloves, than the effortless locking system of Sage's flagship reel.

Sage 6080 Front View

Originally I suspected the system was so simple to use that over time it might result in premature despoolization (PD), or an unwanted release.  To date this has never happened.  The alignment needs to be so visually precise to free the spool that it's highly unlikely to occur by accident.  In my opinion this is the best retention system on the reel market - the spool can be removed or replaced with a 1/3 turn of the lock.

The drag is a heavy duty affair utilizing carbon and stainless steel disks in a fully sealed cassette.  It's very strong, and dissipates heat efficiently.  Yes, it will stand up to the full range of big game you might chase with 8-12 weight rods (available models are 6080, 6010, 6012).

Where the 6000 series again stands apart is the drag knob.  The full range of motion is 1 revolution, and it's numbered.  I'm still a little baffled as to why more manufacturers don't offer some kind of drag index.  I want to mention here that well-executed drag numbering does a few things:
  • Provides a means of visually setting the resistance
  • Allows for repeatable settings to be achieved
  • Can be duplicated across multiple reels
Well, the 6080 delivers on all points.  In higher stress applications it's sometimes useful to actually test the breaking point of your leader/tippet combination.  The bigger the game, the more important it becomes to have the ability to confidently set your drag, and know that  5 = 5 every time.  You may even have multiple spools that are rigged differently, requiring discreet tension levels.

Sage 6080 Numbered Drag Knob

While certainly not laboratory quality I've used a scale accurate to 1/100 of a pound to test multiple copies of the 6080, and found the drag settings to be very repeatable.  If you are a guide/outfitter and want several clients to be using equivalent rigging, this is a highly desirable feature.  An associate of mine who regularly takes clients to Cabo for inshore species has gone exclusively with 6000-series reels based primarily on the drag system's combination of high performance and reliable/repeatable numbered settings.

Switching from left-hand to right-hand retrieve is easy and involves inverting the clutch bearing inside the cassette.  This is done with no tools and instructions are included with the reel.

The frame is light weight and rigid.  Sage does a good job of going with a minimalist design that still results in plenty of bracing.

Sage 6080 Frame

On the subject of visual impact, there is an attractive symmetry to the reel.  Five spokes out back create identically-shaped voids, and in the front there is balance between the 3-spoke spool and triangular spool release.

So what could Sage improve here?  My main suggestion would be to offer a 6060.  As someone who fishes a lot of stillwater, there are constantly 4 or 5 lines in my kit.  Swapping spools this easily is so convenient that I've been known to fish the 6080 on my 7-weight.  In a slightly smaller size, I'd prefer the 6000's design to the O-ring release system of many other reels - including Sage's own 4500 lineup.

I also feel that many anglers personalize their rig via the reel.  Rods have a tendency to look very similar from anything but a short distance away.  Distinctive/individual appearance is something many customers look for, and I'd like to see more variety in the selection of finishes.  Even a black-on-black 6000 would be welcome.

Fly to Water Rating:
★★★★★ - Drag: Numbered, 1-Rotation, Fully Sealed, Stellar Spool Release
★★★★★ - Price: On Par with the Competition in this Segment
★★★★★ - Weight: A Hatch 7+ is 8.6oz, the 6080 is 7.37oz, a Lamson Vanquish 8 is 7.30oz
★★★★☆ - Visual Design: Could Benefit from a few More Color Schemes

Get a 6000-series from your local Sage dealer, or visit the crew at Stillwater Fly Shop.  Tom and his staff offer incredible customer service, a free fly line with your 6000, and free shipping.  They also have a video review HERE.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Kid Stuff

If you are more perceptive than I am, you might have noticed that there is occasional fly fishing content on this blog.  Such an observation might lead a person (not that I am referring to any type of spousal unit here) to the mistaken belief that all I do is fish.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I only mostly fish.

Take this morning, for example.  I had the mandate opportunity to accompany my niece to her last soccer game of the season.  At six years old she is considerably better at fĂștbol than Uncle Fly to Water, so I brought along the camera to get a couple shots of her in action.

Whether it's team sports, fly fishing, or portraiture there are two basic fundamentals of composition that are helpful to keep in mind when photographing kids.

The first seems obvious but I'm surprised how often it's overlooked.  Children are classified scientifically as short people, or stubby sapiens if you want to get technical.  Adults taking pictures of kids usually don't bother to kneel or sit on the ground so as to shoot from eye level.  Dropping down will often result in the heartbreak of grass-stained jeans, but a level perspective gives the subject more prominence.

Secondly, as with most portraits, it's important to align the child's eyes with the upper third of the frame.  This is a fundamental of the Rule of Thirds that helps the viewer connect more intuitively to the subject.

Sarah - Team Lemonheads

This photo was taken at 8x optical magnification and f/5.6, which is well within the range of nearly all point & shoot cameras.  The reasons I like this image are purely compositional and result from several concious choices:
  • Positioning the camera at eye level
  • Including story-telling elements (expression, jersey, implied motion)
  • Excluding distracting elements (other players, chairs along the sideline, goal posts, etc.)
  • Alignment of the eyes along the upper third of the image (Rule of Thirds)
A repeatable recipe for fun kid shots is to get low, and simplify the image by leaving out anything that doesn't need to be there.

I really did have a great time at the game this morning and it was my privilege to be cheering for the Lemon Heads (as they call themselves).  For the most part I hardly thought about my Sage One 796-4 fly rod that needs to get bent very, very soon by some slab-like salmonids.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Supersize Me


These buggers are small.  Not midge small, mind you, but nothing like the morbidly obese terrestrials of Summer.

Photographing these iconic little insects begs for a macro lens, but there's a problem: This type of glass produces a reproduction ratio of 1:1 (or actual size).  With diminutive subjects, that's great for images that emphasize the insect in its broader surroundings.

What if you actually want a mayfly to be the main event, and fill a more significant portion of the frame?  You can certainly crop your image as a means of bringing the viewer closer, but often there isn't enough detail for a bug to stand on its own 6 legs as an engaging portrait.

The other option is magnification - a method known as super macro photography.  There are a large number of techniques that can be used to achieve larger-than-life insect images.  Tools of the trade include reversing rings, teleconverters, close-up lenses, extension tubes, bellows, and enough accessories to roughly equal the mass of a neutron star.

If you talk to 10 blokes who delve into super sizing, you'll find 10 different ways of shooting.  Using a $7 reversing ring, you can jump in feet first with a 50mm conventional lens and a Google search on reverse macro.  One thing is certain: It's a technique-intensive specialty.  No piece of equipment is going to do the deed without some patience and a lot of practice.  Still, it's fun to dial in the detail on trout food once in a while.

Sunrise Callibaetis Mayfly Supermacro

Nikon D300
A Variety of Super Macro Accessories