The old adage "try before you buy" has never been truer than when looking to purchase a top end fly rod. It's advice that all the members of the Farlows team offer to a customer who isn't exactly sure what they're looking for in their new rod or what they're paying for once the price tag creeps over £500. We regularly walk down and cross the Mall in to St James' park with a clutch of rods and reels and welcome customers to give the rods a thorough test before making any decisions.
There are occasionally times though when the "shop waggle" is all you need to know. One such instance was on my first day at Farlows some two years ago. The Sage TXL-f was a rod I was aware of but had never had the chance to handle. The first time I picked the 7'10" 4# up I knew I'd found a rod for life. Weighing in at under two ounces at essentially eight feet, the rod is slimmer and lighter than anything else I had come across before or have seen since.
The Sage TXL-F fly rod is practically finished with weight reduction in mind, utilising small snake guides and a very comfortable snub-nose half wells grip. I ought to mention that the cork on the TXL-f is simply the best I have ever seen, and after two seasons of use mine is all totally intact and like velvet to hold. The bronze anodised reel seat is pragmatic and simple, and again very light. It's interesting to note that the weight of the unfinished blank of the rod is 1 1/16 of an ounce, which means that Sage have managed to fit a reel seat, a cork handle, a full set of guides and whippings and then varnish the whole lot for less than an ounce of weight, simply astonishing!
The name of the rod gives little away in terms of its action (TXL-F 4710-4 sounds more like a fax machine than a fishing rod) and having bought and used the rod for a while I must admit I was a little surprised at Sage's own description of the rod. Sage say "This ultra-lightweight rod family is the ultimate in sensitivity and is the ideal rod for fishing tiny flies with ultra light tippets" which is undeniably true, but I don't think that description quite does justice to the all-round capability of the 7'10 4#. It's first trip out on the the Buckinghamshire Wye immediately proved to me it's short range and light tippet credentials, effortlessly turning over my long furled leaders, accurately presenting size eighteen f-flies and confidently cushioning the fight from some surprisingly large brownies.
What Sage don't give away however is how much power there is lower down in the four piece blank. A visit to the upper Usk in south Wales often means chopping between a variety of methods during the course of a days fishing, ranging from tiny dry flies on fifteen foot leaders to NZ style klink and dink rigs with heavy tungsten nymphs and even swinging small streamers. My TXL-f took it all in it's stride. The extra power lower in the blank not only makes throwing longer casts more comfortable but also means that when you do hook a larger fish (my best so far on this rod is a 22" rainbow on 7x tippet) you have some guts there to be able to pull back when there are snags looming.
The 8' 4# is the staple rod for the small/medium river angler, it's a real go-anywhere tool. Many of the rods of a similar design are just too stiff, and I believe the modern trend for ultra-fast actioned top end trout rods is probably costing the average angler a few good fish a season in hook pulls or tippet breaks. The TXL-f 7'10" 4# is simply the best 8' 4# I have ever used and offers the trout and grayling angler a fully versatile rod that is super lightweight, well finished to a fantastic standard using the very best fittings. The rod has the power to make long range casts and turn over long leaders and tiny dries but is equally capable of throwing teams of nymphs and even small streamers.
There's no two ways about it, I believe this is the best rod of it's kind on the market, and I would strongly suggest that if you're looking for such a tool that you get yourself down to Farlows and cast one. To be honest though you too will probably be convinced by the old "shop wiggle".