The Sage R8 Core 9′ 5wt: One Year Review

Sage R8 Core 9′ 5wt Fly Rod. I’m pretty sure fish like it better, too.

Arguably, trout anglers use a 5wt more than any other rod. Sure you may have a 4wt that is perfect for feeding dries to picky fish. Or a 6wt for chucking streamers. But the rod in your quiver that likely gets the most use is your trusty 5wt. Which is why, in my opinion, if you are going to have one “really good” rod, the 5wt should be it.

Fortunately, I have a handful of “really good” 5wts. Unfortunately, that means something needs to go if I want to bring home another. About a year ago, when visiting my local fly shop, I had the opportunity to check out Sage’s new flagship rod, the R8 Core. After giving it some parking lot casts, it was easy to tell that this was a very different rod. The line control, accuracy, and feel were second to none. I decided that I needed to thin the herd and make room for Sage’s latest innovation.

So what rod would get voted off the island? I decided that my X needed to pack its bags. If there was one thing I wasn’t crazy about with the X, it was that it was a little too stiff – I like a little jiggle in my rods. Turned out my brother-in-law was excited to bring the X in, so it went to a good home. He regularly gives me shit for “letting one of the good ones go.”

Now, one year in with the Sage R8 Core 5wt, I still dig it. I’d rate it as a medium/fast action, especially when compared to the X, which makes it a pleasure to cast. Because of the softer action, I definitely feel it is a better dry fly rod than the X. The rod has enough reserve backbone to land a trophy trout and tip sensitive enough to pick up mends off the water without making a splash. I have fished big western rivers, small spring creeks, and desert/high arid lakes. It has handled all of these waters like a champ – excelling at everything from twitching an elk hair caddis to double hauling a streamer.

Let’s Talk About Feelings

This rod has feelings. You know exactly where you are throughout the entire casting stroke, making it a delight to cast. The Sage R8 really flexes deep into the blank, giving much more feel down into the grip section which translates into a rod that will give you more accuracy with a softer feel. If I could attribute one reason that the X needed to step aside, it is this. The R8 Core is able to load heavy streamers but also offers sensitivity to detect anything, giving the angler complete control.

Design & Function

Sage R8 Fly Rod

The R8 Core is light. In fact, it is the lightest 9′ 5wt that Sage has ever designed. This helps tremendously with the swing weight. One lesson I’ve learned is to pair the rod with a lighter reel to achieve optimum balance. I dig something like the Abel Vaya.

Aesthetically, one of the first things that stood out to me on the R8 Core was the gunmetal anodized aluminum up-locking reel seat. While the looks of a rod don’t make or break it for me, I do appreciate aesthetics and Sage nailed it with the R8 Core.

The snub-nose half-wells grips make this rod a pleasure to cast during a long day on the water. I still wonder why there aren’t alignment dots.


Having tried a few different lines, the R8 Core likes standard weight lines. At the risk of angler-splaining, some line manufacturers offer lines that are a half size heavy. Those are not for this rod. An Elite RIO Gold is a nice match-up for this 9′ 5wt. If you are familiar with the One, X, or Igniter, you’ll know that they cast much better with over-weighted lines. The R8 Core is totally different. With less heavy lines, you get a nicer presentation, as well as lower the swing weight, giving the feeling of a lighter rod.

Final Thoughts

After one year in, I highly recommend the Sage R8 Core 9′ 5wt. I have been grooving on Sage’s R8 Core lineup so much, in fact, that I also added a 6wt and a 7wt. Feel free to comment on what you think about it.

Quick Impressions

Components: 8/10

Accuracy: 9/10

Distance: 8/10

Looks: 9/10

Feel: 10/10

1 Comment

  1. Dane Warnstadt on May 23, 2023 at 5:42 pm

    I’ll have to try casting them next time we’re out on the river. Great read!! Forgot about my dinner cooking on the stove though:/

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