Expert Review: Sage RPL + 490

Published on 07/13/2022 · 6 min readThis review is my own honest opinion of the fly rod, which I bought with my own money in April 2012.
Robert Levin, Fly Fishing Expert
By Fly Fishing Expert Robert Levin

Photo by Robert Levin

About this review This review is my own honest opinion of the fly rod, which I bought with my own money in April 2012.

My Take

The Sage RPL + 490 is a lightweight rod that is great for targeting wary trout in spring creeks with small dry flies and nymphing techniques, as well as large panfish in lakes, and flatwater environments. It is ideal for dedicated anglers who have polished their casting technique and are looking for a high-quality rod they can use for extended periods and will last for years. It is not ideal for anglers who are learning to cast and need a more forgiving rod.

Photo by Robert Levin

About this rod

  • Model: 2012 Sage RPL+ Graphite III
  • Rod Length: 9’
  • Rod Weight: # 4 Line
  • Rod Pieces: 2-piece
  • Rod Material: Graphite

About me

  • Preferred fishing style: With this rod both dry fly and sink tip nymph
  • Experience: Over 40 years of dedicated Fly Fishing. Fished this rod for ten years.

Test conditions

  • When I bought this: April 2012
  • Reel Paired with Rod: Marryat #8
  • Line Paired Rod: Scientific Anglers Mastery Trout Fly Line
  • Days tested: 10+ years
  • Waters I’ve used it on: Freshwater lakes, small streams.
  • Species targeted with rod: Trout and large panfish.

How it performs

Casting Ease

What I was looking for

This was my first Sage rod purchase. I had learned to cast with an eight-weight rod, and fished often on flat water for large panfish. I wanted the feel of a good fight on gear that was lighter, and this is a four-weight rod. I also wanted to see if Sage products live up to their reputation.

What I love about it

  • Quality: I came in with high expectations for this rod given its elevated price point. At no point did I question why I spent the money, as fishing with the rod, the fit, and finish are exceptional. The rod blank finish and guide wrappings are done with extreme care. Ten years of use and there are no blemishes anywhere. No nicks on the guides or tip top ever. The guides themselves are hard stainless steel not simply chrome over nickel plating.
  • Versatility: I fished this rod in the early to late evenings on a lake. When I was lucky I would connect with schools of what are called Crappies in the north and Specks in the south. With a spare spool for the reel and a sink tip line, I fished with this rod for trout in the storied streams of New York’s Catskill Mountains like Willowemoc Creek on several occasions.
  • Action:
    • Ease of casting: The rod blanks were designed well in this early Graphite III implementation. With the proper timing, you could cast well. This rod was not designed to be fast but could create a tight loop and penetrate light wind as needed. The casting technique needs to be polished. A four-weight rod is not the weight to learn on.
    • Recover rate: Being a four-weight rod it is designed to handle smaller flies as needed. You don’t want too fast recovery for gentle presentations with these flies, so the recovery rate is moderate.
    • Power: I did not need a powerful cast in the conditions I fished. With this rod, I fished mostly at a time of day when the wind was down. I was in a boat not far from shore and was typically sheltered from the wind even if it came up early.
    • Line speed: Being a relative term, I would say line speed is moderate but is proper for my intended and use. Casts of 20 - 30 feet at most are all that is necessary.
    • Ideal casting distance: This rod is not designed for distance casting but does pretty well when called upon.
    • Accuracy: On windless days, the accuracy is dead on.
    • Delicacy of presentation: These lighter rods turn over a fine tippet with no problem.
  • Weight: The actual weight of the rod is 2.7/8 oz. The reel weight is 5.8 oz. loaded with backing and line.
  • Literal Weight: This is a lightweight rod to fish with for extended periods.
  • Grip: The half wells cork grip is good AAA quality and smooth in the hand. There’s a Cocobolo wood insert in the nickel silver reel seat.
  • Warranty: Here is where Sage is out in the stratosphere for me. After ten years of use, I finally experienced the unthinkable: the rod failed as I was yanking a fly out of a tree. I don’t know whether I nicked the rod somewhere along its length, it just broke. I packed it up and shipped it to Sage for repair fully expecting an invoice for that. About a month later I got a brand new rod back from Sage at no charge. The reason? There were no longer any matching tip sections to do a repair. I felt really taken care of. The service matches the price point that Sage rods are offered at.

Issues I’ve encountered

  • Length: The 9’ length of this rod is handy to get a little more distance, but it is not designed for tight spaces around small streams with heavy vegetation growth.
  • Sensitivity: It is sensitive enough to feel a gentle take, but you need to pay attention.

Favorite moment with this gear

When I first fished a particular mountain lake for crappies I noticed some moths occupying the bushes near the shore. That night I tied a few imitations of those moths and returned the next evening to try them out. It was like striking gold. The fishing was outstanding.

Value for the money vs. other options

There are a plethora of economy-grade rods in the marketplace these days and some are appropriate for a new angler testing whether fly fishing is for them, without impacting the budget in a detrimental way. There are a number of fine fly rod manufacturers in the marketplace these days. Few if any still offer the “Lifetime Warranty” as Sage does. For a dedicated Fly Fisher who wants a rod that will perform for years and is built with the utmost care and expertise, a Sage rod is an excellent option. The adage, "you get what you pay for" applies here in spades. Warranties are typically reflected by the price point. Orvis rods are a close second to Sage in quality, in my opinion, but Orvis only offers a 25-year warranty. Sage offers a lifetime warranty and their rods cost a bit more comparatively.

Final verdict

The Sage RPL + 490 was my first Sage rod purchase ten years ago and is probably my best fly fishing investment and its lifetime warranty cemented me as a dyed-in-the-wool Sage fly rod fan.

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