Sage R8 Core Fly Rod Review: Step It Up

// Photos by Christian Anwander and Leonard Schoenberger

Last updated on January 8th, 2024.

Leonard Schoenberger

If you’re a fly fisherman or woman looking for the perfect rod to give you an edge, look no further than the Sage R8 Core Fly Rod.

Sage produces some of the finest fly rods in the game – there’s no doubt about that. Their “Made in the USA” rods have fans around the globe. Recently the Burbank-based manufacturer replaced their hugely popular flagship series – the Sage X – with its successor: the Sage R8. I got my hands on their new fly rod – as a #5 9ft rod (the gold standard for trout rods) and will share my experience in this review.

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Sage R8 Core Fly Rod Review
Fishing the Sage R8 Core #5 on the Delaware River, NY. © The Wading List

Specs and features:

Available in multiple weights and lenghts ranging from a #3 all the way to an #9

Action: medium fast to fast

Price tag: $ 1,050

Design and Construction

First off, let’s talk about the looks of the new Sage fly rod. It comes in a white aluminum rod tube that has a small diameter (something that Sage has been known for for decades). The rod sock features Sage’s new quick access system. In my eyes, it’s nice but the rod sock of the Winston Air Salt is a notch above Sage’s to be honest. What I love about the Core R8 in terms of the design is the blank color. Sage calls the color “Sage Pine” – I’d describe it as a dark gray color with hints of blue – great job here, Sage. All rods feature a standard cork handle and the upper line classes come with a fighting butt.

Sage Core R8 Detail
Sage’s new rod comes in a beautifully subtle dark grey blank color

Use Cases

The new R8 Core series covers a wide range of line classes. The smallest model is a #3 in 9ft which is a great rod for small streams and creeks. If you’re into nymphing the #4 in 10ft is your way to go (one of the few weaknesses in the R8 core line up in my eyes is the fact that there’s no nymph rod that’s longer than 10ft – I would have wished for a #3 in 11ft for extra reach). The #5 in 9ft (the model that we tested) certainly is the allrounder when it comes to trout fishing. If you’re into bigger predators such as salmon or stripers, you can take a look at the #8 or even #9. The fact that Sage caps the lineup at #9 shows that this rod is not meant for the strongest saltwater species.

On the Water

Sage Core R8 Fly Rod
On the water with the Sage R8 Core. © The Wading List

We took the #5 9ft model out to fish for trout on the Delaware river in New York. This rod will most likely be the most popular in the lineup since it can handle almost any trout fishing scenario you might encounter. We paired the rod with a #5 WF fly line to get started.

Dry Fly Setup

From my experiences, every manfacturer praises their new products as revolutionary and so much better than the predecessor. Most often however, products are only marginally reworked and you would end up catching fish just as well with an older fly rod. That always makes me a little sceptical I admit. But the R8 Core seriously impressed me right from the get go. Starting out with a dry fly, the rod delivered extremely precise loops and close and mid-range. What I found most striking is the very little effort it took me to perform these casts. The R8’s action is fast, yet it delivers excellent feedback so you can adjust your casting accordingly. It is a real joy to load this road with one false cast or even let the line shoot without a false cast or double haul.

Sage r8 core fly rod closeup
Fishing a dry fly on Sage’s Core R8 fly rod. © The Wading List

Streamer Fishing

Since the rod performed so well with a light dry fly setup (5x tippet of 10ft) I wanted to see how it could handle (bigger) streamers on slightly stronger and shorter tippets. I chose a classic wolly bugger to see what the Core R8 could deliver. Like with any #5 fly rod, casting a streamer delivers less joy than casting a light dry fly. Yet again with the streamer, the R8 had no trouble showing its capabilites in getting it out and over with ease. This rod is quick and hence a good choice for streamer fishing as well. The tip is still sensitive enough to detect strikes which is certainly crucial in nymphing.


If you’re purely into nymph fishing, the #4 in 10ft would certainly be a better choice from the R8 lineup, but since we wanted to test all scenarios we gave the #5 a shot with a nymph rig. While the 9′ are certainly a little short for a dedicated nymph setup, the rod did well in getting the line out and fishing a precise drift. The tip is senstive enought to detect subtle takes but not on the level of a dedicated nymph rod (which we frankly didn’t expect from an allroudner.

Sage Core R8 Rod
Streamer fishing with the Core R8 fly rod during our test on the Delaware River in upstate New York. © The Wading List

Verdict on the Sage Core R8 Fly Rod

Like I said before, I was a little skeptical before putting the Core R8 to the test. But I have to admit, Sage did an impressive job on this rod. Especially as a #5 this rod is a true allrounder. If you’re looking for a trout rod that can do it all, the Core R8 certainly is a strong contender. Is it worth $1,050? That’s a tough question to answer. You will certainly catch fish with rods that are less expensive. Especially if you’re a beginner or intermediate, you will probably have a hard time appreciating the qualities of this fly rod.

But if you’re in the game for that one premium rod that you can fish for years to come, the Core R8 is definitely worth a look. You can a beautifully crafted – Made in the USA – fly rod made from the finest components and an excellen warranty. I dare to say you’ll have a hard time finding a better overall trout rod that delivers the performance of the Sage Core R8.




Sage Core R8 Rod Tube
The white aluminum rod tube provides excellent protection and is small to pack. © The Wading List

FAQs: Sage R8 Core

What is the Sage R8 made of?

Sage’s new Core R8 fly rod is made of graphite. This rod is a fast action rod with a lot of backbone that still delivers a good feel through a sensitive tip.

What is the warranty on Sage r8 core?

Each and every Sage rod is covered by a lifetime warranty for the original owner.

Is the Sage Core R8 a good trout fly rod?

In my eyes the Sage Core R8 is one of the best trout fly rods out there. As a #5 9ft it is a great allrounder for all kinds of trout fishing scenarios such as dry fly fishing, streamer fishing and nymphing.

Does the Sage Core R8 come with a rod tube?

Yes, the Sage Core R8 comes with a white aluminum rod tube and a black rod sock for protection on the inside of the tube.

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