Any time you’re buying a tool or an object for a purpose it pays to really consider exactly how you’re going to put it to use. At some point you’re probably going to need to by a hammer, but if you come away from the hardwear store with a sledgehammer to fix your brass tacks in place then achieving the aim will probably become more complicated.
It’s no different buying a fly rod. Faced with purchasing a new salt water nine weight I was really tempted to take one of the easy “premium” options – Hardy Proaxis, Loomis Crosscurrent maybe a Sage Salt. It niggled at me though, as all these rods have the same thing in common – they’re very very stiff. The marketing of these high end rods is very deliberate, most mentioning “high line speed”, “extra distance”, “punching in to a breeze” – you know the sort of stuff.
I thought more closely about how I would be using this rod. Most of the time it would be on the flats for bonefish, permit and maybe triggerfish. I would be hunting fish, stalking them down at mid-range and generally my flies would be on the smaller side. The more I thought about it the more I realised that “fast action” and “high line speed” was the sledgehammer to bash in the tacks. If you’re having to make shots at bonefish at more than fifty feet then you’re not getting yourself in the right position to make the cast.
As far as I am aware there are no premium options for more mellow actioned salt water rods, but through waggling some rods around at Farlows I found a rod that felt like it ticked my boxes, the Sage Motive. It immediately felt significantly softer than its bigger brother the Salt and at £369 it is around half the price – what’s not to like?! My only worry was that at such a significantly lower price point than most Sage premium rods what exactly had been taken away?
In truth at first glance there is very little between the Motive and Salt. The stripping guides are a slightly different design, the cork appears a different grade and the premium Sage aluminium rod tube is replaced with a “ballistic nylon” (sorry, what?!) tube. Thankfully Sage have also stuck with the simple and functional aluminium reel seat design. In terms of finish the Motive is appointed to the same immaculate standard as a top end Sage. Apparently these days a saltwater rod MUST be blue, and this is as inoffensive a blue as possible. I keep banging the drum about rods being made with a matt finish and I’ll continue to – the last thing you need when you’ve stalked a Permit for half an hour is to spook it with rod flash when you make your shot.
The Motive is a little heavier than the Salt, but only by around ten grams. By the time I slapped a Tibor Signature 9/10 on the handle this wasn’t an issue. Actually I ought to mention that the Motive/Tibor combination balances beautifully. I used the RIO General Purpose Saltwater Floating line as I like the mid-length head size, and the rod seemed to really like this line too.
Walking and stalking a flat often leads to making accurate casts at short to medium ranges and as such it is huge help to have a rod and line combination that loads quickly and effectively – the Motive does just that. After two months of constant use I can now quickly and confidently make a roll cast pick up and land a fly at fifty feet with a single false cast and I’m just not convinced this would be so easy with a really stiff rod. I’ve cast leaders of nearly twenty feet and a variety of poppers, crease flies and larger permit patterns and it never feels under gunned. The Motive always feels precise and accurate, any bad presentations were entirely down to user error! The rod is full of feel, sensitivity and touch, the more I used the Motive the more fun I had with it.
The blank holds itself together beautifully with minimal wobble and a very predictable counterflex. I found that right from the first cast I could make pretty much any loop shape I wanted to and I really feel that the accommodating and easy action of the Motive would be a huge help to the less frequent saltwater angler. I don’t recall any situation where I felt that the Motive couldn’t do what I wanted it to do.
This rod and line combo probably isn’t the one if you really do want to blast flies in to next week. Out of curiosity I did try to really push the outfit and found that it didn’t like holding lots of line in the air. To me this isn’t an issue for a flats rod but maybe if you ‘re in to that kind of thing or if you’re fishing for Milkfish it might be worth considering one of the stiffer and more powerful rods on the market.
In truth I had difficulty finding any negligible differences between the Motive and a premium rod but over time a couple of issues have appeared that one might expect at the price point. The first of these is one that I hadn’t expected from a Sage rod. Each time I review a Sage premium rod I wax lyrical about the quality of the cork handle, it’s something that they just seem to do so much better than every other brand. The cork on the Motive isn’t reflective of this. The picture below shows that the handle on my Motive is already showing signs of abrasion and missing filler. I’m not a white knuckle rod gripper by any means so I’ve been very surprised by the short term wear. It’s still very soft and comfortable, I’m just not sure how much longer it will last!
The second issue was a bit of a surprise as I’m very anal with keeping my kit clean. The lowest stripping guide is actually showing signs of rust. Since I took the picture I have cleaned the guide up completely but I know from experience that any rust around ceramic guides can be an issue. I’m a really big fan of the REC Recoil type guides which don’t use an insert as they negate the need for a lining.
I ought to say that neither of these problems has yet manifested in to a genuine issue – the cork is still comfy and the guide has cleaned up just fine. It’s worth keeping in mind that at half the price of the Salt range there are bound to be material differences to the Motive and most anglers won’t be using the rod for two months solid. It is also worth noting that the Motive is backed up by the same warranty as its stable mates, so any issues arising will be dealt with quickly by the best after sales team in the industry
I really like this rod! The more mellow action makes for a tool that is far more user friendly and in my opinion far more suited to most flats fishing applications than many of the faster actioned rods on the market. Making short and medium range presentations with a wide array of flies was a simple and enjoyable process and it is possible to make really quick and accurate drops without having to haul furiously. The Motive would suit anglers who don’t have a huge amount of saltwater experience as it bridges the gap between a trout rod and a high end saltwater blaster. If you’re making your first steps in to saltwater fly fishing and you don’t want to break the bank then I see the Motive as a two-for-one deal that you would struggle to say no to. A really enjoyable rod at a fantastic price!