Tuesday 3 November 2020

Pocket Rocket - Sage Igniter 12' 6" #7


In the final days of this peculiar season, courtesy of Guide Fly Fishing, I managed to get my hands on a Sage Igniter 12' 6" #7 demonstrator, matched with a Spectrum C reel (described at the end of this report) and Rio Scandi VersiTip #7 line.  The intrusions of work - the first since February - weather and a fortnight's compulsory isolation as a result of contact with a Covid case left me only a single day on the Ure's Bolton Hall beat to gain my impressions of this rod.  I had made a special effort to get hold of it in the belief that its size and rating could put it close to the ideal for fishing most of the upper Ure, and as a result I was excited by the prospect of trying it, even if only for one day.

First Impressions

The Igniter's utilitarian appearance belies its £1249 price tag.  There's not a hint of bling: indeed, the presentation and finish verges on the austere.  I took the message that this is a rod designed for serious fishing in the hands of those who have no time for trivia.

That impression is reinforced by the minimalist reel seat, which provides rock-solid placement and locking.

And also the rings and whippings.  The upper rings are simple chrome snakes, rather than the variations on the titanium recoil designs that are common at this price point.

I was, however, unimpressed by the cork.  Clearly this rod had received some hard use in the hands of an array of testers, but beyond that consideration it didn't match my expectations.  I don't wish to sound carping, but at £1249 it's quite legitimate to have expectations, including some alignment marks, which were notable absentees.

On the River

The Lord's Pool
+18", brown but falling and clearing

I had no choice over the day and had to cope with whatever conditions prevailed.  In the event a small spate the day before had raised the river to a very good fishing height, although it was still carrying plenty of brown colour and particulate clay.  Given that the outfit came with just an intermediate tip the situation required a fast sinking poly leader and a conehead tube to achieve the right presentation.  

With a selection of left bank pools, the big issue was a blustery 20-25 mph wind straight down the beat, which blew all day and included occasional gusts towards 30 mph.  This severely restricted the opportunities for right-handed casts, especially Single Spey.  At full width the Lord's Pool provides a useful representation of average Ure fishing distances, albeit at this level I spent most of the day wading 4-5 paces out to waist deep to keep my Double Spey and Snake Roll D loops out of the Bankside weeds.  In sum, the combination of left handed casting, weighted front end and waist deep wading provided a stern test of the Igniter's user friendliness.  By any standards this was a less than ideal day for testing a rod and hopefully exploring the detail of its best features.

One of the Igniter's major advantages in these conditions arose from its combination of short length and slim blanks, which made it much easier to move and control the rod's movement through the wind.  The last time I'd fished this pool in similar conditions was with a 14 footer, which presented significant challenges in the upstream sweeps, and the difference here was really marked.

Despite the limitations imposed by deep wading, the little Igniter covered the Lord's Pool with ease, sending the fly exactly where I wanted it to go.  On the treed section I had to throttle right back to avoid the overhanging branches.  That economy of effort can be hard to achieve when all the components of the environment - wind, wading and distance - are triggering your subconscious to try harder: if it feels tough you tend to respond with toughness, when quite the reverse delivers the best results.  This was exactly the case with the Igniter: with minimum effort, a progressive acceleration and a very short delivery stroke, it delivered a delightful result over the water.  But if your subconscious escaped, and either the top hand intruded or the early stage of delivery was rushed, the result was messy.  Knowing that it is tip-biased, quick and unforgiving you need to combine relaxation and discipline to get the results from this exceptional casting weapon.

Ash Tree Pool

After an extended session of cold deep wading in the Lord's Pool I took a warming march upstream to Ash Tree to assess the Igniter's behaviour in close quarter fishing at shorter ranges, when the rod is rarely anywhere near fully loaded.

In the two seasons since I last fished Ash Tree a series of spates have changed its shape and bottom profile considerably.  It's now significantly deeper across its breadth and length, which has created more fishable extent upstream of the tree, and especially downstream of the beck.  As a result it feels even more fishy, which made the poor underwater visibility doubly disappointing.

To be frank neither the Igniter or I as its user enjoyed this section of the test.  It certainly needs the entire SVT head to load, so it would have taken at least a #8 and possibly as much as a #9 to get the required behaviour in short range roll and ad hoc casting.  As soon as we approached the beck and returned to full-length delivery, the Igniter reverted to what it does best, laying out. a long straight line.  After 40 minutes' experimentation I didn't need any persuading to return to Lord's Pool, despite the cold in prospect.


Salmon rod preferences are intensely personal.  There are lots of 'good' rods in the market, but only a very few are optimal for any individual.  Despite its evident capabilities and power to size ratio, the Igniter was not the rod for me.  The reason is simple: despite almost 6 hours in my hands it was utterly devoid of 'feel'.  It just didn't communicate.  Indeed, it was almost as if my hands had been anaesthetised.  As a result, unless I watched every element of the Igniter's cast like a hawk, I didn't have a clue what was going on.  With my other rods I don't have to look, they tell me.  Some of them shout, others speak and one or two sing beautifully with Yar stitched in every note.  But the igniter remained mute throughout and as a result we never formed a relationship, which was hugely disappointing in view of my expectations.

No doubt others will love it.  Perhaps they're more attuned to Sage and their more youthful and expert hands can interpret its language.  But my experience once again underscores the great truism - Try Before You Buy.

Sage Spectrum C

The Spectrum C is Sage's entry level salmon reel.  it is a solidly built die cast product with minimal machining, retailing at an RRP around £175.  This puts it in head-on competition with the Loop Multi and the Lamson Remix, both of which have higher specifications.

There are no frills or embellishments, just pure functionality. This demonstrator displayed a lot of gravel rash, which raises questions over the durability of the black finish.

In addition to the Rio SVT #7 and running line, the demonstrator was loaded with a heroic volume of backing, which suggested that it would cope with a #9 head with ease.

 Its greatest feature is the drag that it shares with its more expensive siblings in the Sage range.  This is a serious bit of braking power, adjusted by a chunky easily grasped knob requiring only a single rotation to cover the full range of settings.  However, I found that most of the useful range was 4-6: figures above 6 possibly represented braking force in tons.

The drag is sealed, but the volume of grease present seemed to imply a certain lack of confidence in that department.

In use the Spectrum was competently utilitarian.  Unfortunately I missed all 3 salmon that took during the morning, so I failed to secure and opportunity to test its fish fighting capabilities.  In the absence of empirical testing I was confident that it would do the business.

In sum this is another competent badge-engineered die cast reel with an excellent brake.  It's nothing special at £175 and doesn't stand out against the competition.  The Multi is better finished and presented; the slightly more expensive Lamson Remix is more elegant and aesthetically pleasing; and the Lamson Liquid does the same job for much less money.  And for £45 more you can have a Danielsson L5W to endow your children and grandchildren.