3-WEIGHT HEAVEN – Dart v F-Series

As far as small stream-specific 3-weight fly rods go, the new Scott 5’8″ F and Sage 7’6″ Dart I’ve been testing could hardly be further apart in action or execution, yet so similar in their ability to precisely land flies in the tightest, nastiest corners of the smallest streams, with plenty of feel. For everything else, they are, as they say, chalk and cheese…

THE SCOTT

Cheese would be the Scott being fibreglass, and orange in colour like good American cheddar. As glass rods go, or any rod really, this thing is short and unsurprisingly makes close, almost down to the leader casts with consummate ease. Where it steps away from more typical longer glass rods and really sets itself apart is loop control. There’s no real mystery here as the tip is as close to your casting hand as you’re likely to get in a fly rod, and that, when combined with the faster e-glass material used in the blank and a tight, modern taper give it great accuracy and a brilliant crisp feel.

Being so short, the rod does take a minute to get the timing dialled in, but once there, it’s very user-friendly and easy to swing around under low branches or sharply roll a fly deep into cover.

The downside of the downsize starts to manifest on casts over 50 feet where the party starts to fizzle out, and mending, or casting any further requires a lot of focus and good technique.

That said, in most of the small water I like, mending is usually done at little more than a rod length anyway and having 50 feet of fly line out is just asking for trouble.

This is Scott’s third iteration of the modern F-series glass rods that have morphed from the ‘classic’ slow glass feel that they pioneered to a modern, well damped do-it-all feel that takes them from being a fashionable retro alternative to right up there with the best fly rods available on the stream.

There are 5 models in the new F range from 2- to 4-weight, which also includes a more standard 3-weight length and very packable 7’2″ 5-piece and a very I-just-want-one 6’2″ 2-weight.

All are beautifully built with dark red and yellow wraps over the rich orange blank and have black anodised reel seats that are either up-locking or sliding band over a full cork insert.

THE SAGE

Chalk, because it’s — errr — hard and smooth, would be the Sage Dart. While the Scott is fast(ish) for a glass rod, it’s still, as expected, considerably slower than the latest in high-modulus graphite Dart that Sage describe most accurately as ‘fast’. And fast it certainly is.

For long casts, past the limits of what can be expected of a 3-weight, it’s an absolute belter and easily cast the full length of my test lines with complete control through the seemingly un-shockable tip. Medium casts are quickly dispatched with a single pick-up and lay down, and adding 10 to 20 feet is as simple as a short, single haul.

None of this surprises me — I expect Sage’s latest in fast to make big casts. What did surprise, especially with the matched RIO Creek line that’s designed for fast rods, specifically the Dart, was how good it is on short casts.

How good? Seriously, it’s good to the point where I’ve finally stopped occasionally weeping over the discontinued 7’9″ Circa 3-weight I foolishly sold thinking the model would soon be replaced. In close there’s complete communication between the tip, the line and where you need the fly to be, and more feel than I would have previously thought possible in a short, fast graphite rod.

Every part of the loading and unloading of the rod through the short front taper of the line is there in your hand and talking. With the Dart, Sage have pushed the boundaries of what’s possible between power, composure and feel and have made a talented small stream rod.

As a caveat, while you don’t need to be the best caster in the village to get the most out of the Dart rod when matched with the RIO Creek line, with my other lines the Dart needed more attention to see its best on short casts. After 20 or 30 feet, there’s nothing in it, though I would still highly recommend the matching line.

The Sage Darts come in six 7’6″ models from 0- through 4-weight, which also includes one extra crispy, very specialised 6’6″ 3-weight. All are 3-piece.

The build is exceptional, understated and classy with gold accented bronze wraps over a thin-walled, dark olive blank. Reel seats are bronze anodised aluminium over a Vera wood insert.

Sage Dart | Photo: David Anderson