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Fly Rod Review

The Sage 990-4 TCX is Lean, Mean, and Green! (continued)


Issues:  There are 2 issues I found with this rod, both admittedly pretty minor.  First off are the snake guides.  They seem a bit on the small side and the wire on them is thin.  This is great for weight reduction, but knots on long, heavier leaders love to hang up on them!  While the majority of the time you don't strip your leader into the guides, sometimes it happens either on purpose or by accident.   I feel slightly thicker and maybe even larger snake guides would alleviate this.  The second problem is with the up locking hood ring that is tightened on to secure the reel.  When the 2 twisting rings are backed off to release the reel, the hood ring that holds the reel foot becomes jammed so you can't easily take the reel off.  This happens with both the Galvan T-10, and Abel Super 9 reels I use.  To get the ring off, I have to use my fingernails on both hands to pull it loose, sometimes requiring a modest amount of force!


The reel hood ring always gets stuck after the rings are backed off


Price, applications, warranty:  The 990-4 TCX chimes in at a whopping $815.  This is an extremely expensive rod, considering that comparable premium 9 foot 9 weights from several of the other major fly rod companies all top out in the $700 range.  While this TCX is a very good fly rod, you can certainly get wonderful performance out of a rod costing substantially less.  However, anglers that spend much of their time casting long with big flies and heavy lines should cast one of these to see if it fits their style.  One species that immediately comes to mind that seems absolutely perfect for this rod would be Striped Bass.  Growing up in northern California, I am very familiar with the big flies and fast sinking lines often used in targeting these fish....precisely what the TCX loves! 


The rod breaks down into 4 pieces for easy transport


If a big Striper or car door happens to turn your TCX into a 5 piece rod, Sage offers an original owner lifetime warranty for a $50 fee.  I recently used their warranty for the first time ever after I snapped the tip off my 790-4 Xi3.  I sent the entire rod to them so that they could make another tip section specifically for my rod, and about 5 or 6 weeks later I received my repaired rod back in the mail. While the turnaround time may seem a bit slow, it is reassuring to know that repairs are specially tailored for each individual rod to ensure maximum performance.



Sage 990-4 TCX Fly Rod Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality As to be expected from Sage, cosmetically the rod is beautiful.   The build quality is top notch. The reel seat issue is the only reason for a slight mark down in points. 8.5
Performance Sage markets this rod as an “extreme distance” performer, and it is very good at throwing far and handling heavy lines and flies.  In close the rod is not really enjoyable to fish, but it's not made for close quarters delicacy.  Fish fighting muscle is just fine. 8
Price At over 800 dollars a very expensive production 9 foot 9 weight graphite rod, among the most expensive in the USA!  5
Features The snake guides are fine but I'd like to see them increase slightly in size and/or thickness.  The 4 piece design with an attractive rod tube and sock makes travel a snap.   The composite cork end to the fighting butt is a nice compliment to the reel seat and blank colors. 8
Design (Ergonomics) The handle is very comfortable and the right length and thickness for me.  The rod has a relatively light feel while casting as well.  The fighting butt is just the right size 8.5
Application Since this is more of a specialty rod, it will excel at fewer applications.  Stripers, Pike, Bass, and Chinook immediately come to mind.   Competing in a distance casting competition?  A TCX of any line weight would be a great choice! 7

Total Score

Ratings Key: Ratings Key: 1 = terrible : 2 = poor : 3 = lacking : 4 = sub par : 5 = mediocre : 6 = fair : 7 = good : 8 = great : 9 = excellent : 10 = unbelievable!
(For a detailed explanation of the ratings go here)

Pluses and Minuses:

                 Plus                                    Minus

Beautiful to look at Knots easily hang up in guides
Light in hand Reel seat ring sticks
Ample power for a 9 weight Not a good all around rod
Very good at long distance Extreme price $$$
Great for heavy lines and big flies  
Good warranty  


A specialized rod and very beautiful rod


Conclusion:  Not being a great all-around rod and carrying an extreme price tag, the 990-4 TCX is not for everyone.  It is made for advanced fly anglers seeking a rod capable of handling big lines and flies, while fishing them at long distances.  It definitely excels at these specific duties.  The TCX brings with it lots of power, striking good looks, and the great build quality that Sage is famous for.  Despite a few of it's drawbacks, I really enjoy fishing this rod as often as I can.  I also enjoy the fact that it is something a bit different, since it's a rod you don't see a ton of on the water.  If it sounds like something that is right for you, cast it against a few of the other premium offerings available and see if it truly fits your style!