The new Two-Handed X rods let you experience the remarkable benefits of KonneticHD Technology through access to the more powerful lower sections of the rod, allowing for easier and more efficient load carry through the casting stroke. The shaft's significantly enhanced recovery and crisper tip stop optimize line speed to deliver long, smooth casts. The decreased vertical movement and vibrations in the blank result in a more accurate and efficient presentation.
A popular size for Chinooks, and other large salmon.
See Specifications for details and recommended lines.
Low Water, Big Fish, and the 9120-4X
It was the last weeks in October. The classic fall deluge of rain was yet to come, and with it, most of the fish I was seeking. It was now afternoon and I had only two overzealous 12 and 14” sea-run cutthroat, and a decidedly vicious yet non-connective pull from a Chinook. This was a christening trip for my new coastal Chinook rod: the Sage X 9120-4 spey rod.
As I stood on a high bank far above the gin clear water, I noticed a shape across the river. It was a white tail, and with the recognition of that shape the rest of the fish slowly materialized in front of me. It was a green goblin, Alaska slang for a spawned-out chum salmon. He wiggled feebly in 6” of water on the far side, clinging to his last days of his life. What was once a powerful, drag shrieking, chrome contender was now a fungus covered mass of skin and bones. But he’s undeniable evidence that anadromous fish had been here and may still be somewhere.
I made my way down to the water and observed the dying chum salmon. As I regarded him holding position behind a softball sized rock, I tried to imagine what his pilgrimage to his natal stream must have been like. I was humbled once again by one of nature’s greatest globetrotters. With thoughts of birth, death, and life cycles now in the front of my mind, I made my way upstream.
As the cobblestone of the gravel bar crunched under my studded wading boots, I saw a slight movement out of the corner of my eye. It was an undulating white object: the rhythmically opening and closing mouth of a summer steelhead. With this recognition, the rest of the fish instantly took shape: a fine specimen around 25-28” in length with a hint of rosiness. I continued up the gravel bar another ten yards. No longer was I nonchalantly regarding spawning cycles. The hair was standing up on the back of my neck and my mind was racing with thoughts about sun angle, depth, angle of swing, water clarity, angling pressure, and current speed. They’re all small but equally important pieces to the bigger swung fly puzzle. The hunt was on.
I was in position, and the fish was maintaining his. One of the greatest age-old games was about to begin. I stripped out an appropriate amount of line to pass the fly roughly 6 feet in front of the fish’s lie. My fly choice was a more modest one: a small, light pink and silver tube fly about 2” in length. I made a short single spey cast delivering the fly well past the fish’s cone of vision. I made a gentle mend, lifting the rear of my Skagit to allow my swing to come across at the perfect angle and speed. As the fly came around into the fish’s view, there was a definitive response from my quarry. The fish came up hovering in the middle of the water column, appeared to show some interest in my fly, but then abruptly raced downstream away from my fly, not to be seen again.
I chuckled to myself and reeled up and continued upstream. That’s sometimes just how she goes and there’s nothing to be done about it. Swinging flies isn’t easy and if it was, we’d probably make trips to permit fish more frequently. I made my way to my original destination: the mouth of a small feeder creek. The creek has a very deep cut bank slot just upstream of where it enters the main river. In periods of low water, it’s one of the few place fish can feel somewhat less exposed. Knowing this, I crossed the creek to its upstream side and slowly stalked my way up to it. Upon inspection through a pair of polarized lenses, I saw there was a pod of fifty or so chum salmon tightly schooled together in the 6’ deep piece of water.
Chum salmon are some of the earliest to return, and typically spawn lower in rivers than most other migratory salmonids. The A run almost always shows plenty of color as they enter tide water before the first rains and will wait for even a sprinkle to move upriver from estuaries. It appeared these chum had been ripening for a week or so. Many already had the very unique purple, black, and fuchsia colored bars along their sides that they are famed for. I considered their position and the best angle to cast and fish to them.
I decided that the most appropriate presentation would require a cast from the center of the knee-high flow that was the main river. A pullback mend would drop the fly into the slot and let it kick around and swing out in front of their faces without hanging up. It’s always a challenge to get a fly instantly to a 6’ depth in the slot while not hanging up first on either side of it.
I waded out into the river and tied on a fly I knew I could confidently fish because it had done so countless times before. That fly was a Fish Taco in chartreuse. It is an unweighted, vibrantly pulsing, animated fly of Flashabou and ostrich. The weight aspect was key in my mind. An unweighted fly will follow a sink tip but not be dragging across the bottom where it will hang up. This is ideal in a situation such as this where predictability of sink rate and depth control through the swing is crucial to success.
There was no reason to start short. If I was searching through a piece of water for one or two holding steelhead it would be different scenario. In this case I knew exactly where my quarry was: in the 6’ deep pocket that was diagonally downstream fifty feet. I stripped out an appropriate amount of line and made a roll cast downstream to set everything up for my cast. A slow deliberate lift combined with a torsional rotation and an outward pop of the lower grip aerialized my 625 Skagit short and T-10 Flo Tip. The last few feet of the whole assembly splashed down a rod length from my hip, anchoring my cast to the water’s surface. My rod tip came around, and as it began to accelerate forward, my bottom hand added the “pop” of my power stroke sending a beautiful single spey arcing through the crisp fall air. I watched the Fish Taco flip over the end of my sink tip landing with a linear splash pointing straight back, assuring me that my cast was clean and foul free. A slight pullback mend allowed the current to lift the fly. As I lowered my rod parallel to the water, the fly dropped down, sinking deep into the slot and beginning its lateral progression across the current.
The first two casts made it to the dangle unmolested. The fish were there, and my fly and method were proven. If I didn’t get touched while swinging for Pacific salmon, there was only one thing to be done: follow up with a deeper, slower, more obnoxious presentation. The retained searching response theory was out the window and territorial aggression takes the stage.
The next cast I made was on a steeper downstream angle. This alone will slow the fly down but will reduce its depth. The pullback was no longer subtle; it was a full ninety degree movement from parallel with the surface to vertical. A few steps downstream as the fly was settling into the slot sent it to the lower half of the column directly into the face of the chum. The response was instant.
As the fly began to wiggle its way through the slot, it came to a halting stop. The line tightened up and with a quick pull of the rod to the inside, the hook was set and the fish was pinned. The rod doubled over instantly and the throbbing, whumping sensation I felt through it brought images of large, wagging, square tails to mind. This wasn’t your average 10-12 pound chum salmon. It was big, really big.
I dropped the rod tip to the inside, bellying my line downstream and forcing the fish to come upstream. As he pulled parallel to me in the current, I saw just how large he was. He was a magnificent male chum salmon. His fuchsia and purple bars shone vividly against his goldish-green sides. He angrily shook his head as if to say “No, no, no this is all wrong. I’m supposed to come here to meet some nice hens, not meet you!”
He was an immense fish, easily 40” long. He was one of the best I’d seen. Shoulders like a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, tail like an oar blade. But I was getting ahead of myself. This battle was far from over and we both knew it as we regarded each other. Neither of us was willing to yield to the other, and neither was gaining ground.
Finally, I did the intelligent thing and eased off him a bit letting him think he was gaining ground. Our standstill was over I was tired of it. I wanted to hear some drag! As if on cue, he bolted when he felt me let off. It’s amazing how fast a fish can turn 180 degrees. His movement was a blur and suddenly I was looking at a furiously pumping tail heading away from me. I pulled back against him, digging my fingers into the porting of my Hardy Bougle to slow his downstream progression. As the backing started flying out the end of my 9120-4X, I figured he was about ninety yards away and that was far enough. A change of rod angle from inside to outside bellied the head again, putting the pressure diagonally downstream of him. Like clockwork, he hit the brakes and went the opposite direction and started coming back up the run. I kept the rod to the inside and slowly reeled up the slack as the fish made his way back up. We proceeded to play NASCAR as he went up, down and around the run several times in his best Dale Earnhardt impression.
His blistering runs downstream gradually became more and more reserved. He finally slid into the bank where my open hand was waiting for the classic fish to angler hand shake. After a quick lift for a photo I sent him on his way to spread his exceptional genes in the following weeks. My new rod had been christened.
The 9120-4X performed its task perfectly. This rod casts easy and smooth. The shorter 12’ length was perfect for tight quarters, putting more leverage and pressure on large fish to land them quicker and more efficiently. And landing a fish like that gave me the confidence that I could best more of them with this new tool. If you’re looking for the big one, this rod is more than up to the job!
USE OF ROD: This rod is perfect for larger pacific salmon such as Chinook, chum, and northern coho. It's also a good fit for Atlantic salmon on smaller rivers as well as large, ocean-fresh steelhead. The 12' length makes it perfect for tight quarters and casting on smaller water such as Oregon coast rivers.
ACTION: This is a very crisp, fast-action rod that loves being cast off the tip section. If you’ve ever cast a Sage One, it’s a similar feel but the X has the edge. It is able to generate more line speed even faster, recover quicker, and cast more accurately with less effort.
FRANK'S FAVORITE LINES FOR THE 9120-4X:
Skagit: Airflo Fist 660, or a Rio Skagit Max Short 625
Scandinavian: Rio Scandi Short 540, or an Airflo Scandi Compact 510 with a 10' poly leader.