In the fall of 1997, ultralight fly fishing enthusiasts worldwide were presented the newest "LIGHTEST weight fly rod in the world" -- the Sage SPL Ought weight. It was ground breaking because of two major things: (1) the rod would beautifully cast a 54 grain line, the lightest line ever. (2) Bruce Richards of 3M/Scientific Anglers worked with Sage's Jerry Siem to co-develop the Sage Quiet Taper line along with the SPL Ought weight rod to create the perfect marriage between rod and line. The result: marvelous performance from a low weight, low mass rod and line!

When they first hit the market I called Sage and ordered an Ought-weight. I immediately began fishing it like I had done the Orvis 1-weight when I first discovered and bought one of those. I didn't fish either as "specialty" rods, I fished them every day. I found my new Sage SPL Ought weight to be incredibly light weight, AND found that it had plenty of backbone. I have landed several bass over 4 pounds (RIGHT) with that rod, plus many panfish and fat trout. My largest Ought-weight bass weighed 7 pounds! The SPL Ought-weight isn't wimpy, and it will protect light tippets WELL!

When Sage announced the discontinuation of the SPL series in late 2001, I purchased an SPL 1-weight. Now the new generation Sage SLTs are in major fly shops, so I cast the 3-weight four piece version and fished an SLT 1-weight. My impression is that although the color and materials have changed, the Ought through 2-weight rods have the same feel, performance, and dimensions. I static weighed my SPL and compared it to the new SLT 1-weight. They weighed the same. In on-water fishing, they fished the same.

There are still some SPLs out there on sale, so if you want a good rod at a reduced price, the 3-weight to Ought-weight represent a bargain on great ultralight rods. I spoke with the rod repair department at Sage and was assured that there are plenty of materials for repairing SPL Ought to 3-weight rods "for many years to come," a very reassuring fact.

In 1984 when Howard Steere and Jim West brought us the Orvis Ultrafine 2-weight, then in 1987 the Orvis Superfine 1-weight, fly fishing finally moved into ultralight fly fishing. Then Jerry Siem moved us ever farther into ultralight fly fishing by designing his SPL ought to two-weight rods in 1997. Now Siem and Sage have moved in a slightly different direction with the SLT rods. To understand what this move to Sage SLTs will mean to us all, I spoke with Jerry Siem, Sage's rod designer and father of the SPL series rods. This interview will share some of Jerry's comments with you about the new SLTs.

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Byrd: In what year did you get the idea to build a fly rod lighter than a 1 weight? "

Siem: "Actually six or seven years ago, but I've considered building a lighter fly rod for much longer than that."

Byrd: Why did you feel the need to design a rod as light as the ought weight?

Siem: "Many fly fishers suffer from nine foot five weight syndrome. A lot of fly fishers fish with a nine foot, five weight rod, which has been such a standard for trout fishing. I felt that we could introduce a rod that would bring a new level of pleasure, and stimulate the growth of the sport. With what we can do with graphite rods, with leaders and tippets getting finer and flies becoming smaller, I think you can have a lot of fun, and land even big fish with these lighter outfits."

Byrd: What finally motivated you to design these SPL Rods?

Siem: "One time I was forced to strip a sink tip line off my reel, and cast tiny dry flies with just my backing and leader to rising fish in a river. I recognized at that time that it doesn't take a heavy line to cast tiny flies if you speed the line up. More than two years later, I decided that it was time to see what could be done with the light line, and a rod that was truly balanced with it."

Byrd: Your SPL line of rods were unique, and redefined where ultralights were in 1997 in materials, in weight, and in the fact that your rods and lines were co-developed, right?

Siem: "Yes. Co-developing the line with the rod got us close to an outfit that feels really well balanced. My idea was to determine the length of a rod and the weight of a line that would give the familiar feeling of a heavier outfit with much reduced weight."

Byrd: How does the familiar feeling that you are describing impact fly fishers trying to move to lighter fly outfits?

Siem: "I believe that the SLT ought weight is right on the border of the normal feeling rods. It seems to just break that barrier of normal feeling rods. When people fish a 3-weight for the first time, it doesn't feel normal to them. They have to recognize that when they spend a day on the water fishing this rod, it feels great. Then they go back to the heavier rod, and it feels HUGE!"

Byrd: In addition to the properties we've discussed, wouldn't you say that the SPLs and now the SLTs do a great job of the all-important task of protecting tippets?

Siem: "Yes. We've taken all the weight out of the rod and the line which was creating a weight barrier for the angler trying to put that kind of pressure on the tippet and the fish. The SLTs are very sensitive to the tippet. You can put much more pressure on the tippet, know where you are with that pressure, and maintain the pressure on the fish much better."

Byrd: Do you feel that fly fishers are beginning to understand the place of the real ultralight rods in a fly fishers arsenal of rods?

Siem: "Yes, but I believe it is still a smaller percentage than I would like to see. Anyone who has tried these rods has been really delighted to have them. I believe that they understand and are out spreading the word."

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There you have it. These new generation three- to ought-weight fly rods will be a joy to fish, not physically tire you, allow a marvelous QUIET presentation, give you unbelieveable feel all the way to your fly, and protect light tippets needed in today's fly fishing. Then they'll allow you to put MORE pressure on your fish to land it faster! Not bad. Not bad, indeed!

I fish fly systems as heavy as a 10-weight, but seven years ago, I personally transitioned to these ultralight rods. Since then I have spent MOST of my time fishing rods 3-weight to ought-weight. For most of the available species, these rods are tremendous tools for fishing most of the time. When you do encounter even large fish, used properly, these light rods will actually make it easier to subdue those large fish on light tippets! The fun factor soars when you fish ultralights. Try one soon.

To read about one fly fisher's recent reaction to going ultralight, read Going Ultralight for more fun! an article on this subject on my website. -- Bill Byrd.


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