Sage LL - Redington CT comparison

Kent Lufkin

Remember when you could remember everything?
I took advantage of a beautiful Saturday morning and a half-day kitchen pass to grab a friend's Sage 2-piece 7'9" 3wt LL and my Redington 6-piece 8' 3wt CT and head out with the dog to a favorite stretch of the SF Snoqualmie for some quality time comparing them side by side.

On paper, both rods are quite similar but yet differ enough that I was pretty certain that any differences in their 'personalities' would be readily apparent. While they are obviously two different rods from different eras (and likely do not share the same taper), they were definitely more alike than different.

Here's how I decided to conduct my non-scientific comparison. To keep conditions as similar as possible, I used the same reel/line/leader/fly setup on each rod as I cast them each in real-life, on-the-water conditions. The reel was a Marryat CMR 56 with a Scientific Anglers GPX DT4 line with a 9 foot tapered leader and 18" of 4x tippet. Why use a heavier line? When I spent a day on the _______ river with that particular LL last fall, that was the reel and line combination I used so it made sense to try the same setup again as a check against my initial impression. I cast both rods using a size 14 parachute Adams, a size 10 Orange Stimulator, and a size 6 Staynor Ducktail streamer. In the same position beside a large pool, I cast both upstream and into the wind, and downstream with the wind with each rod and fly combination.

Here's what I found:

The fit and finish of both rods is impeccable. The wraps and epoxy work are flawless. The newer CT has a slightly larger stripper guide and a modern plated metal uplocking screw reel seat instead of the downward sliding nickel silver ring reel seat on the LL. The quality of the cork on the CT grip is outstanding with no sign of filler. A particularly nice touch on the CT are 'witness marks' - little white dots on each end of each section to help correctly align them with each other. Each section is also imprinted with the line weight in tiny letters to insure that sections from similar rods don't get mixed up.

With the rods assembled but without the reel attached, a wiggle test confirmed that the shorter 2-piece LL felt lighter in hand and had a more delicate action than the ever so slightly heavier and stiffer CT. That may be a result of the CT's 3" longer length (meaning its longer butt section) and its 5 ferrule joints instead of the LLs 1. But both rods flex and load quite similarly with any feeling of 'tippiness' or dead spots. It was immediately obvious that the Redington's designers had effectively compensated for the additional ferrules.

I primarily fish bamboo, so I have a bias towards slow to medium slow action rods since they tend to work best with my relaxed casting stroke. While both of these rods are race-car fast compared with most bamboo rods, in graphite terms they're probably more medium action, maybe even slow when compared with some of today's uber-fast rocket launchers.

Both the LL and the CT have what I would call a silky-smooth, progressive action with excellent damping and a very predictable feel. Point the rod tip where you want your fly to be and it simply goes there with no drama or conscious effort. Miss your grip on the line during a back cast? No problem. Both rods allow plenty of opportunity for mid-cast recoveries or corrections.

But make no mistake, both rods run out of gas with about 50 feet of line aerialized. Even with the weight-and-a-half heavier GPX, pushing either rod for more distance, especially into the wind, requires a lot of effort, skill and luck. But fishing for trout on small to medium moving water or lakes, there's no real need for casts longer than either rod can comfortably deliver.

With the reel attached but not strung up, the LL balances at almost the exact middle of the grip. Predictably, the heavier and longer CT balances about an inch behind the winding check, the result of its greater length and uplocking reel seat.

On the water, I was surprised at how much windier it was than where I had assembled the rods against an old log. I cast the LL first with the parachute Adams and was dismayed at how difficult it was to feed out line and cast into the headwind. Last September I had found it to be much more effortless using exactly the same reel and line combination. The bushy Stimulator and the large Staynor Ducktail were even harder to cast upwind. Roll casting was into the wind was also difficult, with the dry flies landing in a pile behind the end of the line.

Next up was the CT using the same flies and from the same position. The wind was just as gusty, but making headway while feeding out line was noticeably easier as was roll casting, probably the result of the CT's greater length. Casting the large, weighted Staynor was no picnic with either rod (probably because of the long, lightweight leader) but I ended up with more acceptable casts using the CT than the LL.

After spending an hour on the water with both rods under as consistent conditions as possible, here's my bottom line:

The LL is an absolutely outstanding dry fly rod and one well deserving of it's near cult status among trout anglers. It shines in calm conditions fishing smaller dries with an optimal casting distance of about 40-50 feet (including leader). From experience, it's light touch and finesse are complimented by a core strength that easily allows it to handle river fish up to 18-20" with authority.

The CT shares many of the same characteristics as the LL including its delicacy, finesse and backbone. But its 3" length advantage over the LL I tested lets it reach out an additional 5 to 10 feet. Its additional stiffness allows it to perform better under a wider range of conditions. For instance, it seemed much more comfortable tossing the bushy Stimmy and the streamer than the LL. Since it's more 'replacable' than the LL, I wouldn't hesitate to fish the CT a full sinking intermediate line.

In its 6-piece configuration, the CT is a highly portable rod with a short 16" tube that can easily be tucked into a float tube pocket, a backpack, or a gear bag. But the biggest advantage of the CT over the LL was the fact that I was able to buy it on closeout last fall for $109 plus shipping.

Although they're difficult to find, the LL offers a huge advantage by having retained it's value better than practically any other graphite rod made. Twenty year old used LLs regularly fetch more than they originally cost new. It's doubtful that the CT will ever be able to equal that trick, so leaving one in your will might not be as meaningful a bequest to your heirs as inheriting an LL would.

In short, comparing the two was sorta like contrasting a late 1980s Porsche 911SC with a brand-new Carrera. They both share a similar heritage (both Sage and Redington are owned by Farbank Enterprises, who also owns Rio) with exquisite build quality and are far more capable than most driver's abilities to get the most out of them.

Now imagine being able to buy the Carrera for a third of the cost of the SC.




Active Member
Thanks for the comparison Kent. I've been slinging an 8'6" 3 weight ct for a while now and it is awesome. I reach for it more than my 389ll....probably because I know that it fishes just as well and it is far more replaceable. On a separate note were you able to catch a pre-July fish on the sf?

Kent Lufkin

Remember when you could remember everything?
On a separate note were you able to catch a pre-July fish on the sf?
The SF was gin-clear but a bit high and cold with no sign of fish. After comparing rods, I grabbed the CT and hiked upstream a bit to probe some slower side channels. Lights were on but nobody was home.

Nice job Kent. I used a 9' 5wt CT almost exclusively for one summer a couple of years ago and fell in love with it.
It is a great rod. I haven't cast the successor to the ct I hope it is as good.

Steve Call

Active Member
Kent, thanks for the comparison. I've been thinking seriously about picking up the 6 piece CT in a 3 or 4 wt. I'm impressed, as you were, that the 6 piece CT compared so favorably with the LL.


The wanted posters say Tim Hartman
Thanks for that Kent. It just confirms that I made the right decision in getting my 4 wt. CT last month!
Kent, thanks for the comparison. I've been thinking seriously about picking up the 6 piece CT in a 3 or 4 wt. I'm impressed, as you were, that the 6 piece CT compared so favorably with the LL.
The CT only comes in a 6 piece format in weights 3 and 5. I own the 3 weight as well as a 9' 5 weight in 4 piece and love them both.

Sent from my HTC_Amaze_4G

Rob Ast

Active Member
I have the CT 7'6" and 8'6" four piece 3wt if you ever want to compare them to your LL. I find the longer find the longer rod to be a bit softer than the shorter one, though obviously a little bit heavier.

Jim Wallace

Smells like low tide.
I have the CT 7'6" and 8'6" four piece 3wt if you ever want to compare them to your LL. I find the longer find the longer rod to be a bit softer than the shorter one, though obviously a little bit heavier.
I have the same rods, and also notice that the 7'6" appears a bit faster than the 8'6".
I also have an 8'6" 5 wt. I can easily fit both the 3 and 5 wt 8'6" rods in the same tube.

Thanks for the awesome comparison report, Kent. It leaves me with just the opposite feeling of "buyer's remorse." I like my new rods quite a bit, anyway, but now I like 'em even more! :)
Kent, thanks for a great analysis and write up. I recently came into possession of a LL 379 and used it on the Yak a couple of Fridays ago. A true pleasure to cast.

I also came into possession of a CT 2wt a few weeks back thanks to Mr. Call. I have yet to cast on the water with it, but dry casts on the lawn were marvellous.

You've reaffirmed both my purchases.


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