A view of downtown Seattle waterfront from the ferry returning from Bainbridge Island.
Last week, I was on Bainbridge Island for business when I had some unexpected free time to kill before boarding the ferry back to Seattle. I suddenly recalled that a fishing buddy told me about the factory tour at Sage Manufacturing on Bainbridge. Sage is a highly respected manufacturer of fly fishing equipment, especially fly rods, among Northwest fly fishermen. So, on a whim, I decided to drop by the factory and see if a tour was possible.
The pleasant receptionist explained that they prefer visitors to call first before showing up. However, she would see if someone was available to show me around. In a few minutes, David, presumably a floor manager, greeted me and welcomed me onto the factory floor.
The first area he showed me was where the rod blanks are created from sheets of carbon fiber. The sheets are wrapped around steel rods shaped like fly rod blanks and then baked in a special oven. After baking they are removed from the steel rods, cut, and coated. This is where the rod blanks start looking familiar to a fisherman. The blanks for a particular rod and weight class are put together and tested to make sure the entire rod feels right. The rod blanks are then sent to another area where the guides, reel seats, and cork handles are added. Throughout this process, they have QA personnel inspect and test each rod. When the rod has passed the final QA, it is sent to the shipping department where they put each rod into a rod sock and tube.
I was amazed and pleasantly surprised that all Sage rods are manufactured on Bainbridge Island. Even the rod socks are sewn on site! It is reassuring that some skilled manufacturing is still happening in Washington State.
Founded in 1980, Sage has become the top brand of fly rods among fly fishermen in the Northwest. It was rewarding to see how fishing equipment I use is made. It’s even more meaningful to actually meet and talk to some of the people who work there. I’ve been a satisfied Sage customer and, after this factory tour, I’ve become even more enthusiastic about the Sage brand and equipment.
I highly recommend the Sage factory tour–but please try to call first to make sure someone is available to show you around.