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Review: Sage SALT Fly Rod

by Robert Morselli

Sage SALT Fly Rod Review

I recently wondered “What’s next?” with regards to fly rods.

Even though we shouldn’t take them for granted, “lighter,” “stronger” and “faster” seem like constants with each new release. It’s as safe bet that next year’s fly rods will be lighter, stronger and faster than previous generations. So now that we’ve come to expect new super-resins, super-tapers and snazzy paint schemes, what’s next for fly rods?

I find that in the case of salt water rods, when you add up all of the materials and craftsmanship, you normally end up with an excellent casting tool, but I’ve always felt that even my favorite saltwater fly rods didn’t have enough “give,” which is understandable when you consider what’s expected of these rods. After all, these aren’t 3-weights. If these rods had characters, most would be 75% brawn (backbone) and 25% brain (sensitivity/accuracy). There’s just no denying that finesse hasn’t been an integral part of the salt water game—until now.

Sage’s latest saltwater rod, the SALT, rebalances the formula to 60/40, and it speaks volumes about what’s next in rod designing and rod making. Beyond that formula, I’ll go a step further in stating that Sage has imbued the SALT with “trouty” character.  That may sound odd, but there is always that unknown—and perhaps unknowable component—that makes a fly rod feel right, and the SALT possesses it. That character further defined: it feels light in hand (because at just under 4 ounces, it is) and loads very much like a trout rod, with a mid-section that is surprisingly supple.

I initially (and mistakenly), thought that Sage sacrificed a bit of torque in order to boost accuracy and fishability. Ten or fifteen casts later, I realized that the SALT is capable of generating very high line speeds. Load the SALT with a corresponding line, or go ahead and over-line the rod by one size (the rod’s up to the task), and all the power you need is there (note that I tested one of the lighter models). No compromise was made.

What really sets this rod apart, however, are its fish-handling properties. The blank has enough flex to make handling a small fish enjoyable—near trout-rod sensitivity is built into this blank—yet has enough backbone to pressure larger fish into cooperating. While testing the rod, my fishy highlight turned out to be a 7-pound dogfish. From sensing that first subtle nip of the fly, to addressing some frenetic thrashing, to final submission and release, the Sage SALT allowed for a great overall experience—something that can’t be said about the vast majority of saltwater rods.

Yes, the rod addresses the diverse range of casting demands placed on the saltwater angler (the salt-action taper is robust enough to power heavy fly lines and deliver flies of all sizes at all ranges with precision), but it’s clear that as much effort went into making a rod that is fun to land fish with, as opposed to rolling out just another casting tool with new materials. Kudos to Jerry Siem and the Sage team for that.

I have a small collection of fly rods, and some I use more than others.  The Sage SALT will be one of these.

Highly recommended.

MidCurrent Fly Fishing
Robert Morselli is the research director for the internationally syndicated television show "How It's Made."
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  • Captain Richard Berlin

    As a permit junkie, I am always checking out new releases to determine what will become the newest ultimate permit weapon–an addiction that caused me to try a Sage Salt 10 weight the other day. This rod adds yet another arrow to my permit hunting quiver. Suffice it to say, I like the rod a whole lot, though not a whole lot better than my other 10 weights: a Crosscurrent 4 piece, a Sage ONE 4 piece and my curent fave, a Loomis NRX 1 piece.

    While I always chuckle when I read a new rod review, I am always mindful that these writings offer the subjective impressions which are based on one particular angler’s experience combined with his or her particular casting stroke. My stroke has evolved as one considered as fast and crisp; one that suits me best when the wind is blowing and casts are often launched into a stiff breeze. For example, when the wind is blowing high teens and low twenties, I always have the Crosscurrent at the ready. When seas are calm and I’m walking after fish, The Sage ONE 9 weight seems to me to be the quietest and the most accurate.

    My two saltwater casting gurus, Keys guides John O’Hearn and Bill Houze possess utterly elegant and saber-like casting styles and BOTH of them have decidely different approaches to presenting flies to fish. It should come as no surprise that there is simply NO agreement on their preferences in rod, line or leader design.
    My best advice? Stop reading rod reviews! Better yet, get a great guide and master caster to school you on the finer points of casting and imitate what your guide does. In all probability you will eventually prefer casting the same rod as your teacher–especially if you learn to cast the same way your instructer does!

    • 3weight

      “Stop reading rod reviews” !?!?!

      I strongly disagree.

      • Captain Richard Berlin

        Sorry, 3 weight. I do read rod reviews. I just dont take them too seriously, with one exception. IMHO, George Anderson at Yellowstone Angler gathers dozens of rods, provides lots of tech info, and has a committee of top notch casters compare them all in 8 or 10 different categories. While I don’t always agree, i do endorse his methodology which provide much more oblective assessment of their comparative strngths and weakneses. For example, I heartily agree that for my casting style, the 10 year old design of the G. Loomis GLX crosscurrent 9′ for 8 weight I’ll always keep close by when bonefish are on the menu–especially when the wind blows!

  • NakedAngler

    3weight – Thanks for the rod review. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to cast the new Sage Salt fly rod but I’m definitely intrigued by what it promises to deliver.

    What other fly rods, designed to be casted in a salt water environment, that you have spent a lot of time casting would you compare it to or against?

    Last couple of years I have been casting a couple different Scott S4S fly rods when I have had the fortune of being in warmer salt water and fly fishing for Bonefish, Tarpon, Permit, & Redfish. I would describe both as being quick responding and extremely accurate rods, providing me with feelings of power and confidence while resting light in my hand.

    When I’m fly fishing off the shores of the Puget Sound for Salmon and sea run Cutthroat Trout though, it feels as if the colder temperatures impact how the rod performs. The rod feels heavier to me and doesn’t seem as powerful as it does in the warmer waters.

    Do you think the performance of the Sage Salt Rod would vary as the Scott S4S does? I know one of Sage’s tag lines is “designed on the water”, I think it would be helpful to know what type of water or location each rod was designed on, along with the attributes of those specific waters that went into the design of each rod.

    • Captain Richard Berlin

      I didn’t write the article; merely responded to the author. From what I have gleaned from my Sage rep. the Salt series is the Sage TCX blank manufactured with the new nano resin technology. Funny, I didn’t lke the TcX one bit (nor did I like the TCR Or The new Sage Method tapers. To me, the Salt feels and fishes much like the Sage ONE, and I have both a 9 and a 10. I lke the rod since upsizing the first two spped guides, makingg it more salt water friendly. And the last Scott rod I really liked (and still use as my go to Striper rod is the 10 year old STS.

      I wonder if your rod feels lethargig in cold fresh water merely because you’re fishing a tropical line?If so, try re-rigging it with a line designed for cold water like a Salmon/Steelhead taper. And, for what it’s worth, I really love my Sage one swtch and 2 handed rods for Atlantic Salmon and BC steelhead. Hope this helps…….

  • Doug

    I have a SALT 8 weight to primarily pursue bonefish. What should be the next weight salt water rod I add to my collection?
    I have a 6 weight Xi3 but can’t decide to sell it, replace it or keep it. I have hardly used it.

    • Captain Richard Berlin

      I almost forgotto answer your first question. If you are in the market for one more saltwater rod to complement your 8, I’d look at 10 weights