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.