When the Sage SALT HD was announced last year, it created a huge wave of hype at the forefront of virtually every discussion about saltwater fly rods. It won the “Best in Show” award at the International Fly Tackle Dealer show in Orlando. And the proclamations came: it’s a scott meridian killer, Where a killer of G. Loomis NRX, this is Sage’s best saltwater fly rod etc. Then came the opponents, it’s too heavy, the point is too steep, everything is marketing, To infinity.
The funny thing is that pretty much all of these on-mike statements came in October of last year. Hell, most of them arrived in August, a week or two after the release of Sage SALT HD. And a lot of those that didn’t were lawn testing. Or streaming tests. No flat tests. No tests in blue waters.
Here we have a simple rule of thumb when it comes to rod exams: Rod exams should be done with care. This translates into a couple of things. First, the examiner must be given sufficient time to evaluate a rod. Second, a rod should be reviewed in the environments / fishing situations for which it is designed.
Do you really enjoy a review of a saltwater rod that was delivered after an afternoon spent with a demo rod? Or a fact after casting the cane on the lawn outside the fly shop? Or even at the edge of a trout river?
Maybe we are being too careful. Or maybe we’re just shit fishermen who don’t have superpowers that let us guess the truth about the rods we throw without actually fish them, for a while, under varying conditions, in the places where they are intended to be fished.
Whatever the reason, while reviewing the Sage SALT HD, we took it (a 9ft 8in weight) into the apartments. To hunt bonefish. And allowed. And barracuda. We took it to throw stripers in the Cape Cod surf. And in search of anadromous brown trout. And even to throw huge banners at the golden sea bream.
Anyway, here’s what we found.
Feel / Action
When I’m on the flat I’m much more picky about the feel of a rod than when I’m throwing just about anywhere else. The reason is quite simple. In most other fishing situations I have time to negotiate with the rod I cast. To get him to do what I want him to do. But on the flats, where it’s usually one hit, I have to be sure I’m not going to argue with the cane in my hand when I’m supposed to do a cast.
And that’s why I wasn’t in love with the original Sage SALT and didn’t like the Xi3 at all, Sage’s flagship for saltwater before SALT.
The main reason for the improved feel is the noticeably softer tip of the SALT HD. Yes, it’s not as soft as Sage’s X tip (which shares its status as a KonnecticHD material with SALT HD), but it’s unmistakably softer than SALT. Perhaps more importantly, the energy transfer from the midsection to the entire upper third of the rod appears to be significantly improved compared to the original SALT.
On a still glass morning, when the solitary bonefish scurry over a calm dish, I would rather have the softer tip of the X. But when the wind blows, as is so often the case in salt, the tip a little more Rigid SALT HD may be useful.
Like the Sage X, the SALT HD has excellent torsional stability. In other words, it moves in a straight line when you throw it, resistant to twisting and movement. That translates into precision or … actually, you know what? It’s time to talk about precision quickly.
High quality fly rods are often touted for their precision. But it’s a bit absurd. Fly rods cannot be precise. Fly rods can be precise. When a fly rod moves in the direction you tell it, with predictable and repeatable performance, it’s precision, not accuracy. Only fishermen can be precise. It doesn’t matter if you are using the most accurate fly rod available to humans, if your target stinks (is not accurate) your fly is not going to land where you want it to.
And so the SALT HD is accurate. In a satisfying manner.
But perhaps more importantly, the SALT HD was accurate in a wide variety of fishing demands. At the head of a school of bonefish advancing in line and only a few feet, throwing heavy crab patterns at the license, slipping a large streamer down a narrow swamp channel, throwing downlines and so on, the SALT HD allowed me to deliver flies with precision and confidence.
And so that last point – precision under varying conditions – leads to this one. The SALT HD is versatile. Is this the best bonefish rod I have ever cast? Nope. The rod, if the thrust were to grow, that I would most like to have in my hand when the next shot comes? Probably not (in fact, it’s still the Sage METHOD). Or the rod I would choose over all the others to pick up shipwreck lines on a jetty? Again, no.
But it’s a cane that I would feel confident doing all of these things with, and it’s a rarity. In fact, this is possibly one of the best saltwater rods that I have used to do a lot of different things and do them well. And in a world where most of them can’t afford to own a bonefish rod and a license rod and a striper rod and a barracuda rod and a salmon / steelhead rod and so on, that’s not a little compliment.
The fact that the SALT HD is so versatile probably means that it is a great choice for everything from relatively novice launchers to advanced intermediate launchers. While her versatile personality may not be suitable for truly advanced spellcasters who prefer (and possess the considerable level of skill required) to specialize more, the vast majority of anglers who make their way to the apartments will likely be well served.
Let’s not pretend that looks aren’t a thing when it comes to fly rods. They are. For everyone except unicorns.
The SALT HD is, as is the case with most Sage rods, a beautiful, finely crafted rod. The color of ‘cuttlefish ink’ white combined with the blue casings of the rod is striking, the reel seat is a pleasant matte black and of particularly high quality and, as expected, the cork is excellent. And, as others have noted, the inclusion of rod weight on the reel seat slide strip is a particularly welcome fine touch (for distinguishing multiple rod weights from each other when stored in the rod holders – if that’s a problem you are lucky enough to have).
Which is not
I don’t care about weight. At least not that much. At least not with most rods. At least not in most fishing conditions.
But, yes, the SALT HD is a bit heavier than other leading saltwater competitors, both on the scale and in the hand.
So go ahead and hit the SALT HD a bit for its weight.
For my fishing, however, it doesn’t matter much. It is a rod with which I fish. Or track down with. Selective and intermittent casting. I don’t play blind all day with SALT HD. And, if I was, I would almost certainly be fishing a full sinking line, which makes the extra half ounce that the SALT HD is supposed to bog me down with completely insignificant sense.
For a regular Sage fishing rod angler who, when heading for flats, waves or elsewhere in the salt, has long opted for all-purpose rods or even Sage’s freshwater instead of their specialists in saltwater, the SALT HD is a welcome addition to the Sage range. It is a versatile, precise tool which has a drastically improved feel compared to its predecessors.
For rod critics there may be rods that work best on the lawn or rods that specialize better, but in the real world of salt water – where the wind blows and species and conditions vary wildly. – SALT HD does it all and does it all right. It’s a rod that you can take virtually anywhere the water is salty, and take it there with confidence.
LEARN MORE ABOUT SAGE SALT HD (via Sage)