It is always a good day when a big box of rods arrives at the store, but there is something extra special about a whole new series of fly rods arriving. Particularly releases from Sage; the world’s largest fly rod manufacturer. The expectation levels are pretty high for them to do something amazing with each and every new piece of gear.
The expectations of anglers, along with the hype from the marketing team can be pretty hard to live up to when faced with the fish of a lifetime at 60 feet. The good thing these days, with the high levels of R&D that occurring, the chances of a new rod turning out to be a lemon are pretty remote. The big question that remains is, will the new rod be a bit of an improvement over the old or is it a significant enough step forward to stop what I am doing to rush out and buy a new rod.
So, to the arrival of the new Sage Salt. Out of the tube there are no particular surprises. The blue blank is typically understated Sage. It’s not likely to win a beauty contest nor is it going to offend anyone either. The rod weight is etched onto the reel seat for easy identification, which is nice touch, especially handy for those who may end up with a whole quiver of these rods. The guides towards the tip at first appeared smaller than the predecessor; however, it appears the wire used is a little lighter gauge rather than the guides themselves being smaller. This means less weight at the tip which helps with the responsiveness of the blank. The stripping guides are stainless framed Fujis, which again is a pretty safe choice. Guides with a titanium frames would have been nice to see as they are certainly more durable in the salty environment for which the rod is intended.
Weight wise, there is not too much difference to the previous model either. Jerry Siem, Sage’s head rod designer had said that he felt there not much to be gained in making these rods any lighter with the current technology available; so the technological advances have been used to achieve improved strength, tapers and feel.
The first thing I noticed when casting the Salt was that the rod loads further down the blank than most of the others in the Sage range. After the super-fast Method series, it is nice to come back to a rod that bends a little more. That is not to say that the Salt is slow or unresponsive; quite the opposite in fact. The Salt loads smoothly and easily and you can feel the power in the blank loading and unloading on each stroke. The tip has a nice elastic feel, presenting accurately and quite delicately. The mid-section loads through nicely, without feeling spongy on a long cast. All that may not sound like much; it loads smoothly and flexes progressively through the rod. However, this rod is certainly a lot more special than that. Casting the Salt is great. It loads easily and accurately at short range, the mid-ranges are a breeze and still has the ability to punch a long line. Tight loops, open loops, short headed flylines, long headed flylines, the Salt eats them all up. As you load up on a longer cast, the Salt encourages you to push harder and harder; it takes a lot to bottom out this rod!
The lighter models are definitely more in the all-rounder mode with better ability in the short game and presentation side of things than the heavy rods. Meanwhile the heavier models (10 and up) take a step up in stiffness for serious work with more grunt both in the casting and fish fighting departments. Other heavy models in the sage range such as the One and Method would best be characterized as being heavy flats rods, whereas these are true bluewater thoroughbreds with more lifting power and fish fighting ability.
All up, the Salt does exactly what you would expect it to do: it will go pretty much anywhere in a saltwater/heavy freshwater environment and catch plenty of fish. There are rods in the sage range that may cast a little further (Method) or present a little more delicately (One), but I can’t think of a rod in the Sage range that can cover as much territory with ease as the Salt can.