Sage SALT HD Rod Review and RIO Flats Pro Fly Line

August 25, 2017

I finally got my greedy mitts on the new Sage SALT HD and gave both the 8 weight and 10 weight rods a workout.  I really liked the original SALT rod that I have been using the past 2 years for longer casts from an elevated deck. It also bucked the wind threw very tight loops so I was very skeptical of how they could possibly improve that model. 
The Sage SALT HD has a bit more punch and I really noticed when picking up and laying down a longer line.  I'll be frank however.  Casters will need to work on the architecture of their fly cast if they ever expect to cast the difference out of their gear.  Work on your cast folks.  Its hard. It takes time. But its worth it.  

I have to admit I was really impressed and it really got me thinking about fly rod design, new models, and how we as retailers and consumers digest all of these new products. At Sage their motto and mission statement is "Perfecting Performance".  If the guys designing and building their fly rods get access to new materials, new processes, and are able to improve upon the rods they are building why wouldn't they launch a new model?  The amount of time, energy, and cost it takes to launch a new product is substantial. As a retailer its stressful on us as well. More training,  more inventory, more sales efforts.  The bottom line is that the new product had better be good.  Really good.  There are LOTS of new models of rods that come out you won't hear much about at Red's.  We have the right to be picky and we owe it to the consumer to focus on the products that we believe in.  We won't waste your time, or our time reviewing and educating folks on bad products.

The Sage SALT HD didn't disappoint.  I paired both the 8 and the 10 weights with a RIO Flats Pro Direct Core floating line and it was amazing.  Enough so that I plan to re-tool my saltwater rods for my upcoming trip to Cuba with these new models.  We sell this rod as a complete RTF Saltwater package.  I took the Spectrum MAX Reel to Christmas Island this past year and will vouch for its strong drag and extreme functionality. 

Things to Consider About the Sage SALT HD

  • This rod blank is built to be tough and handle the abuse a week of saltwater fishing will put on it.
  • Fast action
  • Able to pick up A LOT of line off the water making a "re-cast" situation at a fleeing fish possible
  • Pairs extremely well with the RIO Flats Pro Fly Line
  • Should be used by stronger casters, the 10 Weight was surprisingly easy to cast however

Recommendations for Rod Weights vs. Fish Species 

6–7 WT: Skinny water / floating line / calm conditions / presentation quality for smaller, lighter flies. These rods will handle almost all Bonefish applications as a dedicated rod.

8 WT: All-around light duty / floating & sinking lines / increased fish fighting backbone / presentation quality for variety of fly sizes.  Perfect "go to" rod for all around fishing. Capable of a delicate delivery for Bonefish, but would be right at home for Snook or Baby Tarpon.   

9 WT: Permit / sinking lines / increased casting power for fighting wind and delivering bigger flies, and some small to mid-sized Tarpon work.  

10 WT: Small tarpon & big permit / increased casting power for throwing oversized air resistant fly patterns.  In wind 10 weights cast weighted flies straighter and more accurately. Something to consider for serious Permit fisherman.  Jack Crevalle beware and it would be a great Dorado rod. Just be careful around the boat when landing them with a #10.  

11 WT: Tarpon / quick loading for maximum line pickup and quick shots

12 WT: Flats edges & light bluewater / any variety of sinking & floating lines.  Probably the most popular rod for Tarpon in the Florida Keys.  

13–16 WT: Offshore bluewater / fish fighting & lifting tool / 8’ 6” and extended fighting butt for casting off boats

RIO Flats PRO Direct Core Fly Line

I'm not positive, but I think this line was built specifically for THIS rod.  It has the right balance of head length versus taper that allows the angler to shoot line yet make an accurate delivery. Many lines are too tip heavy and they shoot well but land hard.  There is definitely a threshold that you cannot cross.

This line has a 38' Head and is offered in both floating or Intermediate Sinking configurations.

3 Colors 

I really like the "tri-color" configuration because I can easily track how much line I have out which is critical for knowing how much line to pick up, and how much line to strip off my reel when I get out of the boat or jump up on deck. 

  1. I dont see the need for 3 colors especially the orange but the gray line tip is a turnoff. Bonefish Quick 2 color works fine and line is nice and supple with not much memory but doesn't come in a 10. Tarpon Quick is too heavy tip on a 10 and I have had memory problems so bad that it wouldn't shoot in high 80's temp in Belize. Probably will try a three color floating anyway because taper and head weight seem right even if ugly and too bright then dark for spooking fish. Give me a blue or sand tip 10wt for Tarpon or Permit in this taper and head weight with low memory and I'll be happy.
  2. Just returned from Mexico and had a Salt HD in 7 and 9 weight with me on the trip, both with the Flats Pro lines (lined with the actual line weights, rather than over-lined a full weight like I normally would set up my SAGE ONE 8 and 9 weights). I really liked the tri-color line configuration as it took the guesswork out of picking up the line when re-positioning on moving pods of permit or bones. In terms of casting, the rods are a fantastic balance of being pleasant to cast, accurate and effective at 'real' casting distances. I took fish from the boat and wading with both rods and the 9 WT in particular was everything I could have hoped for in a rod. I highly recommend these rods and lines.