As frequent visitors of The Venturing Angler know, I went bonkers over the Sage SALT rod when it came out several years ago. I actually did two reviews of the rod before then becoming the proud owner of Sage SALTs in weights 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13. Never in my life have I had so many rods in one series. The rationale was simple: I travel all over the world for mere shots at saltwater fish, and I want absolute confidence in my rods when I’m casting and when I’m putting the breaks on the fastest and hardest fighting fish out there. For me, there was no better rod for this (ever made) until the Sage SALT. That is, until now.
Admittedly, I had mixed feelings when I heard the news that Sage would be unveiling a new saltwater rod in July. With six SALTs in my saltwater quiver, the idea of my rods becoming a thing of the past didn’t sit well. Maybe this was due to my affection for the rods. And in my opinion, new rods should only come out when the technology has advanced or the manufacturer truly has something bigger and better. With that, I was almost committed to not liking the new Sage SALT HD, even before casting it. And with this reluctance to like it in mind, I must say I was even more blown away than expected with the Sage SALT HD.
The Sage SALT HD is the real deal. With trout, anglers can compromise more with performance than with saltwater gear. That said, I am completely unforgiving of rods that have any deficiencies. For me, a saltwater rod must be fast. It needs to be able to handle heavy lines and heavy flies. (Note: Some companies make certain that their rods are smooth on the lawn, but it’s a different story when you’re casting more than the line.) Despite these needs, I don’t want a broomstick that won’t load at short distances or lacks feel when I’m casting. This is difficult balance to nail down for a rod designer.
And to make things even more demanding, the rod needs to be able to handle fish ranging from bonefish to tuna to giant trevally — all without compromising feel. Often the nicest casting rods have no backbone or strength in the butt section when fighting fish.
The Sage SALT HD rod takes all of the successes of its predecessor with all of these aspects and makes improvements in each of these categories to make a stronger rod with more feel.
With the SALT HD, Sage uses its KonneticHD technology to have a thinner, lighter blank that does not compromise with lifting power. In the salt, fish move quickly, hard, and unpredictably — often putting gear in compromised situations. While I avoid vertical lifts on tuna and other bluewater species, surprises like a sudden change of direction can easily test your gear (and often break it). I once even had a top tier rod shatter on its first fish when this happened. While I still want to avoid putting my gear at rise, I know the SALT HD has the muscle to endure such situations.
In many ways, saltwater fly fishing is a confidence game. Having the right state of mind impacts casting — whether a quick close shot or a long presentation cast, and knowing that your rod is strong enough to handle these fish allows you to put the heat on these fish when necessary. This really comes down to confidence in your gear, and the Sage SALT HD gives me that confidence.
These rods are all made in the U.S. and have lifetime warranties. They are available in 6 through 16 weights, and each rod is marked with its weight on the reel seat for those moments when you need to grab a rod fast without thinking about which is which. Believe it or not, this can make all the difference when that surprise specie arrives and you need to make a quick change. The SALT HD costs $950 and comes in a hard rod tube.
– Tim Harden