Sage Salt R8 Fly Rod Review
Trident Fly Fishing is a full-service fly shop. We spend a lot of time testing gear and writing reviews to give you all of the tools to make your next trip a success. We are not a blog or a review site. 100% of our funding comes from your gear purchases, so if this blog post helps you on your next fly fishing adventure, please support us by buying your gear from us.
When Sage dropped their new flagship all-water series, the R8 Core, last year, we collectively concluded that it was their most solid rollout to date. Sure, Sage has made great, even downright legendary rods in the past, but they aren’t averse to making complete clunkers either. Frequently, specific Sage models in a series seem to be missing something, if not the entire series. The most common complaints are that they’re just too stiff, heavy, and just plain out unenjoyable for the average person to cast.
The Sage Salt HD series can definitely be placed in the latter category. Sure, some very aggressive casters facing technical fishing situations loved the Salt HD’s raw power and wind-piercing line speed. But the series lacked soul, man. With the R8 Core, Sage seems to be back on track by making rods with a smooth, progressive taper that gives the caster exceptional feel and feedback but still delivers plenty of power. When Sage announced the new Salt R8 would replace the Salt HD, we were excited about the rod's prospects but a little apprehensive over a new salt-specific Sage Rod. Has Sage finally delivered? You will not want to miss this review!
Fit & Finish
The Salt R8 looks and feels like a classic Sage rod through and through. One thing we’ve always liked about Sage rods is their signature full-wells grip fitted with smooth, quality cork. The double uplocking reel seat will prevent your reel from slipping around, and the anodized aluminum is corrosion-resistant. We also like that Sage numbered the reel seat spacer for quick identification on the skiff.
Cosmetically speaking, one of the first noticeable features is the striking blue/grey blank, which is as attractive a Sage as we've seen. The wraps are well constructed, and one upgrade from the Salt HD is the upturned stripping guides which Sage claims help reduce friction between guides and the fly line. The components and build quality scream high-end, but maybe not quite as loud as a Winston or T&T.
If you are looking for pure power and distance, this is one area the Salt R8 lags behind its predecessor. However, if you are new to saltwater fly fishing, this shouldn’t be all that concerning. The Salt R8 can still bring the heat when pressed, but its taper is more suited for close-medium distance shots, which is where most flats fishing takes place.
- 40-feet: We never thought we’d say this about a saltwater Sage rod, but the R8 Salt is actually an enjoyable rod to cast at closer distances! It’s apparent Sage’s rod designers put a lot of effort into developing a taper that places precedence on delivering the fly accurately to fish at shorter ranges.
- 60-feet: As we stepped back to the all-important middle distances, the R8 Salt still maintained its accuracy and proved what an exceptional casting rod it is. Smooth and more buttery than your grandmother’s biscuits, we could thread the needle with surprising consistency, thanks to the rod’s responsiveness.
- 80-feet: The Salt R8’s Kryptonite is definitely its long-range performance, which is actually quite shocking considering it's a Sage. The accurate shots that fell with resounding ease at shorter targets became increasingly challenging to make the further we stepped back.
Flex & Feel
After giving the Salt R8 its first wobble test, we immediately noticed the rod’s tip was significantly softer than the Salt HD’s. When we had the opportunity to cast at Barramundi's in Orlando, it also felt substantially lighter In hand. With a swing weight of 82 gm^2, it isn’t quite as feathery as the Atlas Signature 8wt, but we only experienced slight fatigue after a full day of casting.
The R8 Salt’s smooth, progressive, and medium-fast (for Sage standards) action is tailor-made for a bonefish taper. We could throw laser-tight loops with Scientific Anglers Amplitude Bonefish. Still, RIO’s Elite Bonefish, an even lighter and longer-bellied line, would likely work better, especially if your fishing involves casting smaller bonefish flies to spooky tailing fish in gin-clear water. Fewer grains smacking the water equals better presentation.
For the northeastern striper anglers out there wondering if the R8 Salt has the juice in the tank for the typical shenanigans we face fishing, the rod handled a RIO Striper line reasonably well. Again, this speaks volumes about Sage’s design team. It’s not often we cast a rod wholly capable of delivering solid performance with completely different fly line tapers in completely different fishing environments.
We can confidently say that this is the most enjoyable casting salt-specific 8wt Sage has made in a long time. The half-glass-empty folks might say, “that’s not saying much,” which is fair considering the total bombs they’ve put out in the past. However, Sage is back on track with the R8 Salt. At this point, the biggest complaint we can level is that the rod is a little less “Sage” feeling than expected, which might ruffle the feathers of some diehards. However, the rod’s more forgiving nature means a more significant number of anglers will benefit from fishing the R8 Salt. Finally, We have to mention that $1,100 price tag! If we’re looking at over grand, we expect to see a rod worthy of its price tag... but that's up to you to decide.
- Exceptional accuracy at close-to-mid range
- Geared toward the average angler
- Fun to cast!
- Long distance performance