by Steven Neely


It’s now been six months since I first got my hands on the Sage Salt R8, and I can honestly say I have hardly had it out of my hands. You can read my initial thoughts on the saltwater fly rod review rod here when I took it out to Belize to target bonefish, permit and tarpon. After returning from Belize, I couldn’t wait to take it out on my coastal marks. It was time to see how it performed closer to home. Every time I have ventured to the coast, I have had one with me. Be it the #6 for chasing sea trout or mullet or the #8 for bass, wrasse and pollack, and so far, it’s handled everything I have thrown at it.

Saltwater Fly Rod Review – Power

I knew after my first trip that this rod had some serious backbone. That was never in doubt after putting some serious pressure on big belizian tarpon. However, you’d expect that in the heavier #10 and #12 models. I was keen though to see if this incredible power was available to hand on the lighter models. The #8 has been the ‘go-to’ model for me and my saltwater fishing, especially when targeting bass, wrasse and pollack. The #8 has plenty of power for helping to tame bass in strong currents (find out more here). Or to stop the crash-dive runs of pollack and halt any reef-dwelling wrasse from busting you off over the nearest ledge. 

Even when you drop right down to the #6 you always feel the rod has your back in battle. What I like about the Salt R8 is whilst it has power in spades. It still maintains feel, and unlike most saltwater-specific fly rods, it doesn’t feel like a brush pole. When casting and fighting fish, you have feel and, therefore, control of when to apply power.

Saltwater Fly Rod Review – Presentation

Power is one thing, but if you can’t efficiently and accurately present your fly, your ability to hook up dramatically decreases. From my previous review, you will know the feature that stands out for me with the Salt R8 is its ability to load quickly and present accurate casts at short distances. Something which most fast-action saltwater rods struggle to do. I love this rod’s ability to load up on short shots. Not only was this a massive advantage when stalking bonefish, but it is also incredibly useful here when targeting bass.  They often hunt along the margins, and short casts can be called for. 

When it comes to mid to long-range, the Salt R8 has no problems punching lines out, especially into strong headwinds. Something which you often encounter on the flats and when exploring the coast. I tend to lean towards shorter, more aggressive tapers in these scenarios. However, regardless of the line choice, the rod flexes nice and deep. This feeds back into your hand, allowing you to feel when the rod is loaded up and ready to go. Then when you send it, you get this super crisp recovery as the line punches out and turns over the fly with no hesitation.

Saltwater Fly Rod Review – Line Versatility

What has perhaps surprised me the most is this rod’s ability to handle a huge variety of sink rates and taper styles. When abroad, I used nearly exclusively tropical floating lines like the RIO Elite Bonefish and RIO Premier Tarpon Clear Tip. However, back here in the UK and Ireland, I’ve used a huge variety of lines through these rods, including: 

This is a huge advantage for me when I’m out on the coast for a day. Knowing I can carry a few different lines with me and quite comfortably switch to suit the species and conditions in front of me without worrying if the rod will handle it. For example, with my Salt R8 #8, I can comfortably be fishing over super shallow, rocky ground with a floating RIO Outbound for one session. Then change location, switch to a sink 7 RIO Fathom and then target pollack in the kelpy depths without changing setups! You can see now why I never hit the saltwater without one in my hand!

Saltwater Fly Rod Review – Final Thoughts

I’ve written previously about how the Salt R8 has enhanced my saltwater fly fishing experience when abroad. After fishing with it now for six months, I can say the same is true for my fishing closer to home. This rod’s ability to handle everything you throw at it, no matter the species or scenario, is, quite frankly, mind-blowing. Saltwater fly fishing is arguably one of the most technical areas of fly fishing. This is due to the challenging conditions and hard fighting species encountered. But this rod gives you the confidence to take make those difficult casts, to put the fly in the harder-to-reach areas and to take on these harsh saltwater environments.

For me, the jewel in the range is the 9’0″ #8. Pure and simply because it is the most versatile, you can happily take it along your local coastline in the pursuit of bass or pollack and then hop on a plane in the pursuit of bonefish and permit.  It will take it all in its stride! Gone are the days of sacrificing the feel and touch in your saltwater fly rod. The Sage Salt R8 changes the game!

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