Behind The Scenes of the Sage SALT R8

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In 2022, Sage launched the all-new Revolution 8 Technology. For Sage, having Revolution 8 Technology in hand meant now was the time to shape a dramatic advancement in saltwater rods that spoke to these truths right from the heart and birthplace of the discipline. To really understand what was happening in the heart and soul of saltwater fly fishing, Sage sent their senior rod designers to the birthplace of the discipline in South Florida. During their lengthy saltwater immersion, they listened carefully to the shops, guides, scientists, stories, and legends to truly understand what was happening on the water and what was really required to shape and hone a more perfect tool for saltwater sight fishing.

Sage SALT R8 in the water

We have had the privilege to get to know Peter Knox, one of Sage’s Senior Rod Designers over the past year. Peter has an incredible history with the brand. He started working for Sage in high school which then evolved into learning under the great rod designer, Jerry Siem. Peter is forging his own path now by designing some of the most innovative rods on the market. We were lucky to steal some of his time to sit and talk to him about the latest rod in the Sage lineup and his R&D down in the Keys.

Flylords: What angler did you have in mind when designing the SALT R8? 

Peter: I would say these rods are for anybody traveling to a saltwater flats destination. I say this for a couple of reasons:

The first is that most of us don’t have the luxury of picking our days on the flats according to the weather. We’ve selected our fishing days months in advance, and often when we get there the conditions aren’t ideal. But we take what we can get and fish through cloudy weather or dirty water where visibility isn’t great. In those conditions, a lot of your shots are short and without warning. Having a rod that is easy to get started “out of the hand” can make or break one of those days. And there are a lot of those days.

person stripping fly line on a SALT R8

Most folks also don’t have the luxury of practicing with a big rod often. For most folks who haven’t cast big rods much, the 10wt seems to be where the casting starts to suffer and it gets worse as you go up in line weights. I suspect this has to do with a couple of things: 1) The big lines don’t seem nearly as floaty in the air so line speed and timing become more critical and 2) I think that physical strength becomes a variable at some point and technique deteriorates at the limits of strength. We responded to this by making the heavier rods easier to bend, this is a part of what I have seen quite a few trout anglers struggle with—just bending the dang thing enough to get a tight loop. I would venture a guess that most destination anglers wish their 11wt would cast as easily as their 6wt.

Another reason why these rods are well-suited to destination anglers is their durability. Sage saltwater rods are designed much stronger and more durable than our freshwater rods. This can be critical when you are at your destination because a repair service does you no good when you’re on an island in the Bahamas for a week. Furthermore, we’ve beefed up the wall thickness and incorporated R8 technology, both of which contribute toward making these new SALT R8 rods incredibly strong.

So I would recommend these rods to anybody traveling to a saltwater flats fishery.

Flylords: Why was it necessary to travel to the Florida Keys to test the rod when where you build the rods is surrounded by salt water? 

Peter: The Florida Keys has some of the best guides in the world. Part of that is that it’s the only place in the USA where you can find tarpon, permit, and bonefish in one place (except adjacent Biscayne or maybe some other place I’m overlooking). Many already-great guides have been drawn to The Keys from across the country by both the species mix and the sheer amount of fishable territory in South Florida. Other factors like the Keys’ big fish genetics, record-chasing history, and tournament culture further elevate the level of skill.

If you go there to fish, you may or may not catch a lot but you will definitely learn something. The Keys’ guides and anglers have produced a variety of new techniques over the years and I think that holds true today. It’s a place that I look toward when I want to stay on top of the most current thought on techniques for catching saltwater fish, which is important for designing next-generation rods. As gear and techniques change over time, we try to incorporate those trends into design so the whole system of angler + gear works well.

Flylords: What was your inspiration and were you looking to change in the SALT R8 from previous Sage Saltwater rods? 

Peter: The previous generation SALT HD was a great all-around saltwater rod that handled everything well from shooting heads in the surf to unweighted bonefish flies on the flats. With SALT R8 we refocused our lens on a more flats-focused tool. That means fishing with lighter lines, smaller flies, and slightly shorter fishing distances (but with stealth and accuracy). We optimized the SALT R8 for those types of applications and now lean on other great rods in Sage’s portfolio like Igniter and Payload that are even better suited for less flats-oriented fisheries to do work involving heavier lines, bigger flies, and long casts.

Flylords: What was your favorite part about working with the community in the Keys? 

Peter: In general, just spending time with and learning from like-minded anglers. In particular, poling a buddy toward a string of tarpon on the ocean.

Flylords: Was there a lightbulb moment in the keys when you realized you had the right blank in your hands?  

SALT R8 with a tarpon underwater.

Peter: I’m sorry to say that it wasn’t as sexy as a lightbulb moment. Designing a blank requires a lot of consideration for different aspects of performance. Each rod model can’t be designed in a vacuum. Designing a whole family that works together with a cohesive feel and line-weight specific performance for a variety of species, lines, conditions, and techniques AND one which sits within a big portfolio of all kinds of rods is like putting together a giant puzzle. When I have contemplated all of the different aspects and the puzzle fits together, it feels right. But it’s not a surprise. I was working toward nudging all the pieces into the right place the whole time.

A huge thank you to Peter for taking the time to answer our questions. If you are looking to get your hands on the new Sage SALT R8 you can find them HERE or at your Local Sage Dealer.

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