I own ten (10) fly rods produced by six (6) different manufacturers and so I was excited to test drive the new Sage Salt R8 and compare it to the rods in my arsenal on my annual winter trip to the Louisiana bayou.
Red and Black Drum are primarily bottom feeders. The water in the marsh is usually stained so it’s rare to spot a fish more than 50 feet out unless it is tailing. Quick shots with heavy flies are the norm. My go to flies are bushy and tied on 2/0 triple strength hooks with large dumbbell eyes.
The 8 weight R8 was amazingly light and truly had the heft of a 6 weight. As we started poling I began making practice casts to get a feel for the rod. While casting 50 feet was no problem, the action was not smooth. Within minutes we spotted a Black Drum about 35 feet from the boat. The rod loaded quickly, delivered the fly on target and I got an immediate eat. When hooked, Black Drum resemble a swimming cinderblock – belly crawling and grinding along with lots of power in low gear. In less than 10 minutes I landed the 26 pounder. The feather light rod had the backbone of a 10 weight. The weight to strength ratio of the R8 was remarkable and handled the solid fish without a problem.
Twenty (20) minutes later I hooked a 42 pound Black Drum and again this big fish was no match for the power of the R8.
In order to get a better feel for the R8’s overall capabilities, I went from the heavy fly to a size 1 spoon fly. The R8 was really in its element with the lighter fly. The rod continued to load quickly and with the lighter fly, the casting smoothed out completely and I was easily able to throw 70 feet. (I am a self-taught decent, but certainly not great fly caster.)
I hooked a 16 pound Redfish on the spoon fly and it sped across the marsh with the R8 comfortably absorbing the run. I boated the fish in a few minutes.
The R8 is the lightest 8 weight rod I have ever thrown and despite my skepticism that it would handle heavy fish, it did so admirably. The R8 would be a perfect rod for Bonefish, Texas Reds, False Albacore, and any other salt water species that consume small flies. It casts quickly without compromising on accuracy or distance.
- Mike Roth