Sage SALT HD rods - New To The Family.
Posted in 29 June 2017
KonnecticHD Technology Flows To The Sea
20 years ago I cast a fly at a yellowtail kingfish cruising along the edge of a channel in the Manukau Harbour, New Zealand. At the opposite end of that fly I held a new RPLXi 990-3. Everything happened pretty fast after that.
Earlier this month I flew 14,000 miles from Bainbridge Island Seattle. Home of the Sage fly rod factory and Far Bank HQ where you can find Sage, Redington and RIO, 3 of the 6 biggest names in the fly fishing industry under one roof. That is an awesome arsenal to have at your disposal.
When I arrived home I found something extra in my suitcase. Well a couple of things actually. The Southern hemisphere now has a couple of SALT HD fly rods. The latest range of fly rods from Sage to utilise KonnecticHD technology.
When I thought about writing a few words on the the SALT HD and where it was born the word family kept resonating in my thoughts. There is good reason for that and I will do my best to explain why at some point along the way.
I was lucky enough to get a personalised factory tour from Steve Greist who has been with the Sage family since Adam was a boy. When I say I was lucky I like to think I cleverly orchestrated this tour but the reality is Steve was so friendly and accommodating I probably would have found myself getting inside the doors if I had just asked outright. In any event I felt extremely fortunate and am very grateful. To say Steve Greist is a legend in the fly fishing world, particularly at the R&D level is understating things. He is such a modest figure I can see him completely denying that very statement as I type it.
Behind The Doors at 8500 Northeast Day Road.
There is no doubt that in terms of the materials and engineering carefully built into these hand crafted performance fly rods, Sage are in the land where you can find Formula One race cars and America's Cup racing yachts. They are in fact geographically in an area entwined in graphite material development with Boeing and UW at their doorstep. Being in the industry at this level for close to 40 years gives you a portfolio that no other rod manufacturer can bring to the table.
On tour we stop beside a CNC cloth cutting table and stand in front of rolls of custom designed carbon materials. Steve went deep enough into the composites engineering arena to get my head spinning and mind wandering. To have exclusive access to custom prepreg carbon fibre is certainly an exciting place for one's mind to wander in for sure. I once called the development of the KonnecticHD technology used in Sage latest line-up of high performance X rods as rocket science. I think I will leave it there as well.
Steve did point out that although having access to cutting edge materials may be an advantage for Sage, a lot of good fly rods can be made from the many off the shelf fibres and resins that the many other rod manufacturers have access to. As he stated "think of it as making a great cake, there a many many ingredients in the pantry, but you need a great chef to bring out the best in those products". I will go out on a pretty sturdy limb here and say that having people like Steve Greist, Jerry Siem and the young and talented Peter Knox looking into that pantry means that Sage can get away with above "good" as a benchmark on the worst day in the kitchen.
Walking around the factory with Steve I see the overwhelming amount of hands-on attention required to finish a Sage fly rod. Certainly there is automation but the foundation is a family committed to producing the finest graphite fly rods in the world. That touch and feel during manufacture transpires through to the most important benefactor in all of this, the customer. In a world seemingly flooded with brands coming from all corners of the planet having a focus on the customer is paramount.
Rocket Science Meets Water
Typically fly rod manufacturers strive to make a rod blank that is structurally sound whilst keeping its weight down. In trying to hit that perfect balance things can sometimes tip in the favour of failure. One tempting compromise it is to simply opt for a thin walled approach to construction in an effort to shave weight off. That path can lead to a finished rod blank that when put under load causes it to lose its circular cross sectional shape and go "oval". At that point you start to lose performance. Sage performance rods, with their cutting edge carbon fibre and resins technologies means they can turn out lightweight and strong blanks without compromise. One of the standout features of the X and SALT HD blanks is they are incredibly lightweight. I mean really light. KonnecticHD has enabled Sage to make saltwater 11-13wt rods that feel like 8-10wts in the hand.
Another feature explained by Jerry Siems is the ability they have to have each “section” of a 4 piece rod built with its own custom profile. The result is for example a blank can be made with a stiffer tip section, softer through the middle sections and a stiff and strong butt section. How this process manifests in the SALT HD is that it has a mid-section that enables the rod to load very quickly and generate a lot of line speed with typically around two false casts. This is a good feature for a saltwater fly rod to have. Too many false casts can mean your opportunity to get a fly in front of that flats predator is lost and you can look forward to another long session waiting for the next fish to come along. Often with a guide reminding you of an opportunity lost. The SALT HD delivers here in spades.
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People are going to ask "how is it different to the Salt"? Some ballpark, different league. That sounds overly simplified but I will point out that the Sage R&D team didn't rest on their laurels and sit around for 2 years with the objective of making the SaltHD a bit better than the previous Salt. They knocked this one out of the park because that's what a great team does. Like the X rod family that launched in 2016 and made people go "wow" and "omg" expect this to do the same when you feel it how it loads and casts your fly line. The SaltHD has a great long game and like the X rod, it can definately putt for dough.
Appoligies if this doesnt sound like an indepth review, it wasnt meant to be one. For the jargon hungry, someone out there in review land will likely in the very near future write something about the SALT HD that will suit your palate. If you actually want to compare it to the Salt or X, I'd suggest casting them side by side, words will only take you so far. For me the difference to the Salt at least was obvious after only a few casts and I could see how that would potentially change my game on the water. We all know there is more to a fly rod than its ability to cast long or accurately and Sage rods typically capture all of those things. What sets Sage apart fromt the herd is the high quality components they add to these state of the art blanks, those stellar sharp looks and that hand crafted attention to every detail backed by a warranty that has no pair. That last part is to often overlooked in reviews but it is a part of fly fishing that every angler dreads and when things do go wrong Sage have a world class reputation for standing by their products and looking after their customers.
Saying Goodbye and Staying Connected.
When you grasp any Sage fly rod in your hand you can feel the people that made that moment happen. That individual ownership during each process of making a Sage rod, all that care and attention to detail that goes into each rod flows through to the consumer. This resonates even more now having personally met everyone that works at the various stations and work benches during the manufacturing process. Backed by the fact the company has great leadership and generations of people engrained in the product makes it fit my definition of a family business. I guess this is why I gravitate towards that word “family” when talking about everything from that first cut of cloth to the moment my chicken feathers get swallowed by that fish I’m now looking at, 14,000miles away back home. I can feel the connection as many Sage customers do and we all are connected in the same way because of it.
So when I say Sage have added another great fly rod to their family it has a little more depth to it than simply another rod on the rack on a display stand. I know in 20 years time people will still be talking favourably about the SALT HD range of rods.