Monday, January 16, 2023

Review: Sage R8 saltwater fly rod

Prior to the pandemic, I had tested out a brand new mid-priced saltwater-specific fly rod from Sage, the Maverick. I stated at the time on social media that this rod was a "game changer", knowing quite well that such a term is used often and loosely within the fly fishing industry.

What made the Maverick so special was that, like it's chief competitor the Orvis Recon 2, the Mav delivered performance at all levels of casting. A trait often found in premium rods, but at half the price. 

As I've stated for over 25 years, on this website and in my Louisiana Sportsman column, you don't need a premium saltwater rod for fishing the Louisiana marsh. Making a 100+ foot cast on target is not necessary when 90 percent of the targets can be approached within 20-60 feet. But you DO NEED a rod that is very accurate and casts efficiently at all ranges, has low swing weight, and has the power to move a big fish.

Many rods have come and gone that didn't meet those simple criteria. There were great casting rods that had high swing weight... those wore you down after a few hours of casting, resulting in open loops. There were light rods (like the BVK) that just didn't have sufficient backbone to land big reds without a prolonged fight. And while the premium Sage Salt HD was a great distance casting rod, it didn't cast very "efficiently" at close-in ranges.  The Sage reps were quite honest about their assessment of the HD, and that the Maverick was a better buy for most saltwater applications.  What they said was that Sage needed a better premium offering.

In December, at the annual Fishing Tackle Unlimited Expo in Houston, I had the opportunity to test cast the new Sage R8 - the replacement for the Salt HD. This rod just became available this week in retailers everywhere. Like nearly all premium fly rods these days, the price tag is over $1,000.

Sage advertises that the R8 uses their new R8 graphite, which adds 25 percent more strength per weight, more durability, and more power when needed. As I've said many times, the recent advances in nano-resins allow rod designers to use more advanced, lighter graphites that otherwise might be too brittle or not suitable for fishing rods. Sage also claims the R8 has better casting accuracy at all distances, and greater distance when needed than the Salt HD.

In my testing, I found all this to be true. The test where I hit an aluminum can at 40 feet, than in one false cast, hit a can 60 degrees to the right but at 50 feet, was as good a result as I've seen in any rod ever tested. For the distance cast, I boomed out over 100 feet easily and very much in straight line... consistently "tagging" a white SUV in the distance. Loops were nice and super tight. I found near zero reverberation on the shake test. There is simply nothing this rod can't do well!

Little things matter as well.  The reel seat was firm and tight. And at a time when rod manufacturers are putting shorter cork grips on their rods, WHAT A JOY it is to have a nice long grip. You truly appreciate this when casting for hours... your hand will thank you!

So why spend over one grand on a fly rod?  First, there may be a few times when wind and distance to a redfish may require that extra power in your cast. But second, if you travel to fish, there are species and locales where an accurate 100+ foot cast is a necessity. I can't tell all the number of times in my early fly years when that bonefish, permit or tarpon was right at the 80-100 foot range and my cast was only 70 feet. Becoming a better caster (which I did) certainly helped. But you can be a world-class flycaster and still fail unless you've got a really good weapon. That's why I have two premium saltwater rods in my arsenal.

I love my Sage Xi3. Would I replace it with a Sage R8? Don't think so, but it's not because the R8 is the lesser rod. In fact, after testing, the R8 might be the best saltwater rod I've ever cast.  To learn more about the R8, go to www.sageflyfish.com.

As always, click on the images for a larger view.

Tuesday, January 03, 2023

NOFFC releases Expo flyer

2023 New Orleans Fly Fishing Expo
Saturday, January 21st

8:00am to 3:30pm
St. Christopher the Martyr School Gymnasium
3900 Derbigny St, Metairie, LA
Free admission!

For a full size Expo Flyer, CLICK HERE

Hosted by the New Orleans Fly Fishers Club, this biennial event (every odd year) is a celebration of fly fishing, featuring all aspects of our sport. Whether you’re wanting to get into fly fishing, or a seasoned veteran, there’s a program or activity certainly to be of interest.

Activities will include fly casting seminars and demonstrations, fly tying instruction and demos, seminars and destination seminars, Sports Writers Roundtable, Iron Fly Tyer competition, auctions and raffles of top end products and flies, artists and vendors, and Kids Fly Fishing Casting and programs. Proceeds go to benefit the club’s educational and philantrophic initiatives.

In preparation for the biennial expo, NOFFC has unveiled a new website. The domain remains the same, but there’s new content. Webmaster Wayne Schnell is still putting the final pieces together, but in addition to the latest club news and a more detailed “Calendar of Events”, the site will also include articles of interest to all fly anglers. Check it out at www.neworleansflyfishers.com.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year!

This marks the last of activities until after New Years. So starting now, we'll be on break. If something does comes up, it'll be posted on our Facebook page.

So here's wishing our readers and friends a Happy Hanukkah, and a most blessed Christmas! Hope everyone finds something under the Christmas tree they can use for their piscatorial pursuits in the coming year.  The new year brings a  number of regional events to look forward to starting in January.  This unusually cold weather will slow the fishing down for awhile. But as soon as it warms up, expect some excellent marsh action for reds and specks.  And some good freshwater action for crappie and chain pickeral on fly.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

It's Rainbeaux Trout time!

Once again, as they have for the past 14 years, Baton Rouge Recreation (BREC) will stock "rainbeaux trout" in a few selected ponds in East Baton Rouge Parish. The exact dates and locations are usually secret for a couple days. But the timing is typically a few days before or after Christmas so that youngsters can enjoy the fishing while on school break. The daily limit is four (4) per person.

Usually at the time of the BREC stocking, there's the stocking of trout in the Lamar-Dixon pond in Ascension Parish, also managed by the local recreation agency.

In early January, LDWF stocks almost 20 ponds across the state as part of it's "Get Out and Fish!" community fishing program. Each location has a fishing tournament in conjunction with the stocking. Locations are announced on the LDWF website as well as their Facebook page. The daily limit is four (4) per person.

Rainbow trout are native to rivers and lakes in western North America, but have been stocked in coldwater environments across the globe. In winter, several states stock in community ponds to give anglers an opportunity to catch an active fish when warmwater species are mostly dormant. These fish die off once water temperatures exceed 70 degrees. In Louisiana, depending on pond location and depth, that could be anytime between mid-March and mid-April.  However, few if any trout remain in these ponds by March due to angler harvest and "death from above" (eagles and ospreys).

Thursday, December 15, 2022

NOFFC has new website, releases Expo flyer

The New Orleans Fly Fishers Club is the 2nd oldest club in the state, having formed in 1984 by Ted Cabali and Tom Jindra. Over the nearly four decades, the club has been a major contributor to the growth of saltwater fly fishing and fly tying in Louisiana, with several members well recognized in the regional and national fly tying community.

In preparation for the biennial expo, NOFFC has unveiled a new website. The domain remains the same, but there's new content. Webmaster Wayne Schnell is still putting the final pieces together, but in addition to the latest club news and a more detailed "Calendar of Events", the site will also include articles of interest to all fly anglers.  Check it out at www.neworleansflyfishers.com.

Speaking of the Expo... the 2023 New Orleans Fly Fishing Expo is just weeks away, set for Saturday, January 21st. It will take place at St. Christopher School Gymnasium in Metairie. Activities will include fly casting seminars and demonstrations, fly tying instruction and demonstrations, seminars and destination seminars, Sports Writers Roundtable, Iron Fly Tyer competition, auctions and raffles of top end products and flies, artists and vendors, and Kids Fly Fishing Casting and programs. Best of all, the event is FREE and open to the public.

For a full size version of the poster, CLICK HERE.

Thursday, December 08, 2022

Latest redfish report calls for stricter regulations

Louisiana's spawning population of red drum is on the decline.  And while the primary reasons are not entirely to blame on angler harvest, it's anglers who will have to make the sacrifice to bring the stocks back to the conservation standard.

At last Thursday’s monthly meeting of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission (LWFC), LDWF marine fisheries biologist Jason Adriance gave the most recent assessment on red drum stocks in the state.  The report summarized that, while spawning stocks of redfish are still above the conservation standard, the number has been declining since 2005 as fewer redfish escape to spawning size.  And unless management changes are initiated soon, we could see a situation where the fishery is unsustainable.

Red drum are unique in that the vast majority of harvest are juvenile fish.  These immature fish are typically under 4 to 5 years of age, under 27 inches in length, and under 10 pounds in weight.  When a redfish reaches 4 to 5 years of age, it usually migrates to nearshore or offshore waters to join the spawning population.  To protect these spawning stocks, recreational harvest of mature redfish in federal waters is not allowed and severely limited in state waters.  Current regulations for Louisiana are 5 fish per day, 16 to 27 inches only, with one exception over 27 inches.


By far, redfish are the most popular species among saltwater fly fishermen.  Louisiana has been described in numerous publications as the “Redfish Capitol of the World” and supports at least a few dozen flyfishing charter services that put clients on fish in shallow water for a sightcasting experience found only in a few places (mainly Texas and South Carolina). 

For veteran redfish anglers, the assessment came as no surprise.  There’s been loads of anecdotal evidence to support that fishing for reds “ain’t what it used to be”.   Coming just months after an assessment on spotted seatrout (specks) that indicated management changes were needed for that species as well.


Among the reasons given for redfish decline were much the same as for speckled trout decline. Those include:  loss of habitat (especially diverse habitat), decline of available forage (yep, that menhaden issue again), and increased fishing pressure.  Regarding the latter, it should be noted that the current regulations ( 5 fish per day, 16 to 27 inches only, with one exception over 27 inches)  were established 34 years ago in 1988.  The numbers of saltwater anglers in the state, the amount of fishing effort, and the expertise and technology to improve fishing success have all increased dramatically since then.

Management thresholds for red drum have been established by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council  (GMFMC).   For Louisiana, the conservation standard is a 20 percent spawning potential ratio, based on a 30 percent escapement rate.  While currently we have a 40 percent SPR, the escapement rate estimate is 20 percent.  And because there is a time lag between escapement and recruitment, this means we’ll likely see a further decline in fishing for a few years until any restrictive measures kick in.

Adriance and his team also provided the Commission with numerous scenarios for management changes to get red drum back above the conservation standards.  These came in the form of tables and graphs with different harvest numbers, slot sizes, and retaining or removing the one-exception over the maximum slot size.

To review the management scenarios on the LDWF website, CLICK HERE


There are two proposals that are gaining momentum, both of which would bring the escapement rate to about 40 percent - above the conservation standard.  Both would increase the minimum slot size limit from 16 to 18 inches, retain the maximum slot size at 27 inches, and decrease the daily creel limit from 5 fish to 3 fish.  The first proposal would eliminate the "one fish over 27 inches per day" exception now in place, and would not allow ANY possession of red drum over 27 inches at any time.  The second proposal would give every saltwater license holder two (2) annual tags to keep a redfish over 27 inches. 

The "2 Tag Annual" proposal mirrors what Texas does.  Texas allows anglers to annually keep just 2 redfish over the maximum slot size.  I spoke to Jason Adriance and later to a biologist at TPWD about what impact this would have.  Jason said they would need to do an estimation model to verify, but the TPWD biologist stated the impact for them is "very minimal" and suggested at most it might drop the escapement rate by 2 percent.

Meanwhile, CCA Louisiana and the Fly Fishers International (FFI) Gulf Coast Council (GCC) are  having separate discussions about proposals to be brought to the LWF Commission.  It's almost a certainty that each organization will propose a plan that brings escapement back to at least 30 percent, if not higher. 

Scenario A: Increase escapement going to
18″ min slot and eliminating one over max

Scenario B: Increase escapement going to
18″ min slot and keeping one over max

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Fly fishing world mourns the loss of Dave Whitlock

On Thanksgiving night, the fly fishing world lost one of it's greats. Dave Whitlock passed away at age 88 from a massive stroke. 

Dave was an innovator, fly tier, artist, photographer, writer and conservationist. His contributions included: Dave Whitlock's Guide to Aquatic Trout Foods, the L.L. Bean Flyfishing Handbook, the L.L. Bean Bass Fly Fishing Handbook, and illustrations for Imitating and Fishing Natural Fish Foods for Lefty's Little Library.

Dave also co-authored or contributed to The FlyTyers Almanac, Art Flicks' Master Flytying Guide, McClane's Fishing Encylcopedia, Selective Trout by Swisher and Richards, President Carter's Outdoor Journal, and many more.  His collection of artwork is some of the very best in the fly fishing collective. His depiction of sunfish and bass feeding on insects or flies is stunningly accurate - and colorful.

With regards to his many varied contributions, the awards included: FFF Buz Buzeck Fly Tying Award (1972), Max Ander's Wild Trout Award (1976), FFF Conservationist of the Year Award (1978), FFF James E. Henshall Award (1987), FFF Don Harger Memorial Award (1982), FFF Ambassador Award (1987), FFI Stanley Lloyd Conservation Award (2013). In 1996, Dave was inducted into the Arkansas Game & Fish Hall of Fame and in 1997, was given the NAFFTTA Lifetime Contribution Award.

Dave and his wife Emily toured the country over the last 20+ years, giving seminars, demonstrating Dave's patterns, and sharing their love for conservation. When it came to conservation, his most significant contribution was the Whitlock-Vibert Box System. The WVBS allowed trout and other salmonid eggs to incubate in natural streams, allowing fish to survive the perilous early stages of life and yet adapt to the waters as wild fish.

Dave Whitlock had a special place in the hearts of many warmwater fly anglers. That's because in the latter 20th century world of fly fishing, while there were many trout and saltwater "greats" - those whose innovation and experiences were impactful to the average angler - there were very few with bass credentials. And while Dave was certainly a trout guy half the time, the times he was a bass fisherman he was one of the very best.

Over the years, Dave met many Louisiana fly anglers at regional events, including appearances at the New Orleans Fly Fishers Club (November 2001), Contraband Fly Casters club (February 2003), North Louisiana Fly Fishers (July 2013), and Texas Fly Fishers (February 2018).  Of course, Dave was often seen at the annual events in Mountain Home, Arkansas - Sowbug Roundup (March) and FFI Southern Council Expo (October) - which many of our native fly anglers frequent.

At the NLFF Masters Series in 2013, he conducted one of the most unique presentations I've seen - an on-the-water seminar for bass fishing (photo above).  While I'd seen such presentations for trout on moving streams, that was a first as far as bass.

For those of us who met Dave Whitlock, heard his lectures, took his classes, enjoyed his artwork, or just listened to his many fascinating stories, the pleasure was all ours!  He will be greatly missed.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Happy Thanksgiving!

This day means many things to many different people. For most, it's a day of feasting with friends and family. Here in Louisiana, the dinner table will be adorned with turkey, roast, venison, duck or other hearty meat slowly cooked, along with Cajun favorites like sweet potatoes and corn machcoux. There's a good chance that the bird of choice is stuffed  with crawfish or shrimp.  I'm getting hungry just typing this, lol!

Here in the Cormier household, while we do enjoy our feasting and football, we still recognize Thanksgiving as a day to give thanks for all the blessings the Lord has bestowed upon us. We're thankful for all the woods, waters and wildlife we have here in the Sportsmans Paradise. And for the numerous friends we've made through our love of outdoors.

Wishing everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving!