When developing their new saltwater rod the SALT R8, 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.
We were lucky enough to go behind the scenes with Captain Camp Walker, one of the best when it comes to targeting Tarpon in the Keys. Camp has been Guide to six IGFA world records on fly including three for tarpon. He is three-time Guide to Grand Champion of the Ladies Tarpon Fly Tournament. He is Guide to Grand Champion 12lbs Division of the 40th Annual Don Hawley Invitational Tarpon Fly Tournament. We got to ask Camp a couple of questions to give you some more background to why he picks up the SALT R8 on the flats.
Flylords: Tell us about yourself… Who are you?
Camp: I spend most of his days on saltwater flats looking for tarpon, snook, bonefish, permit and redfish. Most of my guiding is throughout the Florida Keys and Everglades National Park. I love brining clients into a wilderness of mangrove islands, marl and seagrass flats.
Fishing has been a part of my life since I was was young. Born and raised in Vero Beach, Florida, I used to tote a wagon full of tackle through neighbors’ yards to get to the Indian River Lagoon’s tarpon and snook. I did know I wanted to move to the Keys. It is the epicenter of saltwater fishing and also where I could learn to hone my craft into being a great fishing guide. Two decades later, I am still guiding down here in the keys, loving every moment of it.
I am lucky to be married to my amazing wife, Michelle Nicole Lowe, an incredible marine life artist. We enjoy living in Islamorada and teaching our two sons a love for the ocean through fishing, snorkeling, and exploring all the Keys have to offer.
Flylords: Do you have any fun stories from filming with the Sage crew?
Camp: When filming, my angler John Wilson and I caught a tarpon that did not miss out on many meals. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a chilly February morning in Everglades National Park, as most mornings are that time of year, or at least chilly for my Floridian blood. We first noticed the fish upon it rolling. The fish laid up and was clearly awaiting a meal because when John delivered the fly in front of the fish, she did not hesitate to engulf the fly comprised solely of chicken feathers.
The fight ensued with a series of picturesque acrobatics. The light reflecting on the fish in an exquisite fashion. The hues of the tannic water absorbed into her scales shined golden.
RC is an incredibly talented and hard working videographer, a true master of his craft. He captured all the amazing aspects of this fish from start to finish. He truly gave this fish all the respect and glory that sea creature deserved.
I will forever hold onto the memory of catching that special fish with my great friend John. Even more so since RC captured it all on film.
Flylords: What is your favorite aspect of Tarpon fishing?
Camp: To make it clear, I love all aspects of tarpon fishing. My absolute favorite part of tarpon fishing is when they “lay up.” I love fishing for laid up tarpon for a variety of reasons. One thing is you have to go find or hunt them. You do not just sit on an edge of a bank or in front of a white sand hole and wait for the fish to swim to you. Also, tarpon lay up in the Florida Keys and Everglades National Park at all times of the year, not just during the migration, making them accessible on just about any day the water temperature is warm enough. Lastly, the most vicious bites/eats I have witnessed have occurred from fish that were laid up.
Flylords: Why are you picking up the SALT R8 when you’re targeting Tarpon?
Camp: I am grateful and honored to have been part of the R&D of the SALT R8 rod, so I may have a slight bias towards the rod. I feel the SALT R8 does a lot of things really well, all of which you need from a tarpon rod. My favorite aspect is the cast ability of the rod. Anglers of all skill levels can enjoy casting this rod because they can feel the rod when making casts of all lengths. The rod’s softer tip no longer makes the short shots difficult. While the mid-section allows the angler to carry the line necessary to make a longer cast into our trade wind while fishing migrating tarpon on the oceanside of the Florida Keys.
Since the rod helps anglers cast better, more tarpon are fed the fly, resulting in more hooked fish. The materials these rods are constructed with are 25% stronger per weight then rods of prior generations. Therefore, the SALT R8 is an incredible fish fighting tool!
Flylords: What is your favorite part about your local fishing community?
Camp: Although I am still young, as a native Floridian, I have been around long enough to see things change through out the state. The camaraderie shared by guides and anglers in South Florida’s fishing community enable us to take action for the water and gamefish that live here. We have a genuine love for the area and know together we can make a difference. I am thankful for the numerous wonderful conservation organizations that work tirelessly to conserve all the unique wetland, estuarine, and marine ecosystems of Florida. As a guide, I benefit greatly from these folks hard work.
Flylords: Why is it so important to pull hard when fighting a tarpon?
Camp: The first and foremost reason it is important to pull hard when fighting a tarpon is solely for stewardship and conservation. It is imperative to catch these fish as quickly as possible to ensure they withstand a chance to avoid predation after being released.
Secondly, it is important to pull hard when fighting a tarpon because the longer the fight wains on, the advantage leans in favor of the tarpon.
Thank you Camp for taking the time to sit down with us an answer a few questions. If you are going on a flats trip soon, you can check out the Sage SALT R8 HERE or at your Local Sage Dealer.
Behind the Scenes: The Ghost of the Flats | SALT R8 Applications