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 Joe Dahut, one of the best when it comes to targeting Bonefish on the flats. We got to ask Joe 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?
Joe Dahut: While I struggle with the concept of who I am sometimes, I know that I am someone who tries, more than anyone else in the room, to soak in my surroundings – to observe, listen, note, and simply exist in a state of compassion and understanding. Above all else, I try to be conscious, intentional, and unapologetic in my approach every day. I am a teacher, writer, insatiable reader, and a manic flats fisherman. Perhaps that’s all anyone who doesn’t know me needs to know.
FL: Why are you picking up the SALT R8 when you’re targeting bonefish?
Joe: The SALT R8 is a reliable and trustworthy fly rod because it has been proven on sacred ground with the Keys stamp of authenticity. To be a guide in the Florida Keys, you have to be willing to think critically about chasing pressured, intelligent fish. The fact that Peter and the folks at Sage trusted the guides/anglers I look up to, admire, and even have the privilege to fish with from time to time means a lot. I like talking to Peter about his process – he takes the long way home creatively, because he knows it will produce a superior product. Go to a local shop and ask the kid behind the counter to throw it in the parking lot, you will know what I mean.
FL: You can only throw one fly all day, what are you pulling out of your box?
Joe: A professor of mine once told me that when a poet writes, they are not trying “to describe the thing, but the essence of the thing” in their descriptions, their observations, and musings. When I’m picking out a bonefish fly, it should not look exactly like something in nature. It should posit some asymmetry or inconsistency, and mimic the movement of something in the wild. I’d like to convince a fish on my terms, so the fly has to have some sentimental value I guess – a loved one tied it, the material was hunted by a friend, etc. It’s probably the most inefficient way to fish, but it’s my way.
FL: What is your favorite part about your local fishing community?
Joe: I think what I like about the fly fishing community in the Keys is that on some level, we are all insane. We are process-oriented, sentimental, and masochistic. The people that really live this life care, above anything else, about the preservation of the resource. As much as it might appear to be this vast, chasmic void of tough fish and hearty ecosystems, the Keys is quite delicate. I love being a piece to a bigger picture, one small star in a galaxy of constellations that, when pieced together, makes something spectacular and profoundly unique.
FL: If someone is visiting South Florida, where is the best place to start?
Joe: Jamaica Kincaid, about her home of Antigua, says that a tourist is an ugly, ugly thing. There are ways of avoiding this reality here in the Keys. Tread lightly, and support a local business, whether it be a guide, fly shop, restaurant, or state park (whatever is within your means). If you come to South Florida with the mentality that your actions have consequences, you will likely leave it a better place than you found it. The unfortunate truth is that very few people approach vacation time this way, so the best place to start actually happens before you get on the plane with the appropriate mindfulness that while what you are about to do is amazing, it also happens to be finite. Take care of what you care about.