Strobel, Fly Fishing in Aboriginal Lands of Patagonia

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Photography by Isaías Miciu // written by Luis San Miguel

Lake Strobel is located in the plateau of Patagonia, in the middle of the Santa Cruz province in Argentina. Its name comes from the missionary Jesuit priest Matías Strobel, who worked in North Patagonia in the mid XVIII century.

With an area of more than 65 square kilometers it is hidden in a crater of the plateau that is hit by constant strong winds. It’s a closed basin with an only affluent, the Barrancoso River. Its cold waters are the ideal place for huge rainbow trout fly fishing.

After many years of seeing pictures, hearing tales and reading about this particular place, I took a plane in mid November heading to El Calafate airport to meet Isaías Miciu, one of the best fly-fishing photographers, to share three days of fishing. The trip started with sharing anecdotes as we went through the great Santa Cruz plateau. After 5 hours of dirt roads, we arrived to Laguna Verde Lodge.
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I have to admit that before the trip I had some ideas about lake fishing, about blind casting a shooting line and a streamer. I sincerely got surprised with a radically different fishing, and also with the landscape and history of the place, really intriguing.

Many times I think how important it is, in a fishing trip, to enjoy the landscape, nature and history. The Strobel plateau has a rocky landscape that may seem monotonous but its particular beauty captures its visitors, maybe for its immensity or sense of solitude.
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Here there still are tracks of Tehuelche aborigines that lived some 10.000 BC years ago. Not far from the lodge one can find stone parapets used for hunting guanacos and ñandues, with spears, “boleadoras”, bows and arrows. Obsidian stone remaining used for arrow tips and spears can be found too.

It is also worthy to take some time and observe the petroglyphs, aborigine art carved in rock on the walls where aborigines took shelter from the cold wind. There are drawings of pumas, guanacos, ñandues, human figures and more (see photos).
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Not far, there’s the stream Arroyo Moro, a small water course, really fun in the beginning of the season with #5 rods, floating lines and mice imitations. It ends up in a system of chained lagoons with lots of rainbow trout of 2 to 3 kilos. A great spot to warm up before Strobel Lake.

This lake is surrounded is white abrasive rocks, with practically no vegetation around. The water, around 4°C, is extremely transparent, and the bottom is light colored; we can see about two meters deep sometimes. An ideal spot for sight fishing with floating lines.
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This water body has an abundance of scuds, a small freshwater crustacean that trout feed on. It’s amazing to watch the way these patrol the line where the lake gets deep, shoals swim while feeding on scuds effortlessly. It’s not a preying trout as we can see in other Patagonia lakes.

In the shores where the wind hits making waves, trout simply remain in shallow spots eating what gets lifted by the waves, making the fish to be two meters from us if we stay still. It’s amazing to watch the size of some trout, an adrenalin rush for every fly fisherman.

Prince, Copper John, scud imitations and small Woolly Buggers were the most successful when stripped very slowly.
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In the shoals of silvery rainbow trout feeding in shallow waters it was impressive to see how aggressively they took the San Juan Worm while it sunk vertically. It was interesting how they reacted when we changed flies; they totally refused them after some few casts.

It’s a lake that has its moments, constant strikes some times and then times with not one; but it keeps you sharp as you see trout patrolling constantly. I hope I go back in March to catch those big silver trout with blue backs.

Gear: Sage Method #8, Sage 6080 reel

Recommendations: take good warm clothing, several layers to be isolated and control temperature. There are bays with shelter from wind and others really windy.

Guide: Dario Arrieta, always sharp so I could fish better

Lodge: Laguna Verde: (A special thanks to its owners Alberto y Luciano Alba, who with great dedication manage the place themselves).

Photographer: Isaías Miciu / Thanks for these great memories Isa!!

Australia Permit by Peter Morse

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by Peter Morse

Its not so many years since permit fishing in Australia became the game many fly fishermen want to play, and the history is brief. We always knew there was a version of these fish swimming in our waters, bait fishermen caught plenty along the coast and they were known by various names, “oyster crackers”, or “snub nosed dart”—but the first to be caught on fly was an accidental capture. At the mouth of a north Australian tidal river, charter boat skipper Greg Bethune was un-picking a tangle in his running line while his tan Clouser lay on the bottom on an incoming tide. The line snapped up tight and thinking he had a golden trevally on, Greg fought the fish hard. He’d seen plenty of schools of swimming permit over the years and true to their nature they’d frustrated him, but when this fish came into view, a threshold had been crossed and a new world opened up for fly fishermen.

Several years later, while filming a television series, Cape York guide Alan Philliskirk, fishing with fellow guide Steve Jeston and myself, landed a permit while sight casting to tailing fish on the flats, again we thought they were golden trevally. Later, with more successes behind us I wrote a story on these new fish for a US magazine. It drew some flak from some quarters; a few declared these fish to not be permit, that we were being deceptive, and debate briefly flared on both sides of the Pacific Ocean; were they or weren’t they worthy of the “Permit” name? Some accepted them immediately; others were not so enthused. Its all pretty much history now and we’ve moved on, even beyond them being just “permit”.

Permit belong to the genus trachynotus. There’s a bunch of fish swimming under this name and they could be roughly divided into two groups – like a family with a branch that has a nice and reasonable side, and a family branch that has a particularly difficult and anti-social gene. One lot are predatory and feed mostly on a wide variety of forage species, and mostly in mid water. They’re also generally a lot smaller than the second group and eat a fly willingly. Then there’s the group we now know collectively as “permit”. These all exhibit much the same traits as each other, and those traits are quite different from the first group. They’re mostly a substrate feeder and browse on a variety of crustaceans and mollusks. They’re found in a range of water depths, but they all exhibit one particular trait that makes them so precious to fly fishers, they often feed in very shallow water, and can be very particular about what they’ll eat.

The first ‘Australian’ permit was originally thought to be one species, trachynotus blochii; the fish also known as the Indo Pacific permit, as they’re found throughout both those oceans and are in the fish identification books—but we noticed that the fish we were catching were not the same as the fish in the books and began to suspect we might actually be dealing with 2 species. It was confusing for a time, and we asked, “were the species we’re seeing in the ID books juveniles, or even just a different gender from those we were catching”? It wasn’t until Greg Bethune sent off a sample of the fish he was now catching regularly to a museum and they identified it as trachynotus anak, that our suspicions were confirmed – we were dealing with 2 species, anaks and blochiis.

The two share many similar characteristics and both of them share many of the traits with T falcatus, the Carribean permit. In Australia we’re happy to call them permit and visiting anglers are also happy to call them permit, but these days, to acknowledge the two species, we generally refer to them as blochiis and anaks, because in spite of so many similarities they are after all two different species.

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Their habitats overlap in some places, but the anaks seem to be entirely an inshore fish, usually found on the coastal sand flats at tidal river mouths and cruising the beaches between rivers. In some areas the blochiis can be found in the same sort of locations as the anaks, but they do tend to be found more on the oceanic flats in much cleaner water. This is a relatively new fishery and we’re constantly learning as new areas are discovered, leading to new insights and local flies and techniques, usually based around fishing with crustacean imitations, are tried and adapted. Its exciting times.

In a few locations, Exmouth in Western Australia in particular, (on the Indian Ocean) it’s possible to catch both species in a day, but even top guides like Brett Wolf are not yet able to specifically target them by species. Although the blochiis dominate that area, the anaks also appear randomly on the same flats. Then in some locations on the east coast areas (Pacific Ocean side of the continent), around the mouths of tidal rivers, that you would anticipate being populated entirely by anaks, blochiis appear, well at least when we’ve been there. Exciting times for fly fishers.

Blochiis

Blochiis


Anak

Anak

Although they don’t seem to grow anywhere near as large as their Caribbean cousin, these two permit species exhibit all of that notorious “permitish” recalcitrance. Stealth is always your friend; they invariably demand precise yet delicate casts, often with well weighted flies and enough of a repertoire of retrieves to keep you guessing. The flats here are usually swept with more tidal flow than is found in the range of the falcatus species so flies need more weight and 10 weight rods are the most popular.

Guides and anglers on the east and west coast of Australia have their own preferences and techniques—the debate about how to go about catching these (and which is “the better” of the two, because there are subtle differences) is pretty much endless. One thing is for sure though, like the falcatus, every capture is treasured and feels like a minor miracle and a major victory.

Although the very unique grand slam of catching all three species in a day is not feasible, certainly catching the two species in a day is possible, but only in a couple of locations. Exmouth, in Western Australia, on the Indian Ocean, is the place with the very highest probability. Catching all three species in a year is of course possible and this is a small and very unique grand slam club at this stage.

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Tackle – 10 weight rods are favored with a 6010 reel – the SALT rod is perfect – and in Australia we really like RIO’s Tropical Intermediate tipped floating line but the new Permit line is a big hit as well.

Field Report: The Sage ONE 8136-4, ONE 9140-4 and ONE 10150-4

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Field Report: The Sage ONE 8136-4, ONE 9140-4 and ONE 10150-4

by Topher Browne

I’ve logged two full seasons on the rivers of the Gaspésie in Quebec and the Restigouche and Miramichi systems in New Brunswick with the Sage ONE 8136-4 (13’6” for an 8-weight), ONE 9140-4 (14-foot for a 9-weight) and ONE 10150-4 (15-foot for a 10-weight) rods. While there are many other capable rods in the Sage ONE series, this trio of rods sets a new standard of performance when fishing big rivers from shore.

I prefer longer rods as casting tools. Their fish-fighting capabilities may be up for debate, but their water coverage is unparalleled. I figure I have to hook a fish before I worry about playing and landing it, so I lean toward longer sticks. June salmon in eastern Canada, Norway and Russia can be close to the bank. They can also be out in the middle of the river despite strong, early-season flows. I like a rod that allows me to play either card when I’m hard up against cedar trees or alder bushes.

The Sage ONE 8136-4, ONE 9140-4 and ONE 10150-4 feature similar bend profiles. Sage describes the ONE Spey Series as “fast-action” rods. This description is accurate, but not in the way you might think. For many anglers, “fast action” denotes a rod that bends primarily at the tip, with a stiff mid-section and a very stiff butt section. The caster makes short casts with the tip of the rod, mid-length casts from the middle of the rod, and longer casts by loading the rod into the butt. Most anglers use the term “progressive” to describe this action.

The Sage ONE Spey Series retains this progressive action but with a twist. The design of the rod allows the angler to flatten the tip of the rod in order to easily engage the mid- and butt section when making change-of-direction spey casts (e.g., c-spey, double spey, snake roll, single spey). This bend profile provides tremendous control when you “turn the corner” with a spey cast. You feel like you have all day to execute even deceptively difficult casts like the single spey with the Sage ONE. Your rear loop (i.e., the D-loop or V-loop) ends up directly opposite the intended direction of the forward cast every time. This ability to control the precise angle of the rear loop is the acid test for a properly executed spey cast.

Once you’ve formed the rear loop, the Sage ONE unloads in a progressive manner. You don’t have to change your forward stroke to accommodate the rod. You may find that you can back off on the power during the forward stroke. The Sage ONE loads easily into the mid- and butt section of the rod, slingshotting your line, leader and fly to its intended destination. Recovery is lightning quick, enabling exceptionally tight loops with a rod that feels remarkably similar to the “through-action” rods of yesteryear (without any of the disadvantages of these older rods). As far as I can tell, the benefits of Konnetic Technology® are true: The fly line lays out straight as an arrow on the water.

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Here are some specific notes on these three models from the Sage ONE series:

Sage ONE 8136-4

Lines used: RIO Scandi 510, RIO Scandi 520, RIO Scandi VersiTip #8 (510 grains).

The Sage ONE 8136-4 is unequivocally my favorite rod in the ONE series. If I had to select one rod to fish for Atlantic salmon and Pacific steelhead, the 8136-4 is the rod. The Sage ONE 8136-4 strikes a perfect balance in terms of length (not too short, not too long) and line weight (not too heavy, not too light). It commands medium-sized rivers with authority and has the cojones to land large salmon and steelhead in a timely fashion.

I’ve landed more than a dozen Atlantic salmon from 24 to 31 pounds with the Sage ONE 8136-4. I have also been spanked on three occasions with this rod. The Sage ONE 9140-4 or ONE 10150-4 would have been a better choice on the day. It’s hard to pry the ONE 8136-4 out of my hands.

The Sage ONE 8136-4 excels with Scandi-style heads from 510 to 520 grains. If you look closely at the RIO Scandi line-up, you’ll notice that there are two different head lengths for two similar head weights: The RIO Scandi is available at 510 grains (34 feet) and also at 520 grains (38 feet).

I select the shorter head length (510 grains at 34 feet) for the Sage ONE 8136-4 when using a 10-foot RIO Light Scandi Versileader (+ 8 feet of tippet). I typically use a Versileader to prevent a wet fly from skating or waking on the surface. The shorter head balances better, to my tastes anyway, with the Versileader than the longer head (520 grains at 38 feet).

I use the RIO Scandi 520 grains (38 feet) on the Sage ONE 8136-4 when using a 15-foot (or longer) monofilament leader. The slightly longer head adds a few more grains to make up for the absence of a Versileader. I also use the longer length of line to help “grab my anchor” for touch-and-go casts (i.e., the snake roll or the single spey). In spey-casting terms, I use more of the fly line to form the anchor when using the longer head with a monofilament leader. When casting the shorter head (510 grains at 34 feet), I use less of the fly line to form the anchor due to the additional weight and the extra “stick” of a sinking Versileader.

For winter steelheading, the Sage ONE 8136-4 is “spot on” with a RIO Skagit Max head at 575 grains and a selection of RIO Medium Skagit MOW tips.

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Sage ONE 9140-4

Lines used: RIO Scandi 580, RIO Scandi VersiTip #9 (580 grains), Nextcast Winter Authority 45 #7/8 with RIO 15-foot #7-weight Sink Tips (95 grains).

The Sage ONE 9140-4 heralds the return of the .30-06 (“thirty-aught-six”) to the realm of double-handed rods. Not so long ago, the vast majority of salmon and steelhead anglers used 14-foot rods for a 9-weight line. Rods from 12’6” to 13’6” rated for 7- and 8-weight lines are far more popular today.

Enter the Sage ONE 9140-4. The rod weighs a scant 8 and 1/8 ounces, matching the weight (and the diameter of the butt section) of a 13’6” rod for a 7-weight from not so long ago. The swing weight—the perceived weight of the rod in hand, particularly when stopping the rod during the casting cycle—is breathtakingly light.

I prefer the RIO Scandi 580 on the Sage ONE 9140-4 with or without a Versileader. The RIO Scandi 580 is precisely calibrated to my stroke, and the length of the head (39 feet) strikes a balance between optimal flight time and the amount of space I usually have behind me to form the rear loop (usually little to no space). All things being equal, longer heads fly farther than shorter heads. At least on the rivers I fish, the benefits of the longer head seldom outweigh the penalty exacted by streamside vegetation.

For what it’s worth, you may not be stripping as much line as you think when fishing a Scandi-style shooting head. With a 15-foot leader and three feet of overhang (running line beyond the tip of the rod), a proficient caster may cast a fly to a distance of 71 feet with the Sage ONE 9140-4 and the RIO Scandi 580 without shooting any line (14-foot rod + 3 feet of overhang + 39-foot shooting head + 15-foot leader = 71 feet). Assuming an average cast of 90 feet and an average length of three feet for a single loop of stripped fly line, it should take six strips of shooting line to cast a fly to 90 feet. That distance will catch you a lot of salmon or steelhead on the rivers I fish.

The Sage ONE 9140-4 is the finest 14-foot rod I have cast. When coiled and ready to spring, this glistening black mamba unleashes a precision strike on the far side of the holding water. I’ve done a lot of fishing with the Sage ONE 9140-4 this season. In fact, I’ve done so much fishing with the rod that it almost certainly makes me a bad person. I plan to remedy this deficiency in my character by doing more fishing with the same rod.

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Sage ONE 10150-4

Lines used: RIO Scandi 640, RIO Scandi VersiTip #10 (650 grains), Nextcast Winter Authority 45 #8/9 with RIO 15-foot #8-weight Sink Tips (109 grains).

I typically opt for a 15-foot rod on exceptionally wide rivers (the lower Restigouche) when I’m convinced the resident bank dwellers have been thoroughly covered by other competent anglers. Testosterone (which is in shorter supply every year) used to dictate the selection of a 15-foot rod. When other anglers are belting out line to infinity and beyond, I’m now more likely to rein it in, fish a shorter rod and see if I can hook a fish or two in and around their boots. It’s called wisdom and proximity to an AARP membership.

The Sage ONE 10150-4 has all of the features of its previously discussed siblings—similar bend profile, exceptionally low swing weight for a given length and lightning-fast recovery—with the added value that the benefits of Konnetic Technology® are more fully realized the more graphite you use. The rod is freakishly light for a 15-footer.

When I uncase the Sage ONE 10150-4, it’s usually to solve a particular angling conundrum: the pocket through which the fly swings too quickly when fished with a shorter rod; wide rivers where a few fish truly are out in the middle of the stream (summer-run steelhead on the Clearwater); or medium-sized rivers when I plan to fish the far bank. If you can reach the fish with a 14-foot rod but not without tearing your underwear, a 15-foot rod may actually be less tiring at the same distance.

I tend to use shooting heads up to about 45 feet or so even with a 15-foot rod. The sweet spot for a Scandi-style head with the Sage ONE 10150-4 seems to be a 40- to 41-foot shooting head rated for 640 grains. Longer heads fly farther, but they can make it difficult to select the correct angle on rivers with back-cast restrictions. The water may call for a longer head, but you’re far better off, in my opinion, casting a shorter head at the correct angle than a longer head at an exceptionally acute angle (which draws the fly too slowly over salmon).

If you like to air it out a bit and have room behind you to do so, try the RIO Short Head Spey #9/10 (650 grains with a 48-foot head) or the RIO UniSpey #9/10 (675 grains with a 60-foot head) with the Sage ONE 10150-4. The Nextcast Fall Favorite 55 #8/9 (650 grains) flies with the ease and grace normally reserved for a Scandi-style head. For what it’s worth, the Sage ONE 10150-4 appears to eat as many grains as you throw at it. Simply flatten the tip, take a deeper bend into the butt, and make sure you’re not standing on your shooting line.

Topher Browne recently released Atlantic Salmon Magic (Wild River Press) and 100 Best Flies for Atlantic Salmon. He is a Sage and Patagonia ambassador and serves on the RIO Advisory Team.

Off the Grid Montana

The Idea of the Unknown – Off the Grid Montana

By Russell and Jessie Miller

Every adventure begins with an idea and this trip was no different. My wife Jessie and I got a wild hair to get lost in the backcountry and experience the wilderness while leaving behind the crowds. There is no bigger wilderness in the lower 48 than the vast expanse of Montana. The destination was unknown, but the idea took us off the grid.

Upon arriving at an end of the road trailhead we had the place to ourselves for the most part. A couple of other horse folk and a hand full of other anglers who were in the know made up this make shift community. A cool hint of fall in the air made our fireside evenings enjoyable while summer came on strong during the heat of the day. The surrounding foliage mirrored the change in the seasons, the bull trout moved further up into the system preparing for their dance, and the cutthroat fattened up for the winter. The conditions were ideal.

The first day we found ourselves tossing big leggy hoppers to hungry fish under mostly sunny skies. It is truly satisfying to make the perfect cast to a spot where you know a fish is living and then get rewarded with a rise from a beautiful wild trout. We fished closer to camp to get a feel for the river and get psyched for a full journey up the valley the next day. With great anticipation we cooked our fireside dinner under the clear big skies of Montana.

Steady rain was the first sound that I heard the morning of the second day. It looks like we brought a bit of Seattle with us, but as good Seattleites we were prepared for any weather and a bit of rain is hardly a reason to call off a day of fishing. After a steamy cup of hot coffee we laced up and ventured deep into the valley. The trail lead us through a now healthy forest that was ancient at heart, but the fires claimed its wisdom and a young budding green landscape filled in gaps. Cutting through this expanse was our river.

The cutts were not easy as I expected, but they did reward our accurate casts and precise drifts with quiet gulps. We had to make the switch to some small beatis to keep the fishing consistent for us during the changing conditions. Jessie and I fished endless pools while trading fish, sharing laughs, and feeling deep gratitude to find ourselves in the center of such a special place. These remote places exist all around for those willing and able to seek them out.

Fly fishing at its core starts with an idea, don’t be afraid to get in the car and chase yours. Oh and by the way, if you find yourself needing a bit of direction, a local fly shop is not a bad place to start.
Thanks Kingfisher!

Reimagined Generation 5 Technology – the ACCEL Fly Rod Series

ACCEL Cover

ACCEL

Bainbridge Island, Wash. – Renowned fly rod manufacturer, Sage, brings medium-fast action single-hand, switch and two-hand fly rods to the market with the ACCEL series by reinventing proven Generation 5 technology.

ACCEL Angle

“Adding a graphite hoop core and axial fiber material in the new Generation 5 technology allowed for a lighter, ultra-responsive, and livelier blank with a narrower shaft,” says Sage chief rod designer Jerry Siem. “The ACCEL permits anglers to feel the rod load for optimum casting control.”

The ACCEL comes in an emerald green blank color with olive green thread wraps with garnet and black trim wraps. Fuji ceramic stripper guides and hard-chromed snake guides and tip top complete the blank. Freshwater rods from 3-6 weights have a rosewood insert with stealth black anodized aluminum up-locking reel seat and a snub-nose, half-wells cork handle. Saltwater models from 6-9 weights feature a stealth black anodized aluminum up-locking reel seat and also feature a snub-nose, half-wells cork handle. The switch and two-hand models have a cork grip on both the fore and rear grips.

The ACCEL will come in a black rod bag with emerald green logo and model tag inside a leaf green ballistic nylon rod tube with a divided liner. All models come in 4-piece configurations and will be available in August. Single-hand rods will retail fro $595, switch rods will retail for $695, and the two-handed models will retail for $750.



ACCEL Alt 590

ACCEL Alt 890

ACCEL 590

ACCEL 890

ACCEL Switch

ACCEL Spey

Offering Saltwater Anglers Precision and Power with the SALT

Sage SALT Cover Fast

SALT

The team at Sage understands the kind of intense pressure saltwater fishing puts on fly rod performance. This fall, to meet the incredibly diverse range of casting demands in saltwater angling, Sage introduces the SALT.
Sage SALT Rod
Using Konnetic Technology®, Sage created the SALT to load quickly as well as maintain high line speeds and accuracy to land the fly exactly where wary saltwater species demand. The SALT’s robust salt-action taper provides the power needed to cast today’s heavier fly lines and deliver all sizes of flies at any range with precision.

“The ability to adapt to quickly changing conditions is imperative when saltwater fishing, and Konnetic Technology allows deft sensitivity and the ability to track extremely straight. The new SALT shines in all fishing scenarios,” comments Sage chief rod designer, Jerry Siem.

Available in 12 models ranging from five through 16-weights, the SALT uses a fast-loading, salt action blank in dark sapphire with black thread wraps and silver trim wraps. The oversized Fuji ceramic stripper guides and hard chromed snake guides and tip top ensure this rod performs. The heavy-duty stealth black anodized aluminum up-locking reel seat creates a solid nest for the reel, and the hidden hook keeper in the reel seat keeps things sleek. The super full-wells cork handle offers a positive grip in tough fishing conditions. The SALT comes in a black rod back with electric blue logo and model tag in a matching electric blue powder-coated aluminum rod tube with Sage medallion. The Sage SALT will be available at retail in August 2014 for a retail price of $850.

Sage SALT Rod Sections

Sage SALT Reel Seat Detail

590 SALT Sage

890 SALT Sage

1290 SALT Sage

1386 SALT Sage

Sage SALT Tube