50 Shades of Green: Choosing your Winston Fly Rod

Posted on

R. L. Winston Rod Co. LogoOver time, almost every angler feels the inclination to own a Winston.  The unmatched beauty of these rods stirs a longing for tradition.  Unquestionably fine fishing tools, Winston rods all seem to inhabit the mid-action category in terms of their flexing characteristics.  This article will help distinguish the 50 shades of green, helping you choose the right Winston rod for your fishing.  We begin by defining our categories of evaluation, followed by comparisons of all single-handed Winston rods.

Comparative Fly Rod Characteristics

Stiffness:  We grade the rods on a scale of 1-10 for relative action (higher number = stiffer fly rod).  The stiffest, “fastest action” rod is the Air 2 Max, designed primarily for power in saltwater environments.  The “slowest action” Winston rod is the Tom Morgan Favorite, followed by the members of the Pure Series.  These rods are designed for touch and are coveted by dry fly anglers.

Distance:  The range in which each rod excels.  When choosing a rod, the angler should consider his or her most typical casting situations to select a rod that casts best in those high percentage scenarios.

Touch:  On a scale of 1-10, how well does the rod respond to subtle input from the angler?  Line mending, high sticking, slack line casts and tea cup accuracy are abetted by a responsive rod that may easily be manipulated by its caster.

Versatility:  On a scale of 1-10, is this rod everything to everyone (10) or highly specialized (1)?  This is not a quality grade, but rather a relative scale of specialization.  Many premium rods receive low versatility marks because they were designed for a specialized purpose (like tarpon fishing or long leader dry fly angling).

Feel:  As distinguished from “Touch,” “Feel” is our mark for how much feedback the angler receives in the palm of the hand while casting.  When paired with an appropriate line, some rods merely get the job done while others feel exceptional.  In general, rods with high stiffness marks offer more power but less feel to the caster.


R. L. Winston Rod Co. LogoStiffnessDistanceTouchVersatilityFeel
Air 27.5mid-long898
Air 2 Max8.5long787
Tom Morgan Favorite3short-mid10410

Winston Freshwater Rods

Pure Series

PureThe Pure Series represents the best of Winston, both past and present.  Deceivingly pegged as “slow action” fly rods, the progressive flex of the Pure is a reminder that the most versatile trout rods can do more than just cast.  Winston loyalists swoon at the feeling and touch in these rods, but every angler will notice their on-the-water capability in roll casting, line mending and tippet protection.  They cast dry flies magnificently, but have enough reserve power for dry-dropper and light nymph rigs.  We generally prefer Pure models for fishing distances of 50 feet or less.  For longer distance, dedicated nymphing and streamer fishing, go with the Air or B III+ Series, but if you are looking for a classic Winston dry fly rod, you have found it.

Lines:  The SA Trout Taper is the best line for Pure Series rods that are 8 1/2′ or 9′ in length.  We prefer the Rio Perception on the 7 1/2′ and 8′ Pure models.  Either the Perception or the Rio Creek line is suitable for 7′ and shorter models.

Outstanding model:  Pure 9′ 4-weight.   [model-by-model Pure reviews]

Air 2 Series

Air2The Air Series 2 is the logical counterpart to the Pure.  Light tipped and more progressive, these rods cast tight loops and possess great command, especially at distance.  We characterize the light line models in this series as “long distance dry fly rods.”  The 3 and 4-weights throw gorgeous, silky loops in the 35-70 foot range, designed more for broad water than for creek fishing.  They are wonderful driftboat dry fly rods and technical presentation tools for tailwaters and spring creeks.

The 9′ 5 and 6-weights are the finest fast action trout rods Winston has ever designed.  From short to very long, they cast with loop control and line speed that exceed any predecessor while delivering electrifying feel to the caster.  They are sensational fly rods, arguably best in class across the industry.

Line pairings:  The Rio Technical Trout brings out the best characteristics of every rod in this series, but we must also observe that Air 2 rods throw a Rio Gold as well as any fly rod on the market.  Many anglers choose the Rio Gold for its on-the-water fishing capabilities rather than pure casting characteristics.  If you are a “Rio Gold angler,” you’ll love these rods.

Outstanding model:  Air 2  9′ 5-weight   [model-by-model Air 2 reviews]

Tom Morgan Favorite

Tom Morgan FavoriteThe TMF (8′ 4-weight, 2-piece) could remain forever in the Winston lineup.  Regarded as a legacy fly rod by many, it remains among the finest dry fly rods ever made and completely unique among 8′ 4-weights on the market today.  Here’s how the Tom Morgan Favorite fits into the lineup.  It serves the same purpose as the Pure 8′ 4-weight, but is approximately 15% slower in action.  We recommend the TMF as a pure dry fly instrument, if only for the luxury of owning a pure dry fly instrument.  You couldn’t choose a finer fly rod for fishing single dries at 15-45 feet under calm weather conditions.

Lines:  SA Trout Taper, Rio Perception, Rio Light Line    [see rod model for reviews]

Winston Saltwater Rods

Air 2 Max

Air 2 Max Metal DetailWinston has unapologetically stepped into the modern era with Air 2 Max saltwater fly rods.  There are simply no asterisks in this series.  The Air 2 Max cast and fish high in their line classes, meaning they are powerful rods that can handle aggressive-headed lines such as the Rio Outbound and SA Bonefish Plus, throwing with confidence and control in the wind and with plenty of bottom end for dictating the fight.  Componentry is top shelf and the quality of construction will convince even the saltiest angler that Winston has come to play.  Our favorite rod in the series might be the 11-weight, but there are no dogs in the series and every rod model makes a statement.

Outstanding model:  Air 2 Max 9′ 11-weight   [model-by-model reviews for Air 2 Max]


{Winston Fly Rods Page]