Winston Pure Series
John Duncan: What strikes me about the rods that I love in this series is that the parts of each rod are so finely tuned to work together. Rod parts are often individually designed and rolled on separate mandrels to affect specific characteristics in each section (a light tip for delicate presentations and a stiff butt section for playing heavy fish, for example). This strategy creates the substantial challenge of making parts that play well together. In my opinion, Winston conquers this challenge in every Pure model that is at least 8’ in length. These rods are light, smooth, intuitive and touchy at every distance. Loop control is spectacular and the feeling of sweetness truly remarkable. Some of the shorter rods miss the mark, but the longer 4-weights and the 9’ 5-weight are outstanding.
Model-by-Model Reviews from John Duncan and Richard Post, Telluride Angler
John Duncan: One of the reasons I generally prefer fiberglass over graphite in short fly rods is that rod makers struggle to create graphite rods under 7 ½’ that flex evenly and maintain a connection with the fly line throughout the flex range. This model is almost unique among such rods in that it engages the fly line consistently and with great feel at every casting distance. All parts of the rod work in unison, so it really “casts” the line rather than simply “flipping” the fly. Maybe it’s the boron material, but more likely just an ultra-refined taper. Either way, Winston has created a true creek fishing rod from a non-fiberglass material that I loved at first cast. A bit of tip bounce is noticeable in mid-range (20’-30’), owing to the thin diameter and extraordinary lightness of the rod’s tube. Aside from that, the Pure 6’6” 3-weight is a polished little creek fishing rod.
Line choices: SA Trout Taper (in all iterations), SA VPT, Rio Trout LT or Rio Gold. Avoid the Rio Creek line, which is designed for fast action rods.
Rich Post: This is a fun little stick. Despite being short and graphite, it keeps a smooth casting profile. One of the better short graphite rods I’ve cast, this is a great rod for the small stream Winston fan or the guy who’s skeptical of fiberglass. It has to be one of the lighter rods on the market and that lightness makes the cast feel like it almost isn’t happening. This is a svelte little stick. Bluegill, brookies, and tight quarters are the order of the day for this fun little 3-weight.
John Duncan: This is a gem. It’s really hard to design a short graphite rod that loads so evenly, smoothly and deeply. This model is the graphite angler’s answer to fiberglass, complete with the benefits of lightness and casting accuracy. I first cast this rod with an SA Trout Taper WF3 and never considered a different line. I’m quite sure it would handle a DT or short headed WF line, such as the Rio Perception or SA VPT, but why not just fish a Trout Taper? As sweet as this rod feels in the grass, it’s even better on the water.
John Duncan: This rod represents a fun idea, but I vastly prefer the Pure 6’6”3-weight and a host of fiberglass fly rods for specialized creek fishing. Whereas the 6’6” 3-weight is well balanced, the 5’9” 4-weight feels too stiff in the butt and mid sections and too light in the tip. Consequently, it’s both stiff and bouncy, an unusual combination. Also, it feels like a “flipping stick” rather than a fly rod. It pops the fly out there, but doesn’t form elegant casting loops at any distance. In my hands, it falls completely apart beyond 25’. Choose the 6’6” 3-weight instead.
Rich Post: This rod definitely has some cool factor. It’s crazy short and it carries a pretty big line for its size. This is the shortest graphite rod that we carry at the shop and the shortest 4-weight that we carry as well. It’s a neat tool for the guy that needs the absolute tightest quarter 4-weight for a larger fish that locked away. I couldn’t get this rod to play nicely with me, but I’m a glass man when it comes to sub 7-foot rods. Fish this rod with a Rio Perception to help smooth out the taper and pull George out from behind that rock underneath the willows and behind that tree.
John Duncan: This model continues Winston’s legacy in spectacular 8’ 4-weight fly rods. I love every rod in this series that is 8’ or longer, but the Pure 8’ 4-weight is a standout for light swing weight and perfect balance with a conventional dry fly-style line. The Pure Series is not slow action, just slower than the Air Series. The caster will enjoy a marvelous progressive flex pattern with this rod as it intuitively engages the line with each lengthening false cast. Line speed is surprisingly high, so the angler may consistently turn over leaders up to at least 14’. When choosing between the Pure 8’ 4-wt and the Tom Morgan Favorite, note that the Pure model is about 15% faster action. The Pure 8’ 4-wt is more capable with wind-resistant flies and dry-dropper rigs, whereas the TMF should be regarded as a purist’s dry fly rod.
Lines: SA Trout Taper (every version), SA VPT, Rio Trout LT. Avoid the Rio Creek line on the Pure Series.
Rich Post: I preferred the action of this rod over the 8’ 6” rod. A touch slower and a little more of that surreal sweetness like the 9-footer. The 8-footer feels more powerful than the 9 and a little more polished than the 8’ 6” PURE. 8’ 4-weights are almost exclusive to Winston (most manufacturers we carry aren’t making this line weight and length) and I think this is a great western freestone model. I would feel comfortable fishing long leaders and single dries with this rod or a shorter, stouter leader with a dry dropper. Like the 8’6” inch rod, the 8-footer threw long and short headed lines equally well, but my favorite was the Rio Gold WF4F. I preferred the Tom Morgan Favorite, but the 8 foot #4 PURE is really close and it’s also a 4-piece rod.
John Duncan: This is a very important trout length and line weight, considered “most versatile” in its class by many anglers. Like the 8’ and 9’ 4-weights in the Pure Series, the 8’6” 4-weight is a fundamentally terrific rod. It feels amazing in the hand, light and lively, eager to flex and deliver. It loads nice and short, but really comes into its own at 35 or 40’ when the longer section of fly line pulls deeper into the blank, stabilizing the loop and adding line speed. When choosing between this and the 9’ model, let leader length and fishing distance be your guide.
Rich Post: The PURE 8’6” 4-weight felt like it was a touch quicker and slightly tighter than the 9 foot 4 weight. This rod had a similar smoothness, but wasn’t quite as buttery feeling as the 9. I think this rod would be a shade better all-around and has a little more power in reserve if the breeze picks up. I wanted it to be a little smoother in close, but at 15 to 20 feet the rod is lovely. This rod also through the shorter heavier line a little better and it didn’t seem to transform with the change in line. Nice and predictable with a taper change. A solid all-around trout rod, go here if you want a little more versatility.
Lines: SA Trout Taper (every version)
John Duncan: In the highest percentile of fine fly rods, the Pure 9’ 4-weight is a marvel of taper tuning. Medium action 9’ 4-weights are challenging for the rod designer because the tip weight required to make the rod flex deeply also makes the rod feel heavy. The Pure 9’ 4-weight completely defies this generalization. It is so sweet in the hand and flexes so evenly that I could literally cast with my eyes closed the very first time I picked up the rod. With an SA Trout Taper, level casting loops come off the tip from 10’ to 60’. Remarkable. Loop control is so easy that I can turn over a 14’ leader at 50 feet without a double haul. I think of the Pure Series as “pure” dry fly rods, but at 9’, this model will easily handle a dry-dropper combination or light nymph rig. Its roll casting and line mending capabilities are extraordinary.
Make sure to fish this rod with a true-to-line weight line, such as the Rio Trout LT or any version of the SA Trout Taper (my personal favorite).
Rich Post: This is one hell of a fly rod and one of the best 9 foot 4-weights out there! I kept going back to this rod just to cast it. It’s a rod that you should cast after you throw something that didn’t agree with you, lovely-casting palate cleanser. Some rods just have that feeling, hard to put a finger on it, but you sure know when you cast it. The Rio Gold and SA Trout taper WF4F were wonderful and produced excellent, level loops and sent a supple, smooth sensation to the casting hand. This is a dry fly tool. While I bet it would throw a nymph, I’m not sure why you’d want to with this rod. The Pure 9 foot 4-weight is a dry fly dream, but by no means an all-conditions rod. This rod is a set of powder skis. When the conditions are right, pick it up and squeeze every drop of good out of the day. I wouldn’t take this thing out of the tube on a windy day, though. Technical dry fly fishing in good conditions is where this beautifully adorned rod wants to play.
John Duncan: Many anglers will choose a faster action rod for their 9’ 5-weight, but those seeking a dry fly-style rod have found their mark. Like the 9’ 4-weight, this model is finely tuned. Super light in the hand, it swings with balance and precision regardless of line length. It could be pushed to fish deep nymphs or a streamer, but at heart, this is a dry fly rod for the legendary rivers that call for a 5-weight: Henry’s Fork, Silver Creek, Green, South Fork Snake, Delaware and others of the ilk. Like the 9’ 4-weight, the strength of this rod is throwing dry fly loops from short to long. The rod prefers an SA Trout Taper, but will handle a wider range of lines than other Pure models. The Rio Perception is a good choice for dry-dropper fishing and the Rio Trout LT fishes great with extra-long leaders. Avoid the SA Amplitude Infinity Taper and other lines that fish high in their weight class.
Rich Post: This is my second favorite PURE rod, to the 9 foot #4. These rods are very close in action, but the 5-weight is noticeably a more all-around rod. I could see this 5-weight being a go-to trout rod for a whole lot of anglers. The action is easy, while remaining broad. Long and short casts were accomplished with equal ease. The rod threw open and tight loops equally well and it had that same buttery sweet action and casting profile. It is not a fast action rod, but it is not what I would call a slow action rod either. This rod is in the same league as the GLoomis NRX LP 905 and the Scott G Series 905. It is superb to do everything a 5-weight should do for the angler. Both the SA Trout taper and the Rio Gold WF5F were excellent matches. Like the 4-weight, I had to be reminded that someone else needed a turn to cast this rod.