Winston Saltwater Air Series
Winston lovers will hold the Saltwater Air Series in high regard. These are classic Winston Saltwater rods with slightly heavy tips and springy mid-sections, relying on a pleasant rubber band action to generate lines speed rather than simply hammering casting loops off the tip, as with the ultra-fast action rods of our time. First and foremost, anglers choose Winston fly rods for their superb casting feel. These saltwater sticks are right at home with the rest of the family.
Like most Winstons, Saltwater Air rods are sensitive to line pairing. Winston’s proprietary Energy lines were designed for different rods and are not suited to Saltwater Air models. Our preference is the conventional bonefish and tarpon lines from Rio and Scientific Anglers, which bring out the best casting qualities in these rods. Exceptionally heavy lines do not pair well with the Air Series, but with lines of conventional head weight, these rods swing naturally and deliver a fly as fast as any fly rod on the market.
Model-by-Model Reviews by John Duncan and Richard Post, Telluride Angler
John Duncan: The Air Salt 7-weight has a nice, even loading profile. It’s an easy rod to cast, but lacks the feeling of supreme lightness found in some of the other 7-weights, including the Meridian, X and Asquith. To me, the rod feels a little sluggish until I’m false casting the whole line head. It excels in the 50-75’ range, however, which is useful for flats fishing. Loop shape and line speed were excellent in this range. This a classic Winston rod: very pretty, a little heavy, easy casting and toward the lower end of the power spectrum for its model class. It throws more crisply with an SA Bonefish Taper than with the Rio Bonefish line, which is slightly more bulky in the head.
Rich Post: Here’s a really good 7-weight from the Winston team. The AIR Salt 7-weight is an excellent flats rod for a caster with a more refined technique. I liked the Rio Bonefish WF7F on this rod. The rod formed solid loops immediately and the feeling transmitted to the caster increased with the amount of line out. I really liked this rod in the 20 to 75-foot range. It is intuitive, accurate and pretty darn casual at these distances. This rod isn’t a rod for the staccato stroked caster and it prefers a more casual and calculated casting stroke that places a good deal of emphasis on the line hand. Despite my preference for a slightly relaxed stroke, you can really step on this rod without folding it or causing the loop to tail. The AIR Salt 9’ 7-weight does a wonderful job of following through with the cast to complete the loop and turn the leader over. It does this equally well at 30 feet and 90 feet. The action is friendlier to an advanced caster than the AIR Salt 8-weight and the 7-weight AIR Salt would be my top choice for a Winston flats rod.
John Duncan: I first cast this rod with a Winston Energy 8-weight saltwater line and found it lethargic and inaccurate. Switching to an SA Mastery Bonefish Taper changed the rod completely. It loaded quickly but not excessively, delivering the fly to 60 feet with just a few false casts. Whereas the casting loop was open and awkward with the long-headed Energy line, it tightened up perfectly with the Bonefish Taper, delivering the fly with an ideal combination of line speed and precision. Our Winston rep described the rod as lightweight, but it didn’t feel that way until we got the line pairing right. Then it felt light and cast light.
John Duncan: This is my favorite rod in the series. It’s not as light as the Boron III+ 9-weight, but the casting is more intuitive. With an SA Bonefish Taper, it loads easily and delivers terrific line speed with a long stroke springy action that utilizes the flex profile of the entire rod. The butt section isn’t as stiff as on some other saltwater rods, so you can’t stand on it like you would a Loomis Asquith or Sage Salt HD, but the casting comes so easily. This is an all-day 9-weight for the angler who enjoys the casting as much as the result of the cast.
Use an SA or Rio Bonefish line, or other middle of the road saltwater fly line. Extra-heavy heads result in clunky, inaccurate casts, but with a conventional line you’ll love the casting and fishing characteristics of the Saltwater Air 9-weight.
Rich Post: This is a saltwater 9-weight for the Winston trout fisherman looking to step right up to the bow of the skiff. Personally, I couldn’t make this 9-weight sing. The taper is gradual and throws the loop from the middle to upper third of the fly rod rather than off the tip. I really like steep tapers and fast rods in the saltwater. I’m a fast rod guy when it comes to a 9-weight, but the rods that I like aren’t the easiest to cast. This rod is easy to cast to 60 feet and very accurate. The fly fisherman that already owns a Winston trout rod will be right at home with this rod in the saltwater environment and it will put them in the game right away. If you’re looking for a more traditional action in a saltwater 9-weight, check out the Boron III Plus. I threw a Rio Permit WF9F on the rod, but I think the SA Grand Slam is the line of choice for this rod and the angler that’s looking to tie into a permit with it.
John Duncan: Winston has done a nice job differentiating the Saltwater Air and Boron III+ Series. Like the 7, 8 and 9-weights, the Air Salt 10-weight uses the whole rod for casting, rather than just the tip. Trout anglers will find this rod easy to cast on the first try, but hard-core saltwater specialists may wish for more backbone. I have a high opinion of this rod because it is well designed for its purpose: a serious saltwater 10-weight that is fundamentally easy to cast. I found this rod highly tolerant of different line styles, which makes it more versatile than some saltwater rods.
Rich Post: This 10-weight is cut from the same cloth as the AIR Salt 9 weight. It is an easy casting 10 weight to 60 feet and a rod that a trout fisherman can pick up and be dangerous. I cast the Rio Permit WF10F on this rod and it had a little trepidation carrying this line through the air. I also think that the SA Grand Slam is a better choice for this rod, providing for a little more load, a little sooner. Are you taking your first permit trip to Honduras or Belize? If so, this rod is a strong consideration. Pick up an SA Grand Slam, spend a little time on the casting lawn and get excited about looking for sickle tails sticking out of the water.