Winston has built a fly rod so light that it is appropriately named the AIR. Fly fishermen across the globe know the R. L. Winston Rod Co. isn’t like most other fly fishing gear manufacturers. The Winston AIR fly rod series solidifies the little company from Twin Bridges, Montana as the leading builder of innovatively designed fly rods. Their tradition of innovation and quality begins with their rod designers’ use of the most technologically advanced materials and construction techniques. The end result is the The Winston AIR fly rod series, which is now the “white whale”(pardon the cliché Moby Dick reference) for their competitors.
I am not going to go into the minutia of Winston’s Supersilica Resin System™ and the other proprietary materials of the AIR. What I am going to talk about is how the AIR casts and fishes because those characteristics are what define a fly rod for the majority of fly fishermen. This is also why it has taken a little while to get a review out. Because at Stillwater Fly Shop we believe it is important to actually fish
a rod, not just demo it in the parking lot or on a casting pond.
Casting The AIR
The rod is lightweight, literally like air. This is a bit of a creative illusion because the rod is actually pretty average in weight. The guys at Winston were very smart by continuing with the heavier burled wood reel seat that adds the overall weight to the rod. By bringing more mass to the bottom end of their very light blank they have given it a very “light in hand” feel. This is one of my favorite things about the AIR.
The AIR’s distribution of weight towards the cork grip is perfect for this medium-fast action rod. It allows for initiating great line speed with less movement than other medium-fast rods due to the inherent traits of Boron. I found that for such a light, flexible rod that I could pick up substantially more line off of the surface of the water than most rods of the same ilk. This was with much less force applied through out the rod then it would have taken with other comparable rods.
Casting recovery for the AIR is as good, or better than any rod I have casted. This is saying a lot because medium-fast rods typically are much poorer at recovering a bad casting stroke than faster action rods. This isn’t the case at all, although the lower weight rods like the 3 and 4wts definitely have completely different casting recovery profiles than the rods above them. This is typical for most rod series.
Where this Winston rod truly excelled was its accuracy and delicate presentation. Winston’s unique and labor intensive construction of the AIR’s composite blank has paid huge dividends. There is little tip modulation other that in one plane when you cast, in lay fly fisher terms this means the tip doesn’t wobble side to side. This is unusual because most medium-fast rod tips sacrifice this facet of accuracy for delicate presentations. The Winston AIR enables the caster to place the fly in the spot he wants the fly softer than cottonwood down settling onto the water.
Roll casting and single Speying the AIR is easy, even for less experienced fishermen if lined properly. The power that can be generated by the lower third of the rod is similar to some of the fastest action fly rods out there. If there is medium-fast fly rod with overdrive than this rod has it. When I fished a double nymph rig and indicator in the wind there was no problem with dead casts. A fly line with a shorter, compact head definitely preformed better but this is the case for most rods when casting heavier set-ups.
Fishing With The Winston AIR
Short and simply, it is awesome. It does lack a little in the distance category beyond about 70 feet but it more than makes up for this with how it fishes. The tip forgives all but the heaviest hook sets, including mine. Fishing 7x tippet with #24 midge patterns is crazy fun with this rod. The ability to be so accurate while be able delicately place your fly where you want it alone would have made this a great rod. But it is this Winston’s unequivocal connection the angler gets from rod tip to reel when he has a fish on that makes fishing this rod almost an
Line control on the water is the only little ding that I could give the AIR. Mending a lot of line wasn’t as intuitive as I would have liked. If I was lazy or didn’t think about my actual mending motion with 30 feet or more of line on the water then it didn’t happen correctly. This is the case because of the soft tip more than anything. However; having to be more aware of my line control in the long run probably helped with the great success that I had with the Winston AIR.
Putting It ALL Together
I like the rod a lot. It is typically Winston with its chrome shooting guides, chrome nano-lite stripping guides, and a handsome nickel-burled wood reel seat. The Air series casts exceptionally easy, almost casting itself with just a thought. It only got a little tough when a sink-tip was used with a weighted fly but that is true with most medium-fast rods.
My favorite trait was the connection to the fish that I felt when I had one on. The lower end of the rod has plenty of power to unleash in the time of need. Anglers who typically prefer fast action rods will be shocked by the turning power of the AIR for such a forgiving rod. The AIR Series Fly Rods are exactly the innovation and quality that fly fishermen have come to expect from the R.L. Winston Rod Company.
WINSTON AIR HIGHLIGHTS
- Advanced carbon fiber and new Supersilica™ resin system
• New high energy yet smooth Winston Progressive Action
• Incredibly accurate presentation
• Boron III technology for enhanced power
WINSTON AIR FEATURES
Weights: 3wt. through 6wt.
Action: Medium Fast
Guides: Hard chrome snake over-sized “Shooting Guides” with chrome nano-lite stripping guides
Reel Seat: Nickel Silver with burled wood insert
Storage: Premium dark Winston green graphite rod tube with embroidered logo rod sock
Retail Price: $945