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The past few years have been tough on everyone. The saving grace for fly anglers has been the string of great rods released during these difficult times. Moderately fast-action rods geared for trout are becoming lighter, more powerful, and capable of doing things once reserved for ultra-fast action rods. Winston is the latest company to try to bridge the gap between stiffer, quicker rods and more delicate, presentation-oriented rods. The Air 2 is being touted as the best all-purpose 5wt in the company's illustrious history and a challenger to the top trout rods on the market. Winston is known for making rods with a soulful touch that are perfectly tuned for technical dry fly fishing. However, due to their delicate nature, they often lack the backbone needed for dedicated nymphing and streamer fishing. If you are in the market for a new 5wt, read on to see if the Air 2 is the ultimate multi-purpose trout fishing tool.

Outfit

Winston 9' 5wt Air 2 Fly Rod

Scientific Anglers Amplitude MPX Fly Line

Fit & Finish

The Air 2 is blessed with classic Winston good looks and charm thanks to its iconic green blank. There are plenty of well-built, great-looking rods out there, but few carry the distinction of being a Winston. Sure, some might like to see Winston switch things up; after all, this rod is supposed to usher the brand into a new era. However, the 'Winston Green' is ingrained into the brand's heritage and compliments the rod's high-end componentry wonderfully. The nickel silver uplocking reel seat serves as a functional piece of artwork. The cigar-shaped grip is noticeably slimmer than the original Air's, but the high-quality cork remains.

Distance

Winston markets the Air 2 as an all-around performer, and we expected it to have decent power. Unfortunately, the Air 2 lags in the distance category when compared to some of its contemporaries.

Accuracy

  • 30-feet: Like previous Winston rods, the Air 2 performs wonderfully at close range and is one of the most accurate rods at distances under 30 feet. The Air 2 is the perfect rod for rivers such as Silver Creek or DePuy's Spring Creek, where making pinpoint-accurate casts in excruciatingly tight windows is the difference between successful outings and getting skunked. 
  • 45-feet: The Air 2 is money at medium distances as well. The dry fly purist who thrives on match the hatch fishing on western tailwaters like the Henry's Fork or the Missouri will fall in love with the Air 2's mid-range game.
  • 60-feet: The Air 2 struggles at longer-range shots. While placing a Purple Haze in a teacup at long range is rarely called for in most trout fishing situations, the Air 2 struggles at even half-hearted attempts.

Flex & Feel

Some diehard Winston fans expressed concern the Air 2 would lose the special touch that Winston rods are known for in favor of speed and power. Rest assured, purists, the Air 2 is as soulful and presentation-oriented as any modern graphite rod out there. While this is probably not the rod to pick if you plan on fishing streamers and nymphs all day, the rod's enhanced tip recovery does give it greater versatility than other moderate rods and is quite capable of handling light dry-dropper duties. While we tested the Air 2 with a Scientific Anglers MPX line, we found it a little heavy and clunky. A true-to-weight line such as the Rio Technical Trout Elite or Scientific Anglers Amplitude Trout would probably be the better choice.

Warranty

Unconditional Lifetime Guarantee

Conclusion

While we love the Air 2's sweet touch and performance when fishing dry flies, Winston is marketing the Air 2 as an all-purpose fast-action fly rod. It simply lacks the power and backbone for it to be considered a viable, quiver-killing option. We expected The Air 2 to fall under the medium-fast to fast pendulum, but Winston has created a dry fly-oriented rod with just a hint of versatility. Instead of placing the Air 2 alongside the Douglas Sky-G and Scott Centric, the new Winston is competing with the Scott G Series and Thomas & Thomas Paradigm for the top high-end dry fly rod on the market. If you bleed green or are in the market for a medium-action presentation rod with a little more versatility, you are going to love the Air 2. If you are looking for a multi-purpose 5wt for fishing streamers and nymphs, better-rounded options are available. 

Watch Our Review

Pros

  • Classic Winston feel
  • Heirloom componentry and build quality
  • Exceptional accuracy and performance at short to middle distances

Cons

  • Lofty price tag
  • Limited long-range capabilities

Questions?

Give us a call here at the shop at (888) 413-5211 or email us anytime at [email protected].