Winston Air Model-By-Model Fly Rod Review
We get questions about specific rod models all the time. "How does the 9wt compare to the 10wt?" and "When should I use this rod?" and "What line works best on this rod?". In an attempt to provide better info so you can make a more informed buying decision, we decided to start a 'model-by-model' blog series. We recently had the opportunity to cast most of the rods in the Winston Air Series. This article is designed to pass that info along to you. Of course, like our shootouts and other casting commentaries, these mini-reviews are based on our casting style and preferences. Your mileage may vary.
Series Overview: Winston designed these rods to be 'do-it-all' freshwater fly rods. In fact, they call them the 'Swiss Army Knife of fly rods'. To make such a versatile freshwater rod series, Winston rolled out a unique, progressive SuperSilica resin system that keeps these rods lightweight, powerful, and dynamic. That being said, Winston has also found a way to stay true to their brand by making these rods medium/medium-fast action and delicate when you need them to be.
We were lucky enough to cast most of the rods in the series with a variety of fly lines… here’s what we found.
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This shorter 3wt is a great rod for small streams and backpacking in the backcountry. Whether you're throwing small flies at short range or need to make a longer cast on a high mountain lake, this rod's snappy action and lightweight feel exemplifies versatility. That being said, there is some crossover with the same rod model in the Pure series. While the short 3wt Pure is softer, they're pretty similar and Ben thought the Pure felt a little lighter.
Best Use: This is a small stream trout rod for light nymphing, dry flies, and small streamers in tight quarters.
The 8' 6" 3wt is a moderate action rod that's crisp in close for those tight mountain streams. The short range accuracy of this rod makes throwing stimulator patterns easy and delicacy at mid-range seamless. The moderate action is perfect for anglers who don't need a highly powerful rod but want a rod that loads quickly at short distances for those trout in brushy environments. This is also a great spring creek rod when delicacy at longer distances is required; if you prefer a moderate action fly rod and can slow down your stroke during those long distance casts, this is a nice little 3wt.
Best Use: Use this rod for dry flies and small trout at short/middle distances.
The 8' 4wt Air is very similar to the same model of the Pure. We cast them side-by-side and couldn't tell which rod was lighter or which rod was faster/softer. They're really really close in action. If we had to choose, the Air is probably slightly faster which makes sense. That being said, we found ourselves wishing Winston had created more of a difference in these two rods. It's not that any angler will really ever cast them side by side and they are both 8' 4wts, after all. But building a little more power into the butt/mid-section of the Air would've captured a broader audience. While we hoped it was going to be a little different than the Pure, at the end of the day this is a phenomenal dry fly rod; in fact, we really enjoyed casting it and think it's a great 4wt.
Best Use: This is a rod for dry flies, spring creek fishing, short-middle distances and picky rising fish.
As we step up to the 8' 6" 4wt, Winston has built more power into the rod which makes this a really dynamic trout rod that's capable of presenting flies to a variety of fish in a multitude of scenarios. This is a rod that can be used for light nymphing, larger dry flies, and technical small dry fly work. It has a faster action than other rods in the series and flexes most in the tip and mid-section. While it's more of a medium / medium-fast action rod, it's a totally different rod than the 8' 4wt and we thought it added a valuable dimension to the rod series as a whole.
Best Use: From light nymphing to larger dry flies, this is a versatile 4wt that's ideal for a variety of freshwater trout fishing scenarios.
As versatile as the 8' 6" 4wt is, the 9' 4wt may be more versatile. This is a rod that's highly useful, practical and predictable. It fits into the series really well and, while it won't impress your friends in the parking lot, it's a rod that's built for the angler who wants to catch fish instead of bomb casts at long distances. The extra 6" of length means this rod mends line easier on the water and helps anglers who are fishing slightly larger streams. It's a moderate action rod like many rods in the series, but has some of the same power levels you'll find in the 8'6" 4wt. While it's not the lightest 4wt on the market, it is intuitive for the angler who has a slightly slower casting stroke.
Best Use: This is a great rod for a variety of freshwater trout fishing scenarios and can be used on larger rivers than the other 4wts in the series.
Read the full review here.
This is one of our favorite 5wt rods at the short trout distance of 30-feet. The medium-fast action of the Air provides the angler with plenty of feedback and feel at shorter distances and is ideal for dry fly fishing. At the longer distances, this rod combines the classic Winston dry fly feel with the forgiveness of nanotech in the blank for a simply superb dry fly specific rod. Especially for the anglers with a slower casting stroke, this rod is one of the best in the series.
Best Use: This is a dry fly trout rod (not the best for nymphing) for anglers with a slower casting stroke.
The 6wt is pretty similar to the 5wt. When anglers move to a 6wt fly rod in freshwater, usually they're throwing larger flies or fishing to bigger fish. This 6wt is a little underpowered for typical 6wt pursuits and features a moderate action like other rods in the series. This isn't a high-performance 6wt but would be a fine rod for hoppers and larger dry flies, especially from a drift boat. That being said, this isn't a 6wt you would want to take to Alaska or on a river where bulky indicator rigs are common.
Best Use: This 6wt likes a true to size line and is best used as a hopper-dropper rod or a rod for larger dry flies.
This is a rod designed for Steelhead and Salmon with extra length for line mend-ability and a stout butt section for lifting power on feisty fish. While casting this rod in a field isn't really the best test (it's a nymphing rod after all), during our casting session we felt that it was heavy and less powerful than Winston designed it to be. It's really more of a 7wt in terms of power levels and performance but would be a nice rod for smaller Steelhead/large trout. This, like many other rods in the series, is a moderate action rod for the angler with a slower casting stroke.
Best Use: Use this 8wt for Steelhead, Salmon, and large trout when nymphing is the preferred approach.
The 5wt is probably our favorite rod in the series. It's versatile, powerful, but retains the classic Winston feel that dry fly trout anglers know and love. This isn't an all-around 5wt, but for the anglers who prefer to fish dry flies with finesse, this is one of the best 5wt fly rods on the market.
Least Favorite Rod:
The 8' 4wt didn't really fit into the series as well as the other rods we cast and we felt it was pretty similar to the Pure. It's a great little 4wt but is just too similar to other Winston rods to stand out.