Winston Pure 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 every rod in the Winston Pure 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 built the Pure series for delicate presentations and trout-focused angling. The series quickly won 'Best New Freshwater Rod' at IFTD in 2018 and its diversity of rod models and was a large reason why. From short 2wt rods through longer 5wt distance sticks, this is a series with a model for almost any dry fly angler. Built with some of the finest componentry in fly fishing, the Pure is built for anglers who prefer to fish with a light touch.
We were lucky enough to cast every rod in the series with a variety of fly lines… here’s what we found.
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The smallest rod in the series, we were pleasantly surprised by the snappy performance of the 7' 2wt. This is a great rod for bow and arrow casts on small, brush-covered streams or blue-lining in the backcountry. While Winston says it's a deep-flexing rod, we found that it wasn't too slow which allowed us to cast accurately out to 30+ feet. Choose this rod for light tippet, small fish, and little-to-no backcasting room.
Best Use: This is a rod built to be used in small stream fishing for Brook Trout, small Cutthroat Trout, and a variety of other backcountry trout.
The short 3wt is similar to the short 2wt. In general, we found that the shortest version of every line weight was the fastest and the rods flexed deeper into the blank the longer they got. So the 10' 3wt was (by far) the slowest 3wt, and the 6' 6" model was the fastest. This is a great little rod for spring creek dry fly fishing, short-range accuracy, and small flies. We felt the short length of this rod dampen its accuracy and performance beyond 40-feet, so choose this rod for performance and delicacy inside that range.
Best Use: This rod works best inside 40-feet with small dry flies for picky trout.
As is the story with most rods in the series, the 7' 3wt is slightly slower than the 6' 6" 3wt. That being said, it is slightly longer which makes mending easier and distance casting (beyond 40-feet) a little more attainable for the angler who can slow down his/her casting stroke. We felt that this was sort of the 3wt sweet spot in the series; this rod isn't too fast, isn't too soft, and strikes a nice balance between length and performance. This is the ideal 3wt fly rod for all of you dry fly anglers out there.
Best Use: This is a rod that's designed for spring creek fishing, small-medium sized rivers, and delicate dry fly fishing.
The second-longest 3wt in the Pure Series is also the second-softest. For us, this rod was bordering on 'too soft'. While that's subjective, this rod really requires the angler to slow down his/her casting stroke and be in tune with timing. If you're an angler who prefers a softer rod for delicacy and finesse, this version of the 3wt Pure is certainly lightweight and fun to fish. For us, however, we felt that the rod's action was kind of limiting and not as versatile as the taper of the 7' 3wt.
Best Use: Use this rod for small flies, smaller rivers/streams, and times when wind/elements aren't an issue and you can prioritize finesse over power.
Winston added three 10' rod models to the Pure series in 2020. Unfortunately, we found every 10' rod model to be incredibly heavy in-hand, really awkward, and the softest of the bunch. In a series otherwise defined by lightweight rods that are snappy and versatile, the 10' 3wt doesn't really fit into what we've come to appreciate about the series. If you're an angler who doesn't mind a bulky, slow, deep-flexing rod, then this 10' 3wt mends line well and encourages light finesse at longer distances. That being said, it was one of our least favorite models in the series as a whole.
Best Use: The 10' 3wt could be used for nymphing or long-distance dry fly casting.
This is probably the oddest rod model in the series... at least on paper. It's not every day you see a 5' 9" 4wt fly rod. While you may think the incredibly short length of this rod is a deal-breaker, we actually really liked how this rod performed. It's a rod that's insanely lightweight (which makes it tough to find a fly reel that'll balance it properly), incredibly snappy and quick, and a rod that throws laser tight loops. Because of its action, it needs a slightly heavier line than the 3wt rods in this series. This is the ultimate small creek rod, perfect for bow and arrow casting and chucking small streamers in the backcountry.
Best Use: Use this rod for small streamers on spring creeks or larger stimulator-like dry flies on streams with no backcasting room.
The 7' 6" 4wt is one of our favorite rods in the entire series. We thought RIO Gold was the perfect fly line for this rod and found its performance to be refined, versatile, and relatively forgiving. This 4wt is built with a taper that we'd classify as medium-fast: a perfect combination between finesse, delicacy, and performance. The snappy taper allows anglers to quickly throw at rising trout in a variety of angling scenarios from spring creeks to medium-sized rivers and even at short-range out of a drift boat. While this isn't a rod designed for large flies, it's one of the best in the series for small dry fly work and even some light nymphing.
Best Use: This is a phenomenal 4wt for dry flies, light nymphing, and accuracy at short-mid range.
The 8' 4wt is pretty similar to the 7' 6" 4wt. Although the 8' 4 is slightly softer, both rods are incredibly lightweight and are really functional fishing tools. The 8' version offers slightly more finesse, accuracy, and delicacy at longer distances although it requires a slightly slower casting stroke. If you're looking for a moderate action rod designed for 'anglers who prefer to fish with a light touch', this rod is a defining rod in the series. Pure Winston means you'd be hard-pressed to find a better dry fly specific 4wt anywhere.
Best Use: This rod is ideal for everything the Pure is designed to do: dry flies, trout, finesse, delicacy, and accuracy.
As the 4wt Pure rods get longer, they also get softer. We thought the 8'6" 4wt was just a touch too slow. The 7'6" and 8' 4wts were the sweet spots in this series in our opinion. That being said, this would be a great rod for anglers who prefer a true moderate action rod. It's lightweight, efficient and makes delicate presentations seem effortless. We thought a lighter line was best for this rod, think RIO Technical Trout Elite. If you're accustomed to slower rods and you can slow down your casting stroke, this is a great rod option for medium-sized rivers. This wouldn't be a good rod choice for larger dry flies or windy conditions, however.
Best Use: This is a solid trout rod for small dry flies, delicacy, and finesse.
After casting the lighter, shorter 4wt Pure counterparts, the 9' version felt heavy and slow. Maybe we were biased, though, and a better comparison would be to cast this model with other 9' 4wt rods. That being said, we preferred the performance and action of the shorter 4wt rods. Sure, the 9' length provides the angler with some benefits like being able to cast slightly farther and mend line more efficiently, but those benefits shouldn't ever come at the expense of a taper that fits your casting style. So if you prefer a rod that's closer to medium-fast, check out the shorter versions. If you don't mind some extra weight and appreciate a moderate/slow action rod, this 9' 4wt may be a good fit for you.
Best Use: This is a rod for a variety of trout fishing applications from small dry flies through light nymphs.
The 10' 4wt felt a lot like the 10' 3wt. Again, this may be because we were casting mostly shorter rods during the casting session but it just felt heavy and clunky. This rod is accurate at short distances and provides the angler with tons of feedback and feel inside 40-feet. That being said, it's not a long-distance rod and has extremely low power levels because of its slow action taper. This is a 'noodly' rod.
Best Use: This is a rod for short-range dry fly fishing on wider creeks when increased rod length is an advantage.
The 9' 5wt Pure is a smooth-casting 5wt that encourages lightweight, deep flexing performance. This isn't an all-around 5wt, but it wasn't designed to be. With a swing weight of 55.9 gm2 and an overall weight of 3.39 ounces, this rod's lightweight build leads to accuracy and performance at all ranges. This is a dry fly specific rod and its moderate action allows anglers to load the rod quickly at really short distances with little work. While it is a rod designed for dry flies, it's also a versatile rod in terms of its range; the 5wt is powerful and highly accurate at most trout distances. It also tracks really well out to 40-feet and beyond and allows anglers to direct small flies easily.
Best Use: Use this rod when casting dry flies for trout on larger rivers when accuracy and power are important.
The last 10' rod in the series is similar to the other two 10' rods. This 5wt is heavy, long, and slow. See the casting notes from the 10' 3wt and 10' 4wt for more information.
Best Use: This is a rod that can be used for nymphing or short-distance dry fly fishing for trout.
The 7' 6" 4wt and 8' 4wt tied for our favorite rods in the series. These rods are excellent examples of the versatility of the series and the lightweight, snappy nature of the Pure that we really think anglers will enjoy. the 5' 9" 4wt also gets an honorable mention; we've never cast a rod that's that short and that powerful!
Least Favorite Rod:
We felt that the new trio of 10' rods that were released in 2020 were heavy, clunky, and awkward especially when we compared them to the lighter, snappier rods in the series. These rods may work for some anglers but they didn't really fit our casting style.