Winston fly rods are often considered the “prettiest,” “classiest” rods on the market today. The company also has deep roots and a strong pedigree when it comes to rod design. But, at the end of the day, it’s that alluring green paint job that makes the difference. Many people just aspire to own a Winston because of how they look.
But, just like you cannot judge a book by its cover, you can’t judge every Winston rod on looks alone. I’m fond of some Winston models, going back to the IM6, and I’m less fond of others.
I very much like the Winston Pure because it’s the kind of rod with a distinctive action and feel that matches up with the aesthetics. It’s an elegant casting rod. It’s creative. Not dainty, but not a power horse, not even close.
It’s a dry-fly rod. And it’s a small stream rod. It’s a very easy-to-feel, medium-action rod that flexes toward the middle. The largest model in the Pure lineup is a 5-weight–with good reason.
I’ve fished that 9-foot 5-weight and a 7-foot 6-inch 3-weight–the 5-weight mostly in the Rockies and the 3-weight mostly in Michigan. I like them both equally. There’s a 6-foot 6-inch 3-weight version that I borrowed from a friend for a day, and didn’t like as much. That rod would be fine in willow-choked small creeks, but in those places, I prefer fiberglass rods.
The first thing you’ll notice if you pick up a Winston Pure is that the grip is smaller (shorter) than most rods. At first I wasn’t sure. The more casts I made, however, the more I realized that the grip on this rod is focused on a precise spot that forced me to get “in touch” with the action as I made casts. I think this is a huge asset, though I’m sure others feel completely different.
The more I fished the Pure, the more I found myself narrowing down on specific situations where I thought it shined. It’s a bit odd, because many rods, especially 5-weights, I value for their versatility–it’s a luxury to be able to fish streamers, or nymphs, or dries, dry-dropper rigs, etc., with the same rod. But I find that I like the Winston Pure for its specificity. I’ve found some places, some situations, namely hatches, where there are few, if any, rods I’d prefer to have. When the gray drakes fall in Michigan, Mother’s Day caddis in Colorado, and so on.
It all depends on the angler. If you’re a generalist, Pure probably isn’t for you. If you’re a dry-fly specialist who wants a really interpretive casting action, I think Winston has something worth serious consideration.
Most importantly, I think, with Pure, Winston reclaimed a bit of its soul. I think Pure is the rod that allows Winston to be WInston again.