Rarely do new rods surprise me. Being in the industry means that I usually get a heads up for what’s coming next. I got no such heads up from Winston. Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised when Winston came to iCast ready to make a splash. They have hired 3-4 new team members, have a host of new, top-notch pro staffers, and some really great new products. Leading the charge is the new Winston Air. It’s touted as a “super premium, ultra-lightweight, all around fly rod.” Read on to see if it lives up to the hype.
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First, let’s talk about fly lines
The Air wasn’t Winston’s only new product for 2017. They also released an entire line of fly lines to match their rods. I’ve got a lot of work to do before I release a review of these lines, but here are three things you should know about them.
- They are made by SA, so you’re getting a quality product.
- The lines are designed using Opterus technology to better fit today’s (and especially Winston) fly rods.
- Most importantly, they take the guesswork out of finding a line for your new Winston.
Naturally, it made sense to cast the Air with the new line. To make sure it wasn’t all smoke and mirrors, I also cast SA GPX on the rod, which will also work well if you don’t want to spring for the new line.
Fit and Finish
Classic Winston. The fit and finish is really the best in the industry. The new Air features hard chrome snake over-sized “Shooting Guides” with chrome nano-lite stripping guides – the same upgrade the B3x got last year.
The Air feels really light when you pick it up, but actually it weighs 3.4 oz. That makes it one of the heavier 5wts overall. What it doesn’t tell you is that most of the weight is in the butt section. More specifically, having a beautiful reel seat costs you a few 1/10ths of an ounce. Bottom line: the rod feels nice and light in hand.
Being a medium fast rod, the Air isn’t a great distance rod. But, let’s face it: most trout fishing doesn’t require distance.
The best part about this rod is its accuracy at short and middle distances. It’s one of my favorite rods at 30’ and 45’. It can also get it out to 60’, but you’re going to need to slow down your cast significantly. If you’re willing to do that, you’ll be rewarded with some pretty good accuracy, but the rod just doesn’t generate the line speed that many of the faster rods do today.
Flex & Feel
Again, the Air is classic Winston. It’s marketed as a medium-fast rod, and it IS a medium fast rod. “But Ben, I really like my B3x and it’s a fast action rod, will I like the Air?” In terms of feel, the Air is similar, *possibly* a tad softer than the B3x. Really, though, the B3x is also a medium-fast rod in today’s world. Like the B3x, the Air has a nice soft tip and flexes progressively though the blank. It gives the caster great feedback.
What’s new about the Air, is its nano-silica resin (think Hardy Sintrix) which makes the rod much stronger and, more importantly, more forgiving than any Winston I’ve ever cast.
If there’s one thing I didn’t like about the Air, it’s its nymphing ability. Despite the marketing, the Air is a dry fly rod with a lot of all-around ability, not a do-everything rod. That means that it just doesn’t nymph as well as a Hardy Zephrus. Just to be clear, I’m not saying it’s a bad nymphing rod. If you’re fishing tailwaters and throwing really small nymphs, you’ll probably enjoy it a lot, but it lacks the power to throw lots of 3 BB size split shot attached to a couple nymphs and a big Thingamabobber.
I really loved casting the Winston Air. While Winston has claimed it’s an all-around rod, it’s really more of an all-around *Winston* rod. That means it’s a dry fly specialist that can do some light nymphing and streamer fishing on the side. That’s what the classic Winston feel is all about.
If you’re a Winston fan, you’re going to love this rod. If you’re *mostly* a dry fly guy, the Air should be near the top of your list to try.
Update! Winston Air vs. Winston Boron IIIx
A long time customer asked us a great question: “Do you think the new Winston Air rod is worth the added $ over the B3x?” So… I went out and cast them! I tested out the 8’6″ 4wt B3x head-to-head against the Air 8’6″ 4wt. Here are the results:
Overall, the rods are pretty similar, as you would expect from the same rod designer. The B3x is a little faster and will be a little better of an ‘all-around’ rod. What I mean by this is that it’s a rod that is *slightly* better suited for casting nymphs and streamers. The Air is softer and more dry fly oriented. It’s a little more fun. The other big advantage is durability. The nano-silica resin makes the Air WAY stronger than the old rod.
- Stronger and more forgiving than the B3x
- Classic Winston feel
- The only con I can think of is that it’s expensive, but it’s a Winston