R.L. Winston Air   9’ 5-weight     $945.00

R.L. Winston Air

R.L. Winston Air

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George's Notes:

We were excited to see and test the new Winston Air. But after a lot of casting head to head with other rods in our Shootout, we all felt that the Air didn’t produce the kind of performance we hoped for, or were getting from any of the best rods in the Shootout.  Even the BIIIx placed slightly higher.  As far as casting performance was concerned, I felt that the BIIIx was better than the Air at all distances.  

Winston touts their new Air as their super premium, ultra-lightweight rod that combines their new SuperSilica resin system with high modulus boron for significantly less weight than previous rods.  We didn’t find this to be true.  The overall weight of the Air was 3.5 oz, which tied it with the heaviest rod in the Shootout, the Beulah Platinum.  More importantly, the swing weight was a very heavy 9.9 oz., even heavier than their BIIIx!  The heavy swing weight contributed to a lot less feel than the better rods, especially at short to medium distances.  Only four rods were heavier in swing weight.  The Air has a medium fast action but wouldn’t track as well for me as many other rods and this hurt the accuracy.  The lack of power at long range knocked down its score there also.

Like the BIIIx, the Air is one of the most beautiful rods in our Shootout with great craftsmanship. It got a perfect score of 10 for craftsmanship.   

That deep emerald green blank is striking, especially outside in the sunlight.  I like the idea of putting the serial number on each rod section.  This can save you a lot of grief if you have multiple Winston rods and manage to get the sections mixed up.  The wraps are dark green to complement the blank and are nicely finished.  A nickel-silver grip check is used along with the hook keeper. The cork grip is their “cigar” style, a half wells with a nice swell in the middle and a forward taper.  The uplocking seat is gorgeous in nickel-silver, and looks a lot nicer than the anodized aluminum seats that just about everyone else uses.  A fancy birdseye maple insert is used.  The guide set up features their chrome nano-lite stripping guide followed by lightweight hard chrome snake guides.  These rods are built in Twin Bridges Montana.  


The perfect line: S.A. Amplitude MPX in WF-5-F.

Performance at 25 feet:  18.4 points out of 20.

Ok, but I had a hard time getting good accuracy.  BIIIx was better.  The heavy swing weight gave very little feel. 

Performance at 45 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Pretty good but didn’t track or form tight loops nearly as well as the top dozen rods.  

Performance at 70 feet: 8.0 points out of 10

I didn’t have any confidence in where I could put the fly at long range.  The BIIIx and Legend Elite were better.   


R.L. Winston Air

R.L. Winston Air

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James' Notes:

The Winston Air was probably my biggest disappointment of the Shootout, only because I really had high hopes for it.  Nothing would please me more than to see a company that makes rods here in Montana win or do very well in our Shootout. 

The advertising claims that Winston makes to promote the Air are perhaps too good to be true.  “Winston AIR rods feature a revolutionary new design that combines our new SuperSilica™ resin system with high modulus Boron for significantly less weight, more liveliness, an extremely broad casting range, and higher responsiveness for optimum presentation.”

After reading this, I really thought the Air was going to be lighter than the BIIIx, but unfortunately both the overall weight (3.5 vs. 3.3) and swing weight (9.9 vs. 9.5) were heavier!   I’m not sure what happened here, but I could feel the difference in weight when casting the two rods together.  The Winston Air just didn’t feel as “sweet” as the BIIIx, a rod that we have come to love as one of Winston’s great dry fly rods.  

Looking at the deflection chart, the Winston Air was our softest rod in the test.  I think adding a little more stiffness to the butt and mid-section, but keeping the nice soft tip would help the Air’s performance.  But that would also add more weight to an already heavy rod.  

In our 9’ 6-weight shootout, I gave the Winston Air a perfect score at the closest distance (30 feet), but the 9’ 5-weight version didn’t feel nearly as nice to me as the BIIIx or many of the other top rods at 25 feet. 

I did like the Air at 45 feet however.  At this distance it felt like the Air had a good blend of feel and power.  It was more accurate for me than the BIIIx.  I also scored it better at 70 feet than the BIIIx, although it was still inferior to most of the other best rods.   


Performance at 25 feet:  18.8 points out of 20

I was surprised that the Air was not turning over my 12-foot leader very well.  I tried different power applications, and a gentle casting stroke seemed to work best, but nothing gave me the accuracy I had expected.

Performance at 45 feet: 19.2 points out of 20

I liked the Winston Air a lot at 45 feet, even more so than the BIIIx.  Tight, effortless loops with lots of feel.  I would have scored it even higher, but it didn’t cast nearly as well the G. Loomis NRX LP and Scott Radian in the wind.

Performance at 70 feet: 9 points out of 10

About the same results as I was getting with the Winston BIIIx, even a little better.  I had to be really careful not to punch it, but with a smoother stroke, this rod performed well.  Again, when casting into a headwind this wasn’t the best rod.



R.L. Winston Air

R.L. Winston Air

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Logan's Notes:

R.L. Winston Air is a great addition to the Winston lineup.  It has a classic Winston feel but is made with their new SuperSilica™ resin.  Winston claims this adds “higher responsiveness for optimum presentation.”   When casting the Air this is very apparent.  I’d love to fish this rod on the water to confirm the delicate presentation I was feeling.  I wasn’t overly impressed with the Air’s power and long-range ability, but its shorter distance performance and presentation were very good.


Logan’s Casting Notes:

Performance at 25 feet: 18 out of 20

The Air is an in-close master. Twenty-five feet is a great distance for this rod.  It screams classic Winston.

Performance at 45 feet: 18 out of 20

The Air was still performing very well at 45 feet.  This rod has an amazing amount of dampening and is super smooth when cast.  It retains its softness without being “noodle-y.”

Performance at 70 feet: 7 out of 10

Like any Winston, 70 feet is not the intended distance for this rod.  I did like it better at longer distances than the BIIIx.



R.L. Winston Air

R.L. Winston Air

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 JG's Notes:

I really like Winston rods, but they aren’t necessarily the all-around performers that we see from some other manufacturers.  They are made to perform best at shorter distances, and this they do well.  Casting feel and quality builds are the name of the game for Winston, and the Air delivers.

25 Feet – 19.7 points out of 20
As with most Winston rods the short-range performance is really good. Accuracy and feel is top notch.  I had an easy time delivering delicate casts that found their mark.

45 Feet – 19.5 points out of 20
Mid range targets worked out really well for the Air.  It gave me accurate and delicate presentations and would be a nice dry fly rod.  But it won’t do well throwing streamers or heavy nymph rigs.    

70 Feet – 17.5 points out of 20
This just isn’t the rod that I would choose if my main concern was casting and fishing at longer distances.  The Air lost a lot of accuracy and delicacy at long range because of how much effort it takes to reach the 70-foot mark.