The Pure is a brand new rod from Winston. We knew it would be good when the Pure won an award for the Best New Freshwater Rod at the 2018 IFTD show in July. But confirmation arrived when we were able to cast and compare the Pure with all the other top 4-weight rods. The Pure puts in an impressive performance, especially at the shorter distances, and finishes in 2nd place in both the overall and performance results.
We actually cast two #4 line Pure rods- the 8 footer you see here and its 8’6” brother. I normally prefer an 8 ½ foot rod in a 4-weight but when we cast the two rods heads up, and put them on the deflection board, it was obvious that these rods had two different actions. The 8 ½ foot rod had a much slower action and a stiffer tip than the 8 footer, and didn’t cast nearly as well. Everyone here at our shop liked the 8 footer better, so we put only the 8-foot model in this Shootout.
This 8 foot Pure is somewhat like the Zephrus in acti0n with a fairly strong butt and mid section and then a nice soft flexible tip. This fast action produced extremely good feel and accuracy, especially at 25 feet. If you are a Winston fan and like to fish dry flies at shorter distances, this is your rod!
Annette McLean, Winston’s long time rod designer did a great job with the Pure, giving us a rod that is Pure fun to cast and fish. Winston says “Pure Feel, Pure Presentation and Pure Fun” I can’t disagree. This is a light rod in swing weight – almost as good as the Zephrus. Of course it is six inches shorter too. The 8 ½ foot Pure had a much heavier swing weight, and would not be as much fun to false cast all day as this 8 footer. Our reasoning in this Shootout was to pick what we felt were the BEST 4-weight rods, regardless of length, and there no question in our minds that the 8 foot Pure is Winston’s best 4-weight rod.
The Pure is unquestionably one of the best looking rods in our Shootout, with some of the best craftsmanship. The blank is that same lovely emerald Winston green we have come to know and love. Get this rod out in the sunlight and it really lights up. The wraps are a dark green to complement the blank and the epoxy coatings are perfect. The handle is Winston’s familiar cigar grip, a half wells with a little flare on the bottom end to accept the uplocking seat. The swell in the middle of the grip is a little more forward than most. Nickel silver is used for the winding check and rear grip check as well as the hardware on the reel seat, which is a sliding band and one wide locking ring. The locking ring is a little harder to grip and tighten than others. A beautiful birdseye maple insert is used. This is a classy reel seat, which is much better looking than some of the anodized aluminum insert seats. A hook keeper is used along with a single chrome SiC stripping guide. The rest of the guides are hard chrome snake guides with nice, small diameter wire snake guides on the upper two sections. More manufacturers should use light guides like this to minimize swing weight if they aren’t using the more expensive nickel-titanium guides.
The perfect line: SA Amplitude Smooth Trout in WF-4-F
George’s casting notes:
Performance at 25 feet: 20 points out of 20
Matches the Zephrus in close in terms of casting accuracy and feel. No other rods were as good. Like the Zephrus, casting off the tip of the rod was easy and fun and I was getting very delicate, precise presentations.
Performance at 40 feet: 19.7 points out of 20
The ability of this rod to form and maintain very tight loops helped it give me slightly more accuracy than the Helios 3F or Scott G series at mid-range. The feel was also superb, giving me confidence in the direction of my cast.
Performance at 60 feet: 8.5 points out of 10
At long range, the lack of power now becomes evident. As long as there wasn’t much wind I could easily hit 60 feet but accuracy suffered.
This year the Winston Pure won the best freshwater fly rod at IFTD (the International Fly Tackle Dealer show in Orlando), and I can see why. Winston tells us there has been a dynamic discussion over which rod is better – the faster, (stiffer butt/softer tipped) 8’#4, or the smoother, (softer midsection/stiffer tipped) 8’6”#4. All of us here at the Yellowstone Angler agreed that the 8’#4 was by far the better rod, so this was the only one included in our Shootout. For me, at least in terms of accuracy, a great all-around action, a lighter swing weight, and being more fun to fish, the edge goes to the 8’#4.
Rod designer Annette McLean started with a clean slate with the Pure series, completely ignoring all previous designs and developed a rod series that is truly her own. Annette continues to use Boron III in the Pure butt sections, a material that is 5 times stronger than steel, twice as stiff, and 25% stronger than all types of graphite. What really makes this rod work however, is the combination of high modulus graphite and new nano-resin in the upper three sections. The Pure is not the first Winston rod to incorporate both Boron and nano-resin, but in my opinion, it is the first rod to do it right. As such, the 8’#4 Pure has plenty of backbone and reserve power, yet a nice soft tip that produces great feel and exceptional accuracy. The light swing weight and softer tip is also a huge help in protecting light tippets.
On top of all this, the Winston Pure is a beautiful rod, handcrafted in Twin Bridges, Montana. The attention to detail in this rod is second to none for a mass produced rod, (only Thomas & Thomas takes as much time to produce an equally perfect rod). No one touches Winston in terms of the elegant appearance of the rod and its components. The emerald green blank looks dark in the shade but lights up like a gemstone in the sunlight. While the Pure may not have taken the crown, it clearly is a symbol of richness and royalty.
1st impressions: Wow – this rod looks and feels terrific! Extremely light in hand, nice tip flex, excellent blend of feel and power. Much fancier reel seat than others, with nickel/silver hardware, and that fancy Birdseye maple insert. The attention to detail and craftsmanship is out of this world. This rod’s stunning beauty blows everything else away. We tried both lines on this rod, but the SA Smooth Trout made it feel lighter with equal accuracy. Thin, non-flexible snake guides.
Performance at 25 feet: 20 points out of 20
Crisp, clean, and accurate, the 8-foot Pure is as accurate, in close, as any rod here. Amazing feel, combined with dead-on accuracy makes this rod a joy to cast, and always brings a smile.
Performance at 40 feet: 19.8 points out of 20
Again, killer feel and accuracy, for the ultimate blend in power and feel.Fun and effortless to cast. I’m getting nice tight loops. I would have scored it a perfect 20, but the 8’6” Zephrus was a little smoother.
Performance at 60 feet: 8.6 points out of 10
Surprisingly, very good for an 8’ rod! This rod has impressive reserve power in the butt, however I felt like I had better line control with the longer rods. Another prime example of what a rod can do with a stiff butt section and a nice fast, soft tip.
Logan’s Comments: 49 out of 50
The new R.L. Winston Pure 8’ #4 rod is my top rod in this year’s Shootout. From the second I had this rod in my hand I knew it was something special. For me this rod is the winner of this year’s Shootout not just based on performance, but also its overall craftsmanship is second to none. I love the striking appearance of this rod in the familiar Winston emerald green. The cork handle is flawless, and the nickel-silver hardware on the reel seat is beautiful. Moreover, this is a rod made here in Montana. Every year there is a rod that stands out as one I want to own. This year, the 8’ #4 Pure is that rod!
Performance at 25 feet: 20 out of 20
Absolutely buttery smooth. I was forming tight loops and getting perfect presentations. I liked how smooth and accurate this rod was at closer distances. Only this and the Scott G series scored perfect 20’s at 25 feet.
Performance at 40 feet: 20 out of 20
The Pure is smooth perfection at 40 feet. I actually think I like casting it better at this mid distance than in close.
Performance at 60 feet: 9 out of 10
I was surprised at how well the R.L. Winston Pure 8’ #4 performed at 60 feet for an 8-foot rod.
The Winston Pure 8’ #4 was one of my favorite rods during the shootout, and one I kept coming back to again and again. To me, this was one of the rods that “tracked” perfectly and felt amazing in my hand.
The Winston Pure 8’ is exactly the type of 4wt I’m looking for: light and delicate but with enough backbone to handle even the longer distances easily. This would be my go to 4wt, and the only reason it isn’t my #1 in our shootout is the Hardy Zephrus’ slight edge at 60 feet. It’s their top of the line Winston; so you know it’s pure-ty. Winston is known for their fine craftsmanship and attention to detail, and that is clearly evident on the Pure.
Performance at 25 feet: 20/20
The Pure is extremely accurate, giving me delicate presentations. It’s exactly what I’m looking for when fishing in close, where it’s a game of inches. When casting, this rod loads up smoothly and delivers incredibly pinpoint casts time and time again.
Performance at 40 feet: 20/20
Deadly accurate. To me, the Winston Pure felt great casting at mid-distances. It has plenty of power but gives me a very light touch and presentation. The fly line seems to shoot effortlessly from Pure’s light and reactive tip. It made me feel like Jack Nicklaus sinking the winning putt at Augusta.
Performance at 60 feet: 9/10
Not as powerful as some of the other contenders but still very capable of handling longer distances with tight loops and very good accuracy.
Living up to the Winston reputation, the Pure proved itself to be a rod that gave me incredible presentations. To me, the rod was in line with what I expected from a high performing light presentation rod -softer, smooth action, and a feeling of finesse. The craftsmanship we see on Winston rods is second to none, and it is clearly evident on their Pure.
Performance at 25 feet: 20 out of 20
Beautiful. A nice, light, delicate presentation that gives the Pure a perfect score in close for me.
Performance at 40 feet: 18 out of 20
The Pure performed amazingly well at 40 feet. This rod shines at our middle distance. The Pure formed beautiful loops, and its 40-foot casts were wickedly accurate.
Performance at 60 feet: 8.5 out of 10
Don’t fear the distance. Even though this rod boasts delicate presentation and accuracy in close, I felt hardly any loss of quality at 60 feet. The only negative I felt was a lack of power casting in the wind. A stiffer butt section might help but would probably compromise the feel and accuracy of the rod overall.