First Take: Winston’s Air 2 Fly Rod

I’m in love with R.L. Winston’s new Air 2 fly rod.

I’m in love not because of the rod’s physical beauty. This is a Winston, after all, so great craftsmanship is a given.

No, I’m in love because of how the Air 2 casts. The performance is awesome, something you sense about the rod when you pick it up. And that first cast is simply incredible.

Before going any further, let’s run through a few details about the Air 2:

  • Six models ranging from 3- to 6-weight.
  • Fast action.
  • Four-piece design.
  • Light-wire Snake Guides, treated with an ECO slick coating and featuring a round-helix geometry for reduced line friction.
  • Flor grade cork.
  • Reversed half-Wells grip (OK, Winston calls it a cigar grip).
  • Up-locking reel seat in nickel silver with a box elder wood insert.
  • S-2000 graphite and custom high-strain resin with a new boron configuration.
  • Premium graphite rod case with sock.
  • Designed and handcrafted in Twin Bridges, Mont.
  • Retail $1,095.

Now, I’m no engineer, so I’m not going to geek out on the finer points of graphite, boron and resins. But as we all know, technological advances in materials have allowed rod designers to make equipment lighter than we ever imagined, even a few years ago.

Does lightness really matter?

Too often, I see comments to the effect that lightness is important because it allows you to fish longer and that some modern fly rods are too heavy to fish all day. That’s just silly. If you’re too delicate to spend a day casting dry flies with a 5-weight rod that weighs a bit more than 3 ounces, you have bigger problems than your choice of rods.

The reason you want to minimize weight is control. Again, I don’t want to geek out, but lighter rods have less of a tendency to “bounce.” And less bounce will manifest itself in longer casts and improved accuracy.

For example, I can cast a full Royal Wulff Triangle Taper on my new 9-foot 5-weight Air 2, and the line falls incredibly straight, with minimal sine waves. That’s control, made possible by a rod tip with minimal bounce.

And a rod capable of casting a 90-foot fly line means casting at actual fishing distances becomes easy, right?

Well, not exactly. Too often, a rod designed for that capability comes up short for close-in casting. Such rods can be too stiff to load easily at typical dry fly distances. Sure, you can fish in those circumstances, but you tend to force the rod in order to load it. And forcing the rod tends to make the rod tip wobble and bounce.

Good luck hitting a small target with a wobbly rod tip.

Somehow, the 5-weight Air 2 manages to balance both those qualities — the ability to reach out when needed without sacrificing close-in work. This rod loads with excellent sensitivity with a short line but still has plenty of backbone when you lean into it for extreme distance. And it delivers on accuracy regardless of the distance.

That’s remarkable.

The original Air is a beautiful rod, but I prefer the Air 2’s performance and more progressive feel.

I also like the Air 2’s versatility. I cast it with multiple tapers. I even tried 4-weight and 6-weight lines, and the Air 2 handled them all well.

This is a great rod.

Air 2 Models:

  • 8-foot-6 3-weight
  • 9-foot 3-weight
  • 8-foot-6 4-weight
  • 9-foot 4-weight
  • 9-foot 5-weight
  • 9-foot 6-weight

2 thoughts on “First Take: Winston’s Air 2 Fly Rod

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