One For The Quiver: Winston Saltwater Air Product Review

When you think of an  R.L Winston Fly Rod, saltwater is the typically the last thing that you would think of. Winston’s previous Saltwater Big game rods have been considered by many anglers as too slow, too much swing weight, or too heavy. That is until now. Last season, the staff at Winston introduced the aptly named Saltwater Air series at the European Fishing Tackle Trade Exhibition (EFFTEX) where it was greeted with a tremendous amount of positive feedback, taking home the top prize for Best New Product for 2018. The true question is, despite all the hype and acclaim, does this rod actually live up to those expectations? I have had the opportunity to fish the Salt Air 8-weight a few different salty locales during my travels and my thoughts are below.

My Winston Salt Air Kit:

Rod:  Winston Salt Air 9’ 8wt Fly Rod

Reel:  Bauer RX5 Fly Reel or Nautilus XL Max Series Fly Reel

Line: Scientific Anglers Amplitude Grand Slam Taper Fly Line

Fit & Features:

Right out of the gate one thing stood out to all Winston fans such as myself. This rod series does not feature the deep emerald green blank aesthetics that we have grown accustomed to over the years instead the designers opted for a distinct “Matte Green” finish.  According to Chad Harkins of Five Oceans Inc. who represents Winston in the Rocky Mountain region, this change was made for one reason. “The designers at Winston thought it was best to remove the shine that the blank gives off in order to reduce the chance of spooking fish.” “Simply put, less spooked fish means more shots at the end of the day.”

Aside from the “Matte Green” blank there are a couple of other features that make this rod a true saltwater design for any scenario. We all know that saltwater condition can be tough on gear so with that in mind Winston outfitted the Saltwater Air with hard chromed titanium colored snake guides as well as a beautiful laser etched, gray anodized, saltwater safe aluminum reel seat. You can tell at first glance that the team in Twin Bridges put a lot of time and effort into making sure that this series was ready to go anywhere in the world.

Weight:

The Winston Saltwater Air 8 weight weighs in at just over 4.2 ounces which leads to the rod having a little bit heavier weight in terms of swing. Is this a bad thing? Not really, like most things, it all comes down to personal preference. However, casting this rod series can potentially wear on an angler after a long day on the water but the same can be said for most if not all rod outfits. In the end, just something to consider.

Casting Characteristics:

The Saltwater Air, like all R.L. Winston rods, is one that responds best to anglers who prefer a slower casting tempo. However, with that said, this rod is still a true fast action rod capable of producing high line speeds. This fast action allows anglers to execute shots into the wind or launch longer casts with relative ease under calm conditions.

For me, on the 8 weight when paired with the SA Grand Slam Taper the rod really excels at medium to long distance shots. The more rigid (fast)  graphite construction and recovery rates means that this rod is capable of making long shots in the windiest of conditions. At times, I did find that this rod does struggle to accurately perform consistently inside of 20 to 40 feet due to the fast action of the rod. However, I feel that for what this rod lacks in close it certainly makes up for at greater distances which are more common when fishing tropical flats from a boat.

Overall, this rod series is a fantastic combination of traditional Winston feel with enough juice in the tank to meet the power demands of making long shots in windy saltwater conditions.

Pros:

  •  A powerful fast action capable of generating high line speeds.
  •  The “Winston Feel” that allows for a more relaxed casting stroke.
  •  Like all Winston rods the Saltwater Air has a beautiful build quality. Right down to the silver hand written signature.

Cons:

  •  Lacks feel in short distance.
  •  Heavier swing weight.

In Conclusion:

Winston has entered into the world of big game saltwater rods with a lot of buzz for good reason. The design team at Winston has produced a rod that is highly capable of performing in the most demanding of conditions while maintaining the “Winston Feel” that so many have become accustomed to. While the rod does have it’s challenges at shorter distances it certainly makes up for it with plenty of power as well as quick a recovery rate which makes it a great option for both middle and long distance saltwater applications. If you haven’t already, find a place to cast the Saltwater Air.  I am confident in saying that you will enjoy it.

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