This year, Winston broke from tradition to introduce two completely new rod families—the Nimbus and the Kairos. The Nimbus doesn’t stray as far from Winston’s pedigree as the Kairos, though its “Big Sky Blue” color does stand out in amidst a sea of classic Winston green.
The Nimbus is available in weights 3 – 10 as a single-hand rod for $650, while a two-handed 6, 7, or 8wt will run you $750, which prices the Nimbus series a step below Winston’s most popular rods, such as the Boron IIIx and AIR series (which start at $850 and $950 respectively) but a step above what the industry at large has come to accept as a mid-priced rod.
Along with its blue blank, the Nimbus comes decorated with dark blue thread wraps. The cork is a cut above what’s placed on the Kairos, but not as soft as the cork Winston uses on its boron rods. A burled wood insert sits inside “frosted white” anodized hardware on rods up to 5wt. 6wts and heavier feature a titanium anodized aluminum reel seat with the Winston signature logo.
The Nimbus is an eye-catching rod, and its performance nearly matches its looks. Unlike the Kairos, the Nimbus feels like a Winston. It’s a bit heavier than I’d like, but for a $650 rod, the Nimbus delivers admirably on many fronts.
Winston’s rods have always been praised by dry-fly enthusiasts for their soft tips which deftly handle light tippet and small flies. While the Nimbus isn’t a precision-casting tool like the AIR or LS, it’s still decidedly Winston in the way it presents flies.
Loops unfold gracefully, flies land notably softer than when thrown with similarly-priced rods, and the tip is plenty soft to handle big trout on 6 or 7x. According to Winston, the tapers for the Nimbus were inspired by tapers currently in use for their entire boron lineup.
I’m not entirely sure why Winston bills the Nimbus as a “fast” rod. It’s faster than the LS or AIR, and the Boron IIIx, but it’s still medium-fast by industry standards. But regardless of how it’s classified, the Nimbus is just plain fun to cast.
The Nimbus has a soft, medium-fast action, though Winston officially bills it as fast action. It is faster than most anything in their lineup—notably faster than the Boron IIIx, for what that’s worth—but compared to the Kairos it’s much more relaxed.
Line speed is right where it should be for a rod at this price point, resulting in tight loops and workable accuracy. The soft tips makes timing casts a breeze, since it’s easy to feel the rod load and unload on each casting stroke. And, for or a medium-fast action rod, the Nimbus packs a surprising amount of punch when needed.
There’s nothing particularly spectacular about the Nimbus. That’s not a knock against the rod, - it’s just a fact. It’s a very solid rod, but there’s not one aspect that knocks my shorts off, so to speak.
The most surprising aspect of its performance, though, was how the Nimbus handles fish. Whether I was fishing a dry-dropper rig on a lake or throwing big hoppers tight against the bank, the Nimbus’s strong backbone and soft tip helped me bring trout to the net quicker than expected. Usually, with rods in this price range, you have to compensate for less-than-stellar fish handling performance, but that’s not the case with the Nimbus.
What Doesn’t Work
Swing weight has dinged Winston in more than one review, even with their Boron IIIx line. While it’s virtually nonexistent on the AIR, the Nimbus had enough swing weight for me to both notice and be bothered by it.
I usually gloss over any rod weight descriptions these days. Since graphite became commercially viable as a rod blank material, rods have been light enough that discussing the weight of particular models was literally like splitting hairs.
The Nimbus does feel heavier in hand than a $650 rod should, though. It’s not an absolute deal breaker, but looking at the rod there’s not really a reason for it to be this heavy.
I like the Nimbus. I really do. It’s a solid rod that performs well for traditional trout-fishing. The action and its ability to play fish make it a greatly useful tool, though the swing weight will tire your arm out after a hard day of fishing.
But the Nimbus occupies an odd price point. Another $150 or $200 gets you into most brands’ (including Winston’s) flagship rods, leaving the Nimbus feeling a bit overpriced at $650. I’d be much more comfortable with this rod at $550.
Regardless, the Nimbus is an interesting addition to the Winston family. Solid performance, the classic Winston feel and attention to quality are all present. I don’t think I’ll ever warm up to a blue blank from Winston, but many other anglers may find it to be a refreshing break from tradition. If you’re looking to bump up a grade in rod performance but don’t want to drop a mortgage payment on a top-of-the-line option, go give the Nimbus a cast at your local fly shop.
UPDATE 09/09/2017: Winston has informed Hatch Magazine that the cork used on the Nimbus is identical to the cork used on Winston's flagship rods such as the Winston BIIx and Air.