Review: Winston PURE fly rod

A close look at Winston's new dry fly specialist
Winston PURE fly rod
Photo: Spencer Durrant

About a month ago, I finally got my hands on a 9’ 4wt review model of the PURE. Winston bills this rod as a light-line presentation stick for wary trout – much in the same way the company’s vaunted IM6 and WT series have been described.

The PURE isn’t a “modern” version of those classic rods, which is a good thing. The PURE stands on its own, much as the B3LS did, and performs admirably in most classic trout fishing situations. It may not be the company’s flagship rod, but at $850, it’s priced as a flagship stick for dry-fly enthusiasts.

But how exactly does the PURE perform, especially given Winston’s history of making arguably the best dry fly rods on the planet?

What Works

Slow action
My first thought while casting the 9’ 4wt PURE was, damn, this is slow. For reference, I fished this rod exclusively with Winston’s Energy line in a WF4F on a 3 ½” Hardy Duchess.

The PURE was slow enough that I dug out my Tom Morgan Favorite Winston (a 2-piece 8’ 4wt WT) and cast it alongside the PURE. The rods had near-identical action, though the PURE had a quicker recovery and just a bit more backbone, which was expected since it was a foot longer than the TMF.

And per a conversation I had with Winston’s marketing manager Leslie Clark, that action was an integral part of the PURE's design.

I can’t talk about the PURE without talking about its presentation skills; after all, it’s a presentation rod. I fished this 4wt from a boat on Utah’s Green River, on tiny creeks in the cliffs of Colorado, and a handful of rivers in between. If I needed a fly to land on still water like a butterfly with sore feet, the PURE helped accomplish that. Even fishing long, fine leaders didn’t faze the rod.

Accuracy was excellent out to about 35-45 feet, depending on the length of my leader and fly size. The PURE really felt ideally loaded with 20 feet of line out, meaning anywhere from 11 – 45 feet is the rod’s sweet spot. For a tool of finesse like the PURE, that’s right where it needs to excel.

I didn’t expect a 9’ 4wt to offer much in the way of backbone, especially from a light-line Winston. But the PURE surprised me when I threw a few curveballs at it. From size 8 rabbit leeches to size 6 hood rats, this rod had the spine to throw bigger flies without that slingshot-like action most lighter rods get when they’re overloaded.

By no means would I take this as a primary bigger-bug rod. But in a pinch, it’ll handle streamers and larger topwater flies relatively well.

The PURE's backbone also helps it wrangle fish more effectively than you’d expect. It’s still a 4wt, mind you, so don’t think it’ll put the hurt on 5+ pound trout.

Build quality
As usual, Winston continues to build the prettiest production rods available. The PURE features smaller-than-usual guides, including one chrome nanolite stripping guide and light-wire chrome snake guides. The small guides were used, per Winston, to intentionally create a “better connection to the rod and more precise presentation.”

The standard Winston nickel silver uplocking reel seat and burled wood adorn the PURE. Winston has moved away from the burled box elder reel seat inserts of the previous years and back to a burled maple.

The cork grip is noticeably thinner than most any other grip I’ve felt – even more than the grip on my 8’ 3wt Air. Winston wanted to create a feeling of connection between the angler and the rod, and slimming down the cork grip allows you to feel more feedback than you would otherwise.

What Doesn’t

Most presentation rods don’t do well in the wind. The PURE is no exception. A light breeze isn’t a deal breaker, but any consistent wind will ruin your accuracy. With its slower action, the PURE doesn’t create high enough line speed to cut through faster wind.

You don’t pick up a 4wt expecting to cast to backing with ease, but the PURE really doesn’t perform well past 50 or so feet. This 9’ 4wt just doesn’t have the torsional stability to maintain accuracy and line speed at that distance. This isn’t a bad thing, per say, since it’s nearly impossible to have a delicate presentation tool and wind cannon in one rod; it’s just a reality of what the PURE was built for.

Final Word

The PURE turned out to be a pleasant surprise. I was sad to see the B3LS go, but the PURE is a great replacement. It’s a fantastic presentation rod and does a superb job of fishing tiny dry flies. It has enough backbone to throw bigger bugs in a pinch, and casts supremely well at traditional trout distances.

That light-line performance comes at the cost of performance against the wind and at distance, but that’s to be expected with a rod like this.

The PURE's slow action is reminiscent of the old IM6 rods Winston used to make, and the build quality is top-notch as usual. For dry-fly specialists, I don’t know of a better production rod currently available. If the Air is Winston’s all-around flagship rod, the PURE is the company’s pinnacle of modern light-line design.