Bozeman Road Trip – And R. L. Winston Rod Company Tour

Simms

My son David, and his wife Jamie and daughter Bridget moved to Bozeman Montana last Spring.

Two weeks ago I made a driving trip over to see them and their new house. A flight would have been quicker but I prefer driving and seeing the country whenever possible. And this was my first solo road trip since I got married.

Coming into Montana was a treat. It’s been about a decade since I’d been there; way too long. As I crested the Continental Divide east of Butte, I recalled it’d been 40 years that month since my first visit to Montana and Yellowstone.

I was living in Idaho Falls at the time while training at the Naval Reactors training site 40 miles west of Idaho Falls. Long, long days and not much sleep was the norm; good practice as it turned out for life later in the submarine service.

But the rotating shift schedule we worked did offer 5 consecutive days off once per month. And that gave me the time to make my first visit to Yellowstone; saw a moose in the park. Coming out on a late snowy Sunday afternoon I saw a man wading in the Madison river. That was my first time seeing someone fly fishing.

Back to the current trip.

The time in Bozeman was fun. Got to see the Simms building – the source for so much gear for so many fly fishers. Sampled the local beer and had a great meal at the Montana Ale Works. Did a quick day trip to Big Sky and West Yellowstone. And just had a wonderful time. Driving out of town I was figuring ways to stay.

Rather than heading back on the interstate, I headed southwest to drive through Ennis and Virginia City on the way to Twin Bridges. Ennis may be among the most storied fly fishing towns around and Virginia City is a historic gold mining town.

The final part of the trip was along the Ruby River, a tributary of the Beayerhead River, which joins the Big Hole River near Twin Bridges to become the Jefferson – one of the tributaries of the Missouri River.

Winston Fly Rods

I got to Winston Fly Rods about 20 minutes early for the daily 11AM tour. Winston Fly Rods sits at the southern end of Twin Bridges, Montana, which has a population of 375 per the last census (the entire county has less than 7,000 people). It was quiet except for the wind. With the rivers and mountains, I thought if you were going to choose a place to build fly rods this would be it.

I was greeted by Adam who asked if I wanted to cast any of the rods while waiting. The office was lined with all the rods in the Winston inventory. I chose the Boron III Plus in a six-weight saltwater version and took it out to the casting lawn in front. It was smooth and easy to cast both against and with the wind. Quite a change from the rod it’s replacing – the Boron III SX.

The tour started near the front of the rod building area and gave me an overview of the rod building process – stopping to indicate a door behind me where the green paint is applied that makes Winston rods so beautiful. He said he couldn’t say much about it except that it’s all proprietary and closely guarded. And later in the tour he said the green thread used for trying on the guides was also proprietary to Winston.

He showed me a rod blank after it comes out of the rolling and heating steps – it looked like the natural finish of a Scott rod. He explained why Winston believes the sanding process is required, by saying they find very small numbers of errors that can only be detected by the operator of the sanding machine. Any blank section that fails at this point is destroyed.

We walked through the various stations in the rod building process. Along the way I met a number of the Winston staff who without exception were friendly and extremely proud of the work they did. I talked to the guy who does all the repair work, the woman tying on a guide on a returned bamboo rod (she said can do all guides on a typical rod in about one hour). While she wasn’t there (it was lunch hour) Adam mentioned they have one woman who has been doing all the script work on the rod (model, weight, and serial number) for over 15 years.

We wound up in the room where final inspections are done. Adam showed me a couple of the rods that were marked for minor rework. He looked at one of the rods and saw the problem. Handing me the rod he indicated where the problem was but I couldn’t see it.

Winston has 30 employees working at the facility; in addition, they have 12 contractors in the local community who do the tying of the guides. It was clear to me everyone of those people build every Winston rod with pride and attention to detail.

I had thought going in the tour would be a quick walk through. But I spent almost 50 minutes on the tour and likely could have stayed longer if I had more questions. As I left the tour Adam invited me to come back anytime I was in the area.

I have appreciated Winston rods for some time. But this tour gave me a peek at what truly makes them exceptional – and that’s the people who put so much of themselves into building them.

And I’m going to have take another look at the Boron III Plus rod.

A Question of Balance: The Rod’s Butt Section

Beginners to fly fishing read, or are told, that a rod and reel should be a balanced outfit. That is further amplified by the instruction that each should be of the same weight – so a reel made for an X weight line should be used with a rod built for a X weight line.

Then as the fly fisher continues in the sport, another consideration emerges – the feel of the rod in hand, i.e., the notion of a rod being tip heavy or butt heavy due to the relationship of the physical weights of the rod and reel (particularly the latter).  Common sense thinking is that a heavier reel doesn’t work with a lighter rod – creating a butt-heavy combination, or a light reel with a heavier weight rod becoming too tippy.  And this doesn’t even get into the arcane discussion of whether the balance test should be done with line on the reel or how much line should be stripped off to measure the balance. Or the even more esoteric static balance versus dynamic balance (balance during actual casting).

I came across an even more interesting twist on all of the above.  I had mentioned in a previous post that I had been doing some testing of rods and lines, both to test fly lines and potentially finding a replacement for a BIII-SX (read here).

One of the interesting things I discovered during the testing was the way in which the rod’s butt section affected my perception of the rod. I was casting a Scott Radian 9’ 6” 6wt. I had a Hatch Finatic 5 on it, loaded with a Rio Outbound 6-weight line.  When picking up the rod I found myself thinking it felt clunky and unbalanced.  It was noticeable though somewhat less during the casting.

I then picked up a Winston BIIIX (also a 9’ 6” 6wt) and put on the Hatch reel. It had a less clunky feel though I could feel the weight of the reel. The weight was apparent but it felt better. Casting was no problem.

I then disassembled the rod and took the reel off. I closed my eyes and had both butt sections given to me. It was noticeably obvious that the Radian’s butt section is much heavier than the Winston.

I’ve not been able to find any published rod weights on the Radian yet, but feel in hand suggest the overall rod weight is about the same range as a BIIIX or Helios 2. In looking at the rod butt lengths they are all approximately the same length (some differences in blank length

A visual and tactile inspection of the Scott leads me to think the reel seat itself is heavier than the other rods. Given its position in the rod it has a more noticeable affect than weight spread along the rods length (say from the weight of heavier guides).

I put a lighter weight Galvan Torque on the Radian (with all four sections assembled) and the rod felt right in hand. Casting was easy and the Radian is a terrific rod.

After all of the above, is there some mystery of the universe (or of fly fishing) revealed?

Of course not. The only thing to be relearned is that all of the received wisdom and technical specifications are meaningless in the face of actual experience.  True of fly fishing – or life.

The Alchemy of Fly Rods and Fly Lines: Rethinking the BIII-SX

I’ve been out in my backyard over the last few days to do some practice casting and continue my evaluation of a few fly lines. It’s been sunny and relatively warm (high 50s), something that’s not going to last, with rain and wind coming tomorrow.

This time out has reminded me that much like ancient alchemists, we seek our own philosopher’s stone of mixing rod and reel to create fly fishing gold. Unfortunately, sometimes we wind up with lead.

I’ve been using my Winston BIII-SX (9’ 6” 6 weight) for this practice. In addition, I’m using the time to decide if I should keep it or sell it on eBay. I’ve had mixed feelings about the Winston BIII-SX since I got it.

It was my second Winston (my first was a 9’ 5 weight BIIIX). The BIIIX was, and is, a joy to cast. But after moving over here to Gig Harbor, I decided to spend more time focused on beach fishing for sea-run cutthroat trout and resident Coho. That meant a 6-weight in 9’ 6”. And I chose the BIII-SX as I thought it’d give me a bit of heft for the bigger Coho’s as well as being a stronger performer than the BIIIX on the steeper beaches in wind.

Initially I was excited with the BIII-SX as it was a Winston. The line choice recommended by the Gig Harbor Fly Shop was a great match: the Airflo 40+ Floating/Intermediate. Initial casting was somewhat easy and fun (if by no means as fun as with the BIIIX). The rod weight was more noticeable and at shorter line lengths it did feel more like a club than a fly rod. I’ll confess and say I hadn’t cast it before I bought it – dumb me.

So I might have just consoled myself that it was a Winston and kept on using the AirFlo 40+, except for two things.

The first was that I wanted to go with floating lines for casting some beach poppers, and that’s when I started to see the BIII-SX had some major issues with its dependency on lines. I first got a Rio Outbound (OB) Floating in 6 weight. I figured the 37.5 foot head would cast approximately like the the Airflo with its 35-foot head (though the Airflo is heavier at 261 grains versus 240).

It did take some practice to get my casting down with the OB, but once I did I was hitting around the 70 foot mark as with the Airflo. Shorter casts were doable – but as with the Airflo – without any feel. For both lines it seems I needed to have at least 30 feet of line out – making approximately a 50 foot cast the minimum for the BIII-SX.

I then got the Outbound Short (OBS) Floating in 6-weight and put that on. I thought the compact head (30 feet versus 37.5 for the OB) would load the rod better. The OBS was almost as heavy as the full length OB (235 versus 240 grains).

But all the theory was irrelevant. The rod never really seemed to come alive; heavy and unresponsive. I have a sense a 7 weight OBS might work better. But that points to the problem with the BIII-SX series: I they are all actually at least one rod weight higher.

Late last year I had also tried casting the BIII-SX in 8 weight with an 8 weight OB and it was like casting a broom stick. The rod wouldn’t load at all. Even when putting a 9 weight OB on it was not much better. I’m guessing it’s at least 1.5 – 2 weights heavier than stated. Winston blew it with this series.

Then there is the other thing – how the BIII-SX compared to casting other rods. I’ve had the chance to cast the Orvis Helios 2 Tip Flex, Sage One, and the Scott Radian.

They were all superior to the BIII-SX, at least for me. I didn’t like the Sage One in a 9-foot as it’s too stiff too, but it was still better than the BIII-SX (and much lighter).

The Scott was definitely a fast rod, but I was able to feel it at distances less than 30 feet, while at longer distances I could feel the power and speed of the rod. It was a different casting experience than a Winston and while it’s a very fine rod, the thicker grip was something that felt uncomfortable. A person’s muscle memory sure plays a part in evaluating a new rod. If I had a couple of weeks to cast it to get used to the grip I might change my mind. Adding it to the list for future consideration.

The Helios 2 was the best of three as far as I was concerned on this day of testing – easy to cast at all distances. Feel wasn’t great at short distances; it was sort of there but not as noticeable as the Radian. At longer distances, there was feel and control. The only problem I noticed was that with longer casts, I had to work a bit – more than with the Radian. So not perfect, but very close. It’s definite candidate to replace the BIII-SX.

After all of the above, I’ve come to see the BIII-SX is a much more specialized rod than an all-around rod. Maybe that’s what Winston intended it for – heavy flies in heavy winds at distance where feel and easy casting are not part of the equation. That narrow use may make it a standby rod, but not the first choice for many trips around here where sea runs and Coho are closer to the beach.

Maybe eBay will be getting a listing soon. But I think I’ll get some time on a BIIIX first. I may have just made a bad decision based on moving away from a rod series I like a great deal. And maybe take another look at both the Helios 2 and the Radian.

Lawn Casting the Scott Radian

I had an opportunity to take a 9’ 6” 6-weight Scott Radian out for a bit of lawn casting. Based on the buzz I’d read about it being a “fast rod with feel”, I had high expectations for it. After approximately one hour of casting, I thought it was a really nice rod, but I don’t think I would sell the rods I have just to buy it. I still think the Orvis Helios 2 is a better casting rod at distance; and within about 50 – 60 feet, I’d give the edge to the Winston BIIIX.

All the testing was done with a Rio Outbound 6wt Floating and a 7-foot practice leader.

I started with about 10 feet of line out. Pickup and lay down casts were easy. I could feel the line (lightly it’s true but still feel it). It was something I could never feel with that amount of line with either a Sage One or Winston BIII-SX.

I stripped off another 10 – 15 feet of line and the tip started loading more, making casting easy and fun. I stripped more line until it I had about 55 feet of line out. False casting (without stripping) was simple. The rod was loading more and I could really begin to feel how fast a rod it was. Same thing when I added a haul or two.

And I think that’s when it lost its luster for me. It wasn’t the rod as much as me not really liking the fast feel at longer distances. I’ve cast enough to know I don’t like rods that feel like broomsticks to me. If I had to rank the order of broomstick feel of faster rods I’ve cast, I’d say the Sage One was easily the stiffest and the one I liked least. Between the Radian and BIII-SX it’s a bit of a tossup, but based on memory, I think – at least in 6 weight – the BIII-SX is stiffer.

I think I like rods that are a bit slower – the so-called “medium fast” rods like the Orvis Helios 2 (Tip flex) and Winston BIIIX rods. Of course, that’s just me. If I had a chance to cast the Radian for a longer period and got used to its speed I might change my mind.

If you like faster rods with a bit of feel, particularly ones made in the USA by our fellow citizens, then I think the Scott Radian would be a terrific choice.

Gink and Gasoline on the New Orvis Marketing

Gink and Gasoline has a new post reflecting on the ways Orvis is changing the way it markets itself. Orvis understands it has an image problem – derided by a good number of critics for many years a “lifestyle company” – and has aggressively set out to reclaim its place as a preeminent fly fishing company.

Orvis has attacked its image problem in two ways. It was the first fly fishing company to use internet marketing and social media. Tom Rosenbauer’s podcasts represent a growing library of tips and information. It has a dedicated web site of instructional videos to help both new and experienced fly fishers. And many of its company stores have active programs of presentations and schools.

At the same time, Orvis has focused both research and development and manufacturing technologies in improving its products (Helios 2 rods and Silver Sonic waders are only two examples).

This is great for the industry overall. When the biggest company in the business starts moving to reposition and market itself, other companies must do likewise. All of us will benefit from the increased competition.

As one example., I’ve observed over the last year that Winston has upgraded its marketing to include a new web site and a Facebook page. In addition, it has recently posted a series of Joan Wulff instructional videos (see here).

You can read the Gink and Gasoline post here.

Winston Offers Online Joan Wulff Instructional Videos

Winston Rods has just released the first six parts of a planned ten-part instructional online video series called One on One with Joan Wulff.

Joan Wulff is a member of Winston’s Pro Staff Advisory Team, and is one of the greatest fly casters of all time. She has published books (Joan Wulff’s Fly Casting Accuracy, Joan Wulff’s Fly Fishing, Joan Wulff’s Fly-Casting Techniques, Joan Wulff’s New Fly-Casting Techniques) and videos (Joan Wulff’s Dynamics of Fly Casting: From Solid Basics to Advanced Techniques)  and is the founder of the Wulff School of Fly Fishing on the Beaverkill River in New York State. She is deservedly revered for her passion for the sport of fly fishing; her since interest in those she meets and instructs, and the class and grace she demonstrates in the way she lives.

This first set of five contains the following lessons:

1. Introduction
2. The Casting Stroke
3. The Roll Cast
4. The Basic Cast
5. Creating the Loop
6. Timing and Other Variables

Each video is short (less than four minutes), but is filled with tips and insights that will be valuable to both beginners and more experienced fly casters.

You can get to the videos here.

Orvis On Sale at Fishwest: Economies of Scale At Work

Fishwest is one of the biggest internet fly fishing retailers. For years, they have sold gear from all the big names (e.g., Patagonia, Simms, Sage, Winston, and many others). I had posted earlier (see here) about the economies of scale emerging in the retail fly fishing market. That post included discussion of the merger of Fishwest with Missoula-based Grizzly Hackle Holdings.

Today I got an email from Fishwest announcing that it was carrying Orvis. I checked and they appear to have a good selection of Orvis gear including the Helios 2 (many but not all rods in the series). I did notice their Mirage reels and Silver Sonic waders were not currently available.

That was a bit of a surprise as Orvis has its own distribution channels, including its own stores, a network of fly shops that carry their gear, and their own internet store. I was more than a bit surprised.

Who wins the most with this announcement? I think Orvis wins – maybe not big to start, but over time it’ll be huge as it gives them significant visibility and another distribution channel in the west and west coast of the United States. It seems to me this is part of a much bigger strategy.

Orvis has been out west for a long time, with many stores, endorsed guide and lodge operations, and dealer network. (We have an outstanding Orvis store in Bellevue that is highly regarded for its outreach on fly fishing and fly fishing education.) At the same time it has been viewed by many in the west as a stodgy east coast business with sometimes good but not great fly gear, dog beds and traditional if affected clothing.

But the truth is that much of their current fly gear is as good as anything anyone else is making (and so are some of their dog beds). The Helios 2 is properly regarded by many reviewers as among the very best rods for sale today.

Given the size of the retail fly fishing market (see here), roughly $750 million annually, it’s clear – particularly if the fears of a declining population of fly fishers are realized – that any brand (and Orvis is a brand just as much as a Sage or a Winston are) must not settle on existing market share if they are to survive and prosper.

Orvis has clearly demonstrated over the last few years a resurgence by a new freshness in design, a young set of designers (if their videos are accurate representations), and a willingness to change the game in how it does business. I think they want to produce the best gear they are capable of producing and they want to reestablish themselves as the leader in areas such as rods, reels, and waders.

I also think Grizzly Hackle Holdings/Fishwest wins big. They are bringing on a brand with market presence and share, lots of advertising, high volume catalog mailings,and an extensive network of schools, guides, and lodges endorsed by Orvis. The more advertising there is for Orvis, the more chance they will win additional business selling Orvis products.

Does anyone lose on this? I think that remains to be seen.

But certainly the move of Orvis into a new distribution channel demonstrates a refreshing break with the past. Other equipment makers – particularly rods, reels, and waders – likely need to think about a world where Orvis is more visible and is offered in a big way outside their historic way of selling their gear.

Retooling the Rod Inventory: Considering the Orvis Helios 2 8-Weight

Orvis Helios 2 8 Weight

I’ve had a long affection and appreciation for Winston rods. For years I admired the reputation and mystique of the Winston brand. I’ve owned a 5 weight BIIIX for over three years that I used on the Cedar and Yakima rivers. I loved its beautiful green color, the build quality, the soft tip that allowed flies to gently fall on the rivers, and its general fishing ability.

When I started fishing in the saltwater fisheries of Puget Sound, anticipating the wind, I jumped on what was then the newly released faster BIII-SX in a 9’ 6” 6 weight. I liked casting the rod and found it a bit stiffer than the BIIIX but nonetheless a fine fishing rod.

A six-weight rod is more than enough rod for the sea run cutthroat trout and resident Coho salmon of Puget Sound. But I wanted to go after the migrating cousins (Coho/silvers and pinks) and that meant an 8-weight.

Given it was saltwater fishing my immediate and obvious conclusion was the BIII-SX in a 9-foot 8 weight. I got a chance to do more than a bit of lawn casting with it and…I really didn’t like it.

I tried casting it with a Rio Outbound Short (8-weight); a Rio Outbound (8 weight); and an Airflo 40+ (9 weight). It was an exasperating experience. I didn’t feel as I could get the road to load for me in a way I would have expected with an 8 weight. I tried varying my cast in stroke length, timing, and power application. Nothing I did made me feel like I was getting to the Winston sweet spot I could find with the 6-weight.

I was disappointed. It may have been the rod in that weight is too fast for my casting abilities. I’ve begun working on my double haul and sometimes get a rough approximation of one. So, I certainly think that my technique needs improvement. But still, I started to think I was too restricted in my thinking about rod brands.

Not really ever feeling love for Sage rods, which may be blasphemy for someone living in Washington, I decided to check out Orvis – after reading a lot of the buzz over the last year or so about the Helios 2.

I was first able to get my hands on a 9’ 6” 6 weight (saltwater with fighting butt). If nothing else, I figured I could get a feel for how the at least one rod in the series casts and fishes.

My first impression was that it was lighter that the BIII-SX in the same weight¬ – turns out it was half an ounce, and I was surprised I could feel the difference. While I was checking the 6 weight differences, I looked and found the Helios was over an ounce lighter in 8-weight (for the 9 foot rod).

It’s not the beautiful Winston green, but a refined midnight blue; . The reel seat is attractive with a skeleton frame surrounding what is advertised as woven graphite; it’s good looking! (I did see the rod tube, and well…to each his own).

Enough about aesthetics. How did it cast?

Well and this was almost not a surprise given the praise heaped on it by most of the reviews I’ve read, it was a great casting rod. Light in hand and light in swing. I found it easy to shoot line; at the same time it was easy to accurately cast with only several feet of line and leader beyond the rod tip.

Comparing rods, even when switching back and forth between my BIII-SX and the Helios 2, is always subjective based on perception as much as observation of casts. But I’m prepared to say that I liked casting the Helios 2 much more than the BIII-SX. I had the sense my casts were straighter and more confident than with the BIII-SX.

Of course, not all rods in a series are the same. Often one-rod weight and length will be terrific; then moving up or down to another weight and it’s difficult to believe they are from the same series – as I noted with the BIII-SX above.

But I’ve found the rod I want to look at for my 8-weight. If it casts anywhere near as well as the 9’ 6” 6-weight, the crew from Vermont will be getting my business.

And now what to do about the 6-weight?

Money not growing on trees or being the latest lottery winner, it’s difficult to conceive of having two premium rods of the same weight and length. And even a justification of having a backup when a rod needs repair (as I had with a broken tip on the BIII-SX this summer) is a bit of a stretch.

So I’ll keep the BIII-SX for now and get the Helios 2 in 8-weight. After that, something may be going on sale on eBay. And more important, I need to get some additional casting coaching and instruction.

Winston BIII-SX: First Fishing Trip

My previous post on casting the Winston BIII-SX (see post here) came after my fist afternoon casting session in my backyard. Since then, I’ve had a chance to cast it more in the backyard; experimenting with different reels for balance; and got my first time with it on the water – using it during an Introduction to Beach Fishing Course (see post here)

I’ll say this with no hesitation: the BIII-SX 9’ 6” 6 weight is a wonderful casting rod with plenty of power, and with the fishing soul of every other Winston.

First on the choice of reel. After a bit of experimentation I decided the Galvan Torque T-6 reel was the best match. Coming in at 5.2 ounces, it gave me a balanced feel in the hand. I had tried a couple of older reels I still had and a Nautilus FW8 7/8 (4.1 ounces), but in each case the rod felt tippy in my hand. That’s not a slam on the Nautilus reels; I use them on my BIIIX and find the lighter weight a great match for lighter rods.

One point to consider is that both the Galvan and Nautilus reels were loaded with SA Mastery GPX 6-weight for the comparison; what I might have thought had I made the comparison with the line I used on the water I can’t say. I suspect the Nautilus would have been a bit better balanced given the extra volume of backing. I may test that at some point.

In terms of the line I used on the water, I went with the recommendation I got in the Introduction to Beach Fishing Course and rigged it with an Airflo Forty Plus Intermediate Fly Line. This is a great line for beach fishing; with its semi-translucent head that sinks at 1.5 inches per second, it tends to float just beneath the surface on the windy conditions of Puget Sound.

One thing I did learn in the class was that a stripping basket made all the difference in terms of line management of intermediate lines. Without it, there was too much drag from line in the water.

As far as casting the rod on the water, I found the elusive groove.

One of the challenges I’ve had since I starting fly-casting is learning to not overpower the cast. I’ve had glimmers of doing it right, but nothing consistent from cast to cast.
Even in my first session in the backyard and the first few casts on the beach with BIII-SX I was doing the same thing.

Then I started to experiment and things got much better. What I found was the rod’s obvious power allowed me to slow down my cast and let the rod do the work. I felt like I was casting better than I had before. Blake, our guide and instructor, came by twice and complimented me on the way both the back casts and forward casts were rolling out in straight lines. After that, it didn’t matter if I caught any fish– the confidence of his compliments made my day.

We had a bit of wind from the left (I’m a right-handed caster) and I had no trouble in keeping the line moving in the direction I wanted. I could vary my cast to see how the rod handled it and most casts felt easy and relaxed.

I gave the rod to Blake for a demonstration of double hauling (something I still have to learn) and he easily got the line out to some distance, showing me what this rod’s capability in the hands of a great caster.

Did it turn me into an expert caster? Of course not. I have to much to learn and need to get miles under my casting belt. But the concerns I had about whether this was a rod I could grow into were dispelled within the first hour on the water.

I can’t wait to get out with it next time I go chasing sea-run cutthroat trout.

First Casts with Winston BIII-SX

Finally, I got a nice day for a first casting session with my 9’6” 6-weight Winston BIII-SX. The rod, as the day, did not disappoint.

The day was pleasant for early March – sunny and relatively warm (high 50’s) with no wind. I could have gotten out any time in the last month after I had the rod delivered, but who wants to stand in the rain on a cold, windy day and cast across a muddy backyard?

A first experience is always what it is. But when possible it’s always better to stack the odds for success rather than failure. Most life experiences begin with excitement mixed with trepidation as the expectation turns into reality. That in itself is enough; other factors that can be avoided, should be: a flat tire on a first date; spilling coffee during an interview with a potential employer; or having rain pour down the arm through a loose cuff while casting a fly rod for the first time.

And a warm sunny day seemed to be to the ticket. Not having to deal with layers and outerwear was something worth waiting for. I managed about 20 minutes with the rod – not long as I wanted, but about all I had given the day’s schedule.

As to the rod and how it cast? It’s a Winston: different than the BIIIX, but still a Winston in looks, feel, and casting.

The components are Winston quality. They require almost no comment. This is a beautiful green stick. I’ve read some complaints about the black anodized aluminum reel seat, but I don’t what the complaints are. I thought it looked terrific – particularly with the script R.L. Winston on the seat.

This post is what I’d call initial impressions given the limited time I’d spent casting and in the condition I cast it. It won’t be called a review until I spend much more time with the rod and in more conditions..

I was using an old Orvis large-arbor reel with a similarly old SA Mastery GPX 6 weight line with an Umpqua practice leader; I keep those for casting in the backyard and keep my Nautilus reels for use on water. I didn’t check rod/reel balance this time – I was just in a hurry to get out and cast. The rod/reel combination felt comfortable and I didn’t notice any issue with balance.

My first cast was made with about 20 feet of line stripped out. I had no problem getting the line to load the tip – but the tip was all that loaded – and make a reasonable-looking pick up and lay down cast. I say reasonable to focus on any limitation being mine, not the rod.

I began to shoot line and without hauling (something I still have to pick up) was making 50-60 foot casts with little problem. The cast tracked well, with me being able to put the fly where I aimed.

I watched my back cast on every cast for this first session to know when to begin my forward cast as well as to watch the rod tip, which is something I no longer do with my BIIX. I have the feeling a bit more practice and I’ll be able to do that with the BIII-SX.

I had never cast the BIII-MX so I can’t offer any comparison. Other early reviews I’ve read suggest the BIII-SX is a smoother cast than the MX. I can only say it’s faster than the BIIIX. By how much, and how it comparatively handles wind, is something I still have to discover.

My deltoid was bit sore after I finished – much more noticeable than when casting my BIII-X 5-weight. That could be to the almost five months from when I was last out on the Yakima river, or it could be due to the stiffer feel of the rod (I’d noticed similar sensations when casting a Sage One).

My casting is a work in progress, and as my technique improves along with more casting this year, that should problem should go away.

I bought this rod for use on the beach this year, fishing for Puget Sound cutthroat trout. With a more practice to learn how the rod behaves – as well as polishing my casting skills, I should be ready.