Hollow-fluted bamboo. Record-shattering distance casting rods. The early use of materials such as fiberglass and graphite. Pioneering, harnessing and refining the unmatched power and performance of boron/graphite composite. These are just a few examples of how, for over 85 years now, Winston has been responsible for some of the most groundbreaking advances in fly fishing. Our company’s history isn’t just marked by dates, but by innovations.
While 1929 may be an infamous year in financial circles, it is one that is cherished by anglers worldwide. For that’s the year Robert Winther and Lew Stoner started what is known today as the R.L. Winston Rod Company.
Originally calling their San Francisco-based company the Winston-Stoner Manufacturing Co., they later combined elements from both their names, and renamed it the R.L. Winston Rod Company. Technicians at heart, they began the Winston tradition of archiving each rod with a journal entry and a serial number. Almost immediately, the bamboo rods these two men built earned a reputation for performance and exceptional quality.
In 1933, Robert Winther sold his interest in Winston to employee Red Loskot, an accomplished fly fisherman and member of the Golden Gate Angling Club. The following year, Lew Stoner developed his patented hollow-fluted rod design for use in tournament casting competition.
The Winstons built with this design were lightweight, very powerful, and would soon shatter a number of world distance casting records. Primo Livenais used a Winston surf rod in 1936 to break the world record with a 623 foot cast. In 1938, Marvin Hedge used a Winston to break the world fly casting record by 36 feet.
In 1945, Doug Merrick stopped by the shop to buy a new rod and also found himself a job at Winston. In 1953, he purchased Red Loskot's interest. When Lew Stoner died unexpectedly in 1957, Merrick became sole owner.
Winston continued to set world casting records at the Golden Gate Anglers Club led by John "Buddy" Tarantino. In the early 1950s, Winston incorporated the casting characteristics of its famous hollow-fluted rods into a new material: fiberglass.
In the 1960s, Merrick’s penchant for quality and his exceptional rod building skills continued to raise Winston's standard of excellence, already the highest in the industry. While continuing to adhere to many of Stoner’s developments, he also made slight changes to the tapers to create more responsive rods than those that designed for distance casting.
In 1967, renowned angler and hotelier Charles Ritz, president of the International Fario Club in Paris, presented Merrick with a medal for "Outstanding work and knowledge pertaining to split bamboo rods."
Tom Morgan purchased the company from Merrick in 1973, and a year later took on a partner to assist him with bamboo operations as he refined and concentrated on the company’s fiberglass and initial graphite efforts.
In 1975, Winston offered a new line of 2 and 3-piece graphite rods that met with great success. In 1976, the decision was made to move the company from San Francisco to Twin Bridges, Montana in order to be near the world-class trout fishing of the Beaverhead, Big Hole and Jefferson rivers.
In 1991, Winston was bought by David Ondaatje who, over the next several years, worked closely with Tom Morgan to learn about Winston rod building and design.
Faced with sourcing challenges due to a growing demand for graphite blanks, David realized the only way for the company to grow and maximize quality would be to gain complete control over all steps of the manufacturing process. In 1994, the company began rolling its own blanks and a year later, moved to a new rod facility in Twin Bridges specifically designed for rod building and outfitted with state of the art equipment. Following the move, Winston introduced a number of industry-leading rod designs, including LT 5-piece trout rods and the first two series based on boron/graphite composite: BL5 and XTR.
In the 2000s, Winston innovation became centered on boron/graphite composite, and a more responsive and dynamic second generation of this rod building material was utilized.
During this time, the phenomenally successful Boron IIx, Boron II-MX and Boron IIt series were introduced. These award-winning designs redefined the fast-action category by combining power and strength with accuracy, responsiveness and very light weight.
In 2011, Winston introduced the Boron III X series, and anglers all over the world began to experience the benefits offered by third generation boron/graphite composite.
To complement Boron III X, Winston developed the Boron III SX series, which won the “Best Saltwater Rod” category at the IFTD show. In 2014, Boron III LS light line rods and BORON III TH two-handed rods were introduced.
Continuing to innovate, in 2015, Winston introduces Boron III TH-MS Microspey rods, which combine the power of a spey rod with the finesse of a trout rod.
Designed specifically for trout fishing, these Two-Handed 3,4 and 5 weight rods add a new and exciting dimension to the sport.