Words By Brett Wedeking
There’s a million rods out there these days and a million opinions on what the best one is—and a lot of hype. It’s impossible to say what “the best” rod is out there, but Winston’s Air 2 series makes a persuasive argument for top billing. Over the winter I had the opportunity to fish the new 9’6” 5-weight Air 2 on my homewaters of Puget Sound. What a treat it was.
While my Puget Sound fly fishing is technically trout fishing, it’s unlike any other trout fishery on the planet. We need powerful rods that can zip out shooting heads and weighted flies with ease, repeatedly, but still retain a light and sensitive feeling in the hand. And, we’re talking 5-6 weight rods, this isn’t striper fishing. Blending power and finesse is a difficult task but this model finds the sweet spot on every cast, every hook up.
To say this rod blends power and finesse is unfair and simplistic, however. This rod generates the type of power you’d normally find in a 7-weight. And that kind of power is rarely blended with the delicacy and presentation accuracy of this rod. I’m a fan of longer rods for big rivers and this rod is perfectly at home on rivers like the Deschutes, wading thigh deep on slick rocks, trying to sling a stonefly around an upstream bush. Feel confident that the fly will drop where you point the rod and not six feet up in the bush. The line control that six extra inches provides is beautiful. Big mends and high sticking are cake. Roll casting is buttery and effortless.
The length slows down the cast and the rod bends deep into the butt, with kinetic feel from tip to cork. That feel is equally important when trying to sling a baitfish pattern 80’ to the beach or dropping a PMD emerger behind a boulder. While I only fished the former situation with this model, this stick would be my first choice for the South Fork of the Snake in July, where you’re double hauling bushy stoneflies along the bank and fishing hatches in the riffles on the same afternoon.
This rod excels at throwing a variety of fly lines. For floaters, I’d match it with an SA Trout taper or Infinity taper all day long. Don’t be afraid to load a heavier taper either, for turning over bigger bugs. This rod will handle it. I was thoroughly impressed by this rod turning over the shooting heads and baitfish patterns we fish on Puget Sound. I put a 6-weight Rio Coastal Quickshooter and 6-weight Outbound on and the rod slung both lines as far as I cared to cast, with tight loops, in a breeze. This is not your average 5-weight trout rod, folks. Streamer fishing in Montana, New Zealand browns, nymphing on Upper Sacramento, stoneflies on the Yakima, wherever you’re going, this rod is a grade-A option. And, I can’t wait to try out the heavier models.
Photos By Greg Sweney