Let me start by saying we didn't catch any Redfish. We crisscrossed the bay, poled fishy marshes, casted what felt like every fly in our boxes, and no Redfish. We might as well call this trip, the "Texas Flounder Trip". I'd like to tell you we went down there with the sole purpose of testing out two of the finest fly rods Winston makes, but that would not be true, we went down to the Texas Coast to catch Redfish, and we didn't.
Winston Saltwater Rod Highlights:
Alpha + 8-weight - Purpose built with tons of power. Excelled on windy days casting big flies.
Air Salt 8-weight - Perfect all-arounder. Lays down small flies gently on calm days and has plenty of reserve power when the inevitable W comes up.
I could fill the next few paragraphs with excuses. But I will leave it at this, we explored, we learned and we will be back. The good news for us is that we had a pair of rods to fish that were both so good, it helped ease our pain a bit. We packed the Winston Alpha + and the Air Salt with us to the marsh. Both in 9 foot 8 weights. Both, on paper, excellent choices for this trip. But since most anglers won't pack two 8 weights on a trip like this, why choose one over the other? Good questions.
Because we had two strung up 8 weights in the boat, we all took shots with them and each rod saw small and large flies as we scrambled to feed the lock jawed Reds. Both rods were paired with Rio Flats Pro Fly Lines, floating. Both rods ended up a favorite in at least one of the anglers hands bobbing around on the boat for those three days.
As you climb up the front of the boat, fly rod in hand, the first thing you notice about both of these rods, is their weight and feel. The Alpha + is light, and you can feel it has power, but somehow the Air Salt is even lighter. While making a few false casts, the Alpha + at first feels almost too fast, but as the length of your cast grows and the necessity to punch through the south Texas wind grows with it the rod transforms into an absolute delight to cast. The rod loads beautifully and shoots line with ease. It never felt to me that I was anywhere close to feeling the end of its power. Alex, a new convert to the Alpha + told me one day after climbing down from the front of the boat "This rod feels purpose built to be an absolute cannon. It's light, but crazy powerful, and after a few hauls I felt like I could deliver any fly to any fish with this stick".
In my hands, the Air Salt won me over pretty quickly. Its weight and feel were balanced, the rod loaded quickly and casted with the pin point accuracy you need to hit those little marsh pockets. Later on in the trip wading out to the cuts in the San Luis Pass blind casting a heavy clouser, over, and over, and over, and over again, the Air Salt did not let me down. The Air Salt in my hands gave me the feeling I could make any cast. It felt extremely versatile and the way it delivered a tiny shrimp pattern to a flat water pocket reminded me of the Winston dry fly rods I use to stalk trout in Colorado. It has that Winston soul.
I should make quick mention that we also had an Air Salt 10 weight on board, for the hopeful busting Jack sighting. We took turns casting this rod too and for a 10 that felt like a 9 in hand, it loaded and shot line beautifully. We didn't get this rod bent on a fish this trip, but it will see its day, no doubt.
Instead of thinking of these rods for totally different purposes, think of them as for different anglers and casting styles. I have always thought, if you pick up and cast a few rods side by side, one will speak to you. If you like a faster rod, and a more purposeful feel, pick up the Alpha + first. If you are an angler that enjoys feeling the rod load immediately and something as light and effortless as possible, pick up the Air Salt. A quick note, Andrew, the newest angler in our group of three had a better experience casting the Air Salt. He could feel it load and find its sweet spot very quickly.
By the end of this trip, we were glad we had both green sticks on board. You really can't make a bad choice here. But I would encourage you to swing by Anglers All, give us a call, or stop by your local Winston dealer and cast these rods side by side. You may be surprised and which one speaks to you.