Don't confuse Passport and Clearwater with their company's real rods. Winston and Orvis design and build rods and both enjoy strong brand loyalty but you are not really buying a brand but a rod built by them...not to their alleged specs in some Asian mass production factory. If cost is a principle factor, look for a used rod of your choice rather than a price-point fake rod.
x2 The clearwater and passport are both entry level rods and will both lack the qualities that make their brands great. I second what sweetandsalt said buy a used quality rod off of e-bay or your local fly forums but go to the fly shops first and cast different actions to get a feel for what you like then when you see them advertised do some research and find out about the actions then make your choice.
I own one of the older and cheaper Winstons, the Ascent. This was my first rod and I really enjoyed fishing with it even though I sometimes also fished with my buddies Helios, Clearwater, access, and sometimes ZG. Don't get me wrong there is a NOTICABLE difference in the lower and rods and higher ones but that rod served me well and I didn't upgrade because I was displeased, I just wanted rods that could fit my growing skill.
I've never used the passport, but it sounds like you want something different than a clearwater like rod, one that you can have more versatility and fun with maybe go with something else. If you are happy with the clearwater for now maybe wait on buying a rod and see if some shops will let you cast some of the rods you are thinking about. Some of the sticks I would look at are the Sage VXP and the Orvis Access is also nice, those might be ones to consider.
About Winston, I'd be interested to hear what you other guys' feel about the company and the R.L. Winston brand.
My personal feeling is that there is currently a discrepancy regarding what the company claims to stand for and what it's actually doing. Under the present ownership the company started to manufacture rods overseas some years ago (like the Vapors and the Ascents). Now don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with Asian made rods. On the contrary, there are lots of great fly rods out there originating from China and Korea. However, nowhere on the Winston website is there a mentioning of overseas manufacturing. It seems obvious that Winston wants to "hide" any references to Asian-made rods. My assumption is that this fact doesn't correspond to the company's core values; the Winston core values speak of Montana, of American craftsmanship, of a proud history and of being true to traditions...
The decision to outsource part of its manufacturing to the far east, lead to an outcry among the employees at the Twin Bridge factory. Eventually, the former owner Glenn Bracket, together with some collegues, left Winston partly because of this decision and the controversy that followed. Apparently neither the employee protests, nor Glenn Bracket leaving made any difference to the owner/management; this was a strategic corporate decision - "don't interfer beacuse you just don't understand..."
Now I do own a couple of older Winston rods (and they are great rods...), but since I don't like double standards or hypocracy, my stand as of some years is to stay away from Winston. If you prefer American made rods and are willing to pay the price, go with Sage, Scott, Loomis or some smaller American custom manufacturer, who are staying true to their claims and standards. If you like bamboo, just check out the web and you will find plenty of artisans/makers. If you are going "Asian", why no try Temple Fork or Redington?
You do not keep a small company alive for 85 years by not changing with the times. Winston made steel rods with guy wires to keep them together for halibut fishing during the great depression of the turn of the last century to keep the doors open. In this day and age could it be they are trying to reach a price point to reach an audience who likes the 'Winston Action' yet would not be a Winston customer because they may not be able to lay down the money just yet to get a Twin Bridges made rod. Winston says straight out in their catalog which rods are made in Twin Bridges and which are designed in Twin Bridges. I'm sure most people know what that means and those who don't probably don't care where what they purchase is made. It must be good marketing not to not be too brazen in announcing where your rods are built if it isn't in Bainbridge, Twin Bridges or Manchester. Redington and TFO don't exactly shout from the rooftops where ALL of their rods are made now do they?
The spending habits and country of origin loyalties have changed greatly since 'the good 'ol days' of Brackett and Co. I don't know nor do I really care what happened with the bamboo builders at Winston. What I CAN tell you is that Winston since around the time Brackett freed up his own future has redefined what a premium plastic fly rod should look like, behave like and weigh. Since the advent of their BIIx series almost every rod maker who has the talent to either design a taper using the correct materials or has the means to tear apart and clone a competitor’s product has come out with fast yet rangy fly rods that are actually true to their line rating. Scott has always been close to doing that, Sage is starting to catch on and Loomis is owned by Shimano so I miss your point on that brand name.
I for one will continue being a PROUD Winston owner and user just as long as they keep giving me a reason to. If indeed times get so tough for me that I cannot afford one of their premium rods which are lovingly wrapped by neighborhood people in their own homes, I'll buy their premium blanks and lovingly wrap my own green sticks and save a few bucks. How I'll match the wonderful hand lettering that Winston has on each premium rod will be problematic. The very fine looking reel seats they use is no problem as they can be purchased. I reckon I could settle for decals and cookie-cutter reel seats like so many other 'premium' rods but that ain't for me, thanks.
How many Bracket-built Winston’s, non-Bracket built and Sweetgrass bamboo rods do you own if you don't mind my asking and how do all three differ?
TFM welcome to the forum
If you get the chance to, maybe take a minute and head on over to the new members introduction area so we may get a chance to learn more about who we are conversing with.
Originally Posted by tfm_flytyer
If you prefer American made rods and are willing to pay the price, go with Sage, Scott, Loomis or some smaller American custom manufacturer, who are staying true to their claims and standards. If you like bamboo, just check out the web and you will find plenty of artisans/makers. If you are going "Asian", why no try Temple Fork or Redington?
I think there may well be a double standard within your position.
Do you feel the same about Ross, who builds reels in this country under one logo Ross Reels and overseas under another, Ross Worldwide?
Because if you do, I’ll remind you that while Sage builds their rods in America, both Redington and Sage are part of a larger company, Far Bank. So in fact, that parent company sells both American and Asian rods, while trying to maintain a veil of plausible deniability with their made in America loyalists.
I really don't see the difference in Winston having some models of their rods made offshore, when another company does the same thing, just under a different brand name.
The mode of conveyance may vary, but it all ends up on their respective bottom lines.
As luck would have it, I test cast a Winston Passport 7.5 ft. 3 wt. just a couple weeks ago. I recently purchased a 9 ft 4 wt. Biiix and wanted to compare the action and feel of the two rods.
Of course, I'm not a casting expert, or an aficianado of Winston rods (yet), just a guy idly curious about my next 3 wt.
Personally, I found the Passport to be progressive, perhaps medium to med. fast action with a fairly soft tip. In fact, it feels a bit slower than the Biiix, allowing you to wait for the load a bit longer. However, it lacks the 'feel' of the more expensive rod, which allows you to more precisely 'fine tune' the cast. at any rate, it had enough backbone to consistently toss line out to 50+ feet, but was soft enough to accurately flick 8-10 ft. of line on a single backcast.
I cast two other rods from two other companies that day for the sake of comparison, both at about the same price point. I went away that day thinking that the Winston Passport was a better casting rod than the other two. In my opinion, it would make a very good dry fly rod.
Now for the 'cons:' the finish of the rod is definitely not as nice as my Biiix. overall fit and finish was not up to the Biiix standard. That said, if I was comparing two rods at about the same price point, the fit and finish is comparable. Accuracy beyond about 40 feet is not as consistent as the Biiix. Then again how many times are you going to make 50 ft. casts with a 3 wt. No other criticisms from me about the Passport.
I believe that the Passport comes with Winston's warranty, not sure that it comes with the Winston rod tube.
I haven't cast the orvis so I have no opinion on that rod, and I will echo other's thoughts concerning test driving as many rods as you can. However, the Passport I believe is a good option at that price point.
"Three-fourths of the Earth's surface is water, and one-fourth is land. It is quite clear that the good Lord intended us to spend triple the amount of time fishing as taking care of the lawn." ~Chuck Clark
As I clearly stated, I have no issues with rods, or reels for that matter, made in the Far East - they're typically great products and I own several. My issues are with companies who are not being candid about their products. This is where I feel that Winston is different compared to for instance Sage. Yes I know; Sage is owned by a company that also owns Redington, but Redington makes no secret about the origins of their product. Winston however is still telling a narrative that to me is somewhat ambiguous. In a corporate context, it's all about branding and market positioning to justify a $700+ price tag for a factory built fly rod...
In my view both new member (welcome) TFM and our senior member, Jackster, have some points that put some meat into this thread. I have oft stated that I am not a Brand Loyalist but an adherent to the old fashioned notion of advocacy for a rod designers work. Back in the day, Glenn Brackett designed cane rods and Tom Morgan the glass and graphite's. They famously made lovely nickle silver and varied hard wood reel seats but the graphite blanks were fabricated to Morgan's specs by J. Kennedy Fisher. Time goes by, Tom becomes ill, they sell the venerable business to a wealthy, well meaning man from outside the fly fishing industry. He has an old friend, also from a business background, run the shop. A new modern factory replaces the old back street garage and rod designers are hired, Winston now is rolling their own blanks. For a bit, Jerry Siem, subsequently doing great things at Sage, resides at Winston. Then former Scott man, Sam Druckman designs BIIx, the first modern Winston. Without any debate intended, some of these 1st "modern" rods were good, maybe Winston's best heavier line rods to that date and some where...not Sam's best work. When Glenn Bracket, the soul of Winston resigned due to management's "not getting it" and along with Winston's top representative, Jerry Kustich left to form "Sweetgrass"; Druckman allegedly said, "I didn't join Winston to work for ____ but to learn from Glenn Bracket. So he split too and for awhile worked with Sweetgrass, later helping form Freestone Rods (his best work) and then, most sadly, passing away.
So here sat Winston with a grand old reputation, still making lovely reel seats but not having a rod designer, slapping their name (foolishly) on Chinese boilerplate product, making their local employees unhappy, alienating the faithful and expanding on Sam's work by "design by committee". Yes, BIIIx corrected some of the taper transition issues in the lighter line rods but had to compete with much better Sage Z-Axis and better yet, Hardy Zenith. Now someone is about to say, "Hey isn't Zenith built in Korea?" Yes it is. There are plenty of really fine fly rods that have been designed here and well fabricated in Korea. Besides Zenith, it's Murphy era predecessor, Albright EXS are terrific if not particularly beautiful rods, Tim Rajeff's ECHO3's are excellent and I like the new Rise Level Series rods designed by Steve Bechard too. Back to Winston of Twin Bridges. They have not fully dissipated the historic capitol they earned but their lack of design leadership, deterioration of craftsmanship (look at those globs of single coat viscus finish bulging over the thread wraps no better than the Chinese rods, ich!) and loss of honor have taken their toll. Who cares? They are still pretty in green and some of them are good casting rods. Well those of us for whom a fly rod is not just a fish catching tool but a fundamental component, symbol even, of our passion for pursuing wild fish in unspoiled places who take pride in the creativity of the design, material applications and integrity of the rod builder whose rod we fish, take this stuff seriously.
All is not lost. Here is an excerpt from a recent Winston press release:
"The R.L. Winston Rod Company is delighted to announce that David Heller has joined the company as Vice President of Sales & Marketing. David brings more than 25 years of fly fishing industry experience to Winston, including past President and Co-Owner of Ross Reels USA / Ross Worldwide Outdoors, as well as serving on the American Fly Fishing Trade Association (AFFTA) board..."
Perhaps the addition of an energetic fly fishing industry insider will re-invigorate Winston allowing it, once again, to be a relevent and respected leader in the US rod building community. I honestly and sincerely hope so.
In regard to another important "Brand", G.Loomis is owned by Japanese giant Shimano but their rods are 100% made in Woodland, WA. Gary Loomis is no longer involved and all rod design is performed by casting great, Steve Rajeff.
I see Winston as a company evolving and displaying the growing pains associated with that effort. On one hand, trying to hold fast to tradition and reputation. Not contented by the status quo, theyíre attempting to move forward. Have there been false steps? In my mind, the answer is yes. But none that give me pause.
Iíve also seen more life out of Winston in this past decade, than in all the years previous to this new era. Thereís an excitement about them now, at least amongst the anglers I come in contact with.
As has been pointed out on bulletin boards across the web, ad nauseam. None of these companies are the same as they were in the days of there founders and Iím not sure Iíd want them to be. Each of the major rod manufacturers have gone through change of ownership over the years, as have many of the key reel manufacturers and now, one proud old fly line company. Some make a quiet transition, others have created a great deal of chatter on the net. Worried product owners, brand enthusiasts and bulletin board prognosticators alike express their views, just as I am doing now. Largely our comments and predictions are driven with no real first hand information, nor are they the single driving force behind the trends, that will mold the future of our gear.
I think we should rejoice that these few companies are still amongst us, trying to offer the best range of products they currently can. Currently, is the key word there. There will be more new products and more chatter to go along with them. (Sharing our thoughts and ideas is good, that's what turns a bulletin board system into a community.)
It would be a shame to see these iconic names, go the way of some of the other hallmark brands of bygone days, as J. Kennedy Fisher and Powell.
Some Winston patrons may have preferred it, if theyíd gone the way Ross did with Ross Worldwide, creating a new brand to market their Winston imports or not venturing into the import rod market at all.
But they chose a different course. I applaud Winston for having the courage of their conviction in this particular arena, by claiming their newest imports to be worthy of carrying the Winston name.
As to my earlier comments.
One company ( Winston ) says, ď here are all of our rods and weíre proud to place our name on each.Ē
The other company ( Far Bank ) produces and sells itís American built rods through one subsidiary and itís Asian built rods through another subsidiary, each brand with itís own identity.
That doesnít mean that I think any less of either, itís just a matter of how each company has decided to market itís products.
Perhaps the addition of an energetic fly fishing industry insider will re-invigorate Winston allowing it, once again, to be a relevent and respected leader in the US rod building community.
Are you for real thinking that the RL Winston Rod Company is not relevant or a respected leader in U.S. rod making?
I think you are mistaken in this but then I don't have the knowledge of all of the domestic rod builders nor do I have the gift of flowery prose like you do. Just because you might not like the company as it is managed today or the rods they are producing does not by a very long shot mean that RL Winston is not relevant or respected by those of us who use them and love the rods they build despite who is designing them. Some put Seim on a pedestal but I frankly was under-impressed for a long time with his offerings of too-stiff, lifeless tomato stakes that looked as if they were untouched by human hands. No one in the business markets better than Sage though.
Sage is finally getting around to at least mixing their reel seats up a bit and to making rods that don't need to be over lined to work but in all of their glorious and expensive marketing (which I was told a while ago included having dealers force them down a potential customers throat so they could sell enough to keep the line) they never until very lately made a rod that made them relevant to me or earned my respect. Honestly, for a while when I lived 'up north' I expected to see them sold in restroom vending machines they were so aggressive in their marketing and in dumping them in every dealers lap.
I will admit to The One catching my fancy but even that was just until I got my mitts on a Helios 2 and later a Hardy Sintrix. It took them a very long time to make a rod that when normally lined I couldn't find with the same feel already produced by another brand. The One is that rod but again, too little too late for me.
I guess all of this typing from me means there really are people out here who don't share your thoughts about why we should dislike a company that has brought us decades of bliss in every way a fly rod could.
The bottom line here is that rod selection is a highly personal thing and to assume a rod is no good because of things removed from its intended use, like which big name designed it, is rather ludicrous.
See what you went and started tfm? Dissin' another mans favorite rod company is awful close to telling him his wife ugly!