About a month ago, I finally got my hands on a 9’4wt review model from the PURE. Winston presents this rod as a lightweight in-line presentation stick for the wary trout – in the same way the company’s much-vaunted IM6 and WT series have been described.
The PURE is not a “modern” version of those classic rods, which is a good thing. The PURE is self-contained, just like the B3LS, and performs admirably in most typical trout fishing situations. It might not be the company’s flagship rod, but at $ 850, its price is a flagship stick for dry fly enthusiasts.
But how exactly does PURE work, especially given the history of Winston who makes arguably the best dry fly rods on the planet?
My first thought when throwing the 9’4wt PURE was, damn, it’s slow. For reference, I fished this rod exclusively with Winston’s Energy line in a WF4F on a 3 ½ “Hardy Duchess.
The PURE was slow enough that I took out my Tom Morgan Favorite Winston (a 2 piece 8 ‘4wt WT) and launched it alongside the PURE. The rods had almost identical action, although the PURE had a faster recovery and just a bit more spine, which was expected since it was a foot longer than the TMF.
And from a conversation I had with Winston Marketing Manager Leslie Clark, this action was integral to the design of PURE.
I cannot speak of PURE without speaking of its presentation qualities; after all, it’s a presentation cane. I fished this 4wt from a boat on Utah’s Green River, on tiny coves in the Colorado cliffs and a handful of rivers in between. If I needed a fly to land on calm water like a butterfly with sore feet, the PURE helped me get there. Even the long, fine fishing did not bother the rod.
Accuracy was excellent up to around 35-45 feet, depending on the length of my leader and the size of the fly. The PURE really felt ideally loaded with 20ft of line, meaning 11-45ft is the sweet spot of the rod. For a finesse tool like the PURE, this is where it must excel.
I didn’t expect a 9’4wt to offer a lot of backbone, especially a lightweight Winston. But the PURE surprised me when I threw a few curved balls at it. From size 8 rabbit leeches to size 6 hooded rats, this rod had the backbone to throw bigger flies without that slingshot-like action that most lighter rods get when overloaded. .
I would not take this as a main rod for large insects in any way. But in a pinch, it will handle streamers and larger surface flies relatively well.
The backbone of PURE also helps it fight more effectively than expected. It’s still a 4wt, mind you, so don’t think it will hurt trout over 5 pounds.
As usual, Winston continues to make the finest production rods available. The PURE has smaller-than-usual guides, including a chrome nanolite stripping guide and light wire chrome snake guides. The small guides were used, according to Winston, to intentionally create a “better connection to the rod and a more precise presentation.”
Winston nickel silver standard locking reel seat and burl wood adorn the PURE. Winston moved away from the elder burl reel seat inserts of previous years and reverted to a burl maple.
The cork grip is significantly thinner than most other grips I have experienced – even thinner than the grip on my Air 8 ‘3wt. Winston wanted to create a feeling of connection between the fisherman and the rod, and the thinning of the cork grip allows you to feel more feedback than you would otherwise.
What does not work
Most presentation rods do not hold up well to the wind. PURE is no exception. A light breeze is not a deciding factor, but any constant wind will ruin your accuracy. With its slower action, the PURE does not create a line speed high enough to cut a faster wind.
You don’t pick up a 4wt expecting to throw easily on your back, but the PURE really doesn’t perform well beyond around 50ft. This 9’4wt just doesn’t have the torsional stability to maintain accuracy and line speed at this distance. This is not a bad thing, for example, as it is almost impossible to have a delicate presentation tool and a wind cannon in one rod; it’s just a reality of what the PURE was built to do.
The PURE turned out to be a pleasant surprise. I was sad to see the B3LS go, but the PURE is a great replacement. This is a fantastic presentation rod and does a great job of dry fly fishing. It has enough backbone to throw larger insects in the blink of an eye and throws extremely well at traditional trout distances.
This lightweight in-line performance comes at the expense of upwind and distance performance, but that’s normal with a rod like this.
The slow action of the PURE is reminiscent of the old IM6 rods that Winston made, and the build quality is top notch, as usual. For dry fly specialists, I don’t know of a better production rod currently available. If the Air is Winston’s all-round flagship rod, the PURE is the pinnacle of the company’s modern light line design.