R.L. Winston Pure 490-4 Review

September 22, 2018
R.L. Winston Pure 490-4
R.L. Winston Pure 490-4 Winston-Pure-2 Winston-Pure-1
Fit in hand/grip
Casting accuracy
Casting distance
Fish-on performance

The Good

  • Excellent short-range power for a moderate-action
  • Good accuracy within its range
  • Delicate fly presentation
  • Made in the USA

The Bad

  • Limited casting distance
  • Limited accuracy at distance
  • Modest versatility
The R.L. Winston Pure 490-4 won the hearts of testers when used in classic dry fly situations. The Pure’s moderate action allows for smooth, delicate presentation of dry flies out to 35 or 40 feet with ease. The Boron III rod blank gives the Pure plenty of power in that same range, pushing flies through stiff winds as well as most fast action sticks. Beyond that 35- to 40-foot range, the Pure struggles with both accuracy and distance. The Pure offers both power and finesse within its range — a tough combination to achieve. The Pure proved to be an ideal trout rod for anglers favoring dry flies in short to mid-range casting distances.


The R.L. Winston Pure 490-4 won the hearts of testers when used in classic dry fly situations. Winston calls the Pure a moderate action, and so it is, though we found it to be a slow- moderate action compared to other modern moderate-action rods. But even though the casting stroke is somewhat slow and deliberate, the Pure packs a punch. Winston’s use of their proprietary boron III composite materials in the rod blank gives the rod plenty of power.

Our team loved the Pure’s ability to cast small dry flies across the wind, while still laying them delicately, and accurately, on target to rising fish. The rod was exceptionally accurate to the 20-25 and well above average in accuracy out the 35- to 40-foot range. Beyond that range the Pure struggles with both accuracy and distance.

Weight, balance, and general feel

The Winston Pure is a delight in the hand, with a perfect balance and low swing-weight. Traditionalists especially loved the sleek cigar grip which snugs comfortably in hand. A couple testers found the grip a little ‘skinny’ in hand, though they admit they prefer the beefier half-well shape common on modern fast-action rods.

Chromed snake guides and stripping guide stand out on the deep-green rod finish, and a maple reel seat gives a touch of brightness to the sleek rod.

Casting Distance

Though it sports a moderate (or slow-moderate) action, the 4-weight Pure has the power to reach distances well beyond those of other rods in this class. The boron III composite and Winston’s slim taper gives the rod the backbone needed to push dry flies to rising trout across mid-sized rivers and well out onto wind-swept alpine lakes. The effective range for pinpoint casts seems to be the 35- to 40-foot range for most casters, though some testers could reach 50+ feet effectively. But beyond that, accuracy and effectiveness drop off precipitously.

Casting Accuracy

The gentle casting rhythm of this moderate-action rod gives anglers good fly control and pinpoint accuracy in short and mid-range distances. We routinely set small dries delicately into the feed lanes of rising trout in the 20-25 foot range. And that accuracy held true when pushing casts out to 35-plus feet. Beyond that, only the most expert casters could place a fly accurately.

Hand in hand with the casting accuracy, the Pure proved adept at laying the flies gently on target. Everyone who cast the Pure expressed supreme pleasure in the delicate presentation of the fly – a vital trait when pursuing spooky browns and wary lake rainbows.

Fishing performance         

The Pure feels light and insubstantial in hand, but when casting, the rod shows its true power. Though the stroke to load and cast the rod is slow and deliberate, the Pure sports remarkable power in the cast.

Likewise, the rod has a lot of core power once the fly is on the water. We found the Pure to be exceptional in mending lines – clearing loops and dragging slack without disrupting the drift of the fly proved easy and effective. Throwing long mends was easy enough that even novice anglers found themselves mending line more effectively than ever before.

Once a fish was hooked, the Pure showed plenty of core strength to keep its head out of the depths without putting undue stress on delicate tippets. In short, the fish-on action mirrors that of the casting action: Power with finesse. Not once did we break off a fish, even though we cast nothing bigger than 5x tippets – and we landed several cutthroat exceeding 18 inches.


Winston markets the Pure as a rod designed for delicate presentations and light lines, and the rod lived up – and exceeded – that billing. When casting dry flies – from tiny midges to chunky Chernobyl ants – the Pure shines. The rod can deliver those dries on target, regardless of wind and casting conditions, within its modest range.

If pushed to throw multi-fly dry fly rigs, the Pure continued to perform well. But put heavy nymphs on the line, along with bubble indicators or tin weights, and the rod struggles. Likewise, if reaching fish means casting 50-plus feet, the Pure struggles– though, in this case, an expert caster can make it perform.

In short, the Pure is just what it’s billed to be: A dry fly machine with a unique blend of power and finesse.


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