Gear Review: R.L. Winston Alpha+ Fly Rod
Updated: Jun 23
Overview: Anyone that has spent time fishing with me knows I prefer articulated streamers, chewed up mice, and big foam terrestrials over other, perhaps more civilized, methods. While I enjoy chasing all types of fish in all types of ways, delicate casts with dainty flies on 6x tippet for fussy little fish just isn't my sweet spot.
"You're going to need a bigger net" – that's what the marketing materials on Winston's Alpha+ rod promised. It went on to say that this rod is"designed to up your game against the Alpha fish lurking in the shadows. Carnivorous trout, thrashing bass, toothy pike and musky, jungle species like peacock bass, golden dorado and arapaima, and huge saltwater species like giant trevally and tarpon. Pure and simple, these rods are for any fish that require extra-large fishing tools no matter the water type."
That's all I needed to read; they had me at "Hello," and this rod has been on my radar since first introduced in 2019. A five-day backcountry trip with a couple buddies to chase overgrown native cutthroat was just the excuse I needed to pull the trigger.
For this trip we were fishing large terrestrials as well as streamers and the 9-foot 6-weight fit my needs perfectly. I paired the rod with the Bauer RVR 6/7 and Scientific Anglers Sonar Titan 3D Int/Sink 3/Sink 5 for my streamer set up and with an older Lamson Guru and Scientific Angler's Amplitude Smooth Infinity Glow (my Hex/mousing rig) for topwater action.
The Alpha+ series is available in 5-10 weights. The fast action, 4-piece rods are built from boron/graphite composite materials and feature an uplocking, anodized aluminum reel seat with double locking rings (salt-water ready), hard chrome oversized snake shooting guides with chrome nanolite stripping guides, extra reinforced ferrules, a full wells grip with fighting butt, and an oversized tiptop. They retail for $995.
What I Like:
Action: This fast-action rod is a bomber, made for heavy lines and heavy flies at some distance, and that is where it excels. But, despite how fast the rod is, it is very pleasant to cast. And while it is designed for distance, big flies, and minimal false casting, it was able to perform some more delicate, in-close work when we found ourselves in the middle of a Drake hatch and I tied on a size 12, Purple Haze.
Weight: One thing you'll notice about this rod (as compared to other Winston's you might be familiar with) is that it is beefier. That being said, I found the Alpha+ to be very light in the hand for a streamer rod with as much backbone as it offered. We fished four days non-stop and I did not experience any of the arm fatigue I normally would with other streamer rods.
Fighting Power: This rod is a bit hard describe. In some ways it casts and fishes my like a 5-weight (no arm fatigue) but it fights fish more like a 7 or 8. To put it simply, this rod has a lot more backbone for moving big fish out of cover or strong current than you would expect for how it feels while casting. In total we landed over 200 fish on this trip, a solid third of them in the 15-20 inch range, and many in heavy water, and this rod handled them with ease.
Made in the USA: The rods in the Alpha+ series are all designed and handcrafted in Twin Bridges. I've toured the Winston facility and watched the build process. There's something very special about fishing a rod that was hand made and hand lettered right in Montana.
What I Don’t Like:
Cost: Yep, Winston's are expensive, and the Alpha+ is no exception. That being said, the price is in line with other premium brands in the category and I will say that when I spend top dollar on a product my expectations are insanely high – and this rod actually over delivered.
Roll Casting: It's possible that it is just my technique, but when I fished the Alpha on the tighter waters back in Michigan (think zero backcast), I found it a little more difficult to roll cast than I expected. Not that I couldn't make the shots I wanted, more so that I had to think about it a little more than it being intuitive. In general this rod likes to load and fire long distances more than anything else.
Perfect For: The fast action of the Alpha+ is perfect for my fishing style: aggressive. It is specifically suited for throwing streamers and big foam, but still capable of presenting smaller dries if the opportunities arise. Plus, it has plenty of backbone to fight feisty fish in heavy water. In the 6-weight, the Alpha+ is perfect for truculent trout and spitfire smallies.
Stars: 4.5 out of 5 stars