Interview: Annette Mclean on the R.L. Winston Boron III LS

Annette Mclean R.L. Winston Rod Company

Annette Mclean

Since 1929, the R.L. Winston Rod Company has, designed, developed and produced some of the finest fly rods in the world.  From the original patent on hollow-fluted bamboo rods and the popular ultra-lite “Leetle Fellers,” to the design of the classic fiberglass Stalker series (still a highly sought-after fly rod), the Winston company met each era of fly fishing with technology and design that inspired each new generation of anglers.  Today, owner David Ondaatje continues to move the company forward in both technology and cosmetic excellence in the premium rod market with the effective use of Boron material blended with carbon fiber.  Anyone who has fished a Winston Boron rod will agree that, when employed by skilled designers and crafts-persons, boron can meet the challenge of every fly fishing application.

I recently had a short discussion with Annette Mclean, R.L. Winston’s vice president of operations and rod design. The following are a few items she touched on:

Annette Mclean: “Having grown up on a ranch 3 miles from the Madison River, I fished the mountain creek that flowed through the ranch with an old telescoping steel spinning rod.  I earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Montana State University in Management & Finance.   In 1985 Tom Morgan, former owner of the R.L. Winston Rod Co., offered me a job with the R.L. Winston Rod Co.  The past 30 years have provided me the opportunity to learn every phase of the company’s activities. Today I serve as vice president of operations and design. Having been involved with various stages of rod design for many years, I have worked directly with the owner of the Winston Company in the design/development of all new rod series.”

RM: Explain your fly rod design philosophy.

AM: The design philosophy in the Winston Rod Company is first and foremost to develop fly fishing rods that not only perform exceptionally for the angler but also impart a pride of ownership for the angler.  Today’s angler travels the world to find new fishing experiences.  Our design philosophy is to design and develop rods that meet the angler’s fishing requirements under any fishing condition.

RM: What’s the first item on your check-list when you set out to design a new product?

AM: When developing and designing a new series of rods, the first thing we identify is the purpose of the new rod series.  In other words, what is the application of the rod series supposed to be?   How do the rods need to perform?   How do we make them better that what is already available in the market place.  We want to provide rods that bring fishing success to the angler.

RM: What are you most and least happy about regarding the current state of the fly rod industry in the USA? (or world-wide?)

AM: For the most part, the changes over the years have been positive changes; most especially for the angler.

For quite a few years, everyone talked about the diminishing involvement of anglers in fly fishing.  The older generation of anglers was passing on and the younger generation was not engaging in the sport.  However, I’m really pleased with what seems to be a healthy involvement of younger anglers, women and men, who are focused on a healthy lifestyle, enjoying the environs of fly fishing, and seeing it as a life-time sport.

Over the past 30+ years, we’ve seen quite a few changes in the development of fly rods.  Continual development/refinement of carbon fiber materials as well as more sophisticated design has resulted in very light-weight rods.  Today’s anglers are pushing boundaries into new fisheries as well as new angling techniques. We might be in the golden age of fly fishing. And thirty years ago there were very few imported fly rods.  Today, consumers see many more imported rods.

RM: How do you see the entire (rods, reels, lines, wearables) industry evolving in the future?

AM: Consumers have benefited from a tremendous evolution in rods, reels, fly lines, waders and apparel. Every product line has been improved.  I’ve already mentioned the improvements in fly rods.  But look at the vast offerings in light-weight yet strong reels that are anodized in every color imaginable.  Fly lines are more specialized than ever before.  Waders are light-weight, durable and more comfortable.  Fishing apparel today is stylish and, most importantly, protects the angler from harsh elements.  I think the future is only going to get better and in ways we have not yet imagined.

RM: When you read customer feedback, what is/are the most common misconception(s) they have about fly rods?

AM: Because anglers don’t work directly with carbon fiber, they don’t understand how strong it is, yet how easily it can be damaged.  The strength of carbon fiber can be compromised whenever the rod is hit by a fly or the rod has been otherwise “bruised.”  The result is the eventual breakage of the rod.  Most often the angler then says, “It just broke without any pressure being applied to it.”   The beautiful Winston green finish on our rods serves two purposes.  First, the beautiful finish and color is one of the best in the industry.  Second, the finish is a very durable, impact-resistant finish that protects the underlying carbon fiber.  However, even a good whack from a bead head can sometimes break through the paint and potentially damage the carbon fiber.

RM: Is there anything you’d like to say about the Boron III LS fly rod?

AM: The Boron III LS series was designed for anglers who like a softer presentation of the fly: it’s a terrific platform for dry fly or small nymph fishing.  The LS series was designed for accuracy and presentation at short to intermediate distances with the ability to protect fine tippets during the strike and the hook-up. Having said that, the boron material in the butt section of the rod can enhance the rod’s ability to overcome some of the windy conditions that we run into in certain fishing situations, as well as give the angler the edge in fish-fighting ability.


RL Winston Boron III LS Mini-Review

Less is more: that’s the take-away lesson you’ll learn after fishing Winston’s Boron III LS fly rod for a few days. If you’ve ever taken a casting lesson or two, one of the things your instructor will invariably tell you is to stop, or at least reduce, the heavy-handed flailing (often the hallmark of a new fly caster). You’ll hear – repeatedly – to “allow the fly rod do the work, getting your line and fly out there.” Your job, as a caster, is to load the rod adequately and properly.  The LS will demand this of you, and in the end actually make you a better caster. Imagine that; a fly rod that insists you refine your stroke timing.

The rod is built to suit anglers with a more relaxed cast, so you’ll find you want to slow down your casting rhythm. If you take the effort (and you should) to tailor your casting stroke to the LS’s natural frequency, the rod’s attributes come shining through, and you’ll deliver your flies wherever you need them to be.

I’ll dispense with discussion of the rod’s hardware and finish as you’ve most likely read that these are two of the areas Winston obsesses over, which I can confirm: all of it is top-tier.

Novice casters might find the LS a touch difficult to master, but only if they’re still mentally absorbing the ABCs of fly rod mechanics. Experienced casters will adapt to – and greatly appreciate – the rod’s blank formula very quickly.

If a rod with a light touch, pin-point accuracy and remarkable strike-detection is high on your list of demands, look no further than the LS.

Highly recommended.