Our September AFFTA Member of the Month is the R.L. Winston Rod Company, based in Twin Bridges, Montana. The folks at Winston believe in playing as hard as they work — here’s what they had to say about business, life in Montana, and why they’re an AFFTA member.
You’ve got a lot going at Winston. Tell us a bit about the company’s history.
Winston has a long, rich history in the fly fishing world and was actually started in 1929 in San Francisco by technicians Robert Winther and Lew Stoner who combined elements from their names to create the R.L. Winston Rod Company. Below are some company highlights:
- In 1934, Lew Stoner developed his patented hollow-fluted rod design for use in tournament casting competition.
- In the early 1950s, then Winston owner Doug Merrick incorporated the casting characteristics of its famous hollow-fluted rods into a new material: fiberglass.
- Tom Morgan purchased the company from Doug Merrick in 1973 and in 1975, Winston offered a new line of 2 and 3-piece graphite rods that met with great success.
- In 1976, the decision was made to move the company from San Francisco to Twin Bridges, Montana in order to be near the world-class trout fishing of the Beaverhead, Big Hole and Jefferson rivers.
- David Ondaatje bought Winston in 1991 and over the next several years, worked closely with Tom Morgan to learn about Winston rod building and design.
- In 1994, the company began rolling its own blanks and a year later, moved to a new rod facility in Twin Bridges specifically designed for rod building and outfitted with state of the art equipment.
- In the 2000s, Winston innovation became centered on boron/graphite composite, and during this time, the phenomenally successful Boron IIx, series was introduced.
- Winston introduced the Boron III X series in 2011, and anglers all over the world began to experience the benefits offered by third generation boron/graphite composite.
- In spring of 2016, Winston acquired Bauer Fly Reels and moved the company from Oregon to Winston’s facility in Twin Bridges.
- In 2017, Winston introduced theWinston AIR. Winston AIR rods feature a revolutionary new design that combines our new SuperSilica™ resin system with high modulus Boron for significantly less weight, more liveliness, an extremely broad casting range, and higher responsiveness for optimum presentation.
What do you think the future will bring for Winston? Any big plans you can share?
We always have something exciting up our sleeves. First, we are very excited about the launch of our new Nimbus and Kairos rods. We look forward to expanding the Winston experience and these two series do that. Both 100% made here in our Twin Bridges facility in the same manner and attention to detail as our Boron III rods.
As most people in the industry know, we tragically lost our old bamboo shop that was housed in the original Winston building in downtown Twin Bridges, to fire in May of 2017. We are excited about our plans to rebuild and look forward to having our bamboo department up and running in 2018.
As for the future, we will just have to let time tell. We have our 90th birthday coming up in 2019 which is quite the milestone for the fly-fishing industry. Rest assured we will have something special.
Twin is an awesome little town. If someone was going to visit for the first time (say, after the Dealer Summit), what would you recommend they see / experience?
Twin is a small town with a lot going on! Montana Mad Hatters, makers of world famous cowboy hats, can be found on the main street. The Old Hotel offers an exceptional dining experience, one of the best in the state.
Going fishing! Twin has access to four blue ribbon trout streams only five minutes from town each with a distinct personality.
And of course, we’d be delighted to welcome you to Winston and give you a tour of our facility.
How has AFFTA membership benefitted Winston?
For Winston, our AFFTA membership is all about relationships and information. Building relationships not only with our retailers, but with everyone in the outdoor industry. And AFFTA provides us vital information on the state of the fly fishing industry and important environmental issues to help us all succeed and thrive.
What’s one thing you wish AFFTA members knew about Winston?
Yes, Winston is a revered brand known world-wide, but its home is the tiny town of Twin Bridges, Montana. If there was one thing we wish the fly fishing community could know about Winston it would be the character of our workforce. We have a diverse team, all with different backgrounds and experiences. What we all share is our love of fly fishing and upholding the integrity for what it takes to make the truly finest rod on the market. And most importantly, on the water.
When you’re not in the office, what are you most likely to be found doing?
Putting the rods we make to use!