After dropping by the SIMMS facility last week, I headed deeper into southwestern Montana trout country to some truly hallowed ground - Twin Bridges, Montana. Not only does Twin Bridges sit at the confluence of the Beaverhead, the Ruby, and the Big Hole Rivers, but it is also home to a fly rod company with one of the richest heritages in the world of fly fishing - R.L. Winston Rod Company. Founded in 1929, R.L. Winston Rod Company - under the ownership of the legendary Tom Morgan - moved to Twin Bridges, Montana in 1976. With a rich history of producing some of the best fly rods in the world, R.L. Winston Rod Company is the only fly rod company to utilize a boron/graphite composite to build their fly rods.
While this is a company rich in tradition, when I walked into their current rod building facility, I was struck by how intimate and "small-scale" the entire operation seemed. The term "small-scale" might be construed in a negative light, but it shouldn't be. It's impressive to me that a company can produce such high-quality rods and maintain that small business feel. With 45 employees (25 of which work on site and 20 of which are at home rod wrappers), Winston produces a wide spectrum of fly rods with applications from small stream to expansive flats. Start to finish, the production of a Winston Rod takes about 3 weeks and each of the in-house employees touches each rod section 3 to 6 times depending on their respective jobs. That level of specialization and hands-on involvement with the production of these fly rods was impressive to say the least. Without further adieu, let's get to the photos.
BIG SKY - A view of Winston's HQ and Rod Building Facility in Twin Bridges, Montana. Fall days in Montana have a tendency to look like this.
A look at some of the mandrels used to shape the Winston rod blanks. 10 unique materials/components are used in the production of every rod.
Here a mandrel is prepped for the application of the boron modulus scrim.
Rolling boron onto the mandrel.
Let the machine do the heavy lifting.
Making sure that the blank passes QA/QC.
SCRAP BIN. These didn't pass the test.
The QA/QC department takes another look before sending the blanks off to the next step.
It's always refreshing to see evidence of fishing at any fly fishing company. A quick reminder that there are skilled craftsmen at work...who care about their craft and live it out on the water during their off-time.
Here, the rods are cut, sanded and prepped for painting and epoxy.
Communication is key.
Measure twice. Cut once.
Sanding the ferrule.
The finest high-grade Portuguese cork is used with every Winston fly rod.
Once the cork grip has been installed, rods are sent off to be wrapped.
Leah is one of 20 rod wrappers that works for Winston. She'll be picking up this batch and wrapping ferrules and guides over the course of the week.
Winston does employ one in-house rod wrapper. She is on call for custom rods and rush jobs.
Here, she wraps a Winston Bamboo rod.
A Pure 590 ready for it's signature.
A Winston AIR gets marked with that classic Winston silver ink.
Winston components are second to none.
Reel seats and fighting butts are some of the last components to be installed.
Fresh vs. Salt.