Online Fly Fishing Magazine

Tried and Tested: Orvis Helios Rods

Kris Kent reviews the Orvis Helios 3, 3D and 3F fly rods.

One Rod to Rule Them All?

When a company brings out a new product that sets out to redefine a category it is often met with passion and derision in equal measure.  Like Marmite people either love it or hate it, no one much sits on the fence.  Orvis’s Helios 3 has been just such a ‘marmite’ rod.  Whilst sales have far outstripped expectations the forums are still buzzing with criticism of the rod, mainly it’s cosmetics.

Hard Act To Follow

The Helios 2 was always going to be a hard act to follow, it was the most decorated fly rod ever, winning multiple awards.  But Orvis didn’t want to just produce a better Helios 2.  In fact, the only thing Helios 3 shares with its predecessor is the name Helios.  Whilst the rest of the industry was focussing on producing lighter, longer casting rods Orvis realised that casting a long line is fine but if you can’t land the fly in exactly the right spot you won’t catch the fish.  So how do you create the most accurate fly rod?  All fly rods deform when they flex, that deformation causes the rod tip to move sideways as well as forwards and backwards.  This means the that the fly will land to the left or to the right of the intended target.  Therefore, less deformation means greater accuracy.  To achieve this Orvis looked at, and changed, almost every aspect of rod building – new designers and engineers, new manufacturing processes, new construction techniques, new materials, new components, new tapers and new cosmetics.

Delivering The Fly More Accurately

Did it work?  Hell yes.  I’ve been lucky enough to test out most of the Helios 3 range alongside its forerunners and the competition.  Every time the Helios 3 has delivered the fly consistently more accurately.  On big stillwaters, stalking pike or down on the coast the Helios 3D series has punched a long line out and dropped my fly exactly where I wanted it.  The 3D is the big game variant designed to handle big flies and tough conditions.  On small stillwaters, rivers and streams the 3F has delicately cast my flies helping me catch the spookiest of chalk stream trout and grayling.  The 3F is the freshwater variant designed to cast small dries flies and nymphs.  Now, I know not everyone likes the cosmetics on the Helios 3, in particular the white graphic but for me the easy load reel seat makes my life easier and having an overall non-glare matte blank reduces rod flash and spooks less fish.  On the gin clear chalk streams spooking less fish is key for me.

One unexpected aspect of the new Helios 3 is how novices have found the rod.  When teaching people to fly fish and to cast newcomers have found it much easier to learn the basic cast using the Helios 3.  I’m not sure why.  Whether it’s the action or the greater feel they get with the Helios 3, they just find it easier to cast well and to get started.

Is the Helios 3 going to be everyone’s cup of tea?  Probably not.  But for me it helps me help others learn how to cast and catches me more fish.  What’s not to like.



Kris Kent

Kris Kent has been fly fishing for brown trout and grayling for over 20 years in the UK, Europe and Scandinavia. He is Chief Guide at Chalk Stream Dreams, Fishing Manager at Orvis Stockbridge, PR Officer for the Grayling Society and helps The Wild Trout Trust with their online communications and events.

Written by