If this review was limited to one word, it would be ‘fearless’, and if it needed a couple more words, I would add: ‘No, really’. Unfortunately, three-word reviews don’t please the management so allow me to embellish.
Straight out of the tube, quickly assembled and waggled around my living room, the Orvis Helios 3F felt fairly fast in action with a supple tip, though once out in the park and lined with one of the two Scientific Angler Amplitude fly lines that the importer sent with the rod, it settled into a very smooth medium and immediately impressed with its feather-light swing weight and great feel in hand.
Under twenty feet, with a little extra pressure through the thumb the rod does smooth and easy short lines off the tip well enough to consider this a proper small-stream rod. In the really tight stuff however, the shorter 7’6” might be less work to swing. Out on the meadow stream or over bigger water, it will be in its element.
Reaching out towards full lines, the rod is full beef 3-weight and thanks to all that feel, it was easy to gauge when any of the different lines I tried were coming on to the back taper and ready to let fly with a sharp haul. I’ve cast faster rods, but for distance and accuracy at distance, this is as good as any medium-action 3-weight needs to be.
Another thing that greatly impressed, and is fairly rare in light rods in my experience, is how well it performed with any of the lines I tried from the bruiser short-headed RIO Creek, the more subtle and slippery Amplitudes or even the stiffer In-Touch Perception. Yes, they differed a lot in initial feel and have a diverse range of uses, but thanks to all the feel and feedback through the rod, all felt right at home within a few casts.
‘Fearless’ comes in once out on the stream where I fished a size 12 tungsten-beaded nymph and sizeable indicator over slightly high water on a midsized Northeast Victorian rusher that, while running through steep and heavily forested country, generally has good overhead room and an uncluttered backcast. This is bread-and-butter 4-weight water that can require near-invisible dries at 60 feet one minute and big foam dry fly and heavy tailing nymph rigs on short lines fished hard against the bank the next. Despite being that bit lighter in line weight, the Orvis just ate it all up. A lot of that is, of course, down to the very user-friendly and firmly middle-ground 8’4” length that’s short enough to swing amongst the trees and long enough to mend a long cast or set a hook at the end of one.
In looks and build, Orvis has drifted away from petite and polite twig rod fittings and gone with a stout build over a thick dark grey matte blank that would be equally at home an a 5-weight, and while my personal preferences would be for something more twiggy and perhaps with a little less white around the logo, it certainly all works out on the water where it counts.
Although I didn’t have the rod for long, I’ll stick my neck out and say that Orvis have absolutely nailed this one. Of course, no rod is perfect for every situation, but this one is much closer than most.
*Update October 2020 – I decided I couldn’t live without the Helios and bought it along with a shiny new Orvis Hydros reel to match, and now, just a little into the 2020/21 season and lined up with a RIO Creek is currently my favourite light rod. Yes, it is that good.