I was just entering the industry when the Helios 2 was launched. I don’t remember it. But I can say that there’s been a significant amount of marketing behind the Helios 3. I doubt there’s any avid fly fisherman who hasn’t read/heard/seen it yet. Needless to say, there are a lot of questions out there about how it performs. I’m here to put those questions to bed.
Today I cast the all-new Helios 3F and 3D alongside its cousin the Helios 2 in the 9’ 8-weight configuration. No question about it, I’m a fan. Read on to see why.
Fit and Finish
If there’s one area that is guaranteed to be controversial, it’s the white label. Let’s just say that no one is going to be guessing which rod you’re fishing when they see you on the water. Personally, it reminds me of a Taylormade driver… sure it stands out, but maybe in a good way once you get used to it? Unlike most rod brands which continue the same look and feel year after year, Orvis made quite a few changes to the Helios 3. In addition to the label, they changed up the reel seat to a made-in-the-USA reel seat (to make the rod 100% made in Vermont) and a new matte finish that won’t scare away any fish. I must commend the company for taking angler feedback and incorporating it into their design rather than ignoring it.
Weights and Measures
Helios 3D 890-4:
- Overall weight: 3.75 oz
- Swing weight: 87.72 gm2
- Weight needed to balance (reel + line): 6.7 oz
- Balanced Total Weight: 10.5 oz
Helios 3F 890-4:
- Overall weight: 3.95 oz
- Swing weight: 83.49 gm2
- Weight needed to balance (reel + line): 6.3 oz
- Balanced Total Weight: 10.3 oz
There’s no question that Orvis builds super light rods. Both of the 8-weight Helios 3’s are amongst the lightest rods out there in both overall weight and swing weight. Actually at the time of writing this, the Helios 3F has the lightest swing weight we’ve tested to date (for an 8-weight). The truth is that unless you’re casting them side-by-side, you won’t notice the difference.
Both rods have quite a bit of power. You can cast the entire line with either one, but the 3D definitely edges out the 3F and the Helios 2 at distance casting. For me, I felt like it gave me about 10 extra feet.
Is the Helios 3 the most accurate fly rod ever? Well… I’m not sure. What I can say is that it’s a nice improvement over the Helios 2 across the board, and especially at longer distances. The 3F, in particular, is definitely in the upper echelon of 8-weights in terms of accuracy. It’s a lot more accurate at longer distances than the Helios 2 was (and it was no slouch). The 3F is going to give the Scott Meridian a run for its money for sure.
Flex & Feel
Just like the 3D wins the casting competition for distance, the 3F wins it for feel (and by about the same margin). Having fished the H2 for so long, it really felt like an old friend. It provides a lot of feedback, yet still has enough strength in the butt to pick line up off the water or fight a large fish.
Price: $898 (for both)
Orvis hit a home run this year. The Helios 3 is proving to be nothing short of a spectacular lineup of rods. I took the H3 (which has now replaced the H2 in my lineup) out for some Albie fishing and found that it not only cast exceedingly well, it could handle a wide range of fly lines – something that’s really useful if you’re going to use it at home for stripers and for bonefish on the flats.
If you’re deciding between the 3D and 3F, you can probably guess that I much preferred the 3F; however, your mileage may vary in that regard. Both are great rods, and a worthwhile upgrade with a host of new features for very little change in price. What’s not to like?
- Super light
- Substantially more accurate than the Helios 2
- Very versatile when it comes to line choice
- Some people won’t love the new label