Orvis Helios 3F, 905-4 rod ReviewFebruary 15, 2018
- Lightest rod in the test
- Very accurate casting
- Good fit and balanced casting
- Good casting distance
- Made in the USA
- Limited models & availability
- Unattractive graphics on rod base
The Orvis Helios 3F earned just the second-best performance in casting distance in this class — that fact alone kept the H3F from earning a perfect score. Instead, our Best in Class winner takes home a score of 99 out of 100 points. The Orvis H3F focuses its design on precision casting, allowing more mid-flex to handle delicate fly placement.
NOTE: The sibling to the F-series, the Helios 3D (F for finesse, D for distance) stiffens the mid-section and gives greater reach, but sacrifices just a bit on delicate touch, so that version would give a point on the distance score, but lose a point on accuracy — keeping the total score at 99!
The Helios 3F design team used new composites and a wealth of unique research in rod action to fine-tune the structure of the rod from tip to grip. The result is a rod that minimizes vibrations, allowing the rod to track forward and back with little or no side oscillations. That creates sharp-shooter accuracy even in tough casting conditions. The designers also incorporate slightly different composite configurations in each rod section to highlight the desired performance characteristics of each portion of the rod.
I found the rod exceptionally accurate whether throwing tiny mosquito patterns a mere 25-30 feet out into an alpine lake or when hucking heavy #4 foam hoppers to big cutthroat in fast western rivers.
Weight, balance & general feel
The Helios 3F felt like a true extension of my arm in casting. The modified wells grip fits snugly in hand and the balance and low swing-weight of the rod ensured we could cast all day without fatigue.
In full disclosure, we opted to field test and review the Helios 3 F-series rod. This series is designed with an emphasis on finesse and accuracy over distance. The H3 D-series focuses on pure casting distance with good accuracy. That said, the H3F threw line farther and easier than any other rod in the class except the Sage Method.
With the H3F, we were able to power through the stout desert winds in the Lower Canyon of the Yakima River — we pushed tight loops into the teeth of 15-20 mph winds, letting us get out to fish when other anglers struggled. And when not fighting winds, we found we could push line far out into the river, getting even heavy weighted nymphs and streamers across the breadth of the lower South Fork Snake River.
The Orvis Helios 3F earned unanimous praise as the Best in Class this season, and over anything, we’ve tested previously. The H3F let even imperfect casters — such as myself — toss flies into tiny pockets of holding water with delicacy. I found myself threading flies into narrow feeding troughs under overhanging banks with casts astounded me. I was able to consistently target and catch fish in tight holes that I’d previously see success only periodically when I’d make a lucky cast. In short, the H3F made me a better angler nearly overnight.
The H3F earned second place honors in casting distance among this class of rods, but it swept the rest of the performance categories with perfect 10 scores. Simply put, I found the H3F the closest thing I’ve seen to the perfect trout rod, and each person on my team of testers agreed.
When it came to playing the fish once it was caught, the H3 performed admirably. The rod has enough backbone to hold and play hard-charging browns and leaping rainbows. I caught fish from a couple inches to couple pounds in size and the rod took care of each of them with ease.
Accuracy is vital in dry fly fishing, but the Helios 3F also helped improve my fishing when casting nymphs, streamers and double-fly rigs (such as my favorite hopper-dropper set-ups for summer cutthroats). The H3F proved equally adept when casting #20 midges, and #4 hoppers. I flung big weighted pat’s stone nymphs, and tungsten-head streamers with good accuracy and distance. In short, the H3F proved to me, and my team, that it is truly the master of the Trout Rod category.
Dan Nelson- Managing Editor & Fly Fishing Editor
Dan Nelson is GearInstitute.com's Managing Editor & fly fishing editor. He is based in the Pacific Northwest.