Orvis Helios 3D 5-Weight Fly Rod Review
Updated: Mar 31, 2020
Somehow, the new Orvis Helios 3 kind of snuck up on me last year. When a major product unveiling like this is planned, I typically hear some rumblings of it well in advance. That was not the case with the Helios 3. When covering the IFTD show last year in Orlando, I don't think I even knew about these sticks until I personally visited the Orvis booth on day one. I'm glad I did because that post quickly shot to the top and easily became our most-viewed article—these rods indeed generated a ton of hype and interest!
A few weeks back, I was pretty stoked to have Orvis Marketing Manager Tom Rosenbauer send me a Helios 3D 5-weight for a full review here on Demystifly. Helios 3 rods are available in a softer 3F (finesse) series for closer and more subtle presentations, while the 3D (distance) offers more power and distance capabilities—perfect for my Florida freshwater fishing. I only had a short time to spend with this rod and I couldn't wait to fish it!
Length: 9 feet
Line Weight: 5
Measured Rod Weight: Approx 2.86 ounces
Stripping Guides: Titanium frame/SiC insert
Guides: REC Snake Guides
Reel Seat: Aluminum/Carbon Inserts
Rod Tube/Sock: Yes/Yes
Touted as "the most accurate fly rods ever built," these have some big shoes to fill as Orvis' premium graphite offerings. Although the Helios 2 (H2) series is still available, Helios 3 (H3) rods deliver even more tech for performance at a new level. Stealing from my own past writings of the H3 at the IFTD show, this passage briefly summarizes the tech that goes into these rods:
"Orvis has engineered these rods with a big focus on accuracy and strength. Thanks to a precision design that includes strategically reinforced blanks, these rods are said to have a lighter swing weight while delivering excellent tracking, fast damping, and increased hoop strength. Speaking of the latter, these rods can handle up to an 85" deflection before breaking as compared to 72" for the Helios 2. In a nutshell, this means they are much stronger since they can bend much more deeply under load."
I love that Orvis uses the snub-nosed half-wells grips on the lighter H3 rods. Its been my preferred grip for a few years now and is just really comfortable and pleasing to use. It also doesn't hurt that the cork used here is of super high quality.
The most polarizing aspect of this rod is definitely the big white logo. I personally think it's kind of cool and very unique, but I've definitely read and heard some comments that are, well, not quite so nice. One thing is for sure—if you have an H3 in your hand, everyone around will know it. Of note, there is unfortunately no hook keeper to be found here.
The reel seat is Type III anodized aluminum that has two cutouts revealing "Matte Midnight carbon" inserts. There's a wide up-locking ring that offers good grip/texture, and a uniquely angular slide band. Rather than being fully recessed, the reel seat hood sticks out from the bottom of the cork handle a bit with a similar angular design. It all worked well and fit my reels snugly.
Our tester boasted flexible REC snake guides for extreme durability and a single stripping guide with a lightweight titanium frame and SiC insert. Gloss black wraps affix the guides to the matte-black blank, and easy-to-see white alignment dots are found at the ferrules. It's a very subdued appearance for such a high-dollar fly rod. Other than a couple tiny dings from previous testers, the overall offering was nicely composed and void of defects.
I fished my H3D rod along with an Orvis Hydros SL II reel and Orvis Hydros WF5F fly line (140 grains @ 30 feet). On a couple of hot and humid days, I did also have to resort to using my RIO WF5F Bonefish line (160 grains @ 30 feet), but for this review I'll just stick to my impressions with the Hydros line.
When I first took the H3D out for some lawn casting, the super light swing weight and ridiculous smoothness were both real eye-openers. It was a real sweetheart at both short and modest distances, yet it was totally capable of shooting the entire 90-foot length of Hydros fly line. Tracking felt good, it was precise, and there was an abundance of feel right down into the cork. That first time out, I was planning on casting outside for maybe 10 or 15 minutes, but wound up spending 30...it was just THAT fun to cast!
The H3D is rated as fast action, but I was surprised that the rod felt a hair softer than anticipated. Any rod geared towards "distance" immediately makes me think "stiff," but the H3D was not as aggressive as I imagined. The softness at the tip really helped it retain a lot of feel at closer distances, but when compared to other fast action 5-weights I've fished and tested, I did desire a little more overall power when tossing streamers in an evening breeze. Still, a very capable rod and one that's suited for a broad range of situations ranging from somewhat delicate to more demanding. If I was in trout country, this felt like it would be a versatile choice for nymphs, dries, and smaller streamers.
Orvis says these rods are "ACCURATE FROM ANYWH3ERE" (see what they did there?), but of course a rod is only as good as the person casting it. Now, I'm not a guy that can repeatedly put a fly in a tea cup at 40 feet, but I found this rod to be very focused and promoted a high level of accuracy. If you're already an accurate caster, this rod should amplify your ability even more.
There is a ton of marketing jazz out there about these and other rods—most of which I typically take with a grain of salt—but I've got to give it to Orvis here because they created something pretty special. If you're after a premium 5-weight that's super lightweight and not just fun but also intuitive to cast, then you need to try out an H3D. I certainly wouldn't mind owning one in this or another line weight!
Unfortunately, this performance comes at a hefty price of $849 (rod only) or $1,326 for the 5-weight combo which includes the rod, Mirage II reel, Hydros WF5F line, backing, and rod tube/sock. That's certainly a wad of cash, but by today's standards it's not out of line for a top-tier rod. Cast one!