Orvis Helios 3 Blackout 5-weight Fly Rod Review
Updated: Nov 6, 2021
Ever wished for just a little more length in your fly rod? Whether added distance, line control, or casting elevation is desired, I'm pretty sure nearly all serious anglers have had this thought more than once. I know I have. A 9-foot fly rod is top dog for good reason—it delivers an ideal blend of castability, portability and control—but sometimes it's just not quite optimal. While a 10-foot fly rod can deliver the right results, in my experience these rods can sometimes feel a bit heavy and unwieldy.
So, what's the fix? Take a look at Orvis' new 5-weight Helios 3 Blackout fly rod. Adding an extra 5-inches of length over a typical 9 footer, it's a more modest choice when you want a longer rod that's not too long.
Line Weight: 5
Measured Weight: Approx 3.10 ounces
Stripping Guides: Titanium frame/SiC insert
Snake Guides: REC Recoil
Reel Seat: Aluminum with carbon insert
Rod Tube/Sock: Yes/Yes
Aside from the length difference, the most obvious design change comes in the cosmetics department. I personally like the appearance of the standard Helios 3 rods, but many folks find the big white logo way too polarizing. Orvis has helped remedy this issue somewhat with a few "special edition" rods which sport olive or blue logo bands that are a bit easier on the eyes, but these Blackout model take it a step further and offer a much more subdued look.
The remainder of the rod blank looks exactly what you'd expect from a rod called Blackout. It's, well...black...and is adorned with a dark guide setup that includes a single titanium-framed stripping guide and flexible Recoil snakes.
The stealthy theme is continued with the help of a black aluminum reel seat complete with a "Matte Midnight" carbon spacer. The reel seats of Helios 3 rods are likely the best I have experienced. The single large-diameter ring is easy to grasp and the reel seat's "rails" keep any fly reel solidly planted.
Like my two personal Helios 3 rods, build quality on my demo is excellent and free of errors. The cork is very clean and tight, all four pieces fit together snug and the rod lacks any sloppy epoxy application.
I fished the Helios 3D Blackout with an Orvis Mirage II fly reel spooled with Orvis PRO Trout WF5F line (140 grains at 30 feet).
One thing I love about my own Helios 3 rods is how they feel both in terms of weight and smoothness. I don't know if they are the lightest rods out there on the swing weight scale, but I can tell you they certainly feel feathery out on the water. This makes them really responsive and fun to fish—two (obviously) outstanding qualities to have. Unsurprisingly, this rod delivers the goods as well.
Despite a touch more weight due to the added length, this rod still easily qualifies as feeling very lightweight in hand. To check on the physical weight difference, I put it on my scale and found out it comes in at about 3.10 ounces as compared to the standard Helios 3D 5-weight I tested back in 2018 which registered about 2.86 ounces.
For in-close fishing, this rod delivers very good feel. The tip is nice and soft, so an over-weighted fly line isn't necessary for good performance. When lake fishing here in Florida, I move around a lot and like to cover water with an abundance of quick, short casts, and the 5-weight Blackout gets the job done well. I can pick up a short line, false cast once or twice, and boom...right back out there.
When putting more line in the air, the blank really comes alive and its smooth, refined fast action is a joy to cast. Although the rod's extra inches are noticeable, it doesn't feel clumsy whatsoever and is undoubtedly quicker and easier to move around than a 10 footer would be. The blank produces some solid line speed and allows for easy presentations of small streamers at moderate distances. Also of note, I don't feel like I lose much of anything in the accuracy department when compared to my standard Helios 3D 5-weight. Shorter rods are always easier to be more pinpoint with, but I'm still able to be quite precise while fishing this rod.
Long-range casts come easy to the 5-weight Blackout. It will carry a lot of line in the air and has enough reserve power to not feel overly taxed. Unfortunately, the one time I tried to truly max out the rod there was quite a bit of wind swirling around, so I wasn't able to see how much performance I could squeeze out. While it's always fun to push a rod's casting ability to the limits, I typically have no need for ever doing so with a 5 weight.
Aside from casting, I find the added 5 inches to be a big help for my local warmwater fishing. Weeds are prominent here in South Florida, so it's a little easier to manipulate my fly line around them and other obstacles with this rod. Additionally, I'm able to elevate my line a bit higher while false casting over hazards behind me, whether that be vegetation or simply a sloped lake shoreline. The one penalty associated with this extra length comes when casting under overhanging trees. I keep my cast lower here anyhow, but with this rod I need to be even more mindful that I don't snag a branch...or squirrel.
I have yet to meet a Helios 3 I didn't like. I was actually expecting this rod to be a little less fun to fish than my standard Helios 3D 5-weight due to the added length, but instead my expectations are exceeded. Orvis really nailed this one. The 5-weight Blackout is another clear winner in the Helios 3 family and offers an interesting option to those serious fly anglers demanding a bit more specialized performance.
The rod alone costs $998 which is a $49 premium over a standard 9-foot Helios 3. In addition, there are two other Blackout models available including an 11-foot 3-weight and 8-foot 5-inch 8-weight. Each rod includes an aluminum tube and is backed by Orvis' 25-year warranty.