Trouts Journal

Orvis Helios 3 Fly Rod Review

Ivan Orsic / Aug 25, 2017

If you are looking for the Cliff Notes Orvis Helios 3 Fly Rod review, here it is. This rod is effortlessly accurate. I love fishing it. I will own this rod. Point blank. End of Review.

If you are looking for the extended review, read on...

With the fleet of high quality rods on the market today, Orvis determined that the next frontier of fly rod innovation was accuracy. For years, line speed and distance have been the driving factors in the design of new fly rods. That has resulted in some fast rods that might lack a bit of soul, feel, and accuracy at times. Designed for accuracy, Orvis is hoping to separate themselves from the herd with the all-new Helios 3 fly rod.

In September, Orvis will release the five and eight-weight Helios 3s with two flex families to choose from (additional sizes will continue to be added to the range in 2018). Doing away with more traditional descriptors like tip-flex and mid-flex, Orvis opted for the following monikers: Helios 3D (D=Distance) and Helios 3F (F=Finesse). In very simple terms, the 3D is a fast-action rod offering accurate casts with power at distance and the 3F is a moderate action rod offering accurate casts with finesse.


Beyond action, the two flex families can be distinguished by their finish. While both sport the more modern (some would say aggressive) white rod branding above the cork, the 3D has a Matte Midnight (read: Black) finish. Conversely, the 3F has a Matte Storm (read: Grey) finish with White and Green branding above the cork. Both flex families have Midnight Black type III anodized aluminum reel seats with matching Matte carbon inserts.

The Helios 3 fly rods have REC recoil snake guides and SiC/titanium stripping guides and have done away with the hook keeper (a good move in my book). Additionally, both flex varieties have the modified full wells grip, which I prefer in hand.

Let’s talk about that “modern white rod branding” on the new rods. There has been plenty of talk about the rods appearance since it’s debut at IFTD this summer. Personally, I love the look of Helios 3s. Recognizable, unique and sleek with the matte finish, the Orvis Helios 3 is a good looking rod that steps out of the classic blues, greens, and blacks. Sure, not everyone will love the branding, but don’t write this rod off before you cast it. You’d be doing yourself a disservice.


Over the past two months, I’ve had the opportunity to extensively fish the 3D and 3F 5wt and the 3D 8wt in Florida, Wyoming, and of course Colorado. Scientific Anglers MPX Amplitude WF5F and WF8F paired well with the 9ft 5wt 3D and 9ft 8wt 3D, respectively. Scientific Anglers Ultimate Trout WF5F paired well with the 9ft 5wt 3F.

The 8 weight Helios 3D took on gar and bass in Florida, while the 3D and 3F fished big and small rivers for trout around Colorado and Wyoming. From sight nymphing, throwing streamers, dry flies and big foam flies, the Helios 3D and the Helios 3F have been challenged every way I could possibly contrive during my time with the rods.

3D vs. 3F

The 5wt in the 3D is deadly accurate out to 60 feet. The difference between the two: line Speed and presentation. The 3D generated noticeably more line speed than the 3F. Not surprising, I know. It’s a fast-action fly rod that still has quite a bit of feel. The tip was softer than I expected, in a positive way. A relatively progressive taper for a fast action rod, the rod loaded well and the loading cues were easy to pick up while casting. This helped me consistently deliver the cast without starting too early on my forward cast. The rod tracked extremely straight and that resulted in some impressively accurate casts at distance. The 3D handled everything from Peanut Envy streamers to size 18 Blue Wing Olives nymphs and really excelled on the larger water that I fished in Wyoming.

The 3F excelled out to 40 feet and was well suited for fishing dry flies and light nymphing rigs. Where a little more attention to presentation was required with the 3D, the 3F gives you no choice but to land that size 16 PMD dry soft on the water. That being said, don’t underestimate the 3F. While it loads a little deeper, it doesn’t lack the backbone to deliver casts at distance. The 3F can still handle heavier rigs, as I picked apart the pockets of a smaller river with articulated streamers and size 6 Chubby Chernobyl’s with it last weekend. At the end of the day, my shoulder wasn’t sore. I wasn’t worn down from casting the big rig.


To Orvis’ point, many fly anglers (myself included), have a tendency to throw as much line as possible when testing out a new rod. What purpose does that serve? How many fish have you caught on an 80 foot cast? I can probably count my number on one hand. How many fish would you catch if you could deliver a 10 to 60 foot cast on a dime on a very consistent basis? More fish should be the answer for almost everyone. Can the new H3 throw an entire fly line? Yes. The 3D doesn’t lack power, has a light swing weight and launches line. But, more importantly, from 10 to 60 feet (the fishy zone), the Helios 3D and 3F were consistently accurate. That accuracy translates directly to more fish.

How did Orvis design to increase the Helios 3’s accuracy? Dampening the vibration when the rod transfers power on the forward and back casts. There is a pretty significant technology story behind the H3...and it’s best told by Orvis. They do so HERE.

Fishing the H2 (which has been my workhorse for the last four years) and H3 side-by-side, there is a noticeable difference in the amount of “tip shake” when the rod unloads to deliver the fly. That translates directly to accuracy. The H3 shakes less than the H2 and coincidentally, the H3 is noticeably more accurate. Not only was it more accurate, but the H3 felt lighter in the hand and was more responsive. I loved fishing the H2 over the last several years, but it has been out-classed, by the lighter, more accurate, H3.


Accuracy catches fish. I am super impressed with the new Helios 3 rods out of Manchester, Vermont. A fervent supporter of the H2, I was a little apprehensive about a new rod release. How could Shawn Combs and the rest of the crew possibly top themselves? They’ve done so in a big way with the new Orvis Helios 3 fly rod. It is a must cast for the angler looking for a new rod, no matter the application. Between the 3D and the 3F, there is a lot to be excited about with these USA made fly rods.

The Helios 3D and Helios 3F are currently available for pre-order and will be shipped in September 2017.

Order the Orvis Helios 3D Fly Rod Today (Expected to be shipped September 2017)!

Order the Orvis Helios 3F Fly Rod Today (Expected to be shipped September 2017)!

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