In recent years, most new premium rods  have been designed to maximise distance and line speed, but the Orvis Helios 3, first released in 2017, breaks this trend.
Instead, Orvis aimed to tackle the accuracy and precision of their rods, with the aim to make even the beginner fisherman an excellent caster and bring fly fishing to a wider audience.
We like to keep you up to date on reviews so we’ve reviewed the Helios III here for you, to see if it truly stands up to the hype.
Things To Consider Before Buying
Buying a premium product isn’t something you should rush into if you want to find the right one that will continue to serve you well for years to come. Just remember that you’ll likely own a premium rod for a lifetime, some people even want to be buried with their rods . I know I’ve had some of mine for over 20 years now.
First, think about where and what you tend to fish most often. Do you fish on wide-open lakes and huge, fast-flowing rivers, or are small mountain streams more your thing?
This will affect whether you should go for a fast, medium or slow action. Fast action rods will give you that long casting distance and the power needed to cope with heavy winds, whereas slow action is best suited to those smaller streams and rivers. A medium action sits somewhere in the middle and are most versatile.
You might want to weigh up power vs accuracy: Do you want one that casts in just the right spot, almost every time, or do you need a something with plenty of power behind it? Some rods are easier to use than others, while some are better designed for an experienced caster and the steep learning curve could put off a beginner.
Other things to consider are the fly line control, the craftsmanship and quality of the whole package, reel seat and the swing weight. Do you struggle with aches and pains after a long day on the river? You might benefit from finding a one with a lighter swing weight, so you can more comfortably enjoy your hobby without suffering the next day.
The Helios 2 was much-loved amongst fly fishermen and women, gaining rave reviews. Many anglers considered it the best product yet. So, when Orvis decided to make this, they knew that they would have to create something amazing to improve upon the original model which was at the height of popularity, for the positive reviews Orvis got to continue.
What followed wasn’t just minor adjustments to the previous rod, but a complete reinvention and rebuild from scratch. The team behind the Helios 3, lead by innovative young mechanical engineer, Shawn Combs, has focused on making the third generation rod the most accurate piece ever. No mean feat, but with the power of science behind them, they may just have managed it.
Originally released in 2017, it comes in two different flex variations: the 3D and the 3F. It is a sleek, attractive tool that has been crafted from the best materials available for lighter swing weight, greater hoop strength and reduced sine waves. This all amounts to a consistently impressive accuracy, which translates to you catching more fish thanks to a cast which hits the spot every time.
We like to dig in deep in our Orvis fly rod reviews, so let’s do just that! Exactly what is it that makes it so accurate? And what is the difference between the 3D and the 3F? Read on to find out:
Helios 3D Vs 3F
Instead of using the terms ‘mid-flex’ and ‘tip-flex’, Orvis created the 3D (for distance) and 3F (for feel, or finesse). The 3D packs a lot of power and is a stiffer fast action rod, best for windy days and long casts of 40 to 60 feet or more while retaining a miraculous accuracy. It loads and tracks well and is great on larger waters.
In contrast, the medium-action 3F will allow you to make incredibly accurate, delicate and precise casts. You’ll be blown away by the sensitivity of the 3F, but it loses a little of the reserve power and line speed compared to the 3D. This medium-action is best suited to casts of under 40 feet and is superb for fishing with dry flies for the perfect soft landing on the water.
You can hear Shawn Combs himself explain the differences between the two flex models in this video:
One thing that has got everyone talking about the new white rod branding just about the cork grip; some of the reviews Orvis got were scathing on this new feature. Some hate it; some think it’s a clever way to make the rod instantly recognizable, whether in the shop or out on the water. One thing is clear though: it definitely makes the Helios stand out from the crowd.
However you feel about that new white wrap, the Helios is a sleek, attractive rod. You can tell the 3D from the 3F by the finish – the 3D is a matte black whereas the 3F is a classy grey. The reel seat is the same on both rods. It’s a refreshing break from the ubiquitous greens and blues of most rods. Top-quality matte carbon inserts, black anodized aluminium reel seats and a full wells grip finish off the look with style.
Most Accurate Rod Ever?
But as we know, looks aren’t everything when it comes to a great rod. So how have Orvis managed to improve the accuracy to a height never yet reached by other rod manufacturers? The secret lies in new technology and new scientific methods that Orvis has used for the first time to create this rod which is head and shoulders above the competition.
Orvis used brand new machines for more uniform carbon fiber sections, and compared the oscillations and resistance of each prototype rod tip The team used this information to refine and focus the cast for reduced vertical and horizontal tip frequency. A new thermoplastic resin was used to manufacture stronger rods which are heated to a higher temperature, reducing the ovalization of the hoop and damping the vibrations as you cast.
This means that the line flies forward with reduced sine waves, or in layman’s terms, it lands exactly where you want it to thanks to lower vibrations on forward and backward casts. You don’t need to understand the science behind it; what it means for us fly fishers is that we can catch more fish! And it does truly work: you’ll be able to see a real difference in the accuracy of your casts.
A Stronger Rod Than its Predecessors
The Helios isn’t just more accurate, it’s significantly stronger than previous rods. The rod tip can deflect a remarkable amount without breaking, 20% more than the Helios 2, with a total deflection of 85″ compared to Helios 1’s 54″ and 2’s 72″.
This makes the rod more durable. As explained above, the greater strength also contributes to a consistently accurate cast, as the blank doesn’t ovalize when flexed.
Some Helios 3 Reviews From Locals
Don’t just take our word for it. I scoured the web to see how people feel about the new Helios3 rod, and this is what I found:
I may never use my Winston rod again. This rod casts weighty streamers with punch, dry flies with delicacy, and everything with improved accuracy. It has made me a better caster. Worth every penny.
pretty awesome rod for trout fishing’ that is ‘remarkably easy to cast
Alternative Fly Rods
If you’re still not completely won over on the rod, there are other great premium fly rods around too. We like to present our readers with all the options, so you can find the perfect rod for you.
One rod can’t be everyone’s cup of tea, so here are some strong contenders:
At fishing shops all over the country, you can come across heated debates over Orvis vs Sage, and which are superior. The Sage X comes in at the same price point and is an attractive, medium-fast action rod with lots of power behind it.
The craftsmanship that goes into making this rod is second to none, but the swing weight feels considerably heavier than the Orvis Helios and it has a stiffer tip too. The Sage X gets good reviews and is a great choice if you’re looking for power on those long distance casts.
- Same price range
- Powerful medium-fast action rod
- Heavier swing weight
- Best performance at longer distances
Check out the Sage X here if you’re looking for a fly rod that packs lots of power behind it while maintaining loop control.
G. Loomis NRX Trout
The Loomis NRX is another great rod that combines power, excellent tracking and precision. It costs around $700-750, so you’ll save a good $200. You might lose a little of that legendary accuracy, but you’ll gain stunning line speed and incredible power in long casts.
- Cheaper than the H3 at $750
- Accuracy isn’t quite as impressive – but still reasonable
- Great power for long casts
- Fast action rod with soft tip
- Better for experienced casters
See the G. Loomis NRX fishing rod for yourself here.
Hardy Zephrus FWS
The Hardy Zephrus is an amazing rod if you’re after a premium fly rod but you just can’t stretch to something in the range of $900-1000. Coming in at around the $600 mark, you get an excellent all-rounder for your money. The swing weight is impressively light, making it a joy to cast, and the accuracy for short-range casts is astounding – consistently better!
- Much cheaper price by several hundred dollars
- Faster action than the Helios-3
- Great accuracy for short distance casts
- Lighter swing weight for effortless casting
If you’re tempted to try this affordable, accurate fly rod, you’ll find the Hardy Zephrus FWS here.
The Orvis Helios was created to take the accuracy of fly fishing rods to an all-new level, and when we reviewed it, we came to believe that it’s done just that! The III version really will make it easier for anyone to cast and catch fish, even a complete beginner.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this review of the version 3 Orvis creation with a better-than-ever performance. In this review, we found that it combined the perfect balance between power, precision and line control while being easy and light to swing and cast.
You’ll be catching record numbers of fish in no time!
If the Orvis 3 is out of your price range then for you we have reviewed many alternatives that may suit your skill level such as as the Clearwater, Orvis Recon, Superfine Carbon, Superfine Glass or the Orvis Encounter.