Expert Review: Orvis Helios 3D Fly Rod

Published on 07/13/2022 · 9 min readThis review is my honest opinion of the rod which I purchased with my own money in June of 2021.
Joseph Smith, Fly Fishing Expert
By Fly Fishing Expert Joseph Smith

All photos courtesy of Joseph Smith

About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the rod which I purchased with my own money in June of 2021.

My take

The Orvis Helios 3D Fly Rod is the top line Orvis fly rod designed for advanced anglers. This fast action rod can punch large flies through the wind over long distances, without sacrificing accuracy.

Casting with the Orvis Helios!

About this rod

  • Model: Orvis Helios 3D
  • Rod Length: 9’
  • Rod Weight: 8 weight
  • Rod Pieces: 4 piece
  • Rod Material: Graphite blank made with Orvis Helios 3D vibration dampening technology

About me

  • Preferred fishing style(s): Drys, Nymphs, Streamers, Fresh and Salt water
  • Experience: 40 years+

Test conditions

  • When I bought this: June 2021
  • Reel Paired with Rod: Orvis Mirage IV
  • Line Paired Rod: Orvis Pro Saltwater All Rounder 8WF Floating Line
  • Days tested: Roughly 1 year
  • Waters I have used it on: Ambergris Caye, Belize, Florida Keys, New Jersey Beaches, local farm ponds
  • Species targeted with rod: Tarpon, Permit, Bonefish, Mutton Snapper, Barracuda, Jack Crevalle, Snook, Red Fish, Weakfish, Striped Bass, Bluefish, Largemouth Bass

How it performs

Casting Ease

What I was looking for

I was looking for a travel rod for a trip to Belize. I had an older, four-piece, 9-weight set up (that is primarily used for salmon fishing and not saltwater specific). My dedicated saltwater set up was an older Sage two piece, and I did not want the hassle of taking it on airplanes. Likewise, I have been doing more fishing in Florida, and wanted an all-round travel fly rod that could be used primarily in saltwater conditions. I needed a four-piece rod that I could cast in the wind for distance, and still maintain accuracy, while standing up to the harsh salt conditions. And I was looking to upgrade my saltwater quiver.

Why I chose this gear

I choose this rod because after casting it, I was amazed that I could easily shoot line with little effort, and I could deliver extremely accurate casts well beyond 80 feet. The cast was simple; one false cast, a haul, and boom — 80 feet of line shooting through the air hitting a baseball hat laying in the grass every time! The dampening technology in the Helios was evident as my hand did not vibrate as the rod unloaded. In addition to this rod, I tried the Orvis Clearwater and the TFO Axiom 2 fly rods. Both rods are quality rods and less expensive, but I found with the same amount of casting effort, I could shoot roughly 20 feet more with the Helios with better accuracy than with these other two options. As I was also looking to upgrade my saltwater rod, I also found the Helios to have higher quality features that felt more comfortable in my hand.

What I love about it

  • Quality: The material used to fabricate this rod is high end. The rod features a type III anodized aluminum with a carbon insert reel seat, with two uplocking rings, which hold my reel securely in place. The cork grip and fighting butt fit comfortably in my hand. The REC recoil snake guides and SiC/Titanium stripping guides allow line to easily fly through. The black finish looks sharp. An aluminum tube protects my investment when not in use. I have no issues with the overall quality.
  • Versatility: Although this rod was purchased to use as a travel saltwater rod, I have used it at local beaches, chasing stripers and blues, and in local farm ponds, throwing large flies and poppers to largemouth bass. This has quickly become my favorite big fly/big fish fly rod.
  • Use Case: This rod was purchased primarily as a travel saltwater rod. The four-piece configuration allows for easy travel with no airplane issues whatsoever. I have been able to fish the entire day without my arm tiring, and stiff headwinds have not ruined a day’s fishing when using this rod. This is my go-to saltwater rod.
  • Action:
    • Ease of casting: For a caster who is experienced with fast action rods, this rod is easy to cast. The vibration dampening technology makes an unloading fly rod easier on the hand after many casts. I was able to throw tight loops that cut through the wind with ease. For an inexperienced caster though, this rod would not be as forgiving, and a poor casting stroke likely would not generate the line speed necessary to cast this rod.
    • Recover rate: Due to the dampening technology in this rod’s blanks, the recovery is very quick with very little movement after the cast is made.
    • Power: This rod has the power to shoot line a long distance. The rod also has the spine to handle larger fish. Although this was not intended to be used for tarpon, I was able to land baby tarpon and pull them out from the mangrove roots.
    • Line speed: This is a fast action rod and requires a fast line speed for best results. If you are looking for a slower casting stroke, this is not the rod for you.
    • Ideal casting distance: I found that casts inside 30 feet are somewhat more challenging as the rod loads better with more line out. For the fishing that I do with this rod, the majority of the fish I caught are within the 40 – 60 feet area. Having said that, this rod can reach out accurately past 100 feet, and yet the biggest Bonefish I caught on this rod was only 10 feet in front of me.
    • Accuracy: This is a very accurate rod. When casting on a lawn, I can routinely hit a baseball cap in the yard at 80 feet, and I do not consider myself to be the best caster. When fishing farm ponds or in the mangroves, I can easily cast large poppers and streamers under low hanging branches and in between holes in the vegetation with ease.
  • Weight: I have the 8 weight version. This is what I would consider to be the best all-round saltwater rod. I should mention, on my trip to Belize, when chasing larger tarpon, I fished this rod in the 10 weight version and had the same experience as with the 8 weight. If I ever start chasing bigger tarpon more frequently, I would consider purchasing this in the 10 weight version as well.
  • Literal Weight: This rod is advertised at 3.75 oz. For that weight, this rod did not create arm fatigue, and had the strength to tackle larger fish.
  • Length: My rod is the 9-foot version. I chose this as this is a standard fly rod length and I wanted one that was easy to travel with. An angler who fishes primarily from a boat or would want to cover a larger amount of water may wish to consider the 10-foot version.
  • Sensitivity: As I am using this rod to target aggressive predatory fish with large flies, sensitivity is not an issue. There is no mistaking when I have a strike.
  • Grip: This comes with a premium cork grip and fighting butt. I have had no issues with wear and tear on the grip and this rod has been used hard in harsh saltwater conditions.
  • Build: I appreciate that this rod was made in the U.S. – it was made in Manchester, Vermont.
  • Aesthetics: This rod comes in either white or black. I chose black as that was what was available and in today’s world that sometimes trumps it all. Having said that, I do prefer the black color to the white, but if white were all I could get, I would not turn it down. Although I did not opt for this, this rod can be customized with an engraved name on the reel seat.
  • Warranty: This rod comes with the Orvis “no questions asked” 25-year warranty. If this rod breaks within 25 years of purchase, Orvis will fix it; if they cannot, they will replace it, no questions asked. Although I have not had to use this warranty on this rod, I have unfortunately used it on another Orvis rod, and this warranty is legitimate.

Issues I’ve Encountered

  • Delicacy of presentation: I would not consider this a delicate fly presenter. Although it is accurate, it does not lay a fly down daintily like a dry fly presentation would require.
  • Lacking Hook Keeper: The one function this rod does not do well is that it does not open beers very well. Joking aside, it does not come with a hook keeper, which is a small annoyance considering how much this rod cost. Having said that, typically I do not like to wind my fly line all the way in through the guides, so I often loop the leader around the reel and secure my fly in an upper guide anyway.

Favorite moment with this gear

I have many favorite moments using this rod. Perhaps the first one was when I first made a practice cast with it on the fly shop lawn, and was surprised by how much line shot out with such little effort. From a fishing standpoint, I enjoyed hooking an unexpected, large mutton snapper, and pulling it out of the mangroves. We kept that fish and had a nice fish bake for lunch. I also enjoyed watching the look of amazement and smile that crept across my son’s face as he cast it for the first time, throwing a bass popper on a farm pond. He was amazed at how easy it was to cast, and now he wants one as well. (He will need to start saving his money for this one though).

Value for the money vs. other options

There is no way to say it other than this is an expensive rod. I was somewhat hesitant to spend that much money on this purchase. Having used this rod for close to a year now, I can say I have no regrets. It is pure joy to use, and I have certainly gotten my money’s worth on this purchase. I even look for opportunities to use this, instead of other rods.

Final verdict

The Orvis Helios 3D is a high-end rod that lets me make long, accurate casts and punch through strong winds without making my arm feel like it was casting a 2x4 all day. There are more budget-friendly rods out there, but for an experienced fly angler looking for a quality, high-performing rod, this is well worth consideration.

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