Thursday, October 11, 2007
2008 Orvis Helios
FYI-This post continually gets a ton of traffic for some reason ( I have no idea how folks end up here but thought I should give a little update on my thoughts about the rods given its' been a few years since I originally made this post). So, I know the rods aren't so new anymore but I still stand by my summary here and love the rods even more after almost 4 years of fishing them.
Ok, so here we go again with another in the long line of latest and greatest high tech fly rods. The O show rep shows up for a day on the water with one of the first "Helios" rods to touch a human hand. It's late in the season and the last thing I care about is a new fly rod!
We headed to the lower Madison for some nymphing and streamer fishing, the type of fishing we end up doing the most of some years. The rod he had with him was a 905-4 Mid Flex. I typically prefer a 6 weight for this type of fishing.
Let me say that I was very skeptical as a result of my disappointment in the Zero Gravity rods introduced in 2006. I found the Zero G's to be difficult to cast for most folks and "clumsy" feeling while throwing short lines. These rods are just about the coolest looking mass manufactured rods out there, so the disappointment was even bigger. Finally, the rods are supposed to be the lightest in their categories but when you pick them up...they don't feel any lighter.
I know first hand about the casting of the Zero G's from spending lots of days in the boat with mediocre casters trying to make due with these $600+ rods. When I'd switch them to a T3 or Power Matrix, the difference was scary! Furthermore, I gave the rods a fair shake here and in NZ over the last year and finally gave my 5 weight away! Some folks really like the Zero G, I'm not one of them.
So, now I'm looking at some rod named after the sun or god of war! It looks nice, not the bling bling of the Zero G, but more like a rod that your best fishing partner might just kind of be jealous of. A dark olive blank with deep burgundy wraps, graphite reel seat and attractive hardware. The stripping guides are titanium, not coated, but actually titanium. The snake guides are recoil guides meaning that you can push on them and they bounce back to shape (pretty cool and handy for boats).I was impressed with the rod at first glance, but so what. For $755..it better look nice!
My skepticism only grew as my initial thoughts were positive!
Picking up the rod for the first time is an amazing experience. It is hands down the lightest 905 fly rod I've ever felt. At 2.5 ozs., the weight feels more like a 7.5 foot 2 weight than a 9 foot 5. So regardless, I had to admit that the rod was as light as Orvis has been saying it was. In previous years, Orvis has tried to convince the world that levered weight is what matters..I think they finally figured that one out! Again, for $755 it better be light!
Now for the meat...how does it fish? Well, as with every rod I've ever cast...it threw a line great in the parking lot. The test comes with a little breeze, boat fishing, wade fishing, heavy nymphs, streamers, split shot, indicators, and fighting some fish.
My first concern is how does it cast with a bunch of junk on the line. Is it easy or does it require some thought in making it work? For most anglers, this is huge as it really determines the level of enjoyment that they will get out of a day on the water. With a rod the requires some discipline, most folks just throw crappy loops resulting from overloading and too short of a pause on the backcast. Sure there are some out there that can make those rods work really well, but those anglers did not pay $600+ for that rod! So, I'm looking for a rod that will throw wee dries, double nymph rigs, and streamers. More importantly, I want the average angler to be able to use their rod to do all of these things without spending half the day on casting instruction when we switch techniques.
The Helios blew me away in this department. It casts amazingly well in all sorts of situations. There is a smooth transition of energy from line to rod throughout the stops on accelerations of the casting stroke. I could go into a bunch of mumbo jumbo here, but the bottom line is that the rod will throw a line and some junk accurately and effortlessly. This is really the rod that you have to cast to believe! I was absolutely amazed by the performance of the rod and lack of concentration that was required to make the damn thing work! The lightweight feel in hand and on the water just adds to the feeling of not having to work hard to get it done. For $755 it had better be able to throw a line and some junk on it pretty well!
The rods castability is very important, but like I said, most rods today cast pretty well. The thing that separates the Helios from the crowd is the lack of effort that is required to make this rod do the work. How many times have we all heard "let the rod do the work"? The Helios does it for you, no BS. This is huge whether you fish 4 days a year or 200! Admit it...we all want something that will cast a country mile without having to double haul! Or more importantly, will accurately throw any rig 20-40 feet with ease.
The subtleties that really adds value to the performance of a rod include how the line feels going through the guides and how well the rod handles the line once it's out there. I never noticed the line going through the guides because it was effortless. This rod mends and rollcasts as well as anything that I've ever fished with before. I like to throw big mends when nymphing and I can feel it in my arm after a few hours of wade fishing. With the Helios, I just had to get the tip up and flick the wrist to move 30-40 feet of line on the water. Rollcasting was equally easy with an indicator, 2 nymphs, and some split shot.
Following the giant disappointment of the Zero G, I am really excited about these new rods. I consider myself to be pretty well versed in the fishablity of gear today as I spend as much time as anyone out on the water casting Trout in the Rocky Mountains. I'll also shoot straight with anyone when it comes to my opinion when it's based on some experience.
The Helios will do what very few other pieces of fly fishing equipment can do for any angler. It will improve your enjoyment of fly fishing by helping you fish more efficiently. AT $755, this rod is right up there with all of the high end rods on the market today.
Orvis has long been considered the sleeping giant in the world of fly rod manufacturers. They just have never been able to come out with a rod that is really the best there is. The T3's are terrific rods, but some of the models are better than others for doing different things. I love the 905-2 mid flex for fishing dries and light nymphing, but the 906-4 tip flex is ideal for nymphing and streamer fishing. Is there a better Sage, Winston, or Loomis out there than a T3? That just depends on how you fish and cast.
The Power Matrix and Clearwaters are great value/performance rods. I think they are the best in their price ranges. They don't compare to other brands that are more expensive, but $:$ they'll win out every time in performance and value.
But the crux, for Orvis, has always been getting that rod that is absolutely amazing in it's castabiltiy, fishabilty, durability, and aesthetics. A rod that can really compete against the best of the best US Made rods. As a dealer and outfitter, I want to be able to stand behind the product claims that the various manufacturers make. This is the first time that I've been comfortable in saying that the new Orvis rod is as good as it gets. There just isn't anything else out there that compares to the Helios.
The Sleeping Giant has awoke. We'll have some Helios in the shop near Thanksgiving, in the meantime, I'll have one or two on loan to play with at the shop. Stop in and check these rods out before you buy another fly rod. As always, 25 year unconditional warranty and the best service in the industry come standard!