The Orvis Helios 2 — a rod that has won so many awards that it hardly needs an introduction.
I tried the H2 a few years ago in the 5 weight that so many people have reviewed, and so many have loved. But when I want a 5 wt, I fish the bamboo rod my dad made for me. (Spoiled, I know.) All the reviews talk about how the H2 is precise and powerful, and yet it doesn’t compromise on feel. And so, I thought I’d try out an H2 3 wt — a rod with less power to mask finesse — on some of New England’s smaller sections of water.
This fall, I took the rod to the Upper Pemigewasset and some of its tributaries, and to the upper Deerfield. I fished it in a variety of conditions — early fall cold, with frost on the ground and snow on the mountain peaks, and warm, windy early fall — and using a variety of flies, including dries, streamers and nymphs.
Let me sum it up by saying this: the Orvis Helios 2 is a great rod.
Other reviewers have been rendered speechless, or hyperbolic, in their reviews. Some H2 reviews referred to it as “The Second Coming.” Others, like Gink & Gasoline, said it heralded the return of “The Big O” after Orvis had some down years. I’m not a religious man and so I can’t speak for the Second Coming, but I can say this is a great rod. Truly.
I entered into this review a bit of a cynic. The Orvis Helios 2 is touted as being 20% stronger and 20% lighter. Sure, Tom, I thought. Tell me another one!
You hardly need to cast the rod to know the latter is true: the Helios 2 in the tube is lighter than many rods I’ve cast before. (Note: The Helios 2 rod tube, judged by weight and function, is one great tube, graphics aside.) The 3 wt truly is featherweight. But could it cast?
I matched the rod with a Mirage 1 reel and an Hydros 3 wt line. At short distances, with a small dry, the rod was pin-point precise. This was true whether I was doing a straight-up overhand cast, or trying roll-casts or Snake rolls. I tried to introduce some wobble, but the rod stabilized and recovered quickly, laying my line out straight.
Normally, that’s a good thing; that day, my cynicism was cracking. Ok, I thought, let’s try this, as I stripped a bunch of line off the reel. I took a few long casts, gradually lengthening the line. The cork-wrapped feather in my hand keep shooting line out.
It landed dries neatly on the surface, it fired streamers out, and it even handled nymphs well in the small water I was fishing, though it’s a rod that shorter than most nymphing rods.
Beyond performance, I like the look of the rod: the midnight blue is a nice, dark hue; the cork is high quality and smooth; and the burled wood in the reel seat is nice. The accent wrappings are nice, though silver wouldn’t be my first choice, nor would the black reel seat. But those are small concerns from a purist for a rod that surpassed all my expectations.
In the end, this is a great all-around rod for New England’s smaller rivers. Moreover, it’s a great rod for New England. The craze of faster graphite is, thankfully, giving way to rods with more feel and more soul. I’d rather fish with a rod to which I can feel a connection, and one that telegraphs the connection to a trout, than blast out casts all day and drag in trout with ease. There’s more life to a rod that way, and a deeper sense of connection to the nature of the sport as a consequence.
It also connects you to New England. I can’t emphasize enough how important I think this is: I encourage all fly fishermen (and women!) from New England to support our New England rod makers. I mean this as much about companies like Orvis as master bamboo makers like Per Brandin and Marc Aroner.
To fish a rod in the waters that inspired its makers — that’s a craft brought full circle. While the Helios 2 isn’t hand hewn of bamboo, it is hand made here in NEw England, and you can be sure that a lot of thought and experience went into making a rod this well-rounded, a rod this impressive.
Testing the Orvis Helios 2 on a small New England tributary.
It was a beautiful fall weekend to test the Helios 2.
My cousin, casting a fly rod for the first time – the Helios 2.
See what I mean? Picture perfect.
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