#4. Orvis Helios 3F 9 foot #8 $898.00
We were all impressed with how Orvis has improved the way this rod performs compared to the Helios 2. Once again a Helios was the lightest rod in swing weight, but now there are three other rods that match it – the Asquith, Meridian, and Exocett.
There is no question that this is a marvelous rod at short to medium distances where it took perfect scores. I loved the feel it gave me, combined with terrific accuracy. A lot of credit for this goes to the softer tip Orvis uses on this model. We tried the Helios 3D but decided that the 3F was the better rod based on how much better it was at short and mid-range distances. At long range the 3F still gets it done, but not with the authority of the Loomis Asquith or NRX. I thought that the Meridian and the Exocett were also better at 100 feet.
This is a fast action rod but with a very flexible tip that gives it such great feel and accuracy in close. In our performance scores, you’ll see that the 3F came in a close third, just behind the Meridian.
We’ve always been impressed with the Orvis craftsmanship and this rod is no exception. The only gripe I have is about the cosmetics. The six inches of white on the butt, above the cork grip is just plain UGLY. Nearly every person that has seen this rod has made the same comment. I guess the thinking at Orvis is that this would help the rod jump off the rack when people walked into a fly shop, but I think all this white is a mistake, especially for a company that has given us such great looking rods in the past. The blank color on the 3F is a flat gray with slightly darker gray wraps, which was all pretty bland to me, and certainly not nearly as attractive as blue Helios 2 rods. I do like the non-glare finish, similar to the NRX. The cork handle is a full wells, with the same kind of stack of thin, high quality cork found on the Loomis and Scott rods. The double ring, uplocking aluminum seat uses a flat gray graphite insert. Not pretty but very functional. I especially like the double wide first locking ring. You can really get a good grip on this wide ring. The extension butt is nice looking, with a contrasting darker composite cork on the bottom end.
The guides are excellent and similar to what Scott uses with two big titanium SiC strippers followed up with the excellent, flexible, nickel titanium snake guides. An oversize tip-top is used. This rod is built here in the USA at the Orvis plant in Manchester, VT.
Performance at 35 feet: 20 points out of 20
With such great feel and accuracy it was hard to deny the 3F a prefect score. I felt the equally perfect Meridian had a tiny edge here.
Performance at 60 feet: 20 points out of 20
I loved the light swing weight and the beautifully controlled tight loops I was getting that produced superb accuracy.
Performance at 80 feet: 19.5 points out of 20
Surprisingly the 3F still did very well out long, matching the Meridian and Exocett! But the Asquith and NRX were definitely much better.
Performance at 100 feet: 18.7 points out of 20
Now the lack of power is showing itself. Both the Meridian and Exocett were giving me tighter loops and better accuracy.
3. Orvis Helios 3F 9’#8 4pc $898
Orvis and Sage are notorious for their advertising hype when it comes to marketing their latest and greatest rod models. If you read their advertisements, or even rod reviews, (where most often the reviewer gets to keep the rod they are writing about), there’s such a ton of lingo and praise that is hard to ascertain which is truth or which is marketing hype. While I can’t speak for the other Helios 3 models yet, as far as the 9’#8 Orvis Helios 3F goes – you can believe the hype!
Trout bum, gear junkie, and most importantly talented rod designer Shawn Combs and the rest of the Orvis R&D team did a terrific job with the new H3 rods. They did their homework on this rod, and even outsourced another lab to measure and chart the oscillations from different combinations of rod tips. In the end, they went with the combinations that had the least vibration, and devloped one of the most delightful and accurate rods they’ve produced.
Although we didn’t include the stiffer H3D (D standing for distance and F standing for finesse) in the Shootout, I think it would have placed very well. In the end, we all felt that the 3F was the better of the two rods in terms of overall feel, accuracy, and casting performance at all but the longest distances. Perhaps the greatest compliment I can give the Orvis 3F is that it feels like an 8-weight version of a G.Loomis NRX-LP 5-weight. The 3F is a rod with plenty of butt section power combined with a softer/faster tip that can truly do it all.
Like the Meridian, one of the best things I like about the 3F is how well it can roll cast. The softer mid and tip-sections make it one of the better rods at roll casting 25-35 feet. As mentioned before, a roll cast is made with less movement and can help you catch otherwise easily spooked fish.
Components on the Orvis Helios 3 rods are all top of the line. The ceramic lined stripping guides help create less line friction. The large, but thin and light titanium flexible snake guides are as good as it gets. The reel seat locking rings are appropriately knurled on the outside edge but travel up and down the threads exceptionally smoothly and are as nice as any I have seen. Everything about this rod gets an A+ in my book, except for one important aspect – appearance.
People have been complaining about the aesthetics of these rods, specifically the 5.5” white section located just above the cork handle. I have not met anyone, (regardless of age), that likes the look of these rods. Many have gone so far as to mention that no matter how good the rod is they would never buy it because of its looks. I would love to own a 3F regardless of its looks, but all things being equal, it is nice to look at your rod and appreciate its looks. No doubt, the white section certainly sets the H3 rods apart from other rods, and makes them distinctly recognizable, even from across the river.
I remember when G. Loomis introduced their bright “robin’s egg blue” thread wraps and everyone hated them. They got so many complaints in fact, that G.Loomis added a second color choice, a dark green blank with matching dark green wraps. Eventually people came around to the blue wraps, and today all the NRX rods from 7 on up use the blue wraps. I think if I were Orvis, I would come up with a second color like G. Loomis did, at least in the short run.
We did read one review that mentioned you could use the white part as a dry erase board, keeping count of your catches. Ha, ha.
1st impressions: Good or bad, the white section above the cork really stands out. Best feel of all rods in the Shootout, especially in close quarters.
Performance at 35 feet: 20 points out of 20
At close distance, this is one sweet rod! Great feel, even as close as 25 feet. Very smooth and pleasing to cast. Even though I also scored the Meridian a perfect 20, the Orvis 3F is easily my pick for the best in close weapon of the Shootout and deserves a 21 out of 20.
Performance at 60 feet: 20 points out of 20
At mid range this 3F was awesome! Feels lighter and more effortless to cast than the G.Loomis NRX, T&T Exocett, and Sage X. Throws very tight loops and is spot on accurate, however in hard wind the Asquith gets the edge.
Performance at 80 feet: 19 points out of 20
Here is the biggest surprise of the test for me. Knowing how amazing this rod is in close and at mid distance, I was expecting it to lack the power required to throw long. I was wrong! Only the NRX and Asquith were better.
Performance at 100 feet: 18 points out of 20
Yup. No problemo!
#3. (tie) Orvis Helios 3F $898.00
The new Orvis Helios 3 rods have received a lot of hype and media attention, and I see why now. This rod is an absolute killer. It had an incredible amount of feel, making it the best rod at distances inside 45 feet. But even with its softer feel, it had an unbelievable amount of power. I am not crazy about the white finish on the rod. I understand what Orvis was trying to do with it, but it’s just not for me. And honestly, once I started casting the Helios 3F, the white finish became a mere afterthought.
Performance at 35 feet: 20 out of 20
The Orvis Helios 3F was my top rod at 35 feet. The soft tip on this rod was just what the doctor ordered. I found myself comparing every other rod with it at 35 feet. Even though I gave this rod, and the Meridian, both perfect scores at 35 feet, I give the advantage to the Helios 3F.
Performance at 60 feet: 19.5 out of 20
The soft tip and feel of the Helios 3F did not hurt its performance at 60 feet. It was still able to put it on the plate with consistency.
Performance at 80 feet: 19 out of 20
This is where the relative softness of the Helios 3F started to affect its performance score. It was still launching with good accuracy, but I just didn’t feel as confident in it at 80 feet as rods that had slightly more power like the G. Loomis Asquith or the Thomas and Thomas Exocett.
5. (tie) Orvis Helios 3F 58/60 $898.00
The Helios 3F from Orvis had a lot to overcome for me. I really don’t like the way that this rod looks. The white on the butt section is just too much for me. It reminds me of a tennis racket or a golf club or something. Luckily for the H3, thanks to awesome accuracy and great feel, its performance is much better than its aesthetic appeal.
Performance at 35 feet: 20
One of my favorite 8wts for casting in close, it’s got a great action and the perfect flex for accurately and delicately placing flies on the mark. I also gave the Asquith a score of 20 in close although I would give the edge to the Helios 3F.
Performance at 60 feet: 19.5
I liked the Helios 3F at 60 feet a lot. I didn’t give it a perfect score because if the wind kicks up there are better choices. However you really have to split hairs to find an issue with the rod at 60 feet. I had the best result carrying about 45-50 ft. of line and shooting the last 10-15 ft. to the target. I found that if I carried too much line in the air, the H3 would bog down a little, hindering its performance.
Performance at 80 feet: 18.5
If there is no wind and everything is perfect, the H3 can hit 80 ft. easily and accurately. I docked some points because at this distance even a breath of wind hurt the accuracy. It doesn’t like to carry a lot of line in the air either, making it harder to hit long shots.
Performance at 100 feet:
100 foot casts are definitely doable with the Helios 3F. I just felt that there were other rods that were a lot better at the longest distances.