The Helios 3F is a relatively new rod from Orvis and it impressed us with its ability to perform well at all distances. The Helios 3 rods are available in both the D and F Series – with the D series more designed for distance and power. The F Series, concentrates more on finesse, without sacrificing too much power. We felt the 8’6” Helios 3F was the best rod to test since the 3D is available only in a 9-foot model.
I love the feel of this rod – it is nice and light in hand, and the action is fast and seems about right. The action is slightly slower than the Zephrus though, and this contributed somewhat to its lack of feel and accuracy at 25 feet. The swing weight is light but it can’t match the Zephrus or Pure.
This is a very pleasant rod to cast, and I was especially impressed at what nice tight loops I was getting at long range, where it proved to be better than any other rod tested, even the powerful Asquith.
The craftsmanship is typical Orvis excellence. Personally I don’t care much for the five inches of white just above the cork handle but this has been the Helios 3 trademark and I think that Orvis feels that it will help the rods visibility on the rod rack in fly shops or out on the stream. I just don’t think the 3Fd is nearly as good looking as some of the more traditional looking single color rods, in our Shootout like the Scott, Winston, T&T, and Hardy.
The blank color is a non-glare, graphite gray with slightly darker gray wraps and alignment dots. The epoxy coatings were excellent. The cork handle is a half wells with a long taper at the front, that I found to be comfortable to grip. Quality of the cork was excellent with a stack of thinner rings. The reel seat is an uplocking black anodized skeleton seat with a dark gray graphite insert, (pretty plain looking but it works well). The double size uplocking ring was easy to grip and tighten. One SiC stripping guide is used and the rest are the best nickel/titanium and flexible snake guides in a gray color which complement the blank. I wish there was a hook keeper, which I find very useful on light rods, but there is none.
The perfect line: SA Amplitude Smooth Infinity in WF-4-F
George’s casting notes:
Performance at 25 feet: 19.2 points out of 20
Good, just not nearly as precise but the Zephrus and Pure. I think that the vague feel I was getting hurt here. Swing weight was light but not as good as the Zephrus or Pure.
Performance at 40 feet: 19.5 points out of 20
Now I’m getting nice tight loops, and the rod tracks very well with better feel and accuracy. Casting against the Scott G series it felt about equal, and better than the Asquith.
Performance at 60 feet: 9.7 points out of 10
Feels great out long! Nice tight loops and good control. This rod gave me better control and accuracy at long range than any other rod in our Shootout.
Engineer and rod designer Shawn Combs put a lot of work into developing the Orvis Helios 3 rods and the proof is in the pudding. In general, for lighter rods we prefer the Helios 3F (finesse) series to the 3D (distance). The 3F rods have a softer tip than the 3D models, offering better feel and superior tippet protection while still maintaining an impressive amount of reserve power. In 4-weight rods, the 3D is available only in the 9 foot #4 model, another reason we chose the 8’6” 3F #4 for our Shootout.
Of our top three rods, the Helios 3F had the most power for dealing with a stiff headwind or throwing a long bomb should that be necessary.
Orvis claims the 3F is not only made to be smoother, faster, and stronger, it is also designed to be the most accurate rod ever made. Mission accomplished? For me, both the Zephrus and Pure had the edge in accuracy at short to medium distances. But at long range the H3F was definitely one of the very best rods. Get one in your hands, compare it with the Zephrus and Pure, and you be the judge.
James’ casting notes:
No hook keeper, matt finish gray blank, signature bright white section above cork handle. Another rod with a great blend of power and finesse. Has the good, thin and flexible nickel/titanium snake guides.
Performance at 25 feet: 18.8 points out of 20
Smooth and very accurate. Note quite as light in hand, nor as much feel as the Hardy Zephrus or the Winston Pure. Feels like I’m working harder to hit the plate here than with the Zephrus or Pure.
Performance at 40 feet: 19.5 points out of 20
Terrific power and feel. The slightly heavier swing weight of the H3F requires more effort to cast than the Hardy Zephrus or Winston Pure. Still, one of the very best rods at this distance.
Performance at 60 feet: 9.6 points out of 10
Killer power and accuracy, this is one of the best rods for battling the wind, throwing a smaller streamer, or when casting longer distances. The line tracks exceptionally well in the air. Only Douglas Sky and G. Loomis Asquith are equal or better.
Logan’s Comments: 48.5 out of 50
From top to bottom in their line-up, the Orvis Helios 3F rods are proven winners. When it was first introduced I was not a big fan of the overall look of the Helios 3F. Like many I didn’t care for all that white on the butt section. The look still isn’t my favorite, but it has grown on me. Looks aside, it is one of the top performing rods.
Performance at 25 feet: 19.5 out of 20
At 25 feet the Orvis Helios 3F is absolutely amazing. It wasn’t quite as accurate as the R.L. Winston Pure but it was very close.
Performance at 40 feet: 19.5 out of 20
The H3F was an incredible rod at mid-range distance, having excellent feel and accuracy.
Performance at 60 feet: 9.5 out of 10
The overall performance of the Orvis Helios 3F is impressive. It was performing equally as well for me at 60 feet as it was at 25 feet.
Orvis touts the accuracy and responsiveness of this rod, and it looks to me like they hit those nails right on the head. The H3F does feel great in hand, and gives you the accuracy you need to fool those skittish trophy brown trout sipping spinners on your local tail water or spring creek.
The Helios 3F felt a little heavier in the hand than the Zephrus, but the difference was negligible. This rod is still very light, with a crisp action. Aesthetically… it’s not for me. I don’t care for all that white on the butt. But I do appreciate the excellent craftsmanship, and high build quality of the Helios 3F.
Performance at 25 feet: 19.5/20
This rod has great feel and accuracy in close. Not many were better.
Performance at 40 feet: 19.5/20
Like the Zephrus I think this distance was the H3’s sweet spot. The rod felt incredibly smooth, with a great balance of power and delicate presentation.
Performance at 60 feet: 9.5/10
The H3F has plenty of power to get out to 60’ but more importantly it has the control to get it there accurately.
You can’t not notice the H3F. No matter where it finds itself, it stands out from the crowd. The white label may be off-putting to some people (I personally am fine with it), but the rod’s performance speaks for itself. Look at the white label as a badge of confidence. The H3F is powerful, accurate, and lightweight. With a powerful butt and midsection but a delicate tip, it firmly holds its place at the top for an all around rod. This rod felt well rounded enough to fish dries, nymphs and even smaller streamers.
Performance at 25 feet: 19 out of 20
In close, the Helios felt delicate and careful enough to present the smallest of flies. The “F” in 3F stands for finesse, and that is exactly what the rod is good at.
Performance at 40 feet: 18 out of 20
At 40 feet the rod felt almost as accurate, and living up to its “finesse” namesake. I liked the action but still felt that the Zephrus was a little more effortless to cast.
Performance at 60 feet: 8.7 out of 10
The Helios edged out the Pure with its stiffer butt and midsection at 60 feet. I felt this rod could truly handle any wind or conditions thrown at it without compromising accuracy.