River Test(ing): the Orvis Helios 3

 

While recently in England, I was invited to fly fish the legendary River Test.  It was a gathering to introduce the new Orvis Helios 3.  I leapt at the opportunity.

For context, I’ve spent the last 2 years learning to fly fish. Our trips are spent wading glacier-fed rivers, or standing in the salty Puget sound, frost cracking in our hair. Hot summers we raft and fly fish through wilderness. Evenings are pitched under baked junipers. This is what we call ‘river time’, rustic to say the least.

 
 
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This fly trip was a bit different. Joining Damon Valentine, my gracious host, we strolled through lush pastures, emerging onto the ethereal River Test. Tweeds and finely tailored leathers matched the serenity of the setting. Chalk stream and gin clear. Delicate sneaking behind tall grasses, stalking weary Browns. An arena for exquisite presentation and trophy fishing.

It was another world from my own, which is the beauty of fly fishing: through it we explore new artforms of the lifestyle.

 
 
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As Orvis guests we were offered insight into design choices and new technology implemented within the Helios 3 rod. Walking with seasoned anglers from across the UK, I listened intently for their thoughts while we tested this rather exceptional rod.

 
 
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This is the resulting review:

Being relatively new to fly fishing, I want to describe the difference between casting a mid-range fly rod, and casting with the new Orvis Helios 3, using accessible terms for fly-fishing newcomers.

My hands rarely deliver a cast worth a grain of salt for my ambitions. I know what needs to happen and there are moments of glory when every iota aligns and my cast is silk.

Q: How do I increase these moments of precision?
A: Finding the tool to match the need, is the road to progress.
 
 
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With the Helios 3 in hand, I felt the rod more readily match my intentions. As mentioned, I’m not the most precise caster so this rod acts as an incredible instructor: it highlights both my strengths and weaknesses, making them highly visible within my cast. This is paramount in striving for improvement. If a rod reveals the slightest variables on your cast, you can improve upon the gaps. Your line is the visual indicator of what’s happening with your rod, and thus, your cast. If it’s bad, you can see it. If it’s good, you achieve your intent. For example:

My current mid-range rod loses accuracy around the third guide: the rod stiffness changes immediately from staunch resistance to lose noodle. This creates more wobble in my line, delivering a looser loop. I compensate by casting with greater force on the forward release. This ricochets the fly on the final snap, losing the desired delicate accuracy. You can make it work, but your success is greatly diminished.

This brings us to the Helios 3 which shot with liquid motion on my first cast. The line flew from my finger tips with a lightness that took my cast further. The rod felt equally balanced in my palm when casting back and forth. The stiffness relaxed incrementally from handle to tip, reducing slop in the line with each cast. I felt less inclined to use brute force to tighten the loop on the forward release, which landed the fly with a delicacy I struggle to achieve on other rods. In short, this rod felt lighter, liquid, and responded to small or large corrections without overindulging. With decreased tip vibration, my errors were more visible; I could immediately see wobble and correct accordingly.  This rod will not only improve your cast, but tutor you in your errors.

 
 
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It’s important to note the price point for the Helios 3 requires a certain level of commitment, running between $800-900. That said, the Orvis UK team provided insight that as this is new technology, new molds and manufacturing facilities were required. Tailored with utmost hands-on creation, these rods are an investment.

My final suggestion: buy this rod, but test it first. Find a local fly shop or hire a guide who provides the Helios 3 and instruction. You’ll walk away with a sure-fire sense of the rod, professional casting advice, and possibly a fish on the line!

 
 
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Warmly welcomed to experience the famed River Test, with gorgeous rods in hand: I had woken at 3am in order to arrive for this gathering, was it worth it? A resounding hell yes.

 
 
 

My sincerest thanks to Damon Valentine, Claire and the Zambuni PR team, and the fine folk at Orvis UK.

 
 

Puget Sound Canoe Trip

 

We wouldn’t have knowingly planned to carry three canoes down a mile of slippery switchbacks and steep terrain. But in retrospect, yeah, maybe we’d do it again.

You are probably well aware that this past winter in the PNW was a brutal one. Day after day, rain after rain (and some snow thrown in there). The urge to get on the water wasn’t dampened by the melancholy greys looming overhead. And lucky for us, we have some rad friends that were willing to tag along.

After meeting over hot toddies, combining hours of research and the back and forth of deciding on a location, we chose to chase those beloved Coastal Cutthroats thriving in the Puget Sound.

 
 
 
 

The weekend arrived; we rendezvoused with our new pals Boone and Nathan, and headed north. Switching from headlights to headlamps, we found the rest of the gang (Ryan and David) and pitched camp for the night.

 
 
 
 

A soggy early morning led us to discover that the put-in location was a bit further along the trail than anticipated. We were grateful to be in good company and made the most of backpacking those heavy ass canoes (we think it could be the next fitness fad—canoe weight training—it leads to gaining a six-pack in your shoulders, ask David).

 
 

 


The shore came into sight and we immediately saw fish jumping.

Oh, the sweet satisfaction.

 
 

Navigating tidal waters can be a bit tricky. Lucky for us, the water must have known we already worked hard to get to its edge, so she made it easy on us. We glided around the calming South Sound, celebrated each other’s catches, and found ourselves enjoying some much deserved grub on a beautiful island lined with pearly white oyster shells. Talk about breathtaking.

 
 
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As if we didn’t already have it made, our pal, Boone brought his bounty of photography equipment and we sat back while he entertained us with his drone skills.

 
 

The following day was a little easier on our backs. We located a boat ramp and quickly unloaded the vessels.

 
 
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Another calm day on the water allowed us to goof off and create canoe stars (see below), all while navigating the perimeter of lush lands catching coho and coastal cutties.

 
 
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Submersing ourselves in the beauty that surrounds us not only restores our connection to nature, but also allows us to connect with others on a deeper level. There is a lot that can be said for flowing with the highs and lows of the water’s surface, all while looking beside you and knowing that that person is also experiencing the magic. And for that we are thankful.

-xox The Roving Dears & Friends

 
 
 
 

Amazing photographs shared with us by our friend Boone Rodriguez. And look: he even brought the bourbon.

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Roam Sweet Home

 

Oregon sounds a lot like 'are-u-goin'? And man, do we recommend you go explore this gorgeous state.

It's Friday! We whipped out the Oregon atlas — while scarfing burgers — and decided to head south to the sand dunes. Over 40 miles of seashore and dunes reaching 500 feet above sea level, this is the largest stretch of coastal dunes in North America. Plus, we'd never been!

Fellow explorers and owners of Roamerica Rentals, Gretchen and Taylor have a policy: when adventure calls, they answer by hitting the road. They sent us packing in Charlie, an adventure van outfitted with everything one would ever need on the road. Our mission was simple: get out and have fun!

 
 
 
 

We drove south and found our way to a quiet back road; a recipe for adventure. Finding a spot to call home for the night, we popped the camper top, and cracked open a beer to celebrate our freedom. 

 
 
 
 

An early morning wakeup call, in dawn’s gray light, we secured the rig and set out.

The sun rose over Elliott State Forest, draped in velvety mist. With the fear of privatization looming, we wanted to witness this isolated place. Winding through Forest Service roads, we sipped our coffee and experienced the magnificent beauty that lies within this vital ecosystem.

 
 


Thanks to the many activists and individuals that have fought against the sale of the Elliott State Forest, it will remain in public hands! (Visit Oregon Wild for more info)

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After gawking at old-growth trees and lush streambeds, we packed up the van and headed into the nearest small town on the hunt for some local fishing knowledge. And maaayyybe some breakfast doughnuts too. So righteous.

Finally, it's time to hit the river. 

 
 
 
 

Searching, we found a place where dunes slip into a river full of active Steelhead. We'll be honest—we didn't catch any—but we did come across a monster. We flew some streamers past, and he laughed a wise-fish laugh and slipped back into deep waters. We cracked open a beer to celebrate such a beautiful encounter.

 
 

For us, gearing up is half the fun. It's a methodical process, sometimes doused with a splash of champagne, and often interrupted with a curse word or two (those nail knots can be tricky, ya know)! 

 
 

Fishing new waters with little knowledge of what lies within can be quite a gamble (FYI fishing > gambling). But that's part of the appeal. Learning from experience, regardless of how productive your day may be, has been our method from the start. Immersing ourselves in the unknown produces a sense of surrender that makes any encounter feel special. That encounter may be a tight tug on your line, or bushwhacking through dense flora and finding yourself staring up in awe at the base of a towering Sitka spruce. 

 
 
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After a full day on the water, we welcomed the van's long shadow and a smorgasbord of schnacks. 

 
 
 
 

Following a day of sun, we decided to spend the evening utilizing our luxurious accommodation. We parked and cooked enough dinner to feed us for a week (we tend to overdo the food thing). Post facemasks and not-so-graceful van yoga, we cozied into our bunk beds with a full moon serving as a night-light.

 
 


Slow wake-ups mean more coffee time. Lots and lots’a coffee. The following day began with breakfast, and did we mention coffee?
 

 
 

We set out to explore further north while making our way home. We spent the day lake fishing and getting our fair share of cardio. Ascending the dunes, those shifting dreams of staggering scale. We sprinted down, break-neck, all the way back to the van.

 
 
 
 

Rolling through coastal towns, broken jetties, dive bars and tangible Oregon history, sandblasted to perfection. It was on the road home when the rain came down.

 
 
 

So what's the take-away?

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Road tripping in a sweet-ass van: 
The space requires a close-knit relationship; you better hope you want to get that close! A cabin on wheels, it rolls where curiosity leads. Non-stop tunes. The van is just the right size for connecting with your homeslices. Oregon is green: it rains A LOT. So when you get spring fever you can bust a move outta town, but not have to deal with soggy gear. Best of all, you can reach the mini-fridge from the passenger seat!

 

The fly fishing: 
It's tough when you're new to a spot. You've got to try-try-again to dial it in. Talk with local shops, know state fishing regulations, purchase a good map, and read online blogs. If you're looking for great intel, try Royal Treatment Fly Fishing. They're full of advice on Oregon fly fishing.

 

Last but not least:
Go out and hit the road. Your mind will be blown and hearts will explode with all you feel and see. And go with dear friends, to help you celebrate along the way.

 

 

-xox The Dears

 

A Reminder of Why We Freeze Our Fingers Off

 

Brrrrr. Bone-brittle, lips-tremblin' kinda cold.

|  Puget Sound, WA

'Bring coffee' is an understatement. 'Bring coffee with bourbon'—now there's a start. And down jackets. And wool gloves. And don't forget the three layers of socks...

 
 
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Fishing in the Pacific Northwest winter can be rough. Those early morning rises, with no warmth on the horizon, are blue with cold. We take frequent breaks, fueling with tons of snacks and sipping coffee. No one goes off alone. Learning from experience, those cold waters can shock the body, causing people to faint into the icy tides. We stay close and keep an eye on each other.

 
 
 
 

Seems like a fool's errand right? Finger tips bursting with cold, running in-place in your waders, burrowing deep into your scarf, and shivering as the rain starts to fall, again.

So wait, why are we doing this?

Oh yeah. See per below...

 
 
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Yep, it's that heart-accelerating tug on the line! Our morning may have started slow and cold as hell, but once there's a fish on, everybody better drop that damned coffee and grab their rods, 'cause when those fish are biting, you've gotta get 'em while they're hot! 

 
 
 

And just like that, you forget how dang cold you are. 

An evening of swappin' flies, facts & fish tales

 

We hosted a Fly Swap benefiting the Coastal Cutthroat Coalition. Here's what happened!

Beloved by PNW recreational fishers, cutthroat trout are a mysterious fish with little scientific data available to educate management. Enter the Coastal Cutthroat Coalition, formed to fund projects that advance our understanding of Coastal Cutthroat Trout.

When we first heard about the Coalition we were all fired up and asked, 'How can we help?' With the support of Native Fish Society and several community leaders we hosted an evening of conversation about Coastal Cutthroat Trout, the role of the Coalition and the road ahead. 

Passionate and thoughtful dialogue flowed throughout and the deep roots of this incredible community shone.

 
 
 
 

The Swap was hosted at Burnside Brewing Co.  in the back brewery (where all the beer-making magic takes place!). Burnside generously donated a portion of the evening's beer proceeds to the cause.

 
 
 
 

Native Fish Society is a member of the Coastal Cutthroat Coalition and guided our learning on cutthroat. Learn how NFS River Steward Program feeds into the cause. 

 
 
 
 

People brought their flies to casually swap with new pals, and entered for a chance to win the fly jackpot! A raffle was held to raise funds and outfitted several lucky winners.

 
 
 
 

The Fly Jackpot grew to over 200 flies, many generously provided by South Sound Fly Fishers.

 
 
 
 

Fish biologist and Coalition member, James Losee, giving us the facts and goals for growing cutthroat data and knowledge. 

 
 
 
 

Everyone present was incredibly thoughtful, with true interest in knowing more about cutthroat and sharing community with those who love and serve the natural world. 

 
 
 
 

Lucky winners went home with stellar gear from Dolly Varden apparel and Roam adventure van rentals. 

 
 
 
 

Serious smiles as lucky anglers scored a 3-month fly subscription to Postfly and a Patagonia duffle bag.  

 
 
 
 

Community members Kayla Lockhart and KC Badger contributed some of their badass handy work!

 
 
 
 

This fella won 2 wet suit and board rentals from our pals at local surf shop, Cosube! 

 
 
 
 

Artist, Mark Dalton, contributed this lovely print of our favorite subject matter!

 
 
 

Winner winner, trout for dinner!

 
 
 

Passing the jackpot-baton!

 
 
 
 

A serious champion of an evening. A GIGANTIC thank you to everyone who came out, drank some beer and learned more about our fishy cutthroat friends!

 
 
 

Our Wonderful Event Partners

 
 
 

2016: The Year of Fly Fishing

 

Bad knots, lost flies, and falling in love.

Last year we met, Kd, Laura and Rebecca; somehow our lives convened and it’s never been the same since.

Our first meal was burgers and beer while we bonded over fish talk: fly fishing. We all wanted it. There were a lot of obstacles such as learning from the ground up. We didn’t know a thing about it aside from the exposure Laura had growing up. There was also a total lack of gear. Between 3 ladies we shared one pair of waders, one fly rod, a pair of hand-me-down boots (four sizes too large for us) and a box of flies. But heck, is that a challenge? We’re in!

With a champagne promise, we committed 2016 as the year of fly fishing. We’ve lost a lot of flies, snagged a lot of branches, spent too long untangling line. But these are the rites of passage and every smolt caught is a celebration.

 
 
 
 
 

Rebecca's first fish was a 20lb. Arctic trout. It was love at first bite.

 
 
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Kd grew up cannonballing the sycamore shaded streams of Kentucky.

 
 
 
 

 
 

Laura has snorkeled miles of rivers; we think it gives her an unfair advantage.

 
 
 

We are forever hooked. 

 

The Yakima

 

It's all about that hopper-dropper!

| Yakima River, WA

An 80 degree day in March? We'll take it! Warm weather means making a break for the river with the raft to try our hand at catching some trout. We loaded up the rigs after a long week of work, rolled down the windows, turned up the tunes and drove north to the river.

 
 
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Rolling into camp late at night is really a unique feeling. You never see your surroundings or really get your bearings until dawn breaks, then it all becomes familiar at once! After all, it's home for the weekend.

This particular morning, we learned quickly that even though we were in the desert and it was going to be 80 degrees, we could've used an extra pair of wool socks! We'd say we learned our lesson, but...

 
 
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Gearin' up to get out!
Our breakfast was paired with lots of flyline, a handful of indicators, and maybe a river mimosa or two.

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Wooly-boogers and hopper-droppers, David's middle finger and Rebecca's denim. Enough said.

 
 
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Six fly rods, four fishers, three oars, one raft, one frame, one drybox, one cooler, four life jackets, a bag full of straps, numerous beers, and countless odds and ends. Ryan's car couldn't handle a single more item...loaded up, we hit the road for the boat launch! 

 
 
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Loadin' up. Strappin' down. Dragbag full of beer. Rods at the ready. Sunscreen rubbed in (almost) all the way. Oh, and don't forget David! 

 
 

Finally! We are on the water. Game on.

 
 
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What they do tell you is how awesome having a dropper (or second fly) on your line is.

What they don't tell you is how challenging it is to detangle your line with the dropper. Lesson learned for real this time.

 
 
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Did we mention David's middle finger. When looking back through the photos, it's like playing a game of 'Where's Waldo'.

 
 

An evening of swappin' flies, facts & fish tales.

 

We're hosting a Fly Swap, benefiting the Coastal Cutthroat Coalition Thursday, September 15th.

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With the support of Native Fish Society and several community leaders we’ll host a conversation about Coastal Cutthroat, the role of the Coalition and the road ahead. 

The casual gathering will be held at Burnside Brewing Co. with a portion of pub proceeds donated to the Coalition.

Doors open at 6pm, conversation starts at 7pm. Bring your flies to casually swap and enter for a chance to win the fly jackpot! A raffle will be held to raise funds and outfit a few lucky winners.

Please join us to celebrate and learn more about this wild and native fish, while drinking delicious beer!

To learn more about the Coalition, visit coastalcutthroatcoalition.com or our journal post

Get Fly Swap event updates on Facebook.

 

Our Event Partners

 

Here's a lil soundbite from The Outdoor Line talk radio with Tom Nelson and Rob Endsley on The Roving Dears, Coastal Cutthroat and the Fly Swap!