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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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!


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.