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August 01, 2007

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Exclusive: We Test An Orvis "Helios" Prototype

Two days ago one of the first factory prototypes of a new rod from Orvis mysteriously arrived in the mail. It was an 8-1/2-foot 5-weight. There was no note with it. No press release. No logo on the rod. It didn’t even have a name. Just an implication: “Fish this bad-boy…”

For context, understand that in the flyfishing world, August is the season of hype and promises. That’s because the industry trade show is just around the corner, and all the companies get pumped up with their own propaganda of how they’re going to rock our lives with rods that virtually cast themselves. By December, we realize we’ve been sold more graphite sticks, just painted different colors. So I was skeptical.

Then I took the rod out on the water.


This rod is unlike anything else I have cast before. It’s exceptionally light (with 25% blank reduction and a much lighter reel seat) and very responsive. I could feel the tip action all the way down in the grip, but it wasn’t “noodly” or flimsy. It turns line over with ease on roll casts, and packs tight loops together so you can laser-pinpoint shots, even when throwing gaudy western hoppers. It’s very “bright,” but also balanced … the rod casts the way a Martin OM-28 guitar sounds.


I e-mailed Tom Rosenbauer, marketing director for Orvis Rod & Tackle, and asked him how easily it might break (there’s always a downside, right?). He said it wouldn’t. I decided to check anyway. So I went down to the “hog pen” to test it out. I intentionally over-stressed it on 20-inch rainbows swimming in decent current, and it didn’t flinch. Not even on the 24-incher (shown in the photo). Then I had Romano fish it. Even he could cast it well, and he didn’t break it. Jeez … that’s strange, I thought.

I called Rosenbauer for some details. Here’s what he let on: As with all rods, the main issue that separates the contenders from the pretenders is the rod’s taper. He explained that Orvis finally found a graphite material that would allow them to achieve a better taper without making the rod brittle. They’ve been trying to do it for years. Now they can … which also explains why the company is launching this new line so closely on the heels of its Zero Gravity series. Said Rosenbauer flatly: “We couldn’t wait.”

The rod series will be called “Helios.” They aren’t sure yet on the price, but it will be a high-end (several hundred dollar) rod. The final factory rods will look somewhat different than this one, with new cosmetics. But if they feel the same, the flyfishing market will be buzzing. Heck, I’m even starting to enjoy hype season.
-- Kirk Deeter


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Sal M.

Hell yeah, I want one.

I believe it all. I need a boron-infused electro-responsinator that will allow me to keep my dries out of low-hanging alder branches. I want a ceramic lined, solarized waders and a vest made of unborn mink.

14 snowboards and 7 pairs of skis in the garage is not enough.

Sal M. Clarki

Dennis @ Fishonyukon

You've added yet another complication into my major fall fly-fish expenditure. Over the last few weeks, slighty agitated, many a sleepless night, sweat beads and saliva pockets regularly forming, I had agonized enough and decided to buy a fishing kayak. May have to re-open the decision making process and consider a new Orvis rod. Thanks for nothing.


Ouch ... my bad. Sorry. That is a tough call.


hype... thanks for adding to it

Anthony Bartkowski - FFlogger

Make sure you have it with you on Sunday. I can't wait to test it on some other hogs - and I will test dries and presentations as well. I am interested to see what the presentation is like with smaller bugs and then test the durability on the pigs... See you Sunday...


Sal, I believe "ceramic lined, solarized waders" would not only irritate, but sunburn, your undercarriage. A common remedy is pouring a common bong water/aloe mix into said waders, thus lubricating entry, and reducing unwanted rash. Hope this helps, and keep up the inspiring work!

Paul Zabel

I've gotta try that Orvis rod for myself! Come down to Telluride and we'll get it on the Gunny!!

Anthony Bartkowski - FFlogger

If you are wanting a new rod - WAIT until this is in the market place. I casted it yesterday and was impressed. It is forgiving yet awesome for silent stealthy presentations that are needed at times in low flow conditions. We did not have that yesterday at Farmers. We hauled in some fish and it is precise.

The rod is:
Loads easily
Can feel all action

I can't speak high enough about this piece. I just hope Orvis has it out for the fall run. I have not been so excited for a rod until this one.

Todd Peterson

Why don't they send me one to try? What makes you so special!!

Capt. Joe Demalderis

I really like the 8 1/2' 5wt. I had this past summer.

Wait until you fish the saltwater version! I just got my hands on a 9' 10wt. Sweet, sweet, sweet!

aaron anderson

I don't know I think orvis has lost it's step somewhat over the last few years. maybe fish that stick through the year and then lets see if they have regained the craftsmanship that I feel they have lacked for the last 10 years.

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