This past spring, Orvis sent me a fly rod with a note: “Try this, send it back and don’t tell a soul about it until late July.” I felt like James Bond getting some new rad, top-secret gadget from Q to play with. I did as asked. The rod the company sent—a 9’ 5” 5-weight trout rod—was part of a trio new rods known as the Helios 3 Blackout (the other two in the series: an 11’ 3-weight for nymphing and an 8’ 5” 8-weight for saltwater).
The first thing I noticed was the rod’s aesthetics—matte black with a smidge of grey—which give off a stealthy vibe. This is useful when fishing for trout: If you feel stealthy, there’s probably a better chance you’ll act that way, too. The rod is light, a delight in the hand, and its casts as smoothly as any rod I’ve ever fished. I first took it out on a small, bush-lined stream. The extra length of the rod (five inches longer than the usual 5-weight) was extremely useful in keeping my fly out of those bushes—I could fling it above them when needed, or roll cast with ease if that wasn’t possible.
The rod was equally as useful on the big, wide-open river I fished a few weeks later, where I waded up to my belly and cast my fly to some sipping trout that I would have had a hard time reaching without the extra rod length. I test new rods every year. Most have very small, incremental advances and, like a car, aren’t really worth checking out unless you need a new one.
The Helios 3 Blackout, however, seems to have made a bigger leap than usual. It’s thoroughly in the “want” category for me. $998; orvis.com