Editors’ Note: Part 1 of our review on the Orvis® Helios 2 4-weight 10’ rod (Tip Flex) is focussed on the fishability & performance of the rod fished in the more traditional manner with standard leader configurations. In Part 2 we will be honing in on the technical prowess and ability of the rod used in Euro-style fishing.
Though single-hand 10’ Rods have been around long enough to no longer be labelled a ‘fad’ (you know, like liquid diets), there has been a substantial uprising in their sales and utilization by weekend-warriors and decorated fly fishing veterans alike over the past 5 years. Some of these sales can be attributed to the wave of technically focused books and articles published by accomplished members from various National Teams on their benefits. BUT, if you had to ask us, most of these are because of curious anglers who took the chance, embraced the ‘long rod’ and are now staunch supporters screaming about their new found conviction from the rooftops.
THE REVIEW LAB
The Orvis® Helios 2 4-weight 10’ rod (Tip Flex) landed on our doorstep just before we headed off to Tourette Fishing’s Makhangoa Community Camp on the banks of the immense Bokong river in Lesotho to chase indigenous Smallmouth Yellowfish. The Bokong is a wide, remote, fast flowing and varied river and though you can target hordes of smaller cock fish, we had our bets (hopes and dreams as well) hinged on those spectacular solitary hens. It has the makings of the perfect fly fishing stream – pocket water for days, deep glides, long shallow riffles, bubbly white water, mirror-surfaced pools etc.
This all infused by ice cool crystal clear mountain water that hosts educated Smallmouth Yellowfish and Mudfish, Brown Trout and Yellowfish as it seeps its way toward Katse Dam.
Hit by the worst drought the tip of Africa has seen in over 100-years, the Bokong was flowing low and close to transparent – your A-game is already a non-negotiable, this raised the requirement to A++.
For more on our trip and to read our comprehensive trip report, click here.
THE OUTFIT & AESTHETICS
We fished a RIO Gold with a 9ft 4X RIO Suppleflex leader tapered down to a 10ft section of 5X fluorocarbon on the Orvis® Helios 2 4-weight 10’ rod. Though the Helios 2 would be perfectly matched to a Euro-Style tight-line leader, with the Bokong flowing low and clear it required us to keep our distance and employ a very stealthy strategy.
Orvis® has spared neither expense nor effort to deliver an overall exquisite product. Nestled in a neat black rod-sock and housed in a deep-blue rod tube that is covered in an epic Orvis® inspired silver fish decal, these alone had us drooling, but they pale in comparison to the look, components and finishes of the actual rod. Built in Manchester, Vermont, each Helios 2 is constructed under the watchful eye of Orvis®‘s design team and it shows. The burled wood insert and sleek skeleton reel seat serve as a powerful introduction to the quality of the cork used to shape the Western-style grip. This flows into the sexy shimmering dark blue blank that hosts the SiC stripping guide and flexible nickel/titanium snake guides.
The Orvis® Helios 2 4-weight 10’ is a___________ (insert any synonym or profanity for awesome) looking stick and one that will have heads and float crafts turning every time you take it out onto the water. At 2 5/8oz. (75 g) it is not light but close to weightless despite its length – simply incredible!
WHERE DID THE ORVIS® HELIOS 2 4-WEIGHT 10’ ROD (TIP FLEX) SHINE
During a single day on the Bokong you constantly bounce between different fishing conditions, from short but deep pockets strewn between massive boulders to areas of broken glides over ankle deep gravel bars. You continuously chop-and-change between tiny dries on long leaders and heavy multiple-nymph rigs below small indicators in an attempt to fool the clearly visible Yellowfish. Mandatory to latching onto one of the trophy hens is pin-point accuracy, drag-free and meticulous presentation & masterful line management. Let’s emphasise these to substantiate the requirements we had of the Orvis Helios 2 4-weight 10’:
- Pin-point Accuracy
- Drag-free and Meticulous presentation
- Masterful line management
- Versatility to handle an array of flies and leaders at variable distances
Concerns that the Orvis® Helios 2 4-weight 10’ would feel too long amidst these conditions where obliterated within the first 20 minutes on the river. It is staggeringly accurate at short-to medium distances, to a point of being absurd, and tracks true and with precision on every casting stroke. Though we had very few instances where a full-line-distance cast was required, it did not flinch the slightest with 50 feet of line out of the tip and still retained its acclaimed accuracy with each cast.
If we had to give this rod a nickname it would be ‘The Mender’ – we are at risk here of waxing too lyrically about the Orvis® Helios 2 4-weight 10’s performance, but it has set a new standard for mending ability in our books.
This mending magic combined with the additional length the 10’ gives you over the more conventional 8’6”, delivers incredible agility on the water. So many 10-foot rods suffer from a seemingly soft and ‘bouncy’ tip that leaves you wanting and with lagging line management ability, but in developing the Helios 2 4-weight the Orvis® design team were clearly mindful of this and built in the additional backbone to overcome this trait. We were repeatedly able to present our flies with ease and unhindered presentation from concealed distances, over multiple currents, to weary fish. A mouthful yes, but the rod made light work of this conundrum on the water.
They claim “unrivalled lifting power” and though this is by no means a comparative article, despite its length the Orvis® Helios 2 4-weight 10’ set each hook with instant effect and did not once buckle under the weight and blistering, deep runs of those big hens – who are we to argue with them! It maintained smooth, constant and reliable pressure on well over 200 fish and noticeably protected our light tippets throughout. Each reviewer and person that used the rod on this particular trip was blown away by the overall and all-round performance of this rod and how capable it was being fished in a more traditional manner as opposed to as a Euro-Nymphing stick. Yeah, everyone noted and proclaimed it to be:
- Incredibly Light
- Insanely accurate
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS ON OUR ORVISâ HELIOS 2 4-WEIGHT 10’ ROD (TIP FLEX) EXPERIENCE
Even perfection has its flaws. To maintain its fast action and capable tip along with its ‘lack of weight’, the Orvis® Helios 2 4-weight 10’ has an unusually wide diameter butt section as a foundation. The Helios 2 range is renowned for its lightness and it is clear Orvis® has maintained this even in the longer models. Some reviewers had concerns that this wider blank might offer noticeable wind resistance when high-sticking in very windy conditions but we fished through one hell of a sandstorm and this was a non-issue in the conditions we fished it in. A solution to this would obviously be a slightly thicker blank but with this comes more weight and though the Orvis® Helios 2 4-weight 10’ has room to absorb this without anyone being any wiser, it would cut into one of its remarkable character traits.
At distances over 70 feet the rod does run out of gas, but we do not see this as a flaw as there are very few, if any, circumstances you will be hauling out full fly-lines when fishing a 4-weight rod.
The Orvis® Helios 2 4-weight 10’ surpassed all our expectations and proved to be a highly versatile and capable rod even in the small stream environment. It has the finesse and grace of a 3-weight but the backbone and ability one would expect from a 5-weight. If we had to recommend this rod based on only one element it would be its staggering accuracy at short-to medium distance and the ability to consistently deliver at both. Increased reach and mending majesty finally round of this stellar stick that now forms part of our own personal rod collection.
RRP : $795 (backed by the Orvis® 25-year warranty)