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  • Writer's pictureJon Osborn

Gear Review: Orvis Helios 4 Fly Rod

Updated: Jun 11


Fly angler fishing in a river on a sunny day

Overview:

 

The new Orvis Helios 4 rods launched with significant acclaim over the past few months, and all these accolades made Allen and me wonder if they could live up to the hype. There was only one way to find out, so we decided to bring a couple H4s along on a recent fishing foray across our home state of Michigan and into northern Ontario.

 

The Helios 4 is available in two configurations, “D,” which stand for distance (available in 4-14 weight) and “F,” which stands for Finesse (available in 2-8 weight). Since we’d be fishing heavy streamers, we naturally opted for the “D” series in 7-weights.


Furthermore, we spend a lot of time on narrow water hemmed in by vegetation, so we dialed-in the specs a bit further and opted for the abbreviated 8.5' rod length. A bit shorter, sure, but these sticks certainly aren’t shy on power. On the contrary, they’ve got backbone to spare, making them ideal for landing large fish such as steelhead, big browns, and hard-fighting bass.


In the 7-weight, D-series, the rod features a a black-anodized aluminum reel seat, and a full wells grip with fighting butt.

 

fly angler in a river with a fresh Great Lakes steelhead

Test Specs (Allen):

 

Rod: Orvis Helios 4 “D” series

Weight: 7 wt.

Length: 8.5 feet long

Line: 7 wt. and 8 wt. Scientific Anglers Sonar Titan 3D sinking line

Reel: Orvis Hydros III

Retail Cost of Rod: $1,198


fly angler in a river with a fresh Great Lakes steelhead

Test Specs (Ozzy):

 

Rod: Orvis Helios 4 “D” series

Weight: 7 wt.

Length: 8.5 feet long

Line: 7 wt. Scientific Anglers Trout Express sink tip

Reel: Ross Liquid large arbor

Retail Cost of Rod: $1,198


fly angler in a camo hat and sunglasses fishing a river

Initial Impressions:

 

One of the first things we noticed right away is that these rods are, as the name implies, extremely lightweight – 10% lighter than even the Helios 3, according to Orvis. That’s due to space-age construction and features like titanium stripping guides.


For bamboo rod lovers like me, the lack of weight took some getting used to, but I learned to love it for its intended purpose. In other words, a Helios “D” might not be the choice for delicate dries, but it’s a carpet bomber with streamers. Plus, cutting that weight alleviates arm fatigue, allowing easier, all-day casting, which paid dividends on our extended outing.

 

As far as line goes, Allen strung up his rod with Scientific Angler’s Sonar Titan 3D 1/3/5, while I used SA’s Sonar Trout Express. Both lines could huck lasers with traditional overhead casts, but when it came to roll casting, Allen preferred his rod over-lined with 8 wt. (even though the SA Sonar Titan series already runs heavy-for-size).

 

Orvis claims that the new Helios 4 is four times more accurate than the older Helios 3. A guy of my modest casting ability isn’t going to notice subtle nuances like that, but I was able to deliver long, accurate presentations with the heavy streamers, such as full-size Sex Dungeons and tungsten conehead patterns.


Aesthetics are also worth mentioning. The bold, clean accents look sharp, and the glossy white rod tube is substantial and attractive as well. The whole outfit screams quality and performance, which would be expected for a rod of this price-point.

fly angler removing a fish from his net on a river

Test Sites:

 

West, mid, and northern Michigan, and the backcountry of northern Ontario.

 

Test Subjects:

 

Over a ten-day timespan, we caught white bass, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, coaster brook trout, brown trout, steelhead, and northern pike on the H4.

 



What I Like:

 

Power and accuracy. Let me start by sharing something I hate: trying to cast large, wind-resistant streamers with an underpowered rod. Thankfully, this isn’t that. This fast-action rod easily handled headwinds, weighted streamers, and large, deer-hair poppers with aplomb. It especially likes to stretch its legs with a long backcast and transfers energy like a gas pedal on a drag car.


Forgiving. I found the H4 easy to cast for a fast-action rod, which isn’t the case with some of the other, more finicky rods I own. It seemed the Helios didn’t demand the precise timing required by some other brands/models, even when my coordination deteriorated toward the end of our fishing marathon.

 

Weight. The Helios 4’s lighter overall weight translated into less arm fatigue during our extended casting sessions. For both of us the wispy weight took some getting used to, but after about an hour or so the rod felt like a natural extension of our arms, and the reduced heft was welcome.

  

Durability. Orvis claims that the Helios 4 is 25% more durable than the Helios 3. We both fought and landed fresh Great Lakes steelhead in heavy current, and one hefty brown had Allen's rod nearly folded tip-to-cork when it dove under the boat, but let’s be honest, fly rods are skinny sections of graphite, so this notion of durability only extends so far. Slam them in a door or shut them in a truck window and it’s over – whether we’re talking about a Cabela’s starter set or a thousand-dollar stick. In the end, proper care really falls on the customer’s shoulders, but in the event of an accident, Orvis backs up their rods with an outstanding warranty.

Made in the USA. All Helios rods are made right at the Orvis Rod Shop in Manchester, Vermont, and while that might not be a deciding factor, it sure is a strong bonus.

fly angler in camo hat and sunglasses holding a large brown trout

What I Don’t Like:

 

Aesthetic. While Allen loved the bold look of the rod and tube, I’m a traditionalist by nature, so the stark white-on-black look of the Helios 4 strikes me as a bit… modern; like comparing a synthetic-stocked AR-15 to a classic bolt-action Mauser. However, if top-tier performance is what you’re after, state-of-the-art gear typically outperforms the old-school stuff.

 

The reel seat on the “D” series comes in basic, no BS black aluminum. Honestly, I’d prefer something a little snazzier, but that’s small peanuts in the long game, since aesthetics have nothing to do with performance.


Price. We have to get this one out of the way, at nearly $1,200, the Helios 4 is a lot of coin to shell out. That being said, sometimes you really do get what you pay for, and the H4 is an absolutely incredible fly rod, surpassing even the vaunted H3, which set the standard for years.

 

close up of a Great Lakes steelhead with a streamer fly in its mouth

Perfect For: The Orvis Helios 4 in the 7-weight, D-series is the perfect rod for serious anglers who demand a cutting-edge stick for long, accurate casts with heavy streamers and solid fish-fighting backbone, without the accompanying weight.


Rating: 4.75/5

 

Learn More here


Fly angler landing a trout in a river

Performance Tips:

 

From an upkeep perspective, graphite rods are relatively maintenance free, and the Helios 4 is no exception. As with every rod, you’ll want to avoid grinding the ferrules in the grit and ensure the rod sections are completely dry before storing them away in the tube. Other than that, they should just keep kicking out casts for a lifetime or more.

 

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