We get questions about specific rod models all the time. "How does the 3wt compare to the 4wt?" and "When should I use this rod?" and "What line works best on this rod?". In an attempt to provide better info so you can make a more informed buying decision, we decided to start a 'model-by-model' blog series. We traveled to the Orvis headquarters in Manchester, VT this fall and had the chance to cast each and every rod in the 3D series. This article is designed to pass that info along to you. Of course, like our shootouts and other casting commentaries, these mini-reviews are based on our casting style and preferences. Your mileage may vary.
Series Overview: If I had to choose one word to describe the Orvis Helios 3D Fly Rod Series it'd be 'powerful'. Orvis has engineered nearly every rod model in the series to be a fast action powerhouse capable of shooting line, cutting through the wind, lifting heavy fish, and throwing laser loops. As such, this isn't a rod series for the angler who prefers finesse, delicacy, feedback, or rods that are deep-flexing. If you're that kind of angler, check out our model-by-model review of the Orvis Helios 3F Fly Rod Series here.
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The 4wt 3D is a powerful little stick that punches above its weight class. Hoppers from a drift boat? This rod is a great choice. Smaller dry flies at longer distances on a western tailwater? Sure. This rod is smooth and powerful with accurate, snappy performance. If you’re looking for a 4wt that provides a ton of feedback and a lot of accuracy at short distances, choose the 3F instead.
Best Use: This is a technical tailwater rod for small dry flies at longer distances. It’s also a great option for larger dry flies from a drift boat or small streamers on spring creeks.
As you can see in the video, we like the 3D 5wt better than the 3F 5wt. If you’re looking for a high-performance rod with power, accuracy, and distance capabilities, this is one of the better 5wt rods on the market. If you’re looking for a 5wt that gives a lot of feedback, especially at short range, you’d probably be better off with the 3F.
Best Use: This is a rod for the hopper junkie, nymph addict, streamer slinger all in one. This truly is a versatile 5wt with lots of applications including lightweight Bass fishing. This is a solid choice for windy tailwaters when you’re throwing to picky trout, too.
The 9’ 6wt 3D is one of our favorite 6wts regardless of brand. This rod has great all-around mid-distance performance with SA Bonefish and SA MPX. It also has enough backbone for small streamers or large dry flies. Laser tight loops make the 6wt 3D a rod that’s great for practical on-the-water uses and for impressing your friends in the backyard. This rod is a true beauty.
Best Use: This is a great rod for Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass and larger Trout streamers on big rivers like the Yellowstone. You could also use it as a rod for hoppers in windy conditions… think Patagonia. The 6wt is also a decent option for smaller Bonefish on calm days.
The 9’ 7wt is another favorite in the series. Similar to the 10’ 7wt, this rod is really powerful. It’s also a great all-around offering in the 7wt sphere, and really lightweight. If you’re looking for a versatile 7wt with power at long distance and decent finesse in close, this is your rod.
Best Use: This is a great rod for lake scenarios, windy conditions, and some smaller saltwater fishing.
This rod was designed for fishing lakes (in Europe). While it has decent accuracy, it’s the ridiculous power at longer distances that makes this rod so good. This rod also does everything you’d want a 10’ 7wt to do. Fish this rod anytime you need to launch it. This rod is a real gem, but probably has limited uses for a lot of anglers since you wouldn’t want to use it to swing flies for steelhead. It’s a great option for anglers looking to throw flies longer distances.
Best Use: This is primarily a Salmon/Steelhead rod… but could be used to throw streamers for Bass in a stillwater setting. Also could be a great option for Trout and Salmon in Alaska.
This rod is definitely powerful. That being said, the rod is also heavy and lacks feedback and feel. When compared to the 3F 8wt, we liked the 3F a little more but found that the action of both rods was actually pretty similar. If you’re looking for a rod that can throw 100 feet of fly line quickly with a ton of power, the 3D 8wt does that slightly better than the 3F. If you’re looking for a rod with flex, feedback, and feel, choose the 3F.
Best Use: This is a rod that’s great for long-distance blind casting for Stripers and other saltwater fish. This is also a great rod for targeting long-distance Bonefish and other saltwater species.
This rod is really accurate, especially at distance. We’re curious about the swing weight… it seemed a little heavy. The rod cast best when partnered with a 9wt SA Bonefish line. That being said, I’m sure it’s also great with a line like a Titan Taper for Stripers. A rod that’s great at carrying line in the air with a bunch of power at distance. If you’re fishing for Permit or larger Bones this baby will put your fly on the mark every time. ACCURATE (from anywhere… ha ha).
Best Use: This is a Bonefish, Striper, Redfish, Permit rod. Its accuracy at distance and powerful performance also makes it a great rod for windy conditions. The perfect all-around 9wt.
This rod seemed to have a heavy swing weight… which isn’t the worst thing ever for a 10wt. We found it to be quite accurate when partnered with SA Tarpon and a real cannon when cast with a Titan Taper. If you’re noticing redundancy here it’s because Orvis has clearly designed these rods to be powerful and accurate at longer distances. That being said, the 10wt left a little to be desired at short distances. This is a great option for smaller tarpon, however.
Best Use: This rod is a solid option for Tarpon if you’re comfortable casting a 10wt for Tarpon. This would also be a great rod for trophy Bull Redfish in Louisiana especially in windy conditions.
This rod follows in the footsteps of the 10wt, although it’s faster and less accurate. We don’t recommend this rod for delicate presentations and short distance accuracy. It is, however, a real cannon and can shoot a full fly line with EASE.
Best Use: A fast action 11wt is really only used for tarpon or GT. This rod will get the job done in windy conditions when partnered with the right fly line.
Similar to the 11wt, the 12wt is a big rod for big fish. This rod is great at shooting a lot of line and throwing large flies but don’t expect it to make a delicate presentation accurately at short distances. This is truly a GT stick and is meant for the very largest fish in the harshest environments. The butt section on this thing is a small tree trunk… an exaggeration but you get the point.
Best Use: This rod is almost strictly a GT rod, although I suppose it’d be a great option for Arapaima because of its incredible lifting power.
We felt like the 9' 9wt rod captured the essence of the rod series perfectly. The 9wt is just a solid, fast action, high-performance rod that's versatile and accurate. Plus, the 9wt has enough power to cut down strong winds and lift heavy fish. We really liked the 6wt as well.
While it’s an extremely good lineup overall, if we had to choose our least favorite rod it would probably be the 9' 8wt. This rod seemed a bit heavy and a bit stiff and just didn't provide anything revolutionary in the 8wt world.