First of all thanks, to the guys at the Orvis Shop at Santana Row in San Jose for helping me acquire this rod. I might have one of the first ones in California. They called me last Wednesday to tell me that Vermont was not sending them 8 wgts. I quickly called Orvis Vermont and got on the list and was told that I wouldn’t receive it until December. Christmas came early on 11/16/2012. Hey Orvis, you’re going to sell many of these rods to Delta Striper Fishermen so send them our way.
I heard about this rod a couple months ago. What caught my eye and interest was actually the teaser video released on Youtube in July–the part where Buba Smith endorses the rod saying “Damn thing casts like a Laser Pointer”. Remember Buba Smith? Played football for Notre Dame and then in the NFL in two Super Bowls and finally as Moses Hightower in the Police Academy movies. He flyfishes? If he likes it, it must be good. I have been searching for the perfect fly rod for 45 years and today, I feel my search is over. It’s that good.
Back in the 70’s, I was into cane rods almost exclusively. The classic cane trout rods were 10 foot 6 wgt rods that were so slow, you could take a nap waiting for the backcast to straighten out. If you liked long rods back then you had better learn to cast. Most people preferred the 9 footers. At the Millpond Fly shop, I sold almost exclusively 9 ft fly rods in all weights, I watched the evolution of salt water flyfishing happen on the west coast and still the 9 ft rod was the norm. With the advent of graphite, and boron, Orvis built the first graphite 10 ft trout rod in the Spring Creek. A really slow rod by today’s standard but much faster than Bamboo. I was hooked on the control that long rods provided and I was not concerned about weight. After all everything was lighter than my beloved bamboo rods. Graphite technology made long rods practical for me. The next phase was about power and distance as I started flyfishing in the salt and for larger salmon, steehead and bonefish. Graphite and Boron designs were impressive and powerfull and I still didn’t care about weight over function. Enter the Helios and the Sage One which marked a significant improvement over the Sage Z-Axis in weight. I fell in love with the light and fast 10 foot 4 wgt Helios and I started believing in the long rod again especially with the wgt decreases. The 10ft 4wgt is the new 9ft 5 wgt and is my standard go to Trout Rod.
Now the Helios II has changed things for me for Stripers, Steelhead and Bonefish. I believe I have found the perfect west coast striper rod and reel. I’m not about length and fast tapers as I was with the advent of the zero gravity rods. I want power, backbone and lightness and a ten footer is always heavier than a 9 footer. I spent the day casting lots of lines on the 9ft 8 wgt Helios II. The secret of the Helios I and Sage One rods is the prepreg and scrim technology — “the stuff that holds the graphite fibers together and the material that gives a finished rod hoop strength, or resistance to crushing”. Also the use of nano-silica polymers which can store more power when crafted into a tube. The scrim in these super lightweight rods is graphite and epoxy and now we have a new era of lighter stronger graphite rods. So how do you improve from here? The same way rods did when they went from bamboo rods to fiberglass, by changing the tapers to make optimum use of the material strengths. The Helios II is made of the same material as the Helios I. The main differences are in the orientation of graphite fibers on the mandrel (off axis) and in the taper design making it 20% stronger and doubling the impact strength of the tip. Its funny how these same principles have also improved the strength of dental porcelains in recent years. I am a dentist and a fly fisherman. Both fly rods and porcelain dental crowns have seen greater technological advances recently than in the last 30 years.
In loading this rod casting, the first surprise was how well it balanced a 6wgt T-14 shooting head. No matter what weight line you cast, the rod flex stays in the top third of the rod. As I kept increasing line wgt of the rod, the action didn’t feel like it was changing. The power of the rod easily managed throwing full lines at all weights.
I did notice one quirkiness. If anything, even the heaviest lines don’t load the backcast for very long which requires more precise timing of the forward cast to maximize the loading of the rod. Maybe its my style of casting. I like to drift back with my backcast till the rod is extended back as far and horizontal as possible before starting the forward cast. Light lines really require a feel for when the line is as far back in the back cast as possible. Likewise with short heavy lines , the backcasts are accelerated very fast. The Helios II still barely loads when the line hits the end of the backcast, Timing at this moment is critical but if executed perfectly, the rod will cast the line 130 feet for you. The better caster you become, the better this rod works!
The total weight of the rod reel and t-14 8wgt is an amazing 11 ounces. The dream combo is the Helios II 8wgt (3.5oz) and a Lamson Vanquish 7.8 (5.3 oz). I know this rod will mean more fish for me, I can cast this thing all day even with arthritis and a torn rotator cuff. How fun it will be to fish with trout equipment that can still handle a 30 lb striper. Finally, Orvis warranties this rod for 25 years repair or replace for whatever the reason. I’ll be 81 when that warranty runs out.