Orvis must have spent a lot of time developing this rod; and it shows. When I first learned of the Helios 3’s introduction, I was hoping there would be a dedicated Euro nymphing rod. Not because other rods won’t or haven’t gotten the job done, but because I knew anything Orvis would produce would more-than-likely be an upgrade and who doesn’t like trying new rods. That definitely happened and I’ll take you through my time on the water with the new offering.
Euro nymphing is highly technical and there are so many nuances, it could confuse just about anyone. The section of river I chose to fish during the first session lended itself to that of Polish or Czech nymphing method. To make a long story short (and to prevent giving away any secrets) I had a heavy nymph at the end of a long leader with a smaller nymph about 16″ above the other one.
As I rigged up my nymph rod in the middle of a spectacular trico hatch and shrugged off the judgmental looks of two salty dry fly anglers waiting for a guide trip, the plan was to hit the water and make a few casts in a shallow run just to get the feel for the rod. The first thing to note is the nice balancing act between a long, light rod and an Orvis Hydros SL III reel. With just a few inches of fly line extended beyond the rod tip, I took my first dozen casts to see what the rod was capable of. After the rust was shaken off, my initial thoughts were how intuitive it felt. I could look at a spot, make the cast, and the nymphs landed with a satisfying “plunk” right on target.
Up to that point, I was a little skeptical. Throughout the marketing hype and talking with dealers and industry professionals about how accurate this new line of rods are, I thought, “how can a Euro rod be made to be more accurate with such short casts?” Somehow, it happened. My standard for a quality piece of equipment is how it disappears into the scheme of things. That means I’m not having to think about anything and just concentrate on fishing with, ultimately, equates to more fish. After those first few casts, the nymphs just landed where I wanted them to.
Now came the “meat and potatoes” of this style of fishing…waiting for the nymphs to make contact with the bottom and lead them through the drift. Sensitivity is one thing but Shawn Combs must be some sort of wizard to create a rod where the angler can feel every single piece of structure the nymph contacts. What ended up happening is I could distinguish a “take” just by feel rather than watching an indication of one with my sighter material. That’s a huge advantage on those days where maybe you’re not as focused on your strike indicator as you should be. Either way, it’s a big advantage.
As one may reasonably expect, the longer and more flexibility a rod tip, the sharper the hook set needs to be to really drive the hook point into a fishes mouth. I used a 5′ section of 6X fluorocarbon tippet to both of my flies and knew an overly-aggressive hook set would break off any size of fish at the other end. This didn’t happen and I attribute that to the flexible last 1/3 of the rod tip. There was no need to alter the hook set, which lead to the continuation of enjoyment of this rod. The tippet protection is great but there is definitely a good backbone that nowhere near was challenged when even an energetic 15″ brown trout was hooked by my point fly. It was, though, a rather fun fight.
After some time with the rod and some decent fish brought to hand, I wanted to test the range of the rod. I’m a huge fan of a swung wet fly as it covers water easily and the strikes are aggressive. It’s just a fun way to fish. I used Scientific Anglers Amplitude Trout line with a 9-foot tapered leader and began to make overhand casts down-and-across. This is where I just couldn’t get the feel of this rod. Granted, it’s a lot of rod to be casting this way and I could be critical or foolish for expecting this. However, this rod definitely shines as a dedicated nymphing rod. The silver lining? Mending was incredibly easy due to the length and forgiving tip. That’s where other nymphing methods came in.
For the spots where spooky fished reigned, I was able to attach an Air-Lock indicator to my sighter tippet and fish this rig just like a standard nymph rig. The added weight of the indicator casts better than expected and without much effort. While staring at a strike indicator in a long-line nymphing situation isn’t my idea of fun, this rod will do it without a worry. It’s worth noting, though, that the nymph rig didn’t carry any extra weight and the euro nymphs remained at the end of my line.
The final thoughts on this rod? Since the first two days of nymphing during a major hatch, a dry fly anglers dream, this was my “go to” rod on two other consecutive days on the water. If asked to come up with three words to describe the new Euro nymphing rod, they would be: accuracy, fun, and ease. It was pure enjoyment from the first casts to the last. And in case you’re wondering, the biggest fish of the day was caught as that dry fly guide trip was passing behind me. If looks could kill.