You can’t say we didn’t come well armed: in our single scull in the Bahamas my buddy and I had five fly fishing rods. The rods came from three different manufacturers, in sizes designed to handle any fish, from young bonefish to 120-pound tarpon. They were all top of the line sticks, and most had been proven in combat, with the exception of an 8weight Orvis Helios 3 Blackout just out of the box, never fished before. This is a brand new fly rod from a brand new line of Orvis fly rods.
The next generation of Orvis Helios fly rods
Since the introduction of the Orvis Helios 3D and Helios 3F fly rods in 2017, they have helped bring new shine to the Orvis brand of fishing gear. Orvis designed the Helios 3D to cast it from a distance, while the Helios 3F rod marries that signature backbone with a slightly softer tip for a precision advantage. The Blackout series takes this technology in an even more refined direction: rods produced for specific and particularly difficult casting situations and environments.
At the bow of our flat dinghy, with bonefish tail and license in sight, even I asked myself: How much of a hype was Blackout’s jaw-dropping prose?
During two days of serious fishing, the Blackout fly rod was rarely stowed. Even with some great other choices on hand, time and time again we searched for the new kid on the block in town. We tried to put our finger on it. The Blackout 8-weight is a fast-acting rod that doesn’t seem to depend too much on speed, although it has a lot of it. Instead, it relies on a sort of casting authority that helped bridge the gap between the casts we knew we had to make and the casts we actually made at the time.
Several times I drew the line and thought: Whore. Did I really just do this?
Orvis Helios 3 Blackout Series Fly Rod Models
Instead of launching a traditional rod series with models covering most rod weights, the Orvis Helios 3 Blackout comes in three different models. There is a 3 weight 11 feet; a weight of 9 1/2 feet 5; and the weight of 8 1/2 feet. We’ll come back to the specifics of each in a moment, but here’s the truth about their common DNA.
All three Blackout rods use the existing Helios 3 material set, but Orvis built them with specialized cones. The stripping guides are made of SiC / titanium, for a super hard finish and minimal friction when throwing and during combat. The reel seats are made of Type III anodized aluminum. All components other than the grip have a non-glare, black on black coating: black reel seat frame with black carbon insert, anti-glare blanks and black guides.
For this series, Orvis avoids the iconic white stripe and the oversized Orvis logo in front of the handle. People either loved or hated this white banner, most in the latter category. (Note: for some newer models in the Helios 3 family, you can order the stems with blue or green stripes.) People will love or hate the “tactical” look of the Blackout, especially the drippy and fade logo. But at least it’s a subdued gray color. Personally, as long as the rod doesn’t have fuzzy dice painted on the blank, I’m more interested in performance than appearance.
3 Orvis Helios 3 Blackout weights
The most specialized of the cane is the 11 foot long weight 3. Designed to tap into the European nymph trend, the rod telegraphs the most nuanced catches and keeps the angler in touch with a weighted nymph stroll along the river bottom. The extra length helps deal with current confusing seams when fishing from a distance. But given that the 3-weight Blackout is built with the same reputedly lightweight layups as the Orvis Helios 3 line, that extra length should be barely noticeable in the swingweight. A long rod for long days on the water.
5 Orvis Helios 3 Blackout weights
The overall performance of a traditional 5 weight fishing rod gets a 6 inch length in the Blackout series. That half foot could pay dividends. Trout anglers will appreciate the longest rod’s ability to mend the line on conflicting river or stream currents, and that’s a blessing when trying more advanced casts like a range cast or steeple. The Orvis Helios backbone helps puncture complicated platforms, such as weighted nymphs and hopper-dropper combos, without tail heads or aggravating growls.
8-weight Orvis Helios 3 Blackout
Orvis takes a different approach with his 8-weight Blackout. They shaved 6 inches from the traditional 9 foot length. On the Bahamian flats, I first worried about the potential loss of some leverage when I had to remove 30 feet of fly line from the water for a second shot on bonefish. And I wondered about the shorter length as I waded through the surf area and tried to hit a fly through 20 mph winds. But the backbone of the rod rose to the challenge.
I can’t say I have the skills to propel a 60 foot throw in these conditions. But I had no doubt that the Blackout put extra distance and tighter curls in my delivery. And the slightly shorter length helped me get some false throws quickly without sacrificing the ability to shoot the line.
I fish for false albacore in Cape Lookout, North Carolina. These waters are known as the place “where 8 weights will die”. The 8-weight Blackout fights like a 9. If it pulls an intermediate fly line off the chop like I think it could, it could turn that old adage upside down.
Orvis calls Blackout bars specialized tools for “scenario specific” applications. It’s sophisticated marketing jargon. But I think these rods have a little wider application than this label might suggest, especially in the 5 and 8 weight models.
The 5-weight Orvis Helios 3 Blackout is designed as a “boat rod” particularly suitable for use on drift boats, rafts and pontoons. But its speed and longer length would be impressive for stalking sunfish in large ponds. In this scenario, you need a rod that can pierce a deer hair popper through the breeze or lift your back above bushy shrubs. Ditto for all those who fish a float tube or a small pontoon.
The 8 weight rod can boast of saltwater resistant materials, but it would be a beast on rivers and lakes with pike and river stripers. Bottom line: The way these rods handle their “scenario specific” tasks is very useful when you want to use a blackout to beat carp or bigmouths.
Is an Orvis Blackout fly rod worth the money?
High-end fly rods are expensive and Blackouts are no exception. The rods sell for $ 998. Understand what they are designed for. If you are a novice fly thrower, these rods will not allow you to reach a higher skill level. In fact, novice anglers might struggle with the inherent speed of the Blackout series. And this extra long weight 3, in particular, is not for beginners.
But experienced fly fishermen have a lot to gain from the technology of these rods and their rule-bending design specifications. If you’re the type to invest a lot of money in fishing gear that will excel at the high end and the margins of what’s possible, without sacrificing too much middle ground, the Blackout should be at the top of your list. listing. (Although you might want to keep this list hidden from your partner.) These are rods for anglers who take their hobby seriously.
I left the Bahamian apartments sold on the Orvis Helios 3 Blackout 8-weight. It does a remarkable job at what it’s designed to do: allow a pitcher to grab the line and change direction quickly while chasing fast moving fish. But the rod has become our go-to choice for just about any casting situation.