Periodically I like to cast fly rods from different rod companies.
It provides an opportunity to learn the differences in action and performance between rods of a similar class. That then requires me to adjust my casting stroke to obtain the best performance from an individual rod.
I consider both part of learning how to become a better fly caster. And to be honest, determine if there’s a better rod out there than the one I’m using.
For my latest test, I chose a rod I’ve been curious about for some time. That is the Orvis Helios 3D in 6 weight. Orvis has two models in the Helios 3: F for Finesse and D for Distance. The D series is more about wind and distance, which better reflects the primary challenges of the beaches of Puget Sound.
I decided to compare the H3D against the Sage X 691 I’ve used for several years. The 691 X is a very nice rod and overall I’ve been happy with it, but I’ve been concerned its tip collapses when using heavier lines – particularly sink tips.
The H3D is a good looking rod with a dark-black matte finish. Components are first rate. Putting the sections together, they seem to lock in tight at the ferrules. I think the H3D would survive a long session of casting with no loose ferrules. I really like that.
One of my long-standing reservations about Sage rods is they never feel totally secure when joining the sections together. The top sections in particular seem to have loose ferrules. I’ve had tip sections come undone when casting. And for those who know fly fishing, yes I have used wax on the ferrule sections.
I used three different fly lines for the casting review – all are considered 6 weight lines (and I won’t even go into here why the grain weights are so different).
The first was the Scientific Anglers Mastery Expert Distance (160 grains, 70 foot head) that I use for backyard casting practice. The second was the Rio Coastal Quickshooter (210 grains, 35 foot head). The last line was the Airflo Beach Floating (250 grains, 33 foot head).
From previous casting, I know the Sage X easily handles both the Expert Distance and Coastal Quickshooter lines, but struggles a bit with the Beach line.
Casting the H3D with each of the lines showed it to be a stiffer rod than the X. It is definitely a much faster action than the X, which is more of a medium-fast action. While the X has a stiffer and heavier tip, it does have a softer mid section that makes casting feel easier.
There is no similar feel of lazy casting with the H3D – the rod has power and requires a well timed stroke to take advantage of it. Yet, I did find if I let the rod do more of the work it cast terrifically. As is true for many fast action rods, I’m not sure it’s a rod I’d recommend to a beginner.
In terms of the lines I cast, the H3D easily handled the Airflo Beach line. Casts were crisp and laid out well with nice tight loops.
I struggled at first with the Coastal Quickshooter. It took a while to feel the connection between the rod and the line. Over time, as I focused on changing my length and timing the casts got better.
What was surprising was how the H3D handled the much lighter Expert Distance line – particularly once I got more than 40 – 50 feet of line out beyond the tip. It wasn’t exactly fun, but it wasn’t hard work.
After repeated casting all three lines over several days, I’ve come to believe the H3D would make a great rod for a Puget Sound beach. Of course, that’s based on backyard casting – it would require taking the rod out fishing to know how well it would actually perform.
One final test. I got out the Rio Outbound (240 grains, 37.5 foot head). This floating line has stayed in a drawer over the last few years as the X couldn’t handle the heavy long head. I had no problems with Outbound line.
So does this mean I’m going to keep it?
Well, I’ll be selling another rod and welcoming the H3D to the family.