Two days ago one of the first factory prototypes of a new rod from Orvis mysteriously arrived in the mail. It was an 8-1/2-foot 5-weight. There was no note with it. No press release. No logo on the rod. It didn’t even have a name. Just an implication: “Fish this bad-boy…”
For context, understand that in the flyfishing world, August is the season of hype and promises. That’s because the industry trade show is just around the corner, and all the companies get pumped up with their own propaganda of how they’re going to rock our lives with rods that virtually cast themselves. By December, we realize we’ve been sold more graphite sticks, just painted different colors. So I was skeptical.
Then I took the rod out on the water.
This rod is unlike anything else I have cast before. It’s exceptionally light (with 25% blank reduction and a much lighter reel seat) and very responsive. I could feel the tip action all the way down in the grip, but it wasn’t “noodly” or flimsy. It turns line over with ease on roll casts, and packs tight loops together so you can laser-pinpoint shots, even when throwing gaudy western hoppers. It’s very “bright,” but also balanced … the rod casts the way a Martin OM-28 guitar sounds.
I e-mailed Tom Rosenbauer, marketing director for Orvis Rod & Tackle, and asked him how easily it might break (there’s always a downside, right?). He said it wouldn’t. I decided to check anyway. So I went down to the “hog pen” to test it out. I intentionally over-stressed it on 20-inch rainbows swimming in decent current, and it didn’t flinch. Not even on the 24-incher (shown in the photo). Then I had Romano fish it. Even he could cast it well, and he didn’t break it. Jeez … that’s strange, I thought.
I called Rosenbauer for some details. Here’s what he let on: As with all rods, the main issue that separates the contenders from the pretenders is the rod’s taper. He explained that Orvis finally found a graphite material that would allow them to achieve a better taper without making the rod brittle. They’ve been trying to do it for years. Now they can … which also explains why the company is launching this new line so closely on the heels of its Zero Gravity series. Said Rosenbauer flatly: “We couldn’t wait.”
The rod series will be called “Helios.” They aren’t sure yet on the price, but it will be a high-end (several hundred dollar) rod. The final factory rods will look somewhat different than this one, with new cosmetics. But if they feel the same, the flyfishing market will be buzzing. Heck, I’m even starting to enjoy hype season.
-- Kirk Deeter