Written by Tom Rosenbauer
Arguably the most popular saltwater or big game rod in the Orvis range, this is a 9 foot, 8 weight rod. But I honestly think a lot of anglers don’t arm themselves enough. I have just returned from an intense series of shoots for the TV show ‘Orvis Guide to Fly Fishing’ next year where we hunted smallmouth bass, bonefish, permit, small tarpon and striped bass. Most days I used one 9 foot 9 weight Helios 3D rod, and I just fell in love with this model. It gives me the extra distance I need, more power against hostile winds and makes it easier for me to cast flies that weigh almost as much as an ultralight jig.
Let’s take smallmouth bass, for example. While they are tough fighters, they are mostly limited to aerial displays and close-range tug-of-war. With a 5 weight you could easily fight these guys. But 95 percent of the time you’re not fighting fish, you’re trying to get your fly to a place where a perch will eat it. It’s no fun if you can’t get the bow tie somewhere awesome looking. The most effective black mouth flies for me have always been either wind resistant flyfish or flies with dense, heavyweight eyes like crayfish and clouser minnows. It’s easier to get those flies downwind from 40 or 50 feet with a 9 weight than with an 8 weight.
But isn’t a 9 weight too heavy to enjoy a smallmouth bass fight? I don’t think so – with the progressive action of the H3 rods, even a 14″ small mouth will bend the rod at least halfway if you put pressure on it. This provides a lot of fun and tactile feedback while providing the necessary power reserve to push larger flies into the wind.
I really appreciated the 9 weight on the striped bass in Rhode Island and Cape Cod this year. As well as a week of filming there I was also vacationing on Cape Cod and had a place I could walk to early in the morning where I could fish for larger schoolies up to 28 inches in length. They held a relatively strong current and were almost at my feet at high tide. But as the tide dropped the fish moved out and I had to make casts from 60 and 70 feet, sometimes upwind, to reach them. I had no problem with the 9 weight, but one morning, since the fish weren’t huge, I went for the 8 weight. Yes, the rod was marginally lighter and flexed a bit more when fishing, but I had to push my casts beyond what I enjoyed and sometimes they didn’t quite get there. As a result, after five hours of fishing, my arm was more tired than if I had used the 9 weight.
Admittedly the H3 rods are extremely precise and develop high line speed which will help you on longer casts. You place the fly exactly where you want it – unless the mass of the fly line just isn’t enough to drive a heavy fly into a strong wind. Then, no matter how precise the rod is, the fly and leader will not be pushed to the end of the cast. You need that extra bulk.
One day I was lucky enough to be taken on a trip offshore to some rocks where we fished for larger stripers. Here the 9 weight threw the big squid patterns and gurglers as far as my throwing skills would allow and I was able to place them exactly where I wanted them. The extra power reserve in the 9 weight allowed me to play the fish out quicker, especially when a larger fish was using the currents to speed up its already powerful runs. I don’t know about you, but when the fishing gets hot, the last thing I want to do is play a fish – I want to bring my fly back in for the next shot.