The Orvis Hydros is Orvis’ latest addition to their rod range. It is meant to be the same blank but with cheaper components; the guides and the reelseat. The rod of each range that was tested was the 9′ #5 tip flex. The rods were tested with a variety of lines namely, Snowbee XS, Rio Gold and SA Mastery Distance. There is a difference, a big difference.
The review is based on the opinion of three seperate casters casting both rods on water and then in the field against a tape. On water both rods are very good, in fact dammed difficult to tell anything between them. I mean a standard pick up and lay down cast here. We moved to the field for longer casts due to the unsuiatability of our water location. There’s only so much I can say here as it’s impossible to put into words what the “feel” is etc. Both rods have quite a fast recovery and are marketed as tip flex but in truth you can bend them if you so desire. In terms of roll/spey casting both rods perform well, with the group concensus being the Helios had a very slight edge but again it depends on your preference of feeling. The main difference between these two rods became apparent when we went into the field…
The reason for heading to the field intially was for a shootout but it developed into a test of more depth than out and out distance. First step was to cast as long as line as possible. Then we brought a target increasingly closer from 90′ down about 20′ at a time. Immediately the difference was apparent, the Hydros is a wee bit stiffer and miles more stable at longer range. And by miles I really do mean miles. It’s an unbelievable difference for what is supposedly the same blank! As the targets got closer the Hydros still out performed the Helios until around 45′-50′ when the Helios was that wee bit sweeter at closer range. The other two testers favoured the Helios at close range but I think I slightly preferred the Hydros at all distances. I prefer the slightly firmer feel but that’s a totally subjective point. At distance the Helios feels too unstable and all three casters cast considerably further with the Hydros.
In conclusion if you consider there is a £200 price difference between these rods and in reality the cheaper one is the best performer across the full distance spectrum then why would you buy the Helios? The only answer I can think of, is you like to be seen with a bit of gold bling! Incidentally I bought the Hydros for £300 less than the Helios.
Make of this review what you will, ideally try out both rods and choose the one you prefer. Also bear in mind this is only applicable to the 9′ #5 tip flex, the other models in each range may and most likely are a lot different.
UPDATE as at June 2011:
Well it’s been a year and a half since that first review and there’s some things I don’t agree with and other things I’ve changed my mind on. And to top it all off the rod is broken, that’s what a fishing season in New Zealand does to a rod! This update isn’t concerned with comparing the Hydros to the Helios as I haven’t cast a Helios in 12 months….
So I’ve been fishing that Hydros hard for 18 months, it’s been used in Scotland, New Zealand and Australia and it’s been used whole and broken! In Scotland, it was great on rivers and lochs, putting out a long line whenever needed – bear in mind this is a rod on the stiff side of things, if you don’t like stiff rods – you won’t like this. Where it really performed though was in New Zealand on those big South Island bruisers. The rod has taken trout from 1.5lb to about 8lb and performed beautifully. It really does have some balls for horsing in those larger trout, I can’t complain about it’s playing abilities in the slightest.
On the casting front, the rod is a delight to use with a dry or a multifly rig. I use a #5 line on it for single dry and a #6 line for a dry and couple heavy nymphs combo. The #6 line just has that bit extra for delivering the heavy flies. The rod handles either line perfectly, the #6 line with a dry, a heavy nymph and a trailer became my go to – it just delivered everywhere and was a delight to use (well as delightful as heavy nymphs can be!). After a hard fishing season in NZ, I can’t fault this rod. Too bad it’s broken now, just need to wait till I’m back in the UK for Orvis to exercise their wonderful guarantee!
PS – if you want to play the distance game, get a Sage TCX, it’s a gem!