Gear Institute Expert Test Menu

Orvis Helios 2

by Dan Nelson - published October 2012




  • The lightest rod in the test (and possibly the lightest on the market)
  • Very accurate casting
  • Beautiful styling and detail
  • Great fit and feel in the hand, suitable for all-day casting with little arm fatigue


  • Most expensive rod in the class
  • Not quite as powerful (i.e casting distance) as some
  • Limited availability of different line weight models during initial release


The Helios 2 is the lightest fast action rod we’ve found, but it gives up nothing in performance, coming in first or second in our tests on distance, accuracy and versatility. Unfortunately, it also follows the general rule of lighter weights meaning heavier prices – it’s the most expensive rod we tested.


Orvis’ original Helios rod series the standard for lightweight performance when it was introduced 2010 and version 2.0 moves that mark even further forward. It comes in just a quarter ounce lighter than the Sage One, but that’s nearly a 10-percent weight savings.

Casting Distance and Accuracy
The Helios 2 puts tons of performance in the hands of anglers. We found it perfectly suited to pushing line through the stiff winds that scour the basalt canyons of the Yakima River. It laid out line smoothly and accurately, besting all but the Sage in both distance and accuracy for all our intermediate to expert casters.

General fit, finish and feel
“Too pretty to fish with,” said one tester. Fortunately, she changed her mind after the first cast. It is a beautifully made rod, but that just makes fishing with it more fun. The reel seat boasts a California buckeye burl insert – the swirl of colors and patterns looks a little like an exquisite piece of Italian Marble – supported by a black nickel skeleton. The rich blue rod features a reverse half-wells cork grip that snugs into the hand comfortably regardless of hand size (at least for our team, which ranged from women’s small glove size to men’s XL).

The Helios 2 proved incredibly adept at providing just what was needed, regardless of fishing style or condition. The stiff backbone made it a master of throwing big dry flies and weighted streamers, but the taper design also provides enough tip action to keep light dries and tiny nymphs moving softly and delicately.

How We Tested It

Fishing for rainbow trout on the Yakima River, Washington, and the Crooked River of Central Oregon. Casting for (and catching) big rainbows from a drift boat on Idaho’s Henry’s Fork and Washington Methow. Beach fishing for Sea Run Cutthroat (SRCs) trout throughout Puget Sound.  Visited eastern Idaho and fished the Teton River and world-famous Henry’s Fork to catch big rainbows and cutthroat trout. Testers included myself, Jim Nelson of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Donna Meshke and Bree Barton – both skilled outdoorswomen and photographers.

About our mini ratings:

Value: Price of this rod compared with others designed to perform the same basic function.

Weight: Weight of this rod compared with others designed to perform the same basic function.

Fit in Hand/ Grip: Feel of this rod in hand, comfort of holding and casting all day.

Casting Distance: Ability of a variety of anglers to cast for longer distances using this rod compared with others in the same class.

Casting Accuracy: Ability of a variety of anglers to make accurate casts using this rod compared with others in the same class.

Versatility: Usefulness of the rod in a range of situations and angling styles, including dry fly fishing, nymphing, swinging streamers, etc.

The products featured in this test have been loaned to the Gear Institute. For more on our policies regarding editorial objectivity and sample returns, see here.


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Fit in Hand / Grip
Casting Distance
Casting Accuracy


2.5 oz

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