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The Emergency Escape Stream (And A Word About The Orvis Helios 2)

Posted by Tom Chandler 9/16/2012

There are days you need to get out of the office, and not solely because of work. Friday I needed out before the phone rang again and one more depressing piece of news came over the transom.

A friend facing surgery. A family member facing heart surgery. An infant facing the aftereffects of malnutrition.

I wanted to cry.

So I did what any thinking person would do.

I ran.

But not just anywhere. I ran for my nearby Emergency Escape Stream.

Little Rainbow Trout In the event of emergency, break the glass on your Emergency Escape Stream... 

Everybody should have one. It's the place you go when you don't have time, but sanity suggests you don't have a choice.

Unfortunately, it's been hot, and I feared the water temperatures in the Underground's Emergency Escape Stream might have crept up near the 70 degree mark.

Which is too warm if you're a trout.

Making it too warm if you're a responsible trout fisherman.

Then again, things had become dire enough at TU/Man Cave World Headquarters that warm water wasn't going to stop me; I'd just cut the bend off the hook and fish anyway.

Happily, the thermometer delivered the day's first good news; the water temperature was a cool, trout-friendly 58 degrees.

Fish away, gloomy boy.

And I did.

To the tune of eight pretty rainbows, only two of which exceeded 9" -- a number guaranteed to draw the bare of minimum of "where?" inquiries.

This is a very small stream filled with innocent trout, but the water was low and the trout aren't pushovers. And no fly fishermen wants to see trout fleeing like torpedoes, which is what happens when my reflexes come between me and reality.

Initially, I bypassed the tails of pools in favor of the whitewater plunges. Because, you know, when it's hot, they're in the oxygenated water.

Fortunately, I'm an expert at this small stream stuff, so I only had to spook four fish out of "dead" water before the dim fluorescent bulb flickered to life.

The Wonderdog Rises

Wally the Wonderdog's been on a slow downward spiral, courtesy arthritis and his anti-seizure medicine, which offered up all kinds of unpleasant side effects (gluttony, dopiness and significant liver problems).

We got fed up watching him slide, raided the vet's office, stamped our feet, held our breath, and found out another medicine existed -- one largely without side effects.

Thanks guys.

It's even just gone generic, so it's only about 2x as expensive. The vet, interestingly, didn't say anything before because he thought the cost was prohibitive.

What?

We're not even fully transitioned to the new stuff, but the Wonderdog's already noticeably perking up, so I did what I wouldn't have dreamed of doing just a week ago.

I took him along.

Wally the Wonderdog Man's best friend (assuming "Man's" not a fisherman). Wally the Wonderdog Just before launching himself into the fishy part of the pool... 

Arthritis still exerts a powerful hold on his back legs -- and a couple hours after spending two hours climbing up and down a rocky streambed he's already feeling it.

But I guarantee you he'd do it again tomorrow.

So would I, though the fly fisherman in me would think twice; the Wonderdog's enthusiasm makes my heart soar, but once he sees a fish rise (or eat a fly), he's basically headed for the deep end of the pool in the hopes of catching that long-gone trout.

Which means you'd better enjoy that fish you just caught, because it's the last from that particular pool.

Simply put, he's a pain in the ass, but he's also sheer joy on the hoof, and the trade was worth it. For at least a little while, we get our dog back.

You'd make the same deal.

We Talk (Briefly) Helios 2

To this tiny, low-tech stream I dragged an expensive, high-tech fly rod, proving that overkill isn't restricted to the military world.

Orvis sent one of their not-yet-released Helios 2 fly rods out on loan -- an 8'4" 2wt that Tom Rosenbauer's apparently fishing on smaller stuff but also casting over picky, flatwater fish on larger rivers (he's using braided leaders and very long, fine tippets).

The Orvis Helios 2 fly rod Not yet available, but already on a stream near you: the Helios 2. 

I fished it with a 3wt line, reasoning that at short ranges, the heavier line would load better, a theory helped along by the fact I don't own a 2wt line (notice how neatly science fits into the real world when you're me).

I only fished for two hours, so this isn't a full review. I will say the rod flexed nicely and yes, the little fish put a nice bend in it. And -- combined with the [Name Redacted] short leader, it's damned accurate.

This 8'4" 2wt is a mid-flex rod, and like so many modern, high-end ultralight fly rods, it fishes and casts like you're holding a toothpick, yet it has the reserve power of a 4wt.

The "standard" trout rod used to be a 6wt. Now it's closer to a 4wt, and these little rods suggest that standard may slip downward over time.

I'll leave the full review until after it's been put the wringer, but if you're wondering what's different about the "2" version, heres what Orvis had to say:

Featuring all-new tapers fine-tuned to transfer energy along a smoother curve, the Helios 2 offers unrivaled tracking and additional lifting power while maintaining tippet protection. Built with a proprietary material integrated into the tip, the Helios 2’s impact strength and dampening have increased, and the swing weight has been reduced by 20% from the original Helios.

Interesting.

Like Sage did with their ONE series, Orvis is suggesting you'll enjoy more accurate "tracking" from their new rod (Sage touted accuracy, Orvis touted tracking; it's the same thing).

It's a tough one to sell. Fly fishermen naturally assume the odd piece of brilliance is the product of their genius. Who's going to say "My talent never would have made that cast; thank goodness the fly rod was here to make it for me."

You see the problem.

Unfortunately, Orvis has also been infected by the hypervirus sweeping the rest of the industry:

The Helios 2 is a featherlight war club that defies the laws of physics and has the backbone of an I-beam. Lighter in hand and stronger than any rod we’ve ever developed, it transitions energy directly from your brain to the fly and casts with the precision of a laser pointer.

C'mon guys. It's a fly rod, not a particle beam linked to your cerebellum.

See you on your Emergency Escape Stream, Tom Chandler.

AuthorPicture

Tom Chandler

As the author of the decade leading fly fishing blog Trout Underground, Tom believes that fishing is not about measuring the experience but instead of about having fun. As a staunch environmentalist, he brings to the Yobi Community thought leadership on environmental and access issues facing us today.

44 comments
Appreciate it Tom, really enjoy reading your reviews in fly gear regardless of the assholes out there that taint the industry.
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The Superfine isn't exactly a slower rod, but it is a full-flexing rod without a ton of line out. Basically, the Superfine is probably a better rod to use when you're routinely casting at 30' or less; the equivalent Helios performs better in the 20'-50' range, though the 2wt Helios I tried was light enough in the tip to fish at closer ranges.Keep in mind this is based on my extensive tests involving ... more one Helios 2 and three Superfines. In other words, it could be utter bullshit, but for the moment, I'll stand by it.
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The Superfine isn't exactly a slower rod, but it is a full-flexing rod without a ton of line out. Basically, the Superfine is probably a better rod to use when you're routinely casting at 30' or less; the equivalent Helios performs better in the 20'-50' range. Keep in mind this is based on my extensive tests involving one Helios 2 and three Superfines. In other words, it could be utter bullshit, but ... more for the moment, I'll stand by it.
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And is the helios 2 the same blank as the hydro?
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How is the casting difference between the H2 and the superfine? I just ordered a superfine4wt and am hoping that it cast well with smaller streamers and beadheads. i saw your previous review on the superfine so i thought id ask? I know the full flex and mid flex difference and did a shop wiggle of the superfine and it didn't seem that slow, so any advice would be great, thanks
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Sounds like me John, but when I last broke my Trident(I think it was a 9 1/2 TF) Orvis so kindly sent me a new Hydros because there were no parts left for a Trident replacement. A darn old spawning buck salmon broke that one above the ACID dam in Redding. I griped about the way the Hydros casted to Orvis. They sent me my new rod, and it is much better. Blanks may look all the same, but will respond ... more differently. I love my new one even if it is lighter than my Trident was, and I have found that no matter the manufacturer, the rods will all break if care is not taken to handle them with care. I will post more about this on my blog,massbassing.com. Thanks Tom for a beautiful site!
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I have had many Orvis rods. The reason I have had many Orvis rods is because mine keep breaking and they are replaced under the warranty. These new age, ultra light rods are crap. They are not strong. Many days have been ruined because the "state of the art" fly rod broke. A broken rod is useless. The best Orvis Rod I have is an 10 year old Trident TLS which amazes me every time I use it. If you need ... more a fly rod to be an ounce lighter, then don't fly fish.
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Speaking of Hydros, I picked up 2 Hydros rods at steep discounts when they were discontinued last winter, a 6 weight and a 9 weight. A former Orvis trade rep assured me that they were in fact the exact same blank as the (original) Helios. (Apparently there had been some controversy about that over the intertubes.) I love 'em. They don't have the Recoil guides, but they also don't have the ugly gold ... more reel Helios seat. There are probably very few left unsold at this point, but if you can find one you ought to be able to get it for $350 or less. The more recently discontinued Sage ZXL series is another high-end rod that should still be fairly easy to find at closeout prices.
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I think everybody's used to a certain amount of bad news; when it all arrives on one day, it starts to feel like piling on. Fortunately, it gets better...
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moucheur: As far as I’m concerned, Orvis reached Valhalla with the Mega Pro Turbo Extreme Ah yes. This post. . And this picture:
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With the Helios 2 coming out, you had to figure the Hydro was doomed. My guess is the Hydros are trapped between the high-end lines and the Access line, which are also very Helios like. Orvis is turning over its rod lines pretty quickly, that's for sure. Hope the Superfines stick around a while.
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As far as I'm concerned, Orvis reached Valhalla with the Mega Pro Turbo Extreme, against which all future efforts must necessarily pale in comparison. (Not that I've ever had the chance to try one myself, but that's just part of their marketing genius. Thor's hammer is worthy only of Thor.)
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Missed Opportunity Alert: Was just in the O in downtown SF and was told the Hydros was discontinued for this year. My buddy who's a part time guide suggested I get one as the blank was exactly the same as the Helios (V 1.0) for a bunch less money. O, and enough others, must have realized they were cannibalizing their top end. Find 'em if you can on the interweb shopping thingy. SA
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Yeah, I'd make the same deal. Nice to see a pic of him doing what he loves-fucking up your fishing. Sorry he (and other members of your family) are struggling. Hope every thing gets better for everybody.
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I know, you show up, dish attitude all over the place and you're shocked when someone pushes back. Here's a tip: coupling a massive attitude with what appears to be a flaming sense of entitlement ("nobody in specialty retail treats me with the deference I'm due") is not a recipe for lifelong satisfaction. ... more

Good luck with that. I'm going to get back to my hack career.
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Easy there, tiger. You're right in your assumption that I don't possess a journalism degree. If you must know, I have two degrees from a small college in New York (rhymes with Cornell). I considered studying journalism, but I thought I'd rather make a bit more money doing something other than freelance copywriting, or writing for a blog and then attacking the commenters piece by piece. Though, based ... more on your response, it seems like fun! I'd also like to thank you for pointing out that maybe the problem with bike, skate and fly shop employees is me! How stupid of me to go into a brick-and-mortar and ask a REAL PERSON with REAL EXPERIENCE their opinion about different products! Of course they're entitled to treat that person with the least amount of respect possible, because, seriously, who asks questions about their new hobby???? In closing, you're a hack. I'm looking forward to reading your carefully crafted response, which I know you'll pore over while occasionally glancing up at your framed J-school diploma that you value sooooo much. On second thought, you'll probably delete this comment and pretend this whole thing never happened. That's what they teach in journalism school, right?
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Mark Borthwick: You’re really going to get caught up in Orvis’ copy regarding their new Helios rod? Even after they sent you a free rod to test?? Sour grapes, old timer. Frankly, the snark of your Helios review reflects a problem that I’ve encountered far too often in my young fly fishing career. I picked up my first fly rod in my early-twenties. Now, 3 years later, I’ve got to say that at numerous ... more streams and fly shops I’ve encountered the same snobbery, pretentiousness and unlikable qualities that you’d expect to find at a bike shop or skate shop. But at least those bike shops have an excuse – they’re owned and operated by jaded hipsters who get off on putting people down. So what if Orvis is trying to appeal to a younger demographic? I say good for them, because they’ve always seemed like a rich, old-fashioned and boring brand. At least now, having read this review and perused the Orvis site, the company’s on my radar because they’re trying. Orvis is on my radar too (in a good way) for really trying to reach out to new blood with their new line of decently priced gear and free flyfishing schools, but frankly if you don't see the ridiculousness in the hyperbole that's being baked into flyfishing marketing these days then you haven't lived long enough. I'm sure the Helios 2 is an awesome rod, but the bit about "featherlight war club blahblahblah" is the kind of sophomoric "SOOOOOOOOOEXTREEEEME!!!!" marketing attitude that infects said skate and bike industries that makes my BS meter flash pretty brightly. It's not a war club, it's just a good fly rod which is better than the previous one. You're not going to war, you're just going fishing... and anything in excess of that is just pretentious.
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[sigh] Mark Borthwick: You’re really going to get caught up in Orvis’ copy regarding their new Helios rod? Even after they sent you a free rod to test?? Sour grapes, old timer. Stepped in it there. Here's the idea: copy which is that over the top calls for a little attention, especially since I did it to Sage too. ... more

As for sour grapes, I gather you don't possess a journalism degree. A basic tenet of actual journalism is that as a reviewer, I don't owe anyone anything. That way, the reader (that's you, by the way) gets my real impressions of the gear, not a fluffy, happy payback to a manufacturer because I owe them something.
Mark Borthwick: Frankly, the snark of your Helios review reflects a problem that I’ve encountered far too often in my young fly fishing career. I picked up my first fly rod in my early-twenties. Now, 3 years later, I’ve got to say that at numerous streams and fly shops I’ve encountered the same snobbery, pretentiousness and unlikable qualities that you’d expect to find at a bike shop or skate shop.
Here's a thought: You experience the exact same results at skate, bike and fly shops? Based on your comment and your experience, I'd suggest perhaps the problem isn't always them. I'll leave you to ponder that.
Mark Borthwick: So what if Orvis is trying to appeal to a younger demographic? I say good for them, because they’ve always seemed like a rich, old-fashioned and boring brand. At least now, having read this review and perused the Orvis site, the company’s on my radar because they’re trying.
Where did I say they shouldn't appeal to a younger demographic? I simply said if that was the goal, that pouring on the "featherlight war club" hype is probably going about it wrong.

You know. Commentary.

I'd gather you're new here so I'll point out that I've long suggested Orvis was going to own a much bigger chunk of the fly fishing industry in ten years than a lot of "hipper" brands, and for all sorts of reasons (their basic marketing capabilities being one of them).

I review more of their stuff than anyone else's, and to suggest some kind of grudge is amusing.
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You're really going to get caught up in Orvis' copy regarding their new Helios rod? Even after they sent you a free rod to test?? Sour grapes, old timer. Frankly, the snark of your Helios review reflects a problem that I've encountered far too often in my young fly fishing career. I picked up my first fly rod in my early-twenties. Now, 3 years later, I've got to say that at numerous streams and fly ... more shops I've encountered the same snobbery, pretentiousness and unlikable qualities that you'd expect to find at a bike shop or skate shop. But at least those bike shops have an excuse - they're owned and operated by jaded hipsters who get off on putting people down. So what if Orvis is trying to appeal to a younger demographic? I say good for them, because they've always seemed like a rich, old-fashioned and boring brand. At least now, having read this review and perused the Orvis site, the company's on my radar because they're trying.
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Hint.....Steinbeck.
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john: Chandler, who cares about info on what rod does what.Tell us about whats going on with the fire at the McCloud. My clan has been fishing with rods that are cheap and somtimes broken and we catch and release thousands of fish. 1) You can find info about the McCloud fire at the incident page, the link for which was provided in any number of prior posts. 2) You're clearly a god. So why are you ... more here?
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Nope.
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Trying to be a bit cryptic about your fishing locales so ........Eastside of the behemoth?
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Chandler, who cares about info on what rod does what.Tell us about whats going on with the fire at the McCloud. My clan has been fishing with rods that are cheap and somtimes broken and we catch and release thousands of fish.
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Tom Chandler: Where is Sage going after The One? Usually this time of year back in the shed after holding up the tomatoes nicely all summer? Sorry ;) One does wonder if the Hoi Polloi will ever get wise to the latest, greatest, bestest ever spiels that come from the big guys every year or two......
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Thanks Diane. Couple of my online marketing students were raving about your media class.
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Steve Z: That said, the greatest marketing faux pas is that this rod is a “2? as opposed to a “ONE”. It must be inferior in some way. True, though Orvis seems to have learned from the "where do we go from Zero Gravity" question. They have room to move upwards (Helios 2 is higher than Helios the same way "this one goes to 11" does better than 10). Where is Sage going after The One?
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lm: Hmmm, eastside location? Hmmm, Eastside of what?
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I love your writing....I don't even like fishing. Except when my husband comes home like last weekend with 30 lbs of King Salmon for the winter's supply.
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"...not a particle beam linked to your cerebellum...." You must be using it wrong. That said, the greatest marketing faux pas is that this rod is a "2" as opposed to a "ONE". It must be inferior in some way.
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Nice to see Wonderdog back in the pics!
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Hmmm, eastside location?
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Sad to say he suffered another seizure Sunday morning. Apparently I was cutting back on the old medicine before the new stuff was fully in place. Scheez....
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Albert Yi: Makes me want to go out and buy an Eagle Claw Featherlight out of spite. That'll show 'em. I wonder what the copy will look like when the rod's actually released. Bet it's calmer...
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A getaway is a getaway. As for rods, I'm still looking for a way to scam an 8' 4wt "J-rod" off Chris Raine, but he keeps selling the things before I can accidentally mar the finish on one and get it at a reduced price. The bastard.
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I'm happy to report the reel seat on the H2 isn't that rapper-bling gold; it's almost like a dark chrome. Very nice and subdued....
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Go Wally!
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" Who’s going to say “My talent never would have made that cast; thank goodness the fly rod was here to make it for me.” " Actually I was thinking the opposite ... with these flyrods so awesome that they are worthy of Valhalla, if you screw up it's 100% your fault! :-D. I was rather put off by the hyperbole too. Makes me want to go out and buy an Eagle Claw Featherlight out of spite.
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Well, if you're already making the World's Lightest and Most Amazing High Tech Fishing Tool Evah (i,e, the current Helios), and you replace it with something new, because the competition is already doing the same thing with their to of the line offering, you kinda hafta take the rhetoric up a notch just to stand in place, doncha? How's the reel seat on the H2, by the way? I never bought a Helios because ... more why pay all that dough to try to sneak up on a fish holding something flashy and reflective in a color Not Found in Nature.
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I needed an escape too..but it sounds like your reasons are far more troubling than mine.... wild trout beat pharmaceuticals every time!!!!! Let me know when they bring out one of those helio thingies that isn't that wierd round shape and blackish color (could they have sent you a mouldy one by accident?).... rods without corners in some color other than the brownish/ blondish family just look wierd...
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If only I could train the Wonderdog to chase the trout after I caught a couple -- instead of just one...
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The Helios 2 copy really stood out because: Orvis doesn't normally do stuff like this We're seeing stuff like it pop up all over the industry A sign of the approaching Mayan Apocalypse? Or just an off-the-rails attempt to appeal to a younger demographic?
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Obnoxious must sell. If only Orvis could have their script read aloud by dog trainer Uncle Maddy.
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Good for the Wonderdog. Those fish will still be there after Wally (and you and I for that matter) are gone. At least I hope they will be. Our Jack Russell also likes to pursue fish and even though blastomycosis took away one of his eyes, messing up his depth perception, he gets very close to snapping up unwary bluegills when we take him up to one of the local lakes. And yes, I'm sure he freaks out ... more all sorts of fish with his stalking and swimming. I don't care. The ad copyfor the Helios is even worse than for the ONE and didn't think that was possible.
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