Orvis H3 Blackout Series

On The Fly Gear

June 2022

By Claude Preston

This fishing season is in full swing here in the South and most of the nation.  As the runoff begins out west, my thoughts turn to the salty shores of the Gulf of Mexico and the creatures that patrol the coasts in late spring and summer.  I make no efforts to hide my passion for fly fishing the salt, and I find it hard to fathom that some people still believe you can’t catch big fish on fly rods.  I have always tried to bare no allegiance to any one manufacturer, but if I am being honest, one of my favorite rods I have ever fished was the original Orvis Recon 990-4.  That rod is an incredible fishing tool and in the hand of the right angler it is deadly.  Earlier this spring I was afforded the opportunity to fish one of the new specialized fishing tools that Orvis brought to market last year, the Orvis Helios 3 858 Blackout.

The new H3 Blackout series comes on the heels of the hugely successful Helios 3 lineup.  The Blackout series draws off the same technology featured in the Helios 3D and the 3F, however this series was built with specialization in mind.  The Blackout series was built off a conceptualized partnership between guides and the gear designers at Orvis.

Field Testing:

When I first received the Blackout, I was initially concerned that I would not be able to get the rod out and properly put it thought its paces, however things lined up and I was able to get down to one of my favorite places at Sanibel Island, Florida.  I lined up an outing with a friend of mine that guides out of Fort Myers, Capt. Paul Hobby. 

Orvis designed this rod as a quick-shot, surgical, boat rod that excels with accuracy in the hands of the right caster.   I figured what better than to use it than targeting snook in tight windows in the mangrove-laden islands in and around Pine Island Sound?  After getting the rod strung up, I immediately thought how this feels like a 7-weight in the hand. It is incredibly light. 

As we slid into our first spot of the day, we began working the shoreline looking for shadows under the mangroves.  “I usually find them around here,” Hobby said. “There are little, tiny feeder creeks draining out of the mangroves and they are normally there waiting to ambush.”  We had slowly poled down the bank about 40 feet from the mangroves for about 100 yards when we saw our target.  The fish was on the left-hand side of the tiny outflow about 2 feet back in the mangroves with about a 2-foot opening to get back to him.  I made one false cast to get my aim right and fired the little EP Anchovy fly up into the mangrove gap. After one strip, I thought to myself,   “He sees it, pick up the pace.” At that moment a hole opened in the water, and he inhaled the fly!  The rod played the fish beautifully and I quickly brough the snook alongside the boat and got a quick picture of him. 

The 858 Blackout performed beautifully throughout that morning.  The rod is built for quick one shot and pick up and put downs.  The line speed you can generate from a single haul in incredible and the delicateness of the tip really lets you pick your targets out.  This rod is a snook fishing tool. 

I see several other scenarios where this rod would excel. Immediately coming to mind would be fishing for redfish in Louisiana, where you need quick shots to cruising fish along the marsh edges.  On the freshwater side of things, this rod could serve as a moving water streamer fishing tool.  I would love to take this rod to Arknasas’ White River to toss big streamers for brown trout.  The butt section of the rod holds a great deal of power in reserve to subdue fish and easily generate line speed. 

In conclusion, this Made in the USA rod has its specific uses and is great for anglers looking for a specialized tool that will allow them to explore a different way to target their favorite fish.  Check these rods out on the Orvis website.

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