Bloomberg Businessweek

The Future of Fishing

With its H3, Orvis has created a fly rod that makes anglers better just by using it. Will that be enough to revitalize the ancient sport?
Orvis employees who helped develop the H3 test their rod on Vermont’s Battenkill River

The lovely thing about fly-fishing is that the fishing itself is enough; catching is a bonus. Casting a fly line, like driving a golf ball, is such a tricky thing to do—such a complex physical equation—that there’s plenty of pleasure in the motions alone, getting the fly to where a fish might be.

On a cloudy May afternoon on Vermont’s Battenkill River, I’m not catching a thing, and neither are the Orvis employees hosting me on their home waters. In the chilly spring weather, the fish are sluggish and tucked up against the shoreline where they can ambush an unsuspecting minnow with little effort. Our big, fuzzy hooks continually slap into the water inches away from the bank, to no avail.

But the casting is spectacular. From across the river, under overhanging trees, over logjams, the rod I’m using whips through the air and plops the fly into its intended pocket time and again. The four guys bobbing along next to me and in the adjacent boat are doing the same—casting with uncanny accuracy, smoothly stripping the line back, and smiling. They’ve worked on a five-year project to ensure these lines fly straight.

Earlier this month, Orvis Co. unveiled what it claims is the finest fly-fishing rod ever made—dubbed the Helios 3, or H3—in the biggest product launch in the company’s 161-year history. My comrades that day, Shawn Combs, Jesse Haller, Sam Orvis, and Tom Rosenbauer, are part of the team that helped build it. The goal

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