New from Orvis for 2012

Recognizing the realities of this economy, Orvis decided to focus on updating their value-based products, and they did it in a really innovative way. Many fly rod companies have gone overseas for production of their budget rods in recent years. The technique for many overseas manufacturers is very similar to how bamboo makers used to steal each others' tapers in the golden era of the 1920s-1940s: basically, you just cut the rod up into many tiny sections and take precise measurements, then copy the internal taper (which gives you both the mandrel shape as well as the approximate number of turns of graphite needed to reach the external diameter).

Orvis's Steve Hemkens explained that for their updated Clearwater series, they instructed their overseas partners to do the same thing... to the Helios. "Basically," Hemkens said, "we knocked off our own rods!" The results are excellent: a modern fast action taper made with budget conscious componentry for $198 (freshwater) and $225 (saltwater). In keeping with the theme, Orvis also used the same drag design from its high-end reels to design an all new composite plastic (and also formed aluminum) Clearwater Reel, starting at only $49. Combo packages with line will be available for under $300.

Speaking of lines, this is a "line year" for Orvis and their entire fly line selection got a renewal. Hemkens was especially proud (and rightly so) of the new disposable, recycled paper spools. "This industry probably generates a million little plastic spools a year that all end up in landfills, so we're just trying to chip away at it." The old Wonderline moniker now denotes a special formulation in the coating, but the highest end lines have been renamed the Hydros series. There's even a textured line called the Hydros 3D ($89), complete with Orvis ID labeling and hy-flote tips.

Orvis always has a slew of accessories, but one notable entry was the Sling Pack in digital camo. Sling packs are very popular: "We sell an amazing number of them," says Hemkens. The design allows the pack to be stored out of the way, then slung around to the front for access, and the configuration of the zippers means access is from the top even when the bag is technically sideways.