When I ventured into the world of fly tying I very quickly realized that there was a lot to learn. From understanding hook size, the differences in marabou, and what the heck dubbing is, I realized that it was important to take a step back, take a breath, and start with the basics. In my opinion the perfect place to start? Vises. The cornerstone of any fly tiers desk is a quality vise. And, just like anything else in the fly fishing world, there are different varieties, styles and of course price points. As corny as it sounds when it comes to fly tying you are going to need to learn to walk before you can run and getting a proper vise is a perfect starting point. However, once you get going fly tying can be one of the most rewarding parts of the sport. If you have made it this far, you are probably interested in what fly tying vise is best for you and understanding them a bit better. If these questions have been floating around your head, you are in luck.
As the name implies a stationary vise holds a hook in a fixed location and does not allow for movement of the hook when tying. In my opinion, stationary vises are a fantastic starting point for the novice fly tier, they are cheap and can be found just about anywhere. If you are someone who ties less than 4 dozen flies a year or never tie big articulated streamers a stationary vise is for you. However, after you get into the hang of fly tying and want to make a little more complicated flies you may find yourself very quickly wanting to upgrade. Think about it this way, a stationary vise is a tool you will grow out of and a rotary vise is something that you will grow into.
When compared to stationary vises, a rotary vise a step up. A rotary vise allows for a hook to be held inside the hook jaws and using the spindle lever can turn your fly around in an orbital fashion. The benefit of a rotary vise is that you will speed up your fly tying especially when you are wrapping hackle and marabou.
A C-clamp vise is one that fits directly onto the corner of the table you are tying at. That being said, you have to have a corner of a table to work with in order to use it. As a side note when considering a C-Clamp vise, please make sure you are not squeezing the vise onto one of your favorite dining tables or coffee tables, if left locked for long periods of time or clamped improperly this can result is damage to the table of your choosing.
These are the best vises for the serious fly tyer. The heavy metal base allows for the secure placement when tying. Typically when you invest in a pedestal vise you are investing into a better quality vise overall.
This may seem like a minor detail when comparing vises but, how easy it is to adjust or replace flies should be considered when picking out your first or next fly tying vise. If you are someone like me, you will find yourself typically tying up some elk hair caddis in sizes 14-16 and then get the urge to tie up some articulated streamers in size 4. When picking out a vise the switch between hooks sizes should be easy and without issue, however, this can come down to personal preference. Another detail to consider when picking out a vise is the size range of hook that vise allows. If you find yourself tying up big saltwater flies then make sure your vise is rated for such, most popular manufactures will display this type of information on the box. If you find yourself tying more flies, you will inevitably find yourself wanting some helpful accessories. Although there is no industry standard when it comes to vise shafts making sure they are the same size as the accessory you are choosing, typically the shaft diameter that will work for most accessories is 3/8".
Although we here at Trouts only carry high-quality vises, it is important to know what you are looking for when buying. Typically, you will see the vises that we carry are made out of fully machined components. This adds not only a level up in overall vise quality but, also provides the vise with a sleek and clean finish. Another sign of a quality vise is the small components, specifically your knobs and thumbscrews. Typically these allow for the adjustment of tension on the hook or other various adjustment points. If a vise is of high quality, typically you will find that these components will be made out of Brass, Bronze and include Ball Bearings. Out of the three mentioned ball bearings are a component that will significantly increase the cost of your vise but, will also allow for that vise to be used for an entire lifetime.
As someone who enjoys tying flies, I can tell you with certainty that tying up your own flies is worth it. Honestly, you can make them for the purpose of fishing them or you can make them for the simple joy of making them. I find myself somewhere in the middle of this spectrum. As winter really sets in, I find myself tying up summer bugs thinking about the warm weather ahead. Other times, I like to just throw stuff together on the vise for the sole purpose of finding out if it looks cool. Whatever camp you find yourself in, at the end of the day fly tying is an evolution in any angler's journey and is a journey worth embarking on. If you are wanting to dip your toe in the water of the tying world and not invest a ton upfront, swing by for our Fly Tying 101 classes! If you have any questions regarding fly tying materials or gear, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.