Fly Tying Tools 101: How to Select a Vise

Suddenly the days are shorter and snow is inevitably in our near future. While there are a myriad of great fishing opportunities throughout the winter on tailwaters and even right here on the Denver South Platte, limited daylight hours means more time for fly tying.

It’s time to settle down at the vise with a cup of coffee and begin stocking up your depleted fly boxes.

But what if you’re in the market for a new vise? It’s common for those just getting started to have some serious questions about selecting the right vise. Or if you’ve been dealing with a less-than-perfect entry level vise and want to upgrade, where do you begin?

For any tier, the fly tying vise is the single most important tool. A bad vise won't hold the hook well and will be cumbersome to use. Fly tying can be tedious anyway, so why start off on a bad foot? Your vise, then your bobbin, and then a good pair of scissors are critical. Beyond that, you can usually made do with whatever you can find.


“Selecting a vise is in large part a matter of personal opinion and preference,” Anglers All shop manager Greg Garcia commented. “But there are a few important things to know when making your selection. First, there are two basic types of vises: rotary vises and traditional vises. A rotary vise will keep the shank of your hook on a fixed axis as the vise is rotated. This allows the tier to simply hold a material in one hand and apply it by rotating the vise.”

As Greg points out, a traditional vise is set up on a 45-degree angle, and does not keep the hook shank on an axis with the jaw as it's rotated.

“Standard vises provide more working room at the left hand and give the tier more control over tension as materials are applied,” Greg continued. “Rotation on a traditional vise is still useful for viewing, trimming, etc.”

Both traditional and rotary vises hold the hook well. The greatest difference is a tier's preference in how to apply materials.

“Personally, I think that traditional vises are easier to tie on,” Greg added. “I like to feel the tension as I wrap materials, rather than having a tool do it for me.”

The next major decision point for most tiers is choosing between a c-clamp or pedestal vise. If you have a dedicated place at home for fly tying, a c-clamp is the way to go. It is much more stable and will not rock. If you tend to move around the house or tie in different locations, a pedestal will be best for you. It will allow you to tie anywhere.

But it's also important to know that after you purchase either a pedestal or c-clamp, you're not locked in forever. You can purchase the alternate base for any vise.

Greg added that tyers should consider the size and materials of any vise before making a purchase. Some vises are designed to be compact for travel, while full-size vises are best for tying at home. That said, they could both play either role very well.

“Differences in materials are another thing to consider,” Greg pointed out. “Often times travel vises are made with aluminum parts, while heavier vises will feature all steel parts.”

Finally, it's important to know that on most of the vises we carry at Anglers All, the jaws are interchangeable to allow for a very wide range of hook sizes. Whether you're tying on large saltwater hooks, or tiny midge hooks, most vises can cover the gamut.

HMH, Dyna-King and Renzetti vises are usually available with two or three interchangeable jaws, depending on model. They come standard with a universal jaw that's great for tying on a variety of hook sizes.

Regal vises are one notable exception to this. Regal offers a quick, non-adjusting system that uses a lever to open and close the jaw on nearly any hook size with no adjustment.

“For any tier, no matter where they tie, what types of flies they tie, or whether they prefer traditional or rotary vises, I always recommend purchasing the best vise that their budget will allow,” Greg concluded. “It's your most important tying tool, and one that should last a very long time.”

If you have questions about fly tying vises or other tying tools, please feel free to stop by or call the shop at 303-794-1104. We'd be happy to give you our best recommendations and help you get started. Also, please be sure to check our Classes Page for a list of upcoming fly tying classes.


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