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Best fly-tying vise

Having the right tools goes a long way.

Like most fly-fishing equipment, the fly-tying vise market has transformed over the past 30 years.

From the classic Thompson Model A vise to the latest that include the ability to attach lights, optic magnifiers and even cameras, tyers have never had so many choices.

Compare some of the best fly-tying vises

NameAverage pricePlatformBasePurchase
Regal Revolution$550True rotaryPedestalShop at Orvis
Dyna-King Barracuda$445True rotaryComes in clamp and pedestalShop at Orvis
Regal Medallion Regular Head$275Non-rotaryComes in clamp and pedestal
HMH Standard Vise$310Non-rotaryPedestalShop at Cabela's
Griffin Montana Pro II$90Non-rotaryPedestalShop at Amazon
Data obtained September 2019. Prices are subject to change and should be used only as a general guide.

Types of fly-tying vises

The different types of vises are distinguished by their platform design and how they’re held onto the tying table.

True rotary vs. non-rotary

The traditional platform is a standard non-rotary vise, where the hook is clamped in the vise jaws while the tyer winds thread and other material clockwise around the stationary hook. With a true rotary vise, the clamped hook rotates clockwise around the thread and material held by the tyer.

However, many non-rotary vises are designed to rotate 360 degrees around a central axis. Conversely, most true rotary vises can be locked so the tyer can wind material around the hook in the traditional manner.

By default, most fly-tyers choose the platform that they learned on. Devotees of both platform types are usually steadfast in their beliefs that one is better than the other.

But realistically, you simply need a tool that holds a hook to tie great flies. In fact, early fly-tying innovator Lee Wulff famously tied flies along the stream with one hand holding the hook, while the other wound the thread and attached fur and feathers to it.

If you’re just beginning to tie flies, you might want to try both to see which one works best for you.

Clamp vs. pedestal

Once you’ve chosen a platform type, the other major option to select is the base type. Some vises are designed for the shaft to be C-clamped to the edge of a table or other surface. Other vises are designed to fit inside a heavy base — usually made of metal, granite or other stone — called a pedestal. Some vise kits include both table clamp and pedestal.

How to compare fly-tying vices

When shopping for vices, consider these key features:

  • Price. Fly-tying vises can range anywhere from $50 to well over $500. But be wary of knockoff vises that appear to be very similar to much more expensive models. These cheaper products are often made with inferior materials and can easily break. Look for hardy materials like stainless steel or hardened steel or other high-quality metals.
  • Platform. Both true rotary and non-rotary platforms are popular, as described above. This choice comes down to personal preference.
  • Base. Your fly-tying setup might affect whether a c-clamp or pedestal base will be most practical for you. If you plan to move your vise around or take it with you on fishing trips, for instance, a clamp base might make the most sense.
  • Jaw. Most vise jaws can accommodate a wide range of hook sizes, but some models offer additional jaws for very small or large hooks. You might have to purchase extra jaws separately, though.
  • Extra features. Some vises are designed specifically for travel, while others come with high-tech extras like a magnetic dish for hooks and attachable lights and cameras. Generally, the more advanced the features, the higher the price tag.

Fly-tying accessories

Before you get started, you’ll need to stock up on a few other tools and accessories, like:

  • Hooks. You’ll need to attach hooks to your flies in order to catch fish. Hooks come in a wide range of sizes and designs.
  • Hackle gauge. This handy tool helps you match the size of your hackle, or feathers, with your hook size.
  • Hackle pliers. These are useful for wrapping hackle around the hook without slipping.
  • Scissors. You’ll need small, precise scissors to cut pieces of material and thread while tying.
  • Tweezers. Straight and curved-jaw tweezers are staple fly-tying tools used for precisely placing, moving and firmly grasping small materials.
  • Bodkin. This useful tool serves a number of purposes when tying flies, including applying head cement, dividing wing tips and combing underfur.
  • Bobbin holder. This tool helps keep tension on your thread while you tie and eliminate waste.
  • Material clips. These snap onto your vise and hold materials for you while you tie.
  • Magnifier. See intricate details while you work with either a separate desk magnifier or an attachment for your vise.

Bottom line

Whether you’re just starting out or have been tying for years, the right vise can make your fly-tying efforts easier, faster and more enjoyable.

Ready to buy? Compare top fly-fishing vises

Ready to hit the stream? Outfit yourself with the perfect fishing vest to securely store your newly-tied flies.

How did we choose these products?

We compared the price, type and overall features of some of the most popular fly-tying vises currently available, factoring in our own personal experiences as well as third-party online reviews.

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