By Todd A. Schotts
Vises of many. Being a production/custom fly tyer, tying at shows, and doing presentations I get a lot of questions about what fly tying vise would I recommend? I usually respond, “One that you feel comfortable with.” Knowing that isn’t really a great answer, it really is the truth. I do have my preference, but it is also the truth to my answer. There are a lot of factors that everyone has to take in consideration for a tying vise; hopefully this will help when purchasing a vise.
THE 2 BIG QUESTIONS
One big question is, “How much do you want to spend (huge range in prices)?”
The next big question is, “What type of flies do you plan on tying (big streamers or tiny trout flies)?”
Once you can answer those 2 questions we have narrowed down the huge list of vises that are out there. Today’s vises are categorized into the 4 styles of vises made in today’s world of fly tying.
Here are the categories:
- Stationary Vise (non-rotating)
- Chuck Style or Lever (squeeze handle)
- Rotary (able to rotate your vise, but not a true rotary vise)
- True Rotary
The first vise, a Stationary Vise, is a basic vise everyone usually starts out with. It is a vise that doesn’t rotate, unless you can learn how to manipulate it when you put the hook in the vise. If you need to rotate the hook, you need to take the hook out, rotate the hook over by hand, and re-secure it in the vise. The major style of this vise is the knockoffs of the famed Thompson Fly Tying Vise. A lot of us, we started out on the Thompson Vise which is a great holding vise, however the cheaper versions and copies of this vise do not have those same characteristics.
If you buy a beginning fly tying kit that comes with basic tools, vise, and materials, this is the style of vise that comes with the kit. It does the job, but it has a lot of draw backs like other Thompson knockoffs. It has limited sizes of hooks it can hold, the holding power is not the best, and it doesn’t rotate. Another major issue is adjusting the vise.
Chuck Style or Lever
The second vise “Chuck Style or Lever” is a vise that you squeeze the handle to open and close the vice jaws. This style has a great feature. You squeeze the lever to open up the jaws to put the hook in it so there are no crazy adjustments to hold the hook securely in the vise. The famous vise of this style is the “Regal.” It holds hooks really well, but always make sure to get a vise, or as Regal calls it, Jaws for the size of hooks you tend to tie. The Regal jaws hold up really well for securing the hook. It is a rotary vise, and the Revolution version is an “In Line Rotary Vise” like the True Rotary Vise.
Regal’s prices vary a wide range just like all vise manufacturers. Be careful though, with the cheaper versions or knockoffs. On those, the jaws tend to chip and break, or the lever becomes loose after long uses. If you do decide to go with an actual Regal vise, they have different vise Jaw sizes. Make sure you end up getting the one that suits your fly tying for big streamer, tiny trout flies, or a combination of the two.
I actually made this mistake when I bought my Regal; I needed what they call the “Big Game Jaws,” but accidentally picked out a “Standard Size Vise.” If you know the style of flies I tie, it is a wide range from tiny trout flies to big pike flies. My fly tying was restricted on this vise as I couldn’t go over a size 1 and it was very frustrating.
The 3rd style of vise, “Rotary” is a vise that actually rotates 360 degrees, which aids in speed of your tying, especially with materials and finishing of the flies with UV or Epoxy. This vise isn’t a true rotary vise, but with some adjustments you will be able to come very close to a true rotary style. These vises come in so many styles, adjustments, and price. There are a lot of big name manufactures in this vise field: Dyna-King, Peak, HMH, Stonfo, or Renzetti just to name a few. Then toss in a lot of less expensive knockoffs, just like the other 2 styles I have already mentioned. nor
This type of vise has either a cam lever or set screws, or a combination of two, to hold the hook secure in the vise. One major drawback would be those adjustments. If you’re doing a lot of tying, the set screws can become irritating after a while. I used this style of vise in a couple of different styles for most of my production tying throughout my tying years. Great vises that do the job for sure.
The last vise is what they actually call a “True Rotary” vise. It is actually not just a vise, but a system. It is the Nor-Vise system. You have not just a “Vise” but also a “Thread Post” for bobbins. Both attach to a board, granite, cutting board, or even tables. When you properly put the hook in the vise, it actually rotates perfectly for a “True Rotary Vise.” I mentioned this is a system and not just a vise.
The Nor-Vise system, has 5 different styles of Jaws for the vise (different sizes of hooks, or styles of tying), they have Automatic Bobbins (another story for another time), plus a bunch of other accessories and items to help in your tying. This vise has a set screw and lever to put pressure on the hook to hold it.
The only flaw that this vise has, is the vise post/shaft is not the standard 3/8” like all the other vises. So unfortunately, it doesn’t fit into other table c-clamps or other attachments that connect to the other vises already mentioned. But Nor-Vise covers that area with all the different attachments you can purchase from them.
One other thing to remember, the Nor-Vise is a different style of tying, but it is pretty easy to pick it up. I feel it is fly tying on steroids. Personally I love it. The best decision I ever made was going with Nor-Vise.
I have tied on all of these vises in some way, and I am now enjoying tying on the Nor-Vise system. There are still techniques I need to learn, but it is a lot of fun. Here is the list of vises I have had the pleasure of tying on:
- Cheap Thompson Knockoff (1st vise)
- Thompson Vise
- Knockoff of a Regal
- Renzetti Traveler (tied hundreds of flies on this vice till it literally broke the jaws)
- Dyna King Supreme
- Regal Revolution Traditional
- Dyna King Excalibur
- Nor-Vise Legacy (current vise)
You can see I went through a lot of vises. I wish I had someone that would have sat me down to give me the basics of what to look for when buying a vise when I got into fly tying. We all start out with fly tying as a hobby, but then for some of us that hobby goes into the business of production tying for shops and other people. That is what exactly happened for me. Fortunately, my passion of fly tying has just gone three-fold. I just do not love doing production tying, but creating, designing flies, and teaching people fly tying so everyone can have as much fun as I have.
Remember the following when you plan to purchase a vise:
- Cost (how much do you want to spend)?
- What type of flies are you tying (tiny Trout to Big Steamers or both)?
- Do you want all the adjustments or easy loading vise?
With those 3 questions, it should narrow your shopping list down to a minimum. Just a couple of last things to take into consideration. When asking people on what vises they like, it will be like asking them their favorite college football team. They have that 1 vise that is the almighty and nothing compares to it and is a sacred part of their lives and are true diehards for that 1 brand or style. So, if you ask one person what vise they think is great to use, and then someone else, you may get 2 different answers. The last thing, the vise manufacturing companies now offer almost all their styles of vises in multi range of colors, along with a host of accessories.
I know it may sound like a lot to think about, but with this information, it should narrow down the list. And hopefully I will have helped in your next fly-tying vise purchase – or your first!
Until next time, Tight Lines and Snazzy Flies, Griz.