GETTING STARTED IN FLY TYING
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We fly tyers can be a picky bunch. And we're fairly opinionated too. When discussing vises with others, you'll be privy to some of the strongest opinions.
Everyone wants to buy what's best and you'll find that a good quality vise will be your prized possession on the tying bench. Some people will tell you that a 'rotary' vise, which allows you to turn the fly continuously from front to back, is a necessity. That's really not the case for most folks. I like the rotary function because it does help me see the back and bottom of the fly for close inspection, but it is for most a convenience, not a necessity. Again, we like I like a rotary. Whether it’s “in line” or not, doesn’t matter much for my tying, but I just like to turn the fly occasionally for winding on material and also for inspection of all sides.
For general tying, a basic "AA" vise will fill most needs. They'll hold hooks ranging from sizes 4-18 firmly. I learned on, and used for 18 years, a Thomson "A" vise. It clamped to my dining room table and never let me down. They don't make it any more, but our "Pro" vise is equivalent (pictured left). It will hold the hooks in tight and last a lifetime.
That said, a high quality vise, usually made in the USA, can be a joy to tie with. There are many different ones on the market ranging from around $100 and up. Some names that come to mind are Regal, Dyna-King, Peak and Anvil. All come in a full rotary model and should last a lifetime.
If you're planning on tying flies for saltwater, make sure to get a vise that will hold larger hooks or allow you to fit with larger jaws. Same is true if you're tying very small flies or midges. You'll be able to get "midge" jaws that will make holding the tiny hooks more securely. Most all of the better brands have these specialty jaws available that can be fitted to a vise from the same manufacturer.