If you’ve found this page, your about to embark on journey that might open up a new chapter in your fly fishing book. Tying flies is a step into really understanding what fish are eating and matching your skills to duplicate it. The starting point is a good vise.
7 Top Fly Tying Vises
- Dyna-King Ultimate Indexer – THE BEST period.
- PEAK Rotary Fly Tying Vise – Best for the Money.
- Wolff Industries Atlas Rotary – Best for Traveling.
- Griffin Spider – Best for Beginner, but you’ll be upgrading soon.
- Renzetti Traveler – Traditional and Proven
- Regal – Best for Changing Flies
- Colorado 102 – Cheap and functional
Features of Note for Each of These Tying Vises
DYNA-KING Ultimate Indexer (link to AMAZON for a price check and reviews) is not going to disappoint you. Superb machining with the surfaces polished. Ball bearings on the spindle to last a lifetime. Smooth and tight jaws will hold your hooks without slipping. If you never want to shop for a fly tying vise again get the Ultimate Indexer.
PEAK Rotary Tying Vise (Link to Amazon for prices and more reviews) is the best combination of features for the price. Machining and quality materials were used in the areas that perform. I’d love to say that you’ll tie a better fly with this vise.👍
Wolff Industries Atlas Rotary is built like a tank. With the C-Clamp version you could pack this baby up and go on a road trip and know that the vise would travel without any problems. Read Reviews and check out the price with this AMAZON link – Wolff Industries Atlas Rotary with Base and C-Clamp
Griffin Spider (link to Amazon) has all the features to start tying flies. Rotary, positive clamping jaws and rough machined materials. It’s basic, though, so for just a tad more money you could get something that could last a lifetime.
Renzetti: In 1978, Andy Renzetti opened the doors of Renzetti Custom Machine. He, along with his brother, developed and sold the FIRST ROTARY vise. I own a Renzetti Traveler from 25 years ago (along with a bunch of other vises), but that Traveler still gets used. Stand out features: a great cam lock jaw, proven rotary, and a heavy base. If you want a fly tying vise that has withstood the test of time check out the Renzetti Traveler 2300 Cam Vise (links to Amazon for prices)
Regal you’ll quickly note a couple things are different on a Regal tying vise. The first is the clamping jaw; it’s doesn’t have little knobs and levers to hold the hook tight. Regal uses a comfy hand lever to open a spring clamp. At a glance, you might doubt the clamp will hold a hook – DON’T- rest assured Regal holds hooks tight!
Many Pro Tiers love the Regal. When turning out thousands of flies, fiddling with little knobs and levers can be a pain. Regal has eliminated that completely. Find great reviews and prices at AMAZON here’s a link to read more – Regal Medallion Fly Tying Vise
Colorado Angler 102 Supreme Tying Vise (Amazon Link) is basic and works. It’s main feature is the low cost.
What Types of Fly Tying Vises: Stationary, Rotating and Turning
Stationary Vise: As the name implies, holds the hook in a stationary position – No turning. I recommend getting a rotary vise, but rotaries have only been around for 30 years or so. Millions of flies were tied on a stationary fly tying vises. I still have one that I use for pictures and some quick tying. I built a nice heavy custom base for it to hold things steady.
Rotary Fly Tying Vise: This vice lets the hook turn using a lever or just twisting the vise jaw. Having the hook/jaw turn will speed up tying, particularly when applying hackle. I define a rotary vise this way because other tying vises turn but don’t turn in a way that helps apply hackle and other wraps. Additionally, the hook shank is usually centered on the spindle of the vise head rotation.
Turning Vise: Many production tyers don’t like the rotary function and just want to turn the fly for inspection. Production tyers have developed the skills of applying even pressure all the way around the hook. Regal tying vises are the perfect example. The fly is held via a spring clamp and the clamp/fly will turn, but this turning is mostly to inspect the fly. The benefit of the spring clamp on the Regal is super- fast hook changes.
I RECOMMEND A ROTARY BECAUSE YOU CAN GROW INTO IT – In the beginning, start with the spindle locked to develop your skills. If you plan to tie small size 14 to 26 dry flies a rotary is practically required.
What Do I Need When Selecting a Fly Tying Vise
Think about how much you’re going to use the vise. For me, I tie +6 dozen flies a year and I call these my meat and potatoes flies. I use them up like I’m eating them (mostly loosing them..). I don’t like fighting to tie a small dry fly like size 20 and smaller, so I buy them (my eyes are getting old).
I don’t like buying piles of materials so I stick to about 10 different flies and stock only the materials and hooks to tie them. I wrote a mega article about fly tying tools and my tying strategy HERE.
My Experience and Things to Think About:
- Are you going to dabble with fly tying, 2 dozen flies MAX per year. – Get the PEAK Rotary Tying Vise. (Link to see what other tiers are saying on AMAZON)
- You’re planning on saving some money and tying most of the flies you personally use per year. Estimate you’ll tie 6 to 10 dozen, I recommend Either the Wolff or DYNA-KING Indexer (linked to Amazon)
- You’re going to supply friends and family with flies along with yourself. +10 dozen per year. This is getting serious and you probably want to get DYNA-KING vise.
Notice I recommend spending a little bit of cash to get something decent. Even tying 2 dozen flies a year can be a pain in the rear if the vise is fighting you. Plus, I find tying flies helps me stay connected with the sport during those snowy or rainy days.
How to Select a Fly Tying Vise – Things to Look For
Fly tying vises come in two versions: C-Clamp and Pedestal bases.
C-clamp base versions clamp to the table top. This is great if you think you’ll travel with your vise to a fishing destination.
As a note: High volume production tyers will also get c-clamps vises. Usually a production tyer will have a dedicated station and it’s important to have the vise in the most ergonomic position to spin out thousands of flies. The C-Clamp versions allow for a low comfortable position.
Be a little cautious clamping your vise onto the family dinner table, the clamps can mar the surface pretty bad.
Pedestal tying vises work well for the serious a tier. Look for a heavy machine steel or cast base. Dyna-King, Renzetti, PEAK and Wolff all understand that pedestal bases must have some heft. Nice gummy rubber feet under the pedestal also helps the vise stay put.
Better vises will have the option to switch between base and pedestal types. Again, proven models from PEAK, Wolff or Renzetti will offer this option.
Hook Holding Power, the Heart of a Fly Tying Vise
It seems obvious but the first and foremost function of the tying vise is to securely hold the hook. The vise should also hold the hook WITHOUT severely cranking down on the jaw clamping mechanism. From personal experience, I can say don’t get a cheap vise because you’ll struggle with this.
Years ago, I found a deal on a rotary vise sold by a supplier in China. I bought a sample and it looked ok. So, I bought 50 of them and sold half a dozen at a fly-tying show. One of the tiers saw the price and bought a dozen of them for teaching classes. Three weeks later, I refund him all his money and got a dozen used broken vises that couldn’t hold hooks.
Moral of the story buy a proven vise from a respectable manufacture. A crappy quality vise will hold a tier back.
Look for the jaws advertised as having HARDENED JAWS. Hooks have a high hardness- it’s what allows the point to stay sharp. The jaws of the tying vise need to be harder so they will clamp onto the hook.
Replaceable Jaws: Look for a vise that sells replacement jaws. As you progress you may lean towards tying big deer hair poppers on size 1/0 hooks. Most standard tying vises won’t hold this large of a hook. The same is true with tiny hooks -24 and down.
PRO TIP: You can break a vise jaw by leaving a hook clamped under tension over night.
Ease of Adjustment: Normal tiers will sit down a tie 3-4 – size 14 elk hair caddis, then switch to a size 6 streamer to tie up some woolly buggers. The vise needs to easily adjust between different hook sizes. The spring clamp style like the Regal excels at this – no adjustments needed.
Hook Size Range: A proven manufacture will publish this. Normally a tying vise will hold size #20 to 2/0 hooks. If the hook size isn’t published proceed with caution.
Shaft Diameter: I know this isn’t a manufacturing standard but ALL fly tying vises should have a 3/8 inch stem size. Further down in this article, I’ll talk about accessories, if you’re vise stem isn’t 3/8″ then most of those gadgets won’t fit.
Should I get a Rotary Tying Vise?
Simple answer – YES.✔
I would advise all beginners to get a rotary vise and LOCK it in position for a while to learn how to apply even pressure while wrapping. This skill above most others will help make durable, well-proportioned flies. Once you get the hang of using the rotary feature you’ll hackle and cross wrap like a pro.
If you own a stationary vise after a couple dozen flies you’ll wish you had a rotary. Tying streamers and dry flies just gets easier with a rotary.
Check out this video of Kelly Gallop and watch how he explains fly tying vises and if the vise makes a better fly.
Are Fly Tying Vises Handed?
Better tying vises are designed to be “handed” Most right handed folks will have their bobbin/scissors in their right hand. This leaves the left hand available to pick up materials or adjust the vise.
If the vise adjustments are facing you as a right hander, as a lefthander you’ll be have to reach over the vise to adjust things. The Dyna King Indexer is sold in both versions.
PRO TIP: Even from the beginning, try to learn to tie flies with the scissors ALWAYS in your hand. Setting down your bobbin to pick up scissors is a huge waste of time.
How Much Does a Good Fly Tying Vise Cost
If you’re simply shopping for the cheapest you may want to get out of fly fishing. Starting to tie flies can be a downward spiral into a fanatical feather fetish which might cost hundreds and hundreds.
For a decent fly tying vise – what I would recommend, is going to cost $150 to $200 usd. I’d look at getting a vise from a domestic manufacture that understands fly fishing. I have called the folks a PEAK Manufacturing and a person picks up the phone. Two important things were in that statement 1. I could find a phone number and 2. An actual person answered and HELPED me.
Fit, Finish and Quality of a Fly-Tying Vise
Image sitting with a cup of coffee in one hand and resting your other hand on your vise… You want the edges smooth, brass and polished stainless steel feel better. The jaw rotates on ball bearings. Each of these things takes a little bit of time during the manufacturing process to make, but the result is quality.
Avoid plastic: if you spill head cement on the vise, (which happens) you’ll NEVER clean it off of plastic. Remember, those 12 vises I sold for a tying class? Yup.. they had a little thumb screw made of plastic. Half were broken when returned.
Avoid Stamped metal: I liked lots of things about my first tying vise, but the one thing I hated is the stamped metal jaw lever. It’s rough to operate, which required me to adjust it excessively to clamp the hook.
Signs of Quality in a Tying Vise
Machined components: particularly the jaws, levers and vise body. Machining a hunk of metal is the starting point for precision. A quality vise in the $150 to $200 dollar range will have machined components so bearing and attaching parts align.
Brass, Bronze and Bearings: Thumb screws that adjust tension should be made from a durable material like brass or bronze. The brass and bronze have a lubricating property so the screw points won’t mar the shafts or contacting surfaces.
Ball Bearings are a sign of quality and reduce the wear between two pieces of metal. Odds are if your vise has bearings you’ll NEVER need to buy another vise in your lifetime. DYNA-KING (link to Amazon)
Polishing and Softened Corners for Finger Friendly Tying
It costs just a bit more to polish a stem or soften the corners on the vise head. These are those outward signs that a person “in the know” understands how a fly tier will use the vise. Look for a vise to be smooth and polished like the Wolff and Dyna-King.
Fly Tying Vise Accessories that Actually Help
Bobbin Holders are a standard item on many tying vises. It’s a wire that holds the bobbin while wrapping on another material. A great example is wrapping wire onto a brassie fly, the hold supports the bobbin and thread in alignment with the center line of the fly while using the rotary to wrap brass wire.
Get a good LED light. I used an incandescent light for years, it was hot and I was always moving it because of the heat. Looking back on it now, I must have looked silly. I couldn’t see what I was doing so I’d move the light closer. Then the light would get hot so I’d move it away.
LED lights are bright and cool to the touch. I really like the FTL 130 Fly Tying light, it’s portable and has a light on a long flexible arm. I found mine on AMAZON – Read the reviews and get the current prices with this link – FTL 130 Fly Tying Light and Magnifier.
Material Clips, usually made from a spring wrapped around the spindle of the vise. The clip holds material out of the way while tying other sections of the fly. Most vises over $75 will have this standard.
Magnifiers: I have one on my light. I don’t use it much mostly because I avoid tying small flies. I could see a use if tying little midges were my thing.
Profile Plates provide a light-colored non-glare background to help see the fly details. A nice item if your eyes are getting old.
Tool Trays many of which attach to the shaft of the vise. I haven’t used one that attaches to the shaft myself, but I do recommend some type of holder for the head cement. It’s super easy to knock over those little jars spilling glue all over and in turn gluing fur and hair to your table.
Tube Fly Attachments are adapters that clamp into the jaws of the vise. The adapter will position a needle in alignment with the vise spindle. Look at a model that has different size needle diameters. I’ve found an inexpensive model on AMAZON that has worked well and is competitively priced. Check it out here: Phecda Sport Tube Fly Attachment.
Waste Catcher: You’ll create a pile of fur, feathers and cut-offs tying flies. If you start playing with deer hair, mountains of hair will go everywhere without a waste catcher. If you get one, look for something that is low profile so it doesn’t get in the way of your hands. What do I use? Check out the Easy-Empty Magnetic Fly Tying Garbage Bag (link to AMAZON for reviews and a great price)
Fly Tying Vise Manufactures and Warranty
Dyna-King is a family owned business in Cloverdale, CA. For over 37 years the family has been crafting high quality fly tying vises. Each and every DYNA-KING is inspected and tested for quality before being shipped out to your local fly shop.
Attention to detail is a hallmark of these vises. Dyna-King vises have lifetime warranties. Many production tiers exclusive use DYNA-KING, if your looking for the best CHECK OUT the Ultimate Indexer from Dyna-King (link for current prices and reviews on AMAZON)
Wolff Industries maker of Atlas and Apex Fly Tying vises are made in Indiana, USA and have a LIFETIME warranty. Wolff Ind. has been around for 35 years and is a precision manufacture of cutting and sharpening equipment. Precise machining is they’re specialty. Link to company site.
PEAK FISHING is a division of PEAK Engineering and Automation. They’ve been in business since 1994 and started selling fly tying vises in 2001. Located in Loveland, Colorado PEAK makes all of their fly tying vises in the USA. All PEAK vises have a limited lifetime warranty.
REGAL VISE: A family owned business located in Orange Massachusetts USA. Marketed as the highest quality fly tying vise in the world. The vise sports a cast base and a spring clamp for holding the fly. Every Regal Vise has a Lifetime Warranty. Read about the company LINK to Regal https://regalvise.com/
Griffin Enterprises, Inc vices have a Lifetime Warranty and are made in the USA. Located Kalispell, MT these folks live in the heart of fly fishing country and understand what’s needed in the fly tying vise. Read more about the company HERE.
Renzetti Fly Tying Vises come with a Lifetime Warranty. Renzetti was the first company to market and sell a true rotary fly tying vise back in 1977. Still family owned with the family engineering and manufacturing fly tying vises in Titusville, FL. https://www.renzetti.com/
Colorado Angler Supply is one of the largest wholesalers of fly tying tools and accessories in North America. Located in Aurora, Colorado. The warranty information is vague compared to other fly tying vises. They sell a great product, but closely inspecting upon receipt of the vise. I’d suggest getting your vise from AMAZON (here’s link to the tying vise) because of the great return policies.
Will You Catch the Fly Tying Bug?
This has been written before. Catching a trout with a fly you’ve tied is a cool feeling. You’ve out smarted a little creature with a brain the size of a grain of rice.
All kidding aside, sitting down on a raining day dreaming about fishing and tying up some flies is fun. With a good tying vise and a handful of hooks, thread and feathers, you can get your mind off everyday stresses and almost be on the water from your kitchen table.