Secrets of Picking the Right Fly Tying Vise

How do you pick the right fly tying vise?

Fly Tying Vise
Picking the right fly tying vise is very important. Get the wrong one and it won’t meeting your needs. Get the right fly tying vise and you will love it for the rest of your life (even if you buy more fly tying vises).

A good vise will last you for a life time but most people start with a simple, cheap vises, and upgrade after they have tied for a while. That is what I did. I bought a cheap fly tying vise at the local K-mart and started tying. It never broke and I didn’t wear it out, but over time I did out grow it. I think this is pretty common for most people. I wanted to get into fly tying but didn’t want to invest a lot of money on a fly tying vise if I ended up not liking it.

What Types of Fly Fishing Flies are You Tying?

The types of flies you are tying has a big impact on the fly fishing vise you should buy. If you tie little midges(18-22) for small streams then go with a vise that can hold small hooks. The same goes for large flies, make sure the vise can hold the hooks firmly and is stable for tying on.

General Rules for Fly Tying Vises

  • Big Flies (poppers & streamers) – big fly tying vises
  • Little Flies (midges) – any size vise with a small vise jaw
  • Streamers – big Vise for big hooks (baitfish, crayfish, leeches, worms, minnows)
  • Dry Flies – mid-size to large fly tying vise for tying bushy flies
  • Emergers & Nymphs – mid-size vises for these smaller hook sizes
  • Terrestrials – mid-size to large vises for larger hooks sizes (grasshopper, dragonfly, mayfly, ant, beetle, stonefly or caddisfly)

Special Note: Most of the higher end fly tying vises come with midge jaws for holding smaller hook sizes. Before you buy the midge jaws try a small hook in your existing vise jaws. If the vise can hold the hook then start with this setup of jaws. If not, check and see if they offer smaller jaws. I have found on my Dyna-King Barracuda Vise that midge hooks down to size 20 work just fine in the standard jaws.

Video for Choosing the Right Fly Tying Vise

I came across this video on youtube on how to choose a fly fishing vise. Take a look at it, it covers the important points about selecting a vise.

Types of Fly Tying Vises

Fixed Angle Vises

Fixed angle fly tying vises are the workhorse of fly tying. They are cheap and you can buy them just about anywhere. These types of vises are common in fly tying kits. They are a good place to start to try out fly tying but expect to replace it when you fall in love with fly tying. You can also do like I did and put it in your travel kit for tying stream-side or when you travel.


  • Inexpensive (cheap)
  • Simple
  • Good beginner vise


  • Harder to tie complex flies (spinning on materials) on

Rotary Fly Tying Vises

Rotary fly tying vises allow the vise head to rotate around so you can add fly tying materials by simple rotating the handle on the vise. The fly stays in straight alignment with the vise so as you rotate the vice head you can easily add fly tying materials to the fly. This makes it a lot easier to tie many different flies. This becomes very important as you start tying flies that need the body built up or have hackle on the flies. It also speeds up your tying, less time at the bench and more time on the water.

A rotary vise is the way to go if you plan on staying with fly tying for a long time. Go ahead and spend the money now on the vise, it will last you for the rest of your life. Rotary vises really excel at adding hackle, dubbing, chenille, to a fly body. You would do this for making woolly buggers, dry flies, etc.


  • More flexible tying angles
  • Quicker fly tying
  • Best for woolly buggers, and dry flies


  • More expensive fly tying vises

Video Review of a Rotary Fly Tying Vise

Here is a good review of a rotary fly fishing vise by Griffin. It is the Blackfoot Mongoose model vise.

C-clamp or Pedestal Style Fly Tying Vise Bases

There are two types of mountings for fly vises. They are the pedestal and the c-clamp. The pedestal is a weighted base that sits on a flat surface. The c-clamp model attaches to a table side.

I prefer the pedestal base for my fly tying vise over the c-clamp because I can put it anywhere I want to start tying. I have found the c-clamp style doesn’t fit on all types of tables and can leave marks.

Where will you use the vise?

This is a big decision to make, where will you be tying flies? If you plan on tying on a bench and don’t plan on moving your vise around then get one that works well with your tying bench.

If on the other hand, you are like me and end up tying when you have a free minute and anywhere around the house then get something you can move around and put down and tie anywhere. This is why I love pedestal vises so much. You just sit them on the table and start tying. Anywhere you have a flat surface.


Both types of fly tying vises work but it does depend on:

  • What types of fly fishing flies are you tying?
  • Where will you use the vise?

Whichever type of vise you choose just make sure it fits your needs. There are many makers of fly tying vises but for the most part there are two types of vises out there, the fixed and rotary vises. Rotary vises are more flexible in the types of flies you can tie on them but they do cost more money. Fixed angle vises are cheaper then rotary vises but they will make it harder to tie some types of flies. And remember, a good vise will last you a lifetime so don’t be afraid to spend a little extra and get the right vise for your needs.

It’s Your Turn

What do you think? What is your favorite fly tying vise? What is the worst fly tying vise you bought? What advice would you give to someone who was looking at buying a new fly tying vise? Share your experience and insights in the comments box below.

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