It isn’t often that your success in something revolves around one thing, but when it comes to the best fly tying vise, this is true… Literally.
They are crucial if you are going to tie some really great-looking flies.
It can be hard to know what to go for, but I’m here to help.
I’m going to run through some amazing options and even tell you the features that I look for when I’m choosing so that you can get a grip on the right fly tying vises.
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You know me, I love things that are made in America. Maybe that’s why I think this vise is great.
But do you know what…
I love the features too. Working from the bottom up, you’ll find a substantial C clamp that will keep it secured to any flat surface and give you a super stable base for tying up your patterns.
I’m going to tell you a secret.
Fly tying can be back-breaking. Fortunately, it isn’t a problem with this vise as you can position the jaws in various heights, so no more stooping!
Speaking of the jaws, get this. You’ll have utter flexibility in the size of the pattern that you want to tie. They can accommodate hook sizes all the way from tiny 28 sized midge hooks all the way to huge 4/0 circle hooks (what are you hoping to catch… and can I join you?)
To top the whole set up off, there is a bobbin cradle that is highly useful for keeping your thread out of the way you are trimming and varnishing your flies.
Amazing value, and considering the features a low price.
It’s really well made and solid.
It isn’t a true rotary vice as the jaws aren’t aligned with the rotation axis.
I’ve started strong with this vise. It is high quality and shouldn’t let you down. I particularly love that you’ll be able to tie absolutely any size of fly as the jaws are nice and fine.
Sometimes simple solutions are the best. If you are a beginner and looking for a vise that is easy to operate but will allow you to tie a range of patterns, then you’ll find it right here.
What’s so great?
Ok, so full disclosure, it is a little short on the feature front, but what it lacks in features it makes up for in build quality. You’ll get a super sturdy pedestal base (no more damaged tabletops). Or, if you aren’t too bothered about your table, you can use the optional C-clamp.
The quality of the jaws is exemplary. They are manufactured from hardened steel. This is great as it means that there is zero chance of your pattern slipping mid-tie.
This is a true rotary vise. This is easily achieved with a read-mounted friction nut, and the vise is easily turned with a substantial rear handle.
While it doesn’t have a bobbin cradle, you’ll find a substantial spring section to the back of the jaws, which are just perfect for keeping loose feathers and thread out of the way while you work on other sections of your fly.
Superb build quality.
Firm gripping jaws with simple construction.
It isn’t massively adjustable, so the height of the vise might not suit.
Complexity isn’t always a good thing, and if you want to be up and tying in no time at all, this vise would be a great companion to start you on your journey.
Did I ever tell you about my experience with a Mongoose?
Man, those things bite hard.
I guess this is where this vise gets its name? Quite simply put, (and just like ‘my’ mongoose) it won’t let go. The jaws are incredibly strong. Not bad, considering how sleek and agile it is.
And there’s more.
The vise is super adjustable. You can alter the height and the angle to get into a really comfortable tying position. It is a true rotary vise too, so you’ll be able to maneuver your fly through 360° to get an optimum position to add details to the fly. The rotation action is one of the smoothest on my list. The bearing is lined with Delrin for frictionless motion.
And get this,
The jaws’ locking handle can be effortlessly repositioned keeping it well out of the way when tying. It will also work for left, and right-handed tyers!
Included with the vise, you’ll find a base mount and a C-clamp giving you a range of options to set it up.
Highly adjustable with a smooth action.
Powerful grip on all hook sizes.
Sometimes I need my left hand under the jaws. It can get a little busy under there with the levers and body.
If comfort is what you are looking for when tying, you’ve found it. I love the angles. It isn’t a budget fly tying vise, but it will last a lifetime. Pretty good for a one-off purchase.
Atlas produces strong and unbelievable stable vises for fly tying. The main portions of the vise are constructed from high-quality stainless steel. As with some of our other suggestions, the rotation is frictionless with Delrin bearings.
When it comes to tying patterns, you are going to be impressed. The hook size goes all the way down to 32. If you haven’t seen hooks that small, you’ll enjoy my article about fly tying hooks here.
The base on this vise is one of the hardiest around. It is very wide and extremely heavy. It can also be replaced with the included C-clamp.
The jaws go down to a fine point and have an amazing grip. It can sometimes be difficult to get the jaws open on some vises. However, due to the extended locking arm with a ball end, opening the jaws on this vise is effortless.
The strongest fly tying vise on my list.
Really stable base, great for high-pressure patterns like stoneflies.
This would have been perfect… If it had a bobbin holder.
Ok, as travel vises for fly tying go, this won’t work. But if you have a home bench set up, this will be a permanent fixture. It’s strong and will do everything that you need.
I love when premium materials are used in other things.
Want an example?
This vise is manufactured from aerospace-grade aluminum. The jaws themselves are manufactured from tempered steel, so there is zero give when you’ve got your hook mounted. It looks phenomenal.
I particularly like the powder-finished white base. This isn’t just about aesthetics. Often when working, you will drop a hook or fine feather.
This base will allow you to spot it easily. When working from above, your fly features will really stand out, ensuring that you can create the optimum presentation.
Is that all?
No, not quite. You’ll notice that the jaws perfectly align with the center shaft, making this a true 360° rotary vise. The operation is simple, and there aren’t too many knobs and nuts which can sometimes overwhelm a new tyer.
I really like the bobbin holder too. It is much more substantial than you’d find on cheaper models.
Excellent visibility when tying from above.
While you can fit any hook size in the jaws, they might be a little thick when tying midges.
Let me put it this way. This vise is great. Simple, efficient, user friendly. If you are a beginner, this will cover you in 99% of situations and make life easy when starting your fly-tying journey.
On a budget? Well, I’ve got just the thing for you.
This isn’t quite as high quality as some of my other offerings, but I get that some people don’t have the money to spend on expensive gear. For beginners, it will work well.
Surprisingly, considering the cost, this is a true 360° rotary vise. The hinged stem also allows you to reposition the vise’s head optimally. Remember that some expensive vises don’t actually have this feature.
When it comes to the jaws, they are slightly unorthodox, but they feature a ‘midge tip’, which means tying smaller flies should be possible. They are made from hardened steel, and as you’ll already know, this is a feature you’ll find in other vises at 5x the cost.
When it comes to build quality, you might think that in this instance, cheaper isn’t as good.
You’d be wrong, here’s why.
This vise is 100% metal construction, with no plastic whatsoever. As a result, you can expect it to last a long time. Not bad for the money.
Excellent low-cost value.
I really like the midge tip jaws.
Honestly? For the low cost, I really can’t knock it. It performs pretty much as well as some premium vises.
This is certainly the best affordable fly tying vise on my list. I suspect a lot of tech has been ‘borrowed’ from other manufacturers, but when that’s more money to spend on materials and a great fly tying kit, do you care?
Small and compact? This little vise is perfect for when you are out on the road. It packs down into a tiny space.
And here’s the best bit.
It rotates through 360°. There isn’t so much in the way of features. The jaws aren’t ‘cam’ type. Instead, they rely upon a powerful steel spring to keep them closed. The width is altered by a substantial screw on the underside of the jaws.
This would be ideal for beginners because of its simplicity. There are three turning knobs to make minor changes, and that’s about it.
For delicate smaller patterns, this would be a great choice.
Great for smaller patterns.
Due to its size, it can be easy to pull the base over when tying heavy-duty patterns.
Obviously, when you shrink something, you are going to limit its use. For traveling or an occasional use vise, it would make a great little companion.
I love Renzetti. They’ve specifically catered to the beginner fly tying market with this vise. It’s simple.
Here’s what I mean.
Aside from the screw attaching it to the base, what you see is what you get. A stalk, a set of jaws, and that’s pretty much it. For something so minimal, it works really well.
The fully rotating head is great, and due to the minimalist design and long body of the vise, you’ll be able to easily tie any patterns. The oxide-coated jaws give an immense grip, and you’ll be able to tie all the way up to size 2 hooks.
Oh, and it’s American-made. A big plus!
Simple, sleek, and really easy to use. I love it
The vise’s main body is quite high. This is great for beginners as it gives them room to work.
Mmm. Does this look similar to something else on our list that’s much cheaper? I think so. If you are on a budget, other options are offering the same features for less money.
Listen, don’t get me wrong. As I said, I love Renzetti. If I wanted to get the very best fly tying vise for beginners, this would be what I would choose. There’s so much room to work!
Ok, so I have saved the best ‘til last. This vise is for the professionals. If you are looking to treat yourself or want something that will last you a lifetime, this offering by Renzetti is the best rotary fly tying vise on my list.
What can I say?
It is substantial enough for a stay-at-home vise and light, and portable enough to use it as a travel vise.
The all-aluminum construction of the main body gives the vise a highly polished look, and to match this look, it really performs. The cam jaw is rock solid when holding the hook, and it is really easy to open when you’ve finally finished your fly.
If you check it out, you’ll see that the jaws’ tip aligns perfectly with the support arm, offering 360° rotation.
The vise is really adjustable. The only downside is that you can spend quite a bit of time playing with the various bolts to get it into the perfect position.
As an additional extra, Renzetti has been kind enough to include a bobbin holder.
Amazing looks and performance.
Perfect for veteran fly tyers.
Made in the USA.
The only bad thing is that the rotary mechanism is a little fiddly to engage. The lock is plastic, so it possible to overtighten it if you are ham-fisted.
Let me be honest, this is my vise. I’ve got it at home and am maybe biased. It hasn’t let me down yet, and I’ve probably tied around 2000 flies on it. It is great looking and offers exceptional performance. If you want a forever vise, this could be the one.
Buying Guide to Fly Tying Vises
So you’ll have seen that vises aren’t created equal, and there is a surprising difference in some of the features. But what are the right features for you?
Well, a great place to start would be to learn a little about how all of the tools are used to make a fly and how a vise is used. I’ve got a full guide to beginners fly tying over here.
Well, take a minute to read my buying guide and find out.
Simple Fly Tying Vises
Ok, this is for you beginners. I’ve got some advice for you.
It goes like this.
Get something simple. The aim of your fly tying is to be able to create patterns that look great. This will take some time, so don’t waste that time by having to fiddle and mess around with hundreds of knobs on a vise.
Look for something that you can put up, open the jaws and get tying. You’ll find that depending on which vise you pick, they don’t have to be expensive either. If you go simple, you can get the best fly tying vise for under $100 no problem.
Pedestal vs C-Clamp Vises
You’ll have spotted in my list above that some of the vises came with a base and some with a clamp. Both do the same job.
A C-clamp is great as it means you can mount the vise pretty much anywhere. And it is guaranteed not to move regardless of how much you pull on the fly in the jaws. The downside is that it marks the table.
And there’s something else.
Because it is mounted at the edge of the table, any offcuts make their way into your lap!
A pedestal base is great as you can place it anywhere on any flat surface. You can leave all your mess on the table, which makes cleanup so much easier.
As to which is best?
Well, that’s your choice, many vises come with both as an option so you can try out each and see which suits you.
If you do opt for a pedestal-style base, let me give you a tip…
Make sure that the base is substantial and heavy. Travel fly tying vises tend to have a slightly lighter base, but they make up for it with width.
Look for solid metal bases or bases wide enough to stop your vise from falling over when you are tying patterns that use thicker thread.
When choosing a fly tying vise, the jaws are a crucial element. After all, the vise can have all the features in the world, but if it won’t hold a fly securely, then it is pretty much useless.
There are two things to consider in fly tying vise jaws:
Jaw material: Look for materials that make mention of being hardened. Understandably, hooks are made to be almost unbreakable, so if your jaws are made of softer material, they won’t hold the fly.
Jaw width: Think about the kind of patterns you are going to be tying. Most beginners start with larger patterns, but as you improve, you will want to tie smaller flies. Thick jaws make this much harder. Look for jaws that reduce to a finer rounded point. They are the best for covering all hook sizes.
Rotary Fly Vices?
Here is a point to be wary of.
Generally, true rotary fly tying vises are the best. They give you a massive degree of flexibility. Some even allow you to tie the fly by rotating the vise instead of your bobbin.
Just because a vise can turn doesn’t mean it is ‘rotary’. A true rotary vise means that the hook shank stays in exactly the same position as you rotate the vise. If it moves or the position of the fly changes, it isn’t a rotary vise.
Some manufacturers market their vise as ‘rotary’. While they may turn the orientation of the fly, they also move its position. This isn’t good and is a feature to avoid.
If you want to see a visual description of what I mean, I’ve done a bit of research and found a video that explains it well.
Did I tell you about the time I tied flies for 2 hours on a poor quality vise?
It felt like I’d done 12 rounds with Mike Tyson.
My back ached, my neck was stiff, and my shoulders… Man.
The way I could have avoided all of this pain was to use an adjustable vise. When you sit down to tie a fly, you want to have the ability to get that bare hook presented at just the right level.
Look for features that let you set the height and angle of the jaws.
Left or Right-Handed?
Here’s something interesting that you might not be aware of.
Certain vises have to be ordered in a left or right-handed version. Many have selector knobs only on one side, and the way they point determines which side these are on.
If you are left-handed, you don’t want to reach behind your vise to make adjustments. Some vises would be unusable if you pick the wrong-handedness, so keep a lookout!
So there we have it, some of the best fly tying vises I’ve come across.
There are plenty of options out there, and sometimes a little trial and error is involved.
Hopefully, with the guidance I’ve given above, you can find the perfect match and then tie the hatch!