To Rotate Or Not?
The next question is whether to select a conventional upright or a rotary-style of vise. Some manufacturers sell only one style of vise, but some offer both. Don’t let this choice of vises flummox you: despite what some tiers or companies say, it’s just not that important.
With a conventional style of vise, the head of the tool slants up and holds the hook away from the vise and bench top. (Check out the accompanying photographs for examples.) The hook remains stationary, and you will wrap the thread and materials around the shank. With a rotary vise, which became popular about 30 years ago (although this style of tying has been around much longer), the hook shank is in line with the rotating axis of the vise. To make a fly, you will rotate the vise head with your non-tying while your tying hand grasps the thread, tinsel, wire, and similar materials. The hook shank will rotate and the materials will wrap up the shank. While this is fine in theory, most tiers use rotary vises to simply turn hooks over and examine the far sides of their flies while they tie; other than that, they employ traditional tying methods.
Don’t spend a great deal of time puzzling over whether to purchase a conventional upright or rotary vise. A good tier can use either type of tool and produce flies of equal quality.
How to Buy?
Online stores have made shopping a breeze, but when it comes to purchasing a fly tying vise, I recommend visiting your local fly shop. You will want to get your hands on these tools and see for yourself how they work.
Ask the store clerk to demonstrate all the vises on display that are within your price range. Check to make sure that each securely holds the hooks you plan to use; for example, if the jaws on one of the vises are too large and seem to swallow those diminutive midge hooks you will use, eliminate it from consideration. If tying hefty saltwater flies is on your to-do list, make sure that a vise can grasp and hold large 3/0 and 4/0 hooks without having to crank down on the locking mechanism; even some premium vises don’t work well The Regal Vise has become very popular among professional tiers. This tool is almost dummy proof: squeeze the handle to open the jaws, insert the hook into the jaws, and then release the handle to close the jaws and tightly grip the hook. This is the Regal Inex ($150). with extra-large hooks.
I like a vise with an adjustable head that tilts up and down so I can change the height of the jaws or the angle of the hook. Some vises within our price range offer this feature, but some do not. Regardless, this is not a make-or-break consideration; it is more important to consider the range of hook sizes a vise will accommodate, whether the jaw-locking mechanism works smoothly and easily, and the type of base you will prefer.
If you do not have a nearby fly shop, pay extra attention to the vises used by the students in a local fly tying class, and ask the members of your club what vises they use. And, there are dozens of online fly tying videos, some made using the very vises in the accompanying photographs. While you will not be able to touch and feel those tools, at least you can get a sense of how they work.
Your vise will be the centerpiece of your fly tying station. With a little forethought, you will find the right vise that will help you become a better tier.
What to say about Porter House? When we spoke with Porter about three months ago, he was living on his sailboat in the Florida Keys, but last week we received a message that he was anchored off Belize. He attached a photo of himself holding a bonefish, and wrote something about next heading to the Panama Canal. When it comes to Porter, we don’t ask questions.