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What Is a Fly Tying Vise?

Lori Kilchermann
Lori Kilchermann

A fly tying vise is used to hold a fish hook as it is being turned into a fly through the wrapping of string, feathers and fur onto the hook's shank. Often, this type of vice is called a rotary vice because of the manner in which the fly tying vise can be manipulated in a full 360-degree range to gain access to all areas of the hook. Small, frequently-serrated jaws aid the fly tying vise in gripping the very small fish hooks used in the creation of flies. Some of the better vices incorporate a large magnifying glass into the base of the vice to aid tiers in seeing their work more clearly.

An activity perhaps as old as fishing itself is fly tying. Creating an artificial bait that will fool a fish into biting is aided by the use of the fly tying vise. When properly set up, a fly tying vise is almost like having a third hand for the serious fly tying craftsman. The adjustments on a typical fly tying-type of vise are nearly the same as those used on many medical tools. Finely adjustable to enable the fly to be held in any conceivable position, the vice is able to securely hold and position the fly hook to allow materials to be glued, tied and trimmed into the final fish-catching shape.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

While associated with fishing, many owners of a fly tying vise do not fish at all. Many fly tiers simply tie the flies because it is an art form or they do it for recreation and resale. The very high cost of quality flies makes the initial investment in an expensive fly tying vise easier to handle for some creative tiers. Other fly tying supplies, such as feathers and fur, can often be obtained through local taxidermists and fur buyers. For those who do not have access to any taxidermists, quality supplies for the creation of flies can be purchased online from several suppliers.

The key in maintaining a properly working fly tying vise is to avoid over-tightening the jaws and nicking the serrations. The jaws can be easily damaged by tightening them excessively against a hook's shank. It is also imperative that no adhesive, glue or paint be allowed to contact the threads on any of the adjusting screws. Properly cleaning and lubricating the fly tying vise with a quality light oil will assist the vise in working properly for many years.

Discussion Comments


I wonder if it has become more of an art to tie flies as there are fewer and fewer fish to catch. I've heard that hundreds of years ago, there were so many fish everywhere that it was difficult not to catch them. That fishing was an easy thing to do. While, now we see it, especially fly fishing, as quite difficult.

Or maybe they have always wanted to try and tie the best lure, in order to catch the biggest fish possible. Also, I suppose different kinds of lures would catch different kinds of fish, so there is that as well.


@bythewell - You can just get the bit that grips onto the hook if you want, but most people get the full vise, which is attached to a stand that you can adjust so that it's at the right height for working on the fly. If you only get the actual vise and not the stand, you'll be working one handed a lot of the time.

Some fly tying vises look more complicated than others, I think so that they can move at different angles.

I think there are other vises which also provide a light, or a magnifying glass built in. The light I think is a bit much, and just added on to increase the price.

Any old lamp will do really, but having a magnifying glass could really come in handy while you are tying all the little fiddly bits on a fly.


A fly tying vise is actually surprisingly complicated looking. My uncle had one for a while, when he was really into fly fishing. I think his might have been an old demonstration model though.

He is always coming up with new hobbies, so eventually he sold it.

I was fascinated by it when I was a kid though. I loved the idea of combining feathers and fur and bits of colored string into something a fish would want to eat. I always understood it when people would call it an art form, because that's how I saw it.

I really like making beaded jewelry now and I always kind of think of fly tying as the "male" equivalent of that (not to use gender roles or anything!).

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