Welcome to the first Fly
Fish Ohio Fly Tying Vise Review! This is an auspicious beginning; it’s the
first major equipment shootout on Fly Fish Ohio! How many of you have
thought to yourself, “I’d like to get into fly tying but I really don't
know anything about it?" or "I have a really nice vise but I'd like to get
something that's lighter, smaller, or easier to manage while traveling?”
The Fly Fish Ohio crew has the answers!
Joe Cornwall, Mark
Blauvelt and I all tie our own flies. Between us we have over fifty
years of tying experience and have collectively tied thousands of flies
using a variety of different techniques and a wide selection of gear.
You might say we have “opinions.” With this being our first major
review, we'd like to share the ground rules for this and other reviews to
follow. Our first major criterion was price. This review
covers products with a maximum MSRP of $150 and we’ve further segmented
that market to examine vises under $50, from $50 to $100, and from $100 to
$150. As the Senior
Editor my job consisted of some serious web surfing sessions. I came up
with a list that includes product from virtually every major manufacturer,
which indicates that these companies have a vested interest in reaching
the beginner and budget-conscious tier. Hundreds of emails and dozens of
phone calls later and we have a group of products ranging in price from
under 20 dollars right up to the 150 dollar limit. In the future all
shootout reviews will have a price segment associated with the equipment.
The next criterion is a
unified definition of quality performance. This may seem somewhat
self-evident at first, but the fact of the matter is that most reviews
don’t provide concise, categorical performance definitions. As a
reference vise we've included the long discontinued Thompson Model B.
This $6.50 vise (about $36 in current value) defines the minimal
performance a contemporary product should exhibit. If a new manufacturer
can't beat this old warhorse then there really isn't much to talk about.
uses ten specific areas that we found best described the actual in-use
performance of the product. Each of the ten areas is rated on a scale of
1-to-5 with 5 being the best level of performance.
Here are the ten questions
used to evaluate the performance of this selection of fly tying vises:
Did the vise come in an attractive package? Was it well packed and would
the packaging serve as storage for the vise?
Directions, literature, parts lists and documentation? Does this vise come with a set of directions that explain care and
maintenance of the product? Are there illustrations of the parts in case
you need to order an accessory or replace a missing part? Are there well
written directions explaining calibration and set-up of the vise?
fit and finish.
Is this a well finished product? Did it communicate quality right out of
Is the clamp well designed? Did the clamp provide a solid, immobile
mounting system for the vise? Did it remain tight through a long session
of tying? Did it mark, or have the potential to damage the surface of the
table to which it’s clamped?
Vise stem finish, adjustability and length.
Is the vise flexible in
placement for a number of tiers and table heights?
Smoothness of operation of vise jaws.
Were they easy to open and close? Are the jaws easy to calibrate for
various hooks? Do the jaws remain in the calibrated position or is it
necessary to readjust the jaws after a few flies?
Rotation and adjustability.
Is the vise capable of rotating? If so, was the rotating mechanism
smooth and robust? We used N/A if the vise didn’t feature
rotability, but we tried not to hold that fact against the product.
Of course lack of this feature is a 10% penalty in itself, even though the
N/A rating still provides 1 point. We've all tied on fixed vises, but the
ability to see the far side of the fly is so critical that we thought it
imperative to incorporate this as a standard. That said, we all
agree we'd rather see no rotability than a poorly implemented system that
detracts from the product's utility. No differentiation was given to
simple rotability versus "true" rotary tying functionality.
Jaw grip, hold and clearance.
Does the vise hold the
hook stable under both vertical and horizontal pressures? Is there access
to tie on any type of hook in the normal size range? Can it reliably hold
different sizes of hooks? All vises must hold a minimum of size 20 to 2/0
to rate a 4 or better unless they are purposed designed and labeled as
being designed for a specific hook size (tube, midge or saltwater, for
Accessories. Is the vise
capable of being customized with a bobbin cradle, material clip,
background card, parachute tool, waste receptacle, etc.? A good vise
should have a material clip included as part of its design.
There is no category for
this. This is a gauge of “goose-bump” factor. Did you like this vise?
Could you forget about the tool and do the job?
Each of these performance
parameters was graded using the rating system detailed in the sidebar. A
scale of 1 to 5 was used, with 5 being the very best performance.
Each tier rated each vise and the the answer values were averaged for each
question. The averaged values were then summed and a total point
score was assigned to the product. Joe and Mark were only aware of retail
price points after they had completed tying to keep price "prejudice" from
affecting the outcome. Further,. we didn't discuss any of the
products until we had completed the reviews so there was very little
chance of any of us affecting the answers of another.
Now that you know the ground rules we used,
further adieu, please
click the links below to get to the vises.
- Jim Stuard, Senior
Vises to $50
Vises From $50 to $100
Vises From $100 to $150
Take Me Straight To The Summary!