If you are considering tying your own flies you will most definitely need a suitable fly-tying vice.
A fly-tying vice not only grips your hook securely without damaging it in any way, but it also provides ample workign room around the hook, allowing you to get stuck in with your silk, hackles, feathers and other materials to create the masterpiece you're after.
Here's a short guide to help you when picking a fly vice for the very first time. Take a look at the annotated image and you'll find all the parts of the vice that require your full attention to ensure you buy the right quality of vice.
Remember, you'll certainly get what you pay for when buying a fly-tying vice. The more you can afford, the more stable and secure your vice will be...
POINTS TO LOOK OUT FOR...
A - Jaws
Vice jaws made of tool-hardened steel will last. Ridged pads on the inside faces of the jaws provide a better grip. Tips of the jaws should only be used for small hook sizes. Some of the cheaper vices come with one jaw-type already fitted, while more expensive models offer standard and midge jaws (for smaller hooks), with extras such as tube fly and magnum jaws.
B - Material spring/clip
A material spring/clip is a useful accessory, whether it is already fitted or purchased as an additional item. The spring holds materials out of the way, leaving your hands free to continue tying the fly.
C - Fixed or adjustable head
Price will determine how much tilt and rotation is on offer in the vice head. Cheaper vices usually have a fixed head, while on more expensive ones you will be able to tilt and lock the head into different angles. In quality vices the body will turn through 360 degrees, so you can turn the fly upside down and work on the underside. A true rotary vice with an offset or cranked jaw will rotate the hook shank around its own axis.
D - Type of operation
There are four main types of vice operation – screw collet, cam lever, spring lever and draw or push collet. The screw-collet is usually seen on vices at the cheaper end of the market. A knurled wheel or screw pulls the jaws into a tube that closes them around the hook, providing an adequate grip.
A cam lever gives a superior hook hold. As you push on a small lever the jaws are drawn back into the vice head, squeezing them tightly together. A small knurled bolt at the front allows for finer adjustments. A spring lever mechanism forces the jaws open and releasing the lever closes them so they grip the hook. There is no fine adjustment tool although it will hold a wide range of hook sizes.
With the draw or push collet, the jaws are set in a tube and, using a cam lever at the back, they are either drawn back into the tube or forced forwards to close securely around the hook. In some cases the lever can be locked into position.
E - Stem fitting
The point where the vice stem meets the pedestal base is quite important. On some models it will just slide in, or screw into a pre-drilled hole. A more expensive option involves a collar extension fitted to the base. The stem slides into it and can be secured with a locking screw.
F - Pedestal
The advantage of a pedestal base is that it can be used on any flat surface. Make sure it is heavy (at least 2lb) with rubber feet on the bottom to protect the table’s surface and also prevent slippage. A single piece of solid steel with an enamel or powder coated finish would make an ideal pedestal base.
The vice should be solid and of good build quality. Material used varies from cheaper cast or mild steel and composite plastics through to quality stainless steel and machine cut alloy. Stainless steel is best for the main body of the vice.
EXTRA DESIGN FEATURES
A sight plate fitted to your vice stem, provides a clear, clean background to highlight the fly while you work on it, easing eye strain. Most sight plates (or boards) are white, some have a contrasting colour on the reverse.
Off cuts of fur, feather, thread, wire and tinsel can quickly accumulate on your work top, or drop on the carpet where they’ll stubbornly remain despite your best efforts with a vacuum cleaner. Attach a trim bag to your vice stem and deposit all the rubbish into this before emptying into the bin at the end of the day.
A G-clamp fitting can be clamped to the edge of a table or desktop. You’ll need a longer vice stem to achieve a comfortable working height. Make sure the G-clamp fits your table and add pads to prevent marking the surface. Machined aluminium is the best material for a G-clamp.