As anglers, tying flies is an opportunity for us to get a taste of fly fishing without even being on the water. Whether it’s a cold winter evening or a torrential downpour, we long to be fishing, but it’s not always possible. Taking a seat at our fly tying desk gives us some excitement that there’s more time on the water coming in the future. While each angler has their own ideas about the best fly tying desk, there are a few features that need to be prioritized when deciding which one to purchase.
What Makes the Perfect Fly Tying Desk?
A Large Tying Surface
First and foremost, you need space. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to move your entire setup as you complete a step in the fly tying process. Being able to stay organized, comfortable and focused is dependent on the space that you have to tie. You’ll want to mount your vise (see here for suggestions on the best vise to buy) and have some sort of extra light source that all fits well. A smooth, flat and open surface should be a top priority for you. While it presents opportunities to have a messy work surface, it gives you the best chance to tie your flies.
Lots of Storage
Storage space is another aspect of your fly tying desk that you should priority. A great fly tying desk is one that has plenty of storage space for you. You’ll be able to store your fly tying station, materials and any other necessary equipment to help you tie. As you grow in your skill as a fly tier, you’re going to acquire more and more material (see our list of essential fly tying materials and tools for beginners). You need places to store these things. Whether it’s a random gift or different fly tying kits, you need a space where you can stay organized and keep things from looking cluttered.
Easy Access to Fly Tying Materials
Another ideal feature is that the desk has easy access to fly tying materials. Ideal fly tying stations are easy to access. You need to be able to consistently be able to access your vise and all of your tools. Whether you keep them in a box or organized on the desktop space, you can’t lose track or feel like you have to work hard to find them. The material, tools and everything else are the top priority when you’re tying flies.
Size of the Desk
Fly tying desks range in size, but the main factor that dictates the size of your desk is how much room you have to put it. Whether you’re tying flies in the back of your truck camper or in your home office, make sure it fits into the room. Having several feet of surface to utilize is going to help you feel as if you’re not overly cramped in the midst of your tying!
Anglers can get creative when choosing a fly tying desk. Some will choose a $30 used desk off of Facebook Marketplace or pay thousands of dollars for a desk from Orvis. Depending on your budget, you can find something for you! If you want it to especially be a labor of love, you can spend a couple hundred dollars on materials and make your own. A custom fly tying desk doesn’t have to be thousands of dollars. Make your own!
Many anglers will choose a quality wood for the fly tying desk. A nice quality oak, cherry, maple or birch would do the trick. These are woods that can be sanded and stained and stay in great condition for generations. If it’s properly sealed, you’ll find that these desk tops are easy to clean and you won’t have to upgrade very often. Fly fishing enthusiasts are fairly particular, so make sure you know what you want before you make a purchase.
What angler doesn’t imagine a dark wood fly tying desk in a home office with some soft light casting over it illuminating hours and hours of your work. Again, fly fishing is a love for so many, so make your home base something you enjoy. Find the style of the room you’re storing it and make it fit! This may be something you pass down to grandkids, so a timeless wood desk is going to look great.
The quality of fly fishing desk you have is dependent on how much money you’re willing to spend or how much work you’re willing to do. Whether you’re going to build it yourself or spend thousands of dollars to buy it, you want something that’s quality. The most important aspect is that the desk is sturdy! You don’t want it to move around as you put pressure on it.
The design of fly tying desks varies on the type of angler. Some desks will have all sorts of drawers on top of the desk and others will have all of them below the top of the desk. Again, the biggest thing you want is accessibility. The more accessible your equipment, the happier you’re going to be.
Standard Desk Vs Fly Tying Desk
One of the main choices you’ll confront in buying a fly tying desk is whether to go with a purpose built fly tying desk, and the extra cost that entails, or whether to choose a cheaper office desk that can be converted into a fly tying space. We’ve covered our top choices for both options below.
Our Favorites: Specialist Fly Tying Desks Reviewed
The Montana Wood Catlin Desk is a beautiful, custom fly fishing desk made by a professional wood worker. This desk is designed specifically for fly anglers! Everything from the type of wood to the quality of construction is going to give you a great tying experience. Everything from storage space to fly tying space is made with you as an angler in mind! While it’s going to cost you in the neighborhood of $3000, you’re going to get a desk that’s going to last a lifetime and provide you with the necessary features you need to tie well. Mounting your vice and accessing your tools are all quite easy.
- The tying space is 36″ x 17″, so you have plenty of room to tie.
- You can purchase a removable hackle chest to go with the desk.
- The drawers on top of the desk don’t require any unnecessary bending. Everything is accessible.
If you’re interested in tradition, the Philadelphia Fly Tying Roll Top Desk is one that you should consider. It’s another custom made desk that is exceptionally beautiful. The roll top allows you to close the desk and it works as another decorative piece. Inside, you’ll find a place to mount your vice and store all of your tools. In the world of fly tying desks, it’s hard to find one more beautiful than this. Small drawers and large drawers are going to store all your supplies. At $2900, you’re making an investment, but it could last for generation after generation.
- Comes with 12 glass bottles for anglers to do some entomology studying at your desk.
- Built in garbage bin for you to throw everything you’re not using!
- Accommodates both “C” clamp vices and base vices.
In a collaboration with L.L. Bean, Thos. Moser created a series of custom fly tying desks. Here, you can spend hours tying your own flies. You’ll have a durable workspace and an impressive amount of storage. Everything from large drawers, to small dividers are all incorporated into these desks. If you’re interested in ordering one of these desks, you’re going to have to reach out to Thos. Moser to discuss creating a custom design.
- Custom spool space is incorporated into this desk. You can store all of your spools and they won’t roll!
- You can entirely close off the fly tying space if you store it in a place with foot traffic.
- The desk is 37″ wide and 72″ tall.
If you’re interested in a more minimalistic design, the Philadelphia Fly Tying Table is going to provide that for you. Where many desks have a large number of drawers that take up quite a bit of space, the fly tying table only has two drawers in the table and that’s it. It’s a great desk that can act as a computer desk. Even though it looks inconspicuous at first glance, there are features on this table that will make your life much easier as you’re tying. This table is going to cost you right around $1000.
- There are rails all around this desk for you to mount a “C” clamp vise.
- The two drawers are divided for you store specific things in specific places.
- The overall side is 61″ L x 30″ W x 30″ H
Conventional desks that are good for fly tying
If you’re not interested in thousands and thousands of dollars on your fly tying desk, there are dozens of conventional desks that are going to work for fly tying. These are versatile desks that can act as a fly tying desk at night and a work desk during the day. Plus, these are not as uniquely designed and can fit into just about any decorative scheme.
The Home Styles Arts and Crafts Cottage Oak Double Pedestal Desk and Hutch could easily pass for a computer desk in an office. This doubles as a great tying desk due to the large tying space and plenty of storage. Easily accessible drawers and large cabinets can store your vices, tools and even a lamp! If you’re interested in something that can do it all, then this is the desk for you. For around $1000, you’re getting a great deal! It’s going to take some assembly on your part, but that’s part of the fun.
- The desk is 58″ W x 24″ D x 63.5″ H
- The three drawers below the tying area are great to store all of your tools. An easy pull out is going to give you access to everything you need.
- The tying surface is 55″ W x 20″ deep. It’s a huge area for you to spread out all of your equipment.
The Sauder Edge Water Computer Desk is a fairly inconspicuous desk that would fit well in a home office. As soon as that work day finishes, close your computer and pull out your vice. You can attach a “C” clamp or a mounted vice depending on your preference. The weight alone of this desk is going to give you confidence that it’s going to be extremely sturdy as you’re tying. The fact that this desk is less than $500 is a steal. You’re getting some great quality for the price.
- The slide out keyboard tray is a great place to store your tools. It leaves even more room on the tying surface.
- The desk is 30″ H x 59″ W x 23 1/4″ D
- There are no small drawers on this desk! All of them are fairly large, so you’re going to likely need to purchase organizers.
The Sauder Carson Forge Desk is a personal favorite design of mine. Only one side of the desk has drawers with the other side leaving plenty of leg room. Again, it’s a fairly standard design with dark wood that can fit in most homes or apartments. It’s not overly large, so don’t worry about it taking too much room. It’s another do-it-all type of desk that’s easily able to store all of your equipment. It doesn’t have specific drawers for each type, so make sure you have some organizers to keep everything in top shape. For around $200, you’re getting a great deal.
- The desk is 55″ W x 30″ H x 23″ D
- The drawer right under the tying surface is large enough to store everything you would need to tie flies!
- The rails around the desk are able to cold a “C” clamp vice.
The Executive Oak Desk fits a certain style of angler. It’s a large, roll top desk that fits well in a larger space! Make sure you have plenty of room in your office if you’re going to use this desk. There are over 12 drawers on this desk that are going to hold every possible thing you need. Be aware that this desk is around $2500, so you’re going to be paying quite a bit for it.
- This desk can be “plugged in”, so you can plug in a lamp or charge your phone without worrying about crushing cords when you put the roll-top down.
- The desk is 29″ D x 54″ W x 49″ H
- There’s a slide out arm rest that works extremely well for keeping your hand balanced.
The OneSpace Eleanor Executive Desk is beautiful. The dark wood and classy design make for a perfect fly tying desk. Fly tiers of all levels are going to appreciate what this desk has to offer. There are two large drawers on the side and one large drawer underneath the tying surface! Plus, the storage cubbies on top of the desk make for easy storage once you’re doing.
- The desk is electric, so you can easily plug in your lamp.
- The rails around the desk can hold your “C” clamp vice.
- The mix of large and small drawers are ideal for organization.
The Sauder Trestle Executive Desk is one of the more unique designs on this list. There are four total drawers on this desk and it’s definitely a more minimalist design. Two large drawers and two smaller drawers are available to you. Besides that, you’re going to get a large and open surface for you to do your tying. For around $200, you’re getting a great deal.
- The desk is 59″ W x 29″ H x 25″ D
- The empty space under the desk make for easy maneuvering.
- You can use any type of vice you want on this desk.
The Sauder Trestle Executive Desk is one of the more unique designs on this list. There are four total drawers on this desk and it's definitely a more minimalist design. Two large drawers and two smaller drawers are available to you. Besides that, you're going to get a large and open surface for you to do your tying. For around $200, you're getting a great deal.
- The desk is 59" W x 29" H x 25" D
- The empty space under the desk make for easy maneuvering.
- You can use any type of vice you want on this desk.
The Sauder Graham Hill Desk is a fairly simple design with plenty of tying space. While there are only two drawers available to you, you have numerous cubbies that can hold everything that you might need. For less than $200, you’re getting a great desk.
- The desk is 20″ D x 47″ W x 36″ H
- The tying surface is 45 inches wide and 16 inches deep
- The cubbies provide more of an open design and storage area
Desktop Tool Organisers
The Creative Angler Tabletop Organizer is a life saver for fly tiers. It keeps all of your fly tying materials in one place. Tools, spools and completed flies are able to be stored here. There are 33 individual holes for everything you need! It’s less than 10″ x 10″. For $40, you’re getting a great deal.
The Aventik 3 in 1 tool caddy has a place to store tools, hooks/beadheads and completed flies. You can keep these three portions of the caddy separate depending on what you need. It’s a great thing to keep on the top of your desk. Plus, it’s only $50.
Final Thoughts on Fly Tying Desk Set Ups
Fly tying is a learned art. As you gain skill, you’ll find different features that are important to you. As long as you have a desk with plenty of room and opportunities to keep everything organized, you’ll be in great shape!