Best fly tying vise: rotary vise buying guide

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Just like you wouldn’t chase permit with a 4wt rod, you shouldn’t subject yourself to tying on anything less than the best rotary fly tying vise you can afford. Sure, a 4wt might work on some permit, but you won’t catch them all. The same goes for fly tying vises.

I say rotary vise because, especially with the improvements in technology and construction these days, there’s no good reason to own anything else.

A rotary vise allows you to spin just the vise head, while keeping your thread and materials in a fixed position. This makes for tighter, more precise wraps of everything from flashabou to dubbing, and really speeds up your tying process.

Along with your rotary vise, you’ll want to make sure you get some kind of tool– and bobbin holder, so that you can wrap thread and dubbing around a hook without tangling up your tying materials. That’s really the only additional thing you’ll need to look for in a fly tying vise.

But we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves here. Let’s take a look at what the best fly tying vises of 2021 are. Then, we’ll take a deeper dive into them, and take a more in-depth view of what exactly you need to look for in your next fly tying vise.

Best Cheap Fly Tying Vise: Griffin Odyssey Spider

If you’re just starting out tying your own flies, then it’s understandable that you don’t want to drop the money you can spend on a high-end fly tying vise. Enter the Griffin Odyssey Spider rotary fly tying vise. This is an affordable tying vise that has all the basic features you need to really start cranking out flies.

It comes with a C-clamp base, a bobbin cradle, and will supposedly hold hooks all the way from a size 28 to a 4/0. That’s a pretty big range, which means you shouldn’t run into a pattern you can’t tie.

This vise usually sells for less than $100.00.

Best Standard Fly Tying Vise: Regal Medallion

For a fly tying vise that’ll do it all, and not break the bank, the Regal Medallion can’t be beat. This tying vise is an absolutely phenomenal product, and a favorite of many professional tiers. With a full rotary function, and the option for pedestal base or C-clamp mounts, the Regal Medallion has it all.

This vise usually sells for anywhere between $175 – $200, depending on options.

Best High-End Fly Tying Vise: Renzetti Master

If Regal sets the gold standard for vises, then Renzetti is the platinum-level package. These vises are bomb-proof, and everyone who owns one swears they’ll never go back. Of course, they carry a hefty price tag, but the Renzetti Master has everything you need to tie flies from small midge patterns, to big saltwater streamers.

This goes for at least $525, and the price increases as you add accessories.

So, what makes these three vises the best ones you can find on the market today? Let’s take a deep dive into each of vises we reviewed.

Griffin Odyssey Spider

The Griffin Odyssey Spider is a fantastic value rotary fly tying vise for less than a hundred bucks. It might not have all the bells and whistles of a Regal or Renzetti, but it’s still a good tool. If you’re starting out in fly tying, you’d be hard pressed to find something that’ll serve you better than this vise.

The Griffin Odyssey Spider features a true 360-degree rotary head. Some vises will advertise a rotary function, but don’t actually rotate a full 360 degrees. That’s not the case with the Griffin.

In addition, you get a product backed by a lifetime guarantee and it’s built completely here in the USA. With current supply chain issues for folks building gear outside of the US, this is a big advantage Griffin has in the fly tying vise market.

The Griffin comes with a C-Clamp base, which is really its only limiting feature. You’ll need a tying desk with enough of a lip to attach the C-clamp to. You could find an old base that might fit the Griffin, but the chances of that are a bit slim.

The only other knock on the Griffin is that you can only tighten it down by twisting the knobs and levers. Now, that might not seem like an issue, but when you’re pumping out lots of flies in various sizes, changing the clamping pressure often can bog you down.

This is where the Griffin doesn’t have the same ease-of-use that more expensive fly tying vises do. But given the price, the Griffin is still the best fly tying vise for those on a really tight budget.

Peak Rotary Fly Tying Vise

The Peak Rotary Fly Tying vise, in terms of price point and overall quality, falls somewhere between the entry level Griffin Odyssey Spider and the higher end Regal and Renzetti vices.

The Peak’s high-quality tool steel jaws can handle the full range of typical hook sizes from the smallest diameter wire up to large saltwater streamer hooks.

Like all the best fly tying vises, this is a genuine rotary vise and it comes in a C-clamp and a pedestal version.

The stainless steel and aircraft aluminium construction of the Peak Rotary Tying Vise ensure it will offer trouble-free fly tying and it is backed by a lifetime warranty.

Regal Medallion

This rotary fly tying vise is one of the best on the market, and there’s an argument to be made that it’s better value than any Renzetti, simply due to its price. Regal fly tying vises have long been known for their durability, and they offer a unique hook clamp system not found on other high-end tying vises.

Where other fly tying vises will have various knobs and levers in use to hold hooks in place, Regal relies on a spring-loaded jaw. You squeeze the handle, insert the hook, and don’t have to make any adjustments. Whether you’re tying on a size 28 midge hook, or 2/0 streamers, the Medallion delivers the perfect amount of tension for all hook sizes and tying situations.

Of course, you could argue that the set force of the jaws is a problem, especially on fine-wire and small hooks. But for the vast majority of tyers, that’s probably not something to worry about.

Regal is also well-known for their brass pedestal bases. These bases ensure the vise doesn’t move when in use, and they’re gorgeous pieces of functional art. Regal also offers C-clamp bases, so you can take your fly tying vise with you on the road if you needed to.

But the pedestal bases offer slots for storing hooks, beads, and other supplies needed while tying. The C-clamp base obviously doesn’t have room for these features, but since you can easily own both and swap between them as needed, it’s not really an issue.

A Regal Medallion is one of the best fly tying vises you could buy. They are made in the USA and come with a limited lifetime warranty. For the price, it’s hard to beat them. The only fly tying vise manufacturer that consistently earns more praise than the Regal is the Renzetti.

Renzetti Master

Of all the serious fly tyers and fly fishing guides I know, most of them use a Renzetti of some type. They’re extremely durable, simple tying vises that just flat-out work. With its built-in material/bobbin holder, adjustable pressure in the vise jaws for various sizes of hooks, and inverted arm design, the Renzetti Master takes everything you thought you knew about fly tying vises, and changes it.

The rotary function is simple and easy to use, and while some may not like all the fine adjustments the Renzetti offers when it comes to pressure on fly hooks, it’s hard to argue that’s a bad thing. You need less gripping power, for instance, when tying size 22 spinners for trout than 2/0 Clouser minnows.

Once you get used to the adjustment, you’ll find the lever-activated cam jaws on this vise quickly lock down on the fly hook so that it won’t dislodge.

Renzetti also makes their fly tying vises available with either a pedestal base or C-clamp mount. This gives you the portability that a lot of tyers and anglers need.

Really, the only thing to knock this rotary vise on is its price. Unless you’re a high-volume or commercial tyer, or a guide, the cost might be hard to justify.

But if you’re on the water fly fishing for more than 50 days a year, and tie lots of your own flies, it’s probably worth the extra dough to pony up for the Renzetti Master -which is considered by its fans as the best fly tying vise on the market.

Another option is to go for the Renzetti Traveler, which is a great pedestal base rotary fly tying vise that can be packed up into a small box and sells for less than half the price of the Renzetti Master. The Traveler is one of the most popular fly tying vises among our fly fishing friends.

Each Renzetti fly tying vise is made in the USA and comes with a lifetime warranty.

What to Look For in a Tying Vise

The lever actuated cam jaws of the Renzetti Traveler offer a firm hold on all sizes of hooks

Now that we’ve reviewed the best rotary vises on the market, let’s take a slightly deeper look at the various features these rotary fly tying vises offer, and why you may or may not want them on your own fly tying vise.

Bases

As mentioned above, all tying vises come with a different kind of base. The C-clamp is the most popular, because it’s the easiest – and cheapest – to manufacture. C-clamp bases are great because they allow you to set up shop anywhere that you have a table with enough of a lip for the clamp.

The only downside to the C-clamp is that you generally can’t get the vise to sit as high as you can with a pedestal mount. I prefer my fly tying vise sitting at almost eye level, as that reduces strain on my neck and shoulders when I’m in for a long session of tying flies.

Both a pedestal base and C-clamp base travel well. You can hook up bobbin and material holders to either base, although it seems that pedestal bases lend themselves to those attachments better than a C-clamp.

Jaw Type

Generally speaking, most tying vises have jaws that look the same. But when you start to pay attention, you’ll notice something.

On vises like the Odyssey and the Regal, the jaws are flush with the head of the vise. With the Renzetti, the jaws are inverted, giving you a ton of extra room behind the hook that you can use when tying. For smaller flies, this is particularly helpful. It’s also a great feature when tying articulated streamers.

You can also buy jaws to match specific fly types. For example, Regal sells a set of midge jaws for its Medallion vises. These jaws are made to be smaller and slimmer, giving you more room to work on small hooks. They’re rated for fly hooks all the way down to a size 30 – the smallest hook commercially available in the United States.

Conversely, companies make additional jaws that are designed solely for tying big flies. Saltwater patterns – and large streamers – demand hooks with thick-gauged wire. The pressure needed to hold those hooks in place can vary a lot from a size 6 to a 4/0 hook. Jaws made primarily for this purpose are built to handle these giant hooks, so you won’t have to worry about the jaws slipping. That’s happened to me before, and it was one of the more frightening experiences of my life.

Portability

Quality materials and components are the hallmark of the best fly tying vises

The ability to take your vise with you is a game changer. I’ve tied tons of flies while sitting in airports, waiting fat or a ride to show up. And it’s great to have a vise along for extended fly fishing trips alongside a river, when you need to tie up a fly that you don’t have in your box.

Most tying vises these days are pretty portable, and this is where hauling a base around makes a lot of sense. The base is a more versatile way to set up your vise – the pedestal bases work great on the tailgate of a truck when you are on a fly fishing trip. For anyone who needs to tie when they are travelling in remote areas, a pedestal base vise such as the Renzetti Traveler rather than a C-clamp model is going to the best fly tying vise for them.

Accessories

Finally, you want to make sure that you’re buying a vise with the accessories you both want and need. A bobbin and material holder is absolutely necessary, especially if you’re planning to tie up a lot of streamers. But it’s also nice to be able to hang your thread out of the way when applying UV resin, head cement or getting deer hair trimmed just right.

Wrapping Up

Fly tying vises are a bit intimidating, especially if you’ve never tied before. It’s hard to know what to look for, and what’s just marketing mumbo jumbo. In the end, it all comes down to making sure you get the vise that fits your needs and makes tying your own flies easy and fun. If you primarily fish trout and tie flies in the 8-22 range, a vise with standard jaws and few accessories is probably your best fly tying vise for you.

Pay attention to the details, and don’t skimp on features you really want. I tied on a cheap vise for years because I didn’t think I needed to upgrade. When I finally broke down and bought a quality new rotary fly tying vise for my birthday a few years ago, I was shocked at the difference it made.

We’ve listed the best fly tying vises available here, and whichever one you choose it is going to make tying a great experience, regardless of your experience level.

Author

  • Spencer Durrant is a keen fly fisher and guide and expert in all things fly fishing. He's a respected fly fishing writer whose work is published across a range of sites.

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