Fly Tying Gear
Peak Rotary Vice®
I looked around for a long time before I finally settled on the Peak Rotary Vice. After reading reviews and comparisons, I found it to be the most full-featured vice for under $200. It's a true rotary vice, meaning that the hook shank remains parallel to the work surface as you rotate the fly. Some vices, even some more expensive than this one, are advertised as "rotary" vices, but the hook shank will rotate at an angle, making it difficult to apply materials such as hackle, chenille and peacock herl. I also liked that the vice came with both the pedestal and the clamp bases. Each base also has a place to mount an additional post, which I find handy. I use it to mount my lighted magnifier, for getting a closer look at small flies. Included with my kit, which cost $249.95, was a riser for increasing the height of the vice, a set of upgraded brass knobs, the bobbin rest and a saltwater hook jaw set for hook sizes up to 6/0. The standard jaws can hold hooks from #2 down to #24. Although I didn't purchase it, there is an additional set of jaws that is especially for hooks size #16 and smaller.
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A good pair of scissors is indespensible to a fly tyer. Although they might look like a tiny pair of sewing scissors, one blade is serrated. This makes it possible to cut slippery feathers and fur, because the serrated edge grips the materials while the other blade cuts. A fine tip allows even the smallest flies to be trimmed easily. Mine are Dr. Slick scissors. (back to image)
Confusingly, this is sometimes called a "bobbin" and sometimes a "bobbin holder." In any case, it holds thread and allows you to dispense just as much as you need, very close to the fly, with out getting your fingers in the way. I have two types. One has a metal tube, and the other is a ceramic tube model by Terra. (back to image)
Bodkin and Threader
This two-for-one tool has many uses. The bodkin (needle) end can be used for applying head cement, picking out dubbing on fly bodies, separating materials and clearing cement from hook eyes. The other end is a threader for threading bobbins. (back to image)
Hackle pliers come in many shapes and sizes. The ones I use are simple spring clamps. They hold the stem of a hackle feather so you can rotate it around the hook. I prefer the style shown, which is a traditional "English" style hackle plier. (back to image)
Hair stackers are used to even out the tips of varioius hairs used to make tails, bodies and wings on flies. The most common uses are to stack deer hair for spun hair bodies and stacking bucktail for wings and tails. Stacking can also be done by hand. (back to image)
Head cement is a type of clear lacquer used to strenghthen the thread wraps that make up a fly's head. It can also be used to coat wraps of lead wire on wet flies, so that thread will more easily cover the wire. (back to image)
I recently started using Zap-A-Gap brand cyanoacrylate glue in addition to my Orvis head cement. For larger flies, it's easier than using a bodkin to apply the cement. It's a little thicker than head cement. (back to image)
Matarelli Whip Finisher
The whip finisher is probably the most misunderstood and, in some cases, feared tool in fly tying. Once you understand the basic idea of the whip finish hitch, the tool begins to make more sense. There are several models, and I prefer the Matarelli (named for its inventor, Frank Matarelli). Of course, that could be because I've never tried the others.
I recommend that anyone thinking of using a whip finish tool learn to tie a whip finish hitch by hand first. Once you've tied a few by hand, the action of the tool will be much more intuitive. (back to image)
A dubbing spinner is used to create a loop of thread which is then spun full of dubbing material (fur, feathers, synthetic fibers) to create a fuzzy body on flies. The loop becomes a kind of homemade chenille, filled with whatever dubbing material the tyer chooses. This one is the Griffin E-Z Spin Dubbing Twister by Griffin Enterprises. (back to image)
I don't use this very often. Normally I apply dubbing dry, or with a little saliva to hold it to the thread. Dubbing wax is useful in some instances, but it can cause a big mess. It's hard to get off your fingers. (back to image)
A material clip is attached the back of the vice and holds longer materials away from the fly while other materials are tied in or spun around the hook. I made this one from some computer cable shielding. (back to image)
A hackle gauge is a handy tool for judging the length of hackle barbs so your hackles are matched to the size of the hook. Mine is a Griffin Enterprises product. (back to image)
This is an idea I got from Harrison Steeves1. I used to use a wad of steel wool to clean my bodkin of cement buildup. Now I have a film canister filled tightly with steel wool with a tiny hole in the top. A couple of jabs and the bodkin is clean. (back to image)
1 In his book "Tying Flies With Foam, Fur, and Feathers - Stackpole Book, August 2003 - ISBN-13# 978-0811729093
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