Fly tying Kit or Vise?

Discussion in 'Fly Tying' started by PatrickH, Aug 24, 2013.

  1. PatrickH

    PatrickH Active Member

    I was thinking about getting a starter kit for fly tying. I tried to score one on craigslist, but the guy was able to sell it at a little higher then my offer, so I missed out..
    My question is.
    Is it better to get a starter kit, or get a vise and a couple extra tools separately, or just by one used from someone?
    Not sure the quality of the hooks I would be getting in a kit or if I would be using all the tools that it would come with. I can usually adapt to what I have and not need every tool out there that is made for fly tying. I'm not looking to spend a whole lot as I have so many other things I need before this, but I'm hoping I might be able to squeeze out enough funds to get me started.

    I tied flies a very long time ago, but I only did it as a hobby since I wasn't fly fishing way back then. But, Now I fly fish, so I think it might be a good time to try tying flies again.
  2. Mark Mercer

    Mark Mercer Member

    Hi Patrick, I've been a instructor for a number of years and my advise would be to start with a good vise and tools, then pick a few flies you'd like to tie and buy the materials for those, and keep doing that. If you have tied before, a class might not be necessary but wouldn't hurt to get back into it. The cheap kits aren't very good and you usually get poor quality everything. If you get a more expensive kit you'll get better stuff but you won't save that much. I guess it just depends on what you can afford. Hooks are the killer as far as cost, so keep a eye out for good deals...Hope this helps some. Good luck.
  3. ScottP

    ScottP Active Member

    I'd skip the kit; the ones I've seen have poor quality tools and materials. You can find a decent Thompson Model A on EBay for $25-30 and that would handle most of your tying needs (if you want to go up to a rotary, it'll cost a bit more). For your other tools, scissors, bobbin, hackle pliers, hair stacker, etc, you could probably get good ones total for what your vise cost; about the only thing I've ever splurged on was a pair of Dr. Slick Hair Scissors and I thing they ran about $15. My everyday scissors are a pair of thread snips, maybe $5-6?? For hooks, I buy mostly Dai Riki; I like the quality and the price $4.75 for a box of 50 (we're talking trout flies here).
    Start slow, tie simple flies that don't need a lot of materials and then gradually build up to a pile of stuff you couldn't use up if you tied every day for 200 years, like just about everybody here.

  4. PatrickH

    PatrickH Active Member

    Thanks for the helpful advise. I think I will try and find a vise first and then get the tools at a later date. I can't believe how expensive these vises are :eek:
    The ones that I seen when searching around is the Zephr EZ Rotary Vise and the MARK III FLYTYING VISE that looked the best for what I want, but mostly the Zephr EZ. I would like to be able to rotate the fly around instead of being stuck in 1 position. Unless there is a better one for under $50 bucks with rotation?
    Scissors sound like a good investment. Is there a good place online to buy fly tying stuff without a over priced shipping rate? Closest fly shop here is about 30 minutes away.. Cabela's is about 5 minutes away, but haven't looked much on what they have or if they sell decent quality stuff for fly tying.
  5. Daryle Holmstrom

    Daryle Holmstrom retiredfishak

  6. IveofIone

    IveofIone Active Member

    I too like the Danvise-a lot of bang for the buck. My Regal and Norvise collect dust. And a pox on those shiny mirror finished creations that blind you with their reflections.

    I have several fly tying scissors but use the smallest pair of Fiskars spring loaded most often. There are no loops to deal with and they are stout right down to the tips which are adequately small. Less than $15 and readily available in all fabric stores, WalMart, etc.

    For materials I primarily use JStockard on line. I'm 100 miles from a fly shop and they get stuff to me in a hurry. And their web page is easier to negotiate than most.

  7. PatrickH

    PatrickH Active Member

    I really like the HMH Vises, but way out of my price range. The one in my budget for right now is the Not the greatest, but I think it will be good enough to get me started.
    I might just have to save up and get a HMH later down the road if I am good at tying flies and the hobby takes over my soul. I want to take picture of them to, so the HMH will give me a good look, or I can set up a driftwood stand just for pictures.
    I haven't tied flies in so long, I don't remember how. But, there is allot of Youtube videos I can watch to get me started.
    What are the must have tools to get for simple flies? I know I need scissors and a bobbin. I watched a video on how to whip finish by hand, so I don't think I would need a tool for that.
    I have a pair of Fiskars spring loaded scissors and they are the best cutting scissors I have ever owned.
  8. PatrickH

    PatrickH Active Member

    I think I might just wait until I have more money to spend on fly tying. I really want the HMH Spartan Vise. I feel that if I have a better quality vise that I will be more motivated to make higher quality flies. The tools I needed will be costing me about $75 bucks, so I might as well just get a vise I will be 100% happy with. I don't just plan on tying flies to throw in the water, I plan on making show quality flies eventually. I'm a detailed perfectionist, so I think this hobby will be just what I need.
  9. ScottP

    ScottP Active Member

    What kind of "simple" flies?

    If you're using hackle, I'd get hackle pliers (the simple English style are cheap and work great) and a hackle gauge.

    A hair stacker if you're tying with deer, elk, moose, etc; If you only get one make it big (you can always put small amounts in, but the reverse doesn't work).

    A cheap comb to clean the underfur out of the ungulate hair.

    Bodkin - drilled/epoxied a darning needle into my scissors.

    Dubbing teaser - piece of Velcro glued to a popsicle stick

    I half hitch most of my flies; did buy a tool but an old ballpoint pen body works fine. Any whip finishing, I do by hand like you.

    Flat jawed pliers to mash down hook barbs.

    Ott light. I also have a cheap clamp light for additional illumination (originally used it when taking pictures of flies but found I liked the extra candlepower). I lay a 9x12 piece of grey craft foam against the base of the Ott as a background; very easy on the eyes.

  10. PatrickH

    PatrickH Active Member

    Thanks for the list. I will be sure to look into those tools when I get get ready to buy everything. Main thing that has made me put everything on hold is the price of the vise.. I pretty much need $300 to get me started, that includes vise and all the tools, hairs, feathers and threads, so it's going to have to wait for now. I will keep my eyes open for a lightly used vise, just encase a great deals pops up.
  11. chewydog

    chewydog Active Member

    No...Buy the Model A that ScottP suggested. Just buy the material for a few flies. I don't know what you want to tie, but a Pheasant tail, SJ worm, etc, take few materials. Even with a high end hook a ptn costs under .20 to tie. Most tools are inexpensive and last a long time. Don't skimp on a thread bobbin. Get cramic. When I first started tying, I bought a kit. I thought I really sucked. It wasn't me, it was the cheap ass bobbin that came with the kit that was cutting the thread. BTW, after 20 years I still have some of the useless material that came with that kit.
    And, the instruction now a days is awesome. Crap loads on youtube.
  12. PatrickH

    PatrickH Active Member

    Is there different versions of the Model A? I read some reviews saying that's it's total junk, but I hear it recommended allot. Is there a newer and older version or?
  13. FT

    FT Active Member

    Based upon 51 years of fly tying during which time I tied more than a million flies, a total 20 years of commercial tying (I did this three times in my life and have no desire to do so again at this time), and the teaching of about 250 others how to tie flies (which included the teaching of full dress, married-wing salmon flies), I offer the following:

    As has been mentioned by virtually everyone else, kits are a waste of money. However, you really don't need a rotary vise to start tying again. In fact, a rotary vise can have a negative impact on you re-learning/learning how to tie because you will be very tempted to use the rotary function instead of sticking with non-rotary tying until you get the tying techniques mastered that are needed to tie a fly well.

    You would be far better off getting a good quality non-rotary vise. The Thompson Model A is an excellent vise. It was the first draw collet vise and was the vise of choice for many, many years for professional and commercial tyers. I have owned a Thompson Model 360, which is the rotary version of the Model A, since 1987. Yes, I've had to replace the cam lever and one set of standard jaws before I bought my DynaKing Barracuda when if first hit the market back in 1995 or 1996. But keep in mind that I had tied roughly 850,000 dozen flies on it before I had to replace those parts.

    My favorite lower cost vise and the one I recommend most is the Griffin 2A. In fact, Griffin offers a tying tool kit that has the 2A vise, excellent scissors, bodkin, whip finish tool, hair stacker, and bobbin that retails for around $80.00. I cannot recommend it highly enough because it includes all the tools you need and should have, and all of them are good quality all at a very reasonable price. Any fly shop that carries Griffin tools can get it for you, or you can find it on-line.

    After you tie a thousand or so flies, a rotary vise would become useful to you. In the meantime, you really only need a good stationary vise that holds hooks with a vengeance with jaws that hold up well. The Griffin 2A that comes with the Griffin tool kit I mentioned in the last paragraph meets all of these criteria.

    As far as materials go, the best way to acquire materials is buy only the materials to tie 1 or 2 basic, easy to tie flies, and then add new materials as you get these 2 flies under your belt and are tying them well. I always start my students out with simple hackle flies like the Grey Hackle and Brown Hackle wets. They are easy to tie, don't frustrate the heck out of a new (or long dormant tyer), and are historically proven fish catchers. A few hen necks in grizzly and brown, some chenille or yarn in yellow, black, olive, brown, and grey, black thread, and hooks are all you need to tie them. By simply varying the size and colors of body and hackle, or tying them with dry fly hackle, you can have flies that will work for trout, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, steelhead, searun cutthroat, Pacific salmon, and panfish.

    Woolley Buggers are the second fly I teach because it is also very effective and rather easy to tie. And like the Grey and Brown Hackle, vary the colors of chenille body, marabou tail, and hackle or add a hot florescent chenille or hot bead head and you have made it into an Egg Sucking Leech.

    And when you buy hooks, buy good quality ones. Most Mustad hooks are OK, but they aren't as good as the chemically sharpened hooks out of Japan. Targus and Dai Riki are the best, slightly lower-cost hooks. Daiichi, Tiempco, and Partridge are the best quality with the largest variety of hook styles and sizes.
    PatrickH likes this.
  14. ScottP

    ScottP Active Member

    A true Thompson Model A, not a cheap knockoff, isn't junk; basic, no-frills maybe, but definitely not junk. With minimal care, the one I bought 30 years ago (my nephew uses it now) will be around long after I'm gone.

  15. chewydog

    chewydog Active Member

  16. PatrickH

    PatrickH Active Member

    Thank you for all the helpful information.
    The main reason why I wanted the rotary vise is so I can turn the jaws to get the top or bottom or other side of the fly facing me, instead of having to look over the top or underneath on little simple flies. I also just wanted to get 1 vise that I can use forever and be happy with , instead of having to buy a better one later or always wanting a better one down the road. I also want to take pictures of all my good flies, so the look of a nicer vise is something I wanted for that as well. One of my main hobbies is photography, so things like that or a little more important for me I guess. I want to create detailed perfect flies for a collection also.
    I may not be that great right now while I'm learning, but when I get to that point, I will have the things I need and not have to re-buy.
    I was just gonna pull the trigger on a un-used original Thompson model A for $30 bucks, but I just happen to find someone selling the Vise that I was going to want to buy in the future and I was able to get a good deal on the price. So, I just bought the HMH SX pedestal vise. Even though I probably shouldn't have, at least I know I will be happy with it and not want something more. :)

    I will start out with those flies you mention and write down the shopping list for what I need. I got my girlfriend interested in tying flies as well, so I think she will enjoy tying those flies to. The woolly bugger is always a fly I picked up while at the fly store. I always hear about that one as being a good fly.
    I will especially take note of the hook brands you mentioned. I still haven't learned hook sizes yet. Any size recommendations? Not sure how important hook size really is.. Cabela's sells Tiemco, so I'll just probably grab some of those.

    Out of curiosity, about how long does it take you to tie 1 basic fly with your experience?
  17. FT

    FT Active Member

    It takes me about 2 minutes to tie a simple hackle fly. Speed comes with experience, it isn't something to aspire to. I never worried about how long it took me to tie a fly, I just like to tie. A married wing classic salmon fly can take several hours to tie just one depending on the fly. I don't recommend you even attempt to tie a married wing salmon fly until you have tied a thousand or more flies.

    When starting out tying flies, the best advice I can offer is to take your time. If something doesn't look right, untie that step and redo it, this will pay dividends down the road because it will prevent you from developing bad habits and poor technique. It might well take you an hour to tie a simple hackle fly or Woolley Bugger, so what! The second one will be a very little bit quicker to tie.

    The second best advice I can offer is to never, ever, under any circumstances tie just 1 or 2 flies of the same pattern and size. Tie at least 6 of the same pattern and size before you tie a different fly. This means 6 of the same size and same color of the same fly. Doing this will pay huge dividends in learning good technique and your tying will improve rather quickly by doing so. And as an added bonus, you will have enough flies for fishing without worrying about running out when you lose a few (which of course none of us fly flingers ever do).

    You are going to be extremely happy with that HMH you picked up, they are one of the best. It will outlast you.

    For Woolley Buggers, I'd get 4xlong (usually called 4xl) in #4, 6, and 8. These sizes will cover trout, steelhead, and Pacific salmon. If you want to limit yourself to one size to get started, get the #6's because it is the most versatile size.

    For the simple hackle flies, I'd get wet fly hooks in #12, 14, and 16. If you want to limit yourself to one size at first, get the #14's, it is the most versatile size.
    PatrickH likes this.
  18. PatrickH

    PatrickH Active Member

    That's pretty quick. I figured I would ask since I would always wonder. :)

    I will be sure to take your advise on that, thank you. I will probably be getting those hooks you mention at the local fly store. Hopefully they are not too over priced or I will have to do my shopping online and wait.. 1 thing I don't have much patients for, but the saving do add up.

    I will probably attempt to make a salmon fly sooner then I should, but I won't attempt this until I think I am ready and can make perfect flies of other variations.
    So many interesting flies to choose from.. Hard to decide the color variation of the one to do, but I will get it figured out I hope without buying too much stuff for too many flies haha..
  19. cmann886

    cmann886 Active Member

    If you want to get started soon and save for the better vice, get a piece of all-thread, and buy an cheap pair of needle nose vice grips from harbor freight. Drill a hole through the handle and use the all thread with a couple of nuts and washers to hold it in place, and find some kind of base (scrap metal plate that can be drilled and tapped works great). You will find that it holds the hook very securely and you will be out less than about $15. I'd certainly skip the kit route. The nice thing about getting top notch equipment is you enjoy it every time you use it. When you go cheap you feel cheated each time it doesn't perform quite like you had hoped it would, which is a couple of times per fly.