This topic comes up often on the bulletin board
more than any other I know of. It at first seems
simple to address. It isn't though and for many
I wrote this as a reply to a question someone posted
on the tying board here at FAOL. I was just going to
post it in the thread but as I went on, it expanded
more than I planned and rather than have it get lost
in the thousands of threads that languish in the
archives, I thought it might better serve readers
as a stand alone presentation of my views on the
topic. The first couple paragraphs addressed responders
in the original thread but rather than change them,
why not keep the "thread feel" of what I have to say.
Rotary and in-line rotary (the so called "true rotary")
are completely different beasts and the oft used true
rotary term simply doesn't divide the two in a meaningful
way. That's my pet peeve anyway. The in-line rotary,
turns on the hook shank axis and a rotary just rotates
the hook and usually not on the hook shank axis.
Someone mentioned that 80 to 90 percent of the in-line
rotary vise users don't use the rotary function for
any more than looking at the far side of the fly.
I'd put that number even higher. For them, I can't
see why in the world they spent the extra dollars
to buy the vise in the first place. A $50 Sunrise
would do the job. Pick the thing up and turn it over
and guess what, you can see the far side! Of course
that $50 vise just wouldn't look sexy sitting on their
bench and I guess some guys just like sexy.
Someone else also mentioned that an in-line rotary
vise is not necessary or needed. Well, let's work
that argument over a bit shall we. True, one can
tie flies without the rotary feature and many millions
of flies tied over the last couple hundred years will
testify to that fact. Let me remind you that the first
tying vise was a rotary. It was simplicity personified.
It rotated on any axis and was silky smooth. Then some
bright fellow decided to make a mechanical devise to
replace his hand to hold the hook. For many years, the
only thing available other than the hand was the fixed
head vise. It has served many thousands of Tyers well
over the decades until enterprising folks tinkered with
various vise designs with the end result, the vast array
of different vises we have today. Modern technology has
allowed vise makers to build wonderful tools for us. You
think just about every possible design has been tried
and then comes another new vise.
The vise is the single most important tool a Tyer has.
That tool should do everything the Tyer needs it to.
When choosing a vise, it is better to analyze the kind
of tying you intend to do or, might do and then find
the right tool for the job. Most of us just buy a vise
and adapt to what it will do well. No vise is perfect
or will do everything.
Back to the question of do you need an in line rotary
vise. I say you do BUT ONLY if you learn to use the
feature to do what it was designed to do. They were
not designed to simply look at the far side of the fly!
I maintain that a Tyer is not achieving his/her full
potential if they are not using the vise to its full
potential! Oh, you say, but, I tie hundreds, thousands
of flies and do just fine without an in line rotary vise.
Well, you may do that but you'll never know for sure
unless you try it. I say the chances are better than
not that your flies are not tied as well as you CAN
do them if you use a non-rotary vise. Harsh words? I
guess they are. For many years, I thought I was tying
pretty fair flies on my old Thompson (which I hated and
still do to this day!) and then on my Regal rotary. Boy,
that Regal held hooks like a Pit Bull and it sure was
nice to be able to see the far side of the fly once in
Then, I bought a Nor-Vise. I didn't get it for any other
reason than to do amazing dubbing with it. Was I in for
a very pleasant surprise? I happily zinged along dubbing
my flies like never before. If a person used this vise
for nothing more than dubbing, it would be a godsend.
Since this sermon is taking a little longer than I
usually do, let me get into the dubbing aspect of
tying. There are several methods for applying dubbing
as most Tyers know. You learn to "pinch dub" as the
basic method of applying dubbing to the fly and the
results can be good. Sometimes though, we want to
apply a lot of dubbing or to have it look very shaggy.
For this, we often use a dubbing loop. You simply make
a loop of thread, tease out some dubbing and place it
between the threads of the loop and twist it tight.
Then, this length of dubbing is wrapped around the
hook. You can twist the loop very tight to achieve
a segmented look or leave it looser for a shaggy
look. When you pinch dub or for that matter, using
a loop, you are compressing the dubbing into a yarn
like affair. This may be just the ticket for many
flies. With the Nor-Vise, you can dub the shaggiest
of bodies with the coarsest of materials and do it
without a dubbing loop. How this is done is simple.
You extend the thread to the bobbin holder, which
keeps the thread in inline with the hook shank, which
is centered in the turning axis of the vise head. You
hold the dubbing to the thread and hook and "capture
a few fibers of the dubbing between the spinning hook
shank and the thread. This makes the dubbing spin
around the thread without any compression at all.
Now, you can make a body that looks even better than
one done with a loop. You can make a shaggy body with
very little dubbing or one with a lot of dubbing in
a matter of seconds. No wasted motions. No wasted
thread or dubbing and, in less time than other methods.
Now, in fairness, there are times when you may want or
need to resort to the other methods. You still have
You say that you do just fine wrapping hackles and
ribs with your non- rotary or rotary vise and that
may be right. You take time to make sure the turns
are precisely separated the same distance between
ribs or turns of hackle and as you pass the bobbin,
hackle or rib over and around the fly. Five, six
or, more times, you pass one or more of these materials
over and around the fly as the clock ticks on. Finally,
you have applied the material and it took maybe 23 - 30
seconds give or take. Use the rotary function and that
time can be reduced to a couple seconds at the most.
It will also allow you to effortlessly space the turns
of whatever you are using precisely since all you do
is rotate the hook and guide the material on as it
turns. If you are tying long bodied streamers and
particularly the Rangeley style streamers, this
really saves a lot of time.
If you use floss on your flies you likely curse the
process as the floss frays when transferring from
hand to hand as you wrap it around the hook. With
the rotary function, all you do is rotate the hook
and guide the floss on without changing hands over
Another respondent in the thread said, "Having a
"True Rotary" does not mean you have to use its
rotary function all the time. How many have people
a 4 wheel drive Truck or SUV, and only use the 4x4
when they want to get up over a curb?" Yeah, lots
of folks buy 4x4 SUVs and never put them in four
wheel drive. There are others who take theirs off
road all the time and have a blast doing it! I'm
in that camp personally.
Another plus I discovered when using my in line
rotary vise was the ability to wrap those tiny
hackles that are found at the very top of the
necks. The ones that break real easy when wrapping
them on a tiny fly. Well, the reason I would break
a hackle now and then was when passing the hackle
pliers over the hook and changing hands, it is near
impossible to maintain constant tension on it. Now,
I never take the hackle pliers out of my right hand
and just rotate the hook to apply the hackle. Another
headache left in the past.
The bottom line is that we achieve our full potential
only when we maximize the use of not only our hands
but the tools too. I encourage anyone reading this
that has paid good money for an in line rotary vise
to make it a priority to really learn to use the
feature and see if your flies don't improve. There
is a learning curve with all of this as there is
with learning anything new but once through that
process, you'll wonder what was holding you back.
For those of you who have been contemplating buying
an in-line rotary vise, please do so only after you
commit yourself to learn to use it or just get a
less expensive fixed head or rotary vise.
We all like looking at well tied flies and get a
little bummed out when ours don't always look neat
and trim. Part of the problem just might be solved
by using the in line rotary feature to it's fullest.
Happy Trails! ~ Ronn