How To Use A Rotary Fly Tying Vise

There are certain techniques to use with a true rotary vise, but to learn those, let’s first look at the general rotation of this device.

When you use a rotary vise, you should know that material and thread are either wound off or on the hook when the vise turns. This results in having to add turns of thread before you remove or rotate them afterward.

If you don’t do this, previously tied material can become loose, or you’ll end up with useless, extra turns of thread. It is suggested you always remove or add the same number of turns as the number of rotations you want to turn the vise.

If you are right-handed or use your right hand when tying, you will wind your thread clockwise. If you are left-handed, then you will be going counterclockwise. These are guidelines for right-handed tyers as they are more common:

  • If you choose to turn the fly away from yourself, or clockwise, you have to add turns before rotating. Not adding turns will result in losing the last few turns of thread, which could result in losing the material you’ve tied in. 
  • If you chose to turn the fly towards yourself, counterclockwise, you should remove the same number of turns of thread once you have stopped turning.

Something to keep in mind is these rules are used for multiple full turns of the fly in the same direction. If you want to inspect the fly, you should turn it over and then back again in the opposite direction. This move will remove a few extra turns. Another option is using the bobbin cradle to eliminate this problem.

Advantages of Rotary vise

If you have ever used a rotary vise, you will know it has advantages over the non-rotating vise or the ones that are not a ‘true’ rotary vise.

These are the advantages of the rotary vise:

  • The fly will turn easily so you can get inside and facing up, not only to the underside of the hook, it is easier to place and secure just about any type of material
  • When it comes to inspecting your fly, you are able to rotate it any which way you want
  • The jaws will tighten or untighten on the hook to make it easier to work with otherwise it is very hard to hold properly

Those are some of the advantages over the non-rotary vise. The rotary vise can also help you with the same tasks as the non-rotary version including, putting the hook in position and keeping it there, and tip to give optional views of the fly.

The rotary vise will not rotate by the application of force to the tying thread or materials. If torque is applied to close to where it rotates, it will serve no purpose or have no effect on the vise.

This is true unless you have it running on a bearing between the wheel and the fixed axle (ball bearing), and it is a thick fly. You should lock the device to avoid this issue.

The bobbin cradle and the Rotary vise

By using a bobbin cradle on our vise, you can avoid the issues of having to add and remove turns of the thread when you rotate the vise. bobbin cradles will hold the thread in a horizontal position away from your fly in front of the hook eye.

This will make it parallel to the hook shank. It will also keep the thread from wrapping, and keep it out of the way when you are ready to apply a material to the shank with the rotation technique. If the thread does become twisted a bit, it can be easily be undone by untwisting the thread.

Rotary vise and Applying Dubbing

Rotation is used for applying dubbing to your fly. This movement can come in handly and is often a good solution for an even body to your fly.

When you wind the dubbing ropes at the point where the dubbing material is tightly wound on the thread, you want to gain an evenly segmented body. Another option is when you have a body made from compound dubbing of several materials such as dubbing and ostrich herl or dubbing and tinsel.

These combinations give you nice results but will look good only If the material on the hook shank is twisted evenly.

As you apply dubbing, the thread is the ‘carrier’ and will have to be out of your way. Wrap the dubbing and start wrapping the dubbing on the shank of the hook. This process is completed by turn your vise counter-clockwise. When you have a look you want, you tie as normally would.

If using the dubbing loop and dubbing twister, you need to make a loop and bring the thread forward. Add the dubbing, use a twist, and rotate the rope on the hook shank by doing a counterclockwise rotation.

When done with rotation, tie off and cut off the extra. You will not need to use a pair of hackle pliers or remove the dubbing twister.

Adding Body material with Rotary vise

Tie in your material as you normally would and wind the thread to where you will tie the material down. It can be helpful to use a bobbin cradle. The cradle will keep your thread in place as you rotate. You will have to wrap materials in the direction of the eye on the hook and keep the thread forward of the material near the eye.

When you have the material safely attached, and your thread is out of the way, grab hold of the material with your hand close to the fly and begin rotating the vise with your left hand.

Let the other hand follow along with the shank of the hook in the direction you have the material applied, and keep the material stretched tightly in-between fingers.

When you have enough material on the shank, you can shift it over to your left hand, hold tight, release the bobbin holder, and unwind the thread to the tie-off point. You are then ready to tie the material down and cut it according to your pattern.

Rotary vises have come a long way over the decades, and are now almost considered a ‘must-have’ with inventive tiers. It can shorten your time when it comes to tying tasks such as ribbing a fly or applying UV resin without the dreaded sag.