The Vice (or, The Vise, if you live anywhere to the west of Ireland)

by Dr. Andrew N. Herd via A FlyFishing History

“Amazing though it may seem, the first mention of the vice was by Taylor in 1800. Prior to that it is simply not mentioned. This may seem strange, but there are good reasons why it should be so – very early tyers whipped their hooks directly onto the end of their line, which would have made it difficult for them to use a vice even if it had been invented in those days.”


“Adopting the vice meant learning an entirely different way of tying flies, and while patterns were relatively simple, there wasn’t much reason to go to all the trouble of learning new tricks. Besides, a hand tyer could sit down and make flies anywhere, provided there is a patch of sun and a glass of beer to hand, while the vice shackled him to the bench. The ability to tie a new pattern by the waterside is one of the great advantages that we have sacrificed in the name of progress.”

quite interesting  how the tying vise came to be as the direct result of the invention and common use of eyed hooks. amusing as well is how little the basic design of what has become the most basic fly tying tool has changed over time.
as for the Vice vs Vise part i’ve done some sterile research but i’ve passed on the question to some historically-linguistically-minded friends and will update later if they ever make up their minds. my guess is it’s yet another savage North American deviation of the English language… 😛

click the pic for lots more Vice-Vise history. enjoy !

11 thoughts on “The Vice (or, The Vise, if you live anywhere to the west of Ireland)

  1. Do you know why they place this vice on the corner of the bench you may have to do a little research to find out the answer.

    Cheers Mick

    • cause they liked straddling the table leg ? 😆

      hey Mick ! super-glad to see you here !
      ok, a more serious guess: since there where no bobbin holders at the time maybe the extra space on both siders of the tier left for more room to deal with the lengths of tying silk without it getting caught on the table where materials and at least a few tools are kept ?

    • Hi Marc You may like to post this 1898 H G McClelland How to tie flies for trout Cheers Mick This pic shows the first bobbin holder Cheers MIck

      On Thu, Oct 2, 2014 at 4:44 PM, the limp cobra wrote:

      > Mick Hall commented: “Do you know why they place this vice on the > corner of the bench you may have to do a little research to find out the > answer. Cheers Mick”

  2. The first picture of what could be described a bobbin holder was published in 1898 by McClennand. You are close; in those days they used hackle pliers to hold the loose threads and having the vice on the corner allowed them to hang free.
    Let’s see if they come back with this on our Timeline.

  3. Late entering the conversation – reading Andrew’s point about whipping hooks to gut…weeeel kinda… we’d have to do some material history and find out when (salmon) tyers started tying gut loops at the head of their flies, and when eyed trout hooks became available. For example the flies on this plate dated 1760, have gut eyes tied to the blind hook. Or at least that is what I see, Andrew sees that as an eyed hook. he also has some odd things to say about blind hooks, “Incredibly, blind hooks were still being manufactured in the 1930s.” ….which is just plain odd. Blind hooks are still made today and eyeless, spade end hooks, are still common in coarse fishing and I can find a few still being snelled in sea fishing.

  4. Hi Marc! I am a photographer who is getting entranced by this fly fishing stuff by a client of mine. He makes his own flies and I’ve enjoyed figuring out the best way to photograph them. Your site has been a great resource for me to figure out what pieces are and how to show them off. My challenge is getting the fly to stand on it’s own while still showing the barbless hook. I’ve seen a tool used in photos but can’t figure out the name or how to purchase it. It looks like possibly an attachment to a vice? Like this

    Can you identify it for me so I can figure out how to purchase it? I really appreciate it. Also, are you on Instagram?

    • hi Elena ! super-glad you’re finding helpful info and inspiration here, that’s what TLC’s all about.
      what you’re seeing there is an electronics plunger clip
      they’re obviously used in electronics but in the fly tying world they can be used for several things: to wind materials such as feathers etc, etc or used as a quick and easy fly stand to allow them to dry after having been varnished or, as in this case, as a display support.
      as you’ll see on the link, there isn’t much to attach them to a tying vice because they’re not made for this purpose but any sturdy hobby clamp or flexible arms as found in photo studios would do the trick.
      i’ve glued some (the flat base) to largish coins with superglue, works perfect for smal flies. they,re cheap so it won’t hurt the wallet to be creative or adapt to specific needs.
      best deal is to find them in electronics shops like Radio Shack or similar as they’ll be rediculously overpriced when bought in fly tying shops….
      hope this helps and take care !

      • Marc! Thank you! I would never have thought to search electronics tools. Found some on Amazon and they’ll be here before my weekend photo shoot. That and the macro lens should do the job just fine. I really appreciate your help!

        • glad to help ! let us know how it goes, ok ?
          btw, i forgot about your instagram question. no, i deleted my Ig and twitter accounts a year or so ago. i can only take so much of repeatedly seeing the exact same things over different social media… you can find me on Fb though 😂

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