I like brand new stuff as much as anyone else, but some things I tend to hold on to for years. Besides my now 12-year-old truck, my old fly tying vise was another item getting up there in years. Well, as far as belongings go, it was actually downright ancient! I can't recall exactly when I bought it (buying a vise isn't exactly one of life's milestones), but a fair estimate would be back around 1994. Despite a semi-busted and cheesy c-clamp base, it did the job well enough for the simple flies I typically tie and it honestly carried a touch of nostalgia with it.
Material: Steel/aluminum clamp
Bobbin Holder: Yes
Base: C-clamp (about 1.5 inches of usable depth)
Hook Sizes: 28–4/0
That old vise did okay, but its performance wasn't spectacular and it definitely lacked some nicer features. One such aspect I was interested in but not quite sure if I really needed was a true rotary feature. Not just that, but I was getting tired of the table clamp and vise jaws not always holding super securely, so I decided it was time to FINALLY upgrade.
I have no problems dropping some bigger cash on certain fishing items, but a fly tying vise just isn't one of those things.
I don't tie super often and didn't need my vise to be anything high-end, so I set myself a strict budget of $100. After shopping a few different vise manufacturers, I stumbled upon the Griffin Odyssey Spider Vise. It came equipped with true rotary capability, got great customer reviews, and the price was just shy of my limit—so I ordered one!
Some assembly is required, but don't worry—there's not many parts and getting everything into working order takes just minutes.
Once put together, the vise looks cool, feels solid, and is a relatively slim, compact package. It's equipped with a height-adjustable c-clamp base, simple wire bobbin holder, twin screw jaw adjustments, and adjustments for the rotary firmness, handle positioning, and jaws height.
Griffin rates the Odyssey Spider as capable of handling hook sizes ranging from 28–4/0 which should cover what the vast majority of folks out there will be tying. So far, I've tested it with hooks ranging from 4/0 on down to 10 and find these hooks are held in much more firmly than my cheap old vise. The jaws are straight and are smooth inside, but there's plenty of holding power when it's all dialed-in.
To hold a hook, loosen the rear (large) knob so that the jaws at this exact point are apart about the width of the hook. Next, adjust the front knob so that the tips of the jaws are also about the same width as the hook. With the jaws now pretty much parallel, insert the hook and tighten using just the large rear knob. When finished, just back off the same rear knob and remove the fly. Subsequent hooks of the same or similar size can simply be inserted and tightened down with the large rear knob, but when a drastic hook size change is made you'll need to go through the full adjustment process again. Once you understand how it works, these adjustments happen fast.
The c-clamp base takes a decently-sized bite and holds the edge of a table very sturdily, while the rotary feature is one of those things I wonder how I lived without for so long. I find it especially useful when applying cement or epoxy evenly around a fly's head, wrapping material like dubbing or hackle, as well as for checking the back of a fly to make sure material is evenly distributed. By adjusting the height of the jaws with the included allen wrench, the hook shank can be lined up perfectly inline with the horizontal rotating axis of the vise for true-rotary capability.
There's a jam nut on each side of the rotary handle. The one closest to the main stem adjusts the rotation resistance, while the nut on the end sets the rotary handle in place. Personally, I set the resistance somewhat firmly, however the rotary action is still plenty smooth and easy.
Lastly, the bobbin cradle is another handy item that keeps the bobbin out of the way without twisting or swinging around. While it may look like the bobbin cradle is intrusive, it effortlessly swings over to the side completely out of the way and can also be slid up and down with ease. If using the true-rotary feature to wrap materials on the hook rather than doing it by hand, the bobbin holder is a must have.
Don't fret about remembering all this stuff—Griffin includes a handy little instruction guide with each vise!
I'm really happy with my decision to buy a Griffin Odyssey Spider Vise. While this is marketed as an entry-level product, I view it as a great choice for those with beginner or advanced fly tying skills. Since this vise accepts hooks up to 4/0, about the only folks I could see not being overly thrilled are the musky and saltwater types who tie HUMONGOUS patterns. For the rest of us, this vise gets the job done very well.
The Griffin Odyssey Spider Fly Tying Vise is made-in-the-USA and comes with the aforementioned instructions, allen wrench, and an extra rubber o-ring. Not a bad true-rotary vise package for under a hundred bucks!
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