If you’ve been in the fly-tying vise space for any time, you’ve heard about rotary vises and non-rotary vises. Some people confuse rotary with premium and non-rotary with cheap. But that’s not the case. It’s more nuanced than that.
And I’m going to dispel the myth below.
A rotary fly tying vises allows the fly to spin a full 360 degrees while keeping the shank of the hook in line. This means the fly hook spins around without the shank moving up and down.
A rotary fly tying vise is a huge help if you wrap a lot of material on a fly such as a hackle and chenille when tying woolybuggers or other streamer patterns.
A rotary fly tying vise also assists when tying the bottom portion of the fly. This is immensely useful when tying closer minnows and many other minnow patterns.
On to non-rotary fly-tying vises. As you probably guessed, a non-rotary vise does not spin in-line. It’s a stationary vise. It may spin from side to side to see the side of a fly but it will not rotate 360 degrees.
A non-rotary vise is useful when you do not need or want full rotation of a fly at your fingertips. Sometimes it’s personal preference other times there is no need for spinning material on the fly via a rotary vise. Examples of this are tying small midge and nymph patterns.
So what’s best
Ultimately, it’s a personal preference. But a true rotary fly-tying vise gives you the flexibility to tie flies in line or spin 360 degrees freely. Either vise is ideal for traveling.
All of my vises are true rotary.
But if you only tie flies where wrapping assistance is not needed then a rotary vise may just be an additional unneeded feature.