Tonight's blog post is an interview of sorts from a few years ago when we had just taken over as owners of Norvise. My buddy Shawn and I were driving to a fishing spot and we were talking about fly tying, the investment to get started, and if a premium vise was worth the cost to a casual tier. We turned the discussion into an interview of sorts. I believe it was posted on his local club's newsletter while he was the president. I stumbled across it the other day and I would like to share it with you, here on the website.
Why the cost of a quality vise is justified, no matter how much or how little you tie.
An interview by Tim O’Neill with Shawn Rakes
TO: Why do you think it is better to begin tying flies using a premium vise rather than upgrading over time as you become more experienced as a tier?
SR: Because experience in fly tying, manufacturing, and metalworking has taught me that you will spend more money upgrading over time that way. Cheap tying equipment, vises, tools, etc., are just that. Most are made in China or Korea and will break down quickly either from just use or from time and/or exposure. They lack quality, premium materials, and warranties. So what happens is these manufactures are not in the [fly fishing] industry and are using the cheapest recycled steel or aluminum that they can find.
In some cases, just from being exposed to the atmosphere (oxidation) occurs with these devices, and they just fail. Eventually, they will rust, break, crack, or crumble in pieces, and it is unrepairable, rendering them useless. Likewise, Sub-premium springs, pins, threads, bolts, and pretty much any kind of connection or hardware will fail or rust out.
TO: What was your first vise?
My first vise was a Regal knock-ff. I got it from a big-box outdoors retail store. The jaws began to crack and fail within one year, and eventually, the spring-loaded jaw mechanism just gave out and fell to pieces in my hand. When I contacted the retailer, as it was their name on the vise, they said they could do nothing because it was “fair wear and tear.” Truthfully I was only tying a couple of flies a week. It was ridiculous.
TO: So what did you do after that? Is that when you went to Norvise or what?
SR: No, I am what you call a slow learner; so at this point, I was just starting to get my [tying] legs under me, really getting excited about tying up my flies to catch fish, just like what happens to a lot of people who fly fish in those beginning years. But, I think because I was a fisherman first and a tier second, I felt that I should spend my money more on fly fishing gear than a vise. I mean, you are trying to get a rod/reel [size] to fit all the different types of fish you are perusing on the fly, and you look at the 500-1000 bucks for a premium vise, and you’re thinking, man I am only tying a handful of patterns right now and so on. So I went for the $150 vise made in the USA; the quality was better, but low-and-behold, my tying abilities gained momentum, and I needed more hook size capability for all those different species I was chasing. Plus, I wanted something with a heavier base for some of the spun hair, articulated, and more complicated patterns I was starting to tie. Even just tying a clouser, I had to turn the fly over in the jaws and then goof around with getting it secure again; it was a pain. I kept that vise for a while, but eventually, the jaws failed on it as they were regular blued steel. So I replaced the jaws and ended up giving that vise to a kid in my fly fishing club to learn on.
TO: So you switched to Norvise after that?
SR; Yes. My son Ethan took a tying class and learned the vise [from you]. After he had it home for a while, I sat down and started tying on it. It is different at first; you have to get used to turbo-rotary ability. I kept losing the thread and having to restring the bobbin. Once I figured this out though is that this vise can do it all. It is truly a “SYSTEM.” I have tried tying on a regular vise since I switched over, and there is simply no comparison. The three Editors note; there are 4 jaw types now with the addition of our shank jaw. quick-change jaws are stainless steel and hold a hood like they are set in concrete. I also have a marble base, so it does not move at all. I tie a lot of big stuff, and it handles it with no problem. This thing is heirloom quality; I just love it.
TO: So I guess you would recommend it?
SR: Absolutely, I think for the price of one quality fly rod and reel set-up, you can have a system that is heirloom quality, ties consistently and quickly and will last forever. I am a slow tier, so the vise [Norvise] makes me respectable when attending fly-tying meetings, events, or gatherings. Also, I target a vast array of species from creek chubs to tarpon in a single season, so I don’t know how you can beat the flexibility of the jaws. My Norvise is like a Fox or Parker shotgun, a Hardy Brothers ‘perfect’ reel, or a Rolex watch. I guess what I can say is: It is entirely efficient. Norm left nothing to chance; there are no wasted movements. Its development is the marriage of engineering and intimate fly tying knowledge.
TO: You ready to go fishing?
Well, he makes a good argument and one we certainly agree with. It is funny, just prior to working on this post I was talking with a customer on the phone. She told me that she has one of Norm's original vises. She believes it to be close to 30 years old and it is as good as the day she bought it. Quality parts made in the USA with a lifetime warranty...what's not to like.
Thank you Shawn for helping me with this post and a big thank you to all of the Norvise customers out there. Til next time...
Tight Lines - Tim