HMG Fly Tying Systems
A year ago I wrote a piece on various innovative companies in the fly fishing/tying industry. One of which was HMG Fly Tying Systems. I chatted with Joe, the founder, who had the novel idea to incorporate hot melt glue in his tying application. His creativity “tying” flies using hot melt glue has birthed some incredible patterns. HMG sponsored the last two benefits for Project Healing Waters and he also sent me a kit to try. Here are my thoughts:
Specs (from HMG Fly Tying Systems):
HMG Fly Systems has developed many patterns using hot melt glue as a component. In some patterns it is the total material for a completed fly. We have also developed several patterns that are threadless — not a single wrap of thread in the entire fly.
Unlike epoxy and UV cure materials, hot melt glue exhibits many advantages and has superior qualities. The applications of hot melt glue are infinite and limited only by the fly tier's degree of creativity. The following list shows some of the many advantages of hot melt glue over epoxy and UV cured materials:
Likes: It’s important when introducing a new concept to educate the consumer; what does it do, how it's better and how do you use it. The HMG kit comes with an instructional DVD providing step by step instructions to 10 patterns. You can also find videos on their YouTube Channel. In addition to the DVD, the system comes with enough glue to tie a ton of patterns. The applications are limitless from bodies, wing cases, scud backs etc. The end product is very durable and when flies get chewed on a quick dab of hot melt glue gets them back in shape. Applying the glue does take some time to get tuned in, but the first fly I tied was good enough to catch a fish. Once you get the hang of it you can crank out patterns. You also can’t beat the price/fly when compared with using UV products, not to mention the materials it replaces.
Dislikes: I really think we are in the golden age of tying materials/techniques and the HMG Fly Tying System is another arrow in the quiver. The biggest challenge is learning the application process. It does take time to teach muscle memory and re-think how to incorporate it into your patterns. One benefit of using hot melt glue is you can re-sculpt it as you go. The system works well with a rotary vice, but some applications are more difficult without that feature. For me it doesn’t replace my traditional tying, but rather compliments it.
This product adds another dimension to traditional methods of tying flies. It’s an innovative product with limitless possibilities. To learn more or order a kit visit: http://hmgflysystems.com/.
Renzetti Presentation 2000 Cam Series Vise
Specs (From Renzetti):
Likes: The Danvise dwarfed the diminutive Renzetti but is twice as sturdy. I opted for the standard pedestal base which feels like a 25lb weight holding it in place. The patented jaw hinge adjusts to accommodate the size and shape of the hook keeping a level plane when rotating (see video above). The rotation itself is effortless and smooth. The cam jaws have an anti-corrosion coating and so for held up to 100’s of flies tied. Unlike the Danvise it truly holds the 28-4/0 range it claims and easily adjusts to size. Aesthetically I think it holds its own with against any on the market. In additions to the standard base it came with an adjustable bobbin cradle and a Renzetti tool caddy.
Dislikes: My biggest dislike with this vise is the “ratchet rotary actuator.” This is a fancy way to say the handle only rotates the vise in one direction. Think of it like a socket wrench, tightens(rotates) in one direction, repositions in the other. They provide directions to lock it in place, but some tooling is required. It may be a useful feature to some, but I don't use it. Second, the tension adjustment on the shaft works loose on occasion. This causes some inconstancy in resistance while rotating. Surprisingly both dislikes weren’t an issue with the much less expensive Danvise. Finally, while I admire the customizable features of the adjustable hinge jaw I rarely make changes to it. In fact, when I tie a bass bug or pattern where I put weight on the shaft while tying it pushes out of place. If I did it over I’d probably look to a fixed arm vise. The 2000 really let's you customize position and angles, but I'm more like Ron Popeil, set it and forget it. Perhaps if they were toolless I'd find more value.
Don’t let the negatives sway you from considering a Renzetti 2000 just take everything into consideration. This could be the last vise I own which I couldn’t say about the Danvise. My advice; get your hands on couple at a variety of prices and ask the shop to let you tie a couple flies. Sure you’ll notice some things a year from now you didn’t when you made the purchase, but it will eliminate the obvious faults. A final thought, a higher price doesn’t always mean a better product. Certainly be mindful of materials used in construction, but if you’re going to tie 100’s of flies over its life make sure the functionality works for you.
Virtual Nymph - Fly Tying Products
One of the cool aspects about creating a site/blog is every now and then someone sends samples to test out. This year I was fortunate to receive rods, clothing, bags, even cigars and in this case fly tying products from Virtual Nymph. Keeping my site free of advertisements empowers me to write honest reviews removed from corporate influence (I now advertise, but the integrity of the reviews are intact). That said, Virtual Nymph can send me samples any time they want because their products are phenomenal.
Coleoptera Body This is billed primarily as a “simple beetle body material” but the small size also works well in ant patterns. Typically I use closed cell foam, but this product floats better and is far more durable. It’s noticeably denser when you take it out of the pack, but is surprisingly easy to work with. At times I get lazy with cutting foam which leads to inconsistent strips. The Coleoptera Body comes in a variety of diameters allowing me to tie more consistent patterns.
Ephemera Yarn Though I needed to look up how to pronounce it (ih-fem-er-uh) I did know exactly how to tie with it. Unlike the typical yarn this more naturally looking material has color variations and is slightly frayed adding to its “buggy” look. It works well in both dries or nymphs and you can increase segment definition by adding twists. If you are familiar with my flies you know I love Czech style patterns and ephemera yarn looks great when weaved.
Nymph Skin When I opened the sample pack, I was most excited to tie with the Nymph Skin. I used scudback and other materials to create a wrapped, segmented look, but was never happy with the result. This product is thicker/more durable and stretches extremely thin so it won’t add bulk when tying it in. Increasing or decreasing tension allows you to accentuate the segments. The potential is truly limitless. It may be in my head, but I think the texture impacts its fish catching ability. It’s soft and may fool a fish into holding on a little too long. This particular product is revered and used in patterns from some of the best in the game.
Flexibody So the obvious comparison is to ThinSkin, but the Flexibody more than holds its own against the competition. The differences are in thickness and memory. When wrapped, the Flexibody creates better segmentation than the thinner ThinSkin. I like to pull my strips tight when tying to reduce bulk and others coil when stretched. Flexibody better holds its original shape and is a touch easier to tie with. One advantage of ThinSkin is the printed graphics, but Virtual Nymph has an answer in products like the realistic VN-Stonefly Wing Buds.
Since I started tying with the Virtual Nymph product line in my videos I've had several inquiries on where to purchase them in the US. Below are some online shops.
Where to buy in the US:
I feel like we are in the golden age of tying innovation driven by the advancement of materials available and the creativity of the tyers using them. Virtual Nymph products are used by some of the best; Bill Logan, Steve Thornton, Oliver Edwards. But the beauty of their product is that it makes achieving realistic nymph patterns so much easier. Their site provides usage tutorials and on the back of each package are instructions to get you started. If you are like me, just seeing and feeling the product will get your mind going on its limitless application.
DanVise: Rotary Vise
My introduction to fly tying came from LL Bean’s Ultimate Guide to fly fishing along with a Cabela’s fly tying kit. The book, among other things, provided pages of the most popular patterns and the kit included an assortment of material and a basic vise. I cut my teeth tying flies at a part time radio station job Saturday mornings and eventually wanted to upgrade my gear. I can’t walk into a fly shop without picking out something and while my supplies grew I neglected my vise. It’s like fly rods when you get comfortable casting a starter rod you don’t miss the features/feel of a better model…until you try it. So it was time I moved from a basic vise to the functionality of a Rotary Danvise. While it wasn’t exactly a high end model it introduced me to a 360 view of the craft. It served me well over the years, but I recently invested in a Renzetti 2000 (review to come) and thought it fitting to reflect/review my old friend the Danvise.
Specs (From Orvis):
Likes: What’s not to like about a rotary vise under $100? I paid $89 several years back from Orvis, but at the time of writing they were discounted to $69?!? That price puts it in starter vise conversation. I’m not sure what “True Rotary” means - it either rotates or it doesn’t, right? The trueness of rotation may imply keeping different hook sizes on plane when rotated. While a more expensive vise gives the ability to adjust every angle, the Danvise gets you “close enough.” It offers several customizable placements of both jaw and handle. One feature I learned to love is the two way rotation of the vise giving you easy access to wrap or view either side of the pattern. I did have some issues with the vise along the way which I’ll detail in the dislikes section, but I was very pleased with the level of customer support I received. I’m not sure who to give the credit to; Orvis or Danvise, but either way my issues were resolved.
Dislikes: The most important feature of a vise is to hold a hook in place. Unfortunately, this is the biggest flaw with the vise. It is a bit misleading on the specs to reference the ability to hold 2/0 to 28 hook. It’s like buying a car claiming 30 miles to the gallon, technically it could if you put it in neutral coming out of Haleakala National Park. A better range for the Danvise is 2-20 and that’s if the jaws are brand new. I went through 3 sets of jaws in the time I owned the vise. I’m not sure how they are constructed, but they would eventually dent making it even more difficult to secure smaller hooks. I may tie more than the average person, but still 3 sets of jaws? I will say they were replaced with no charge or issue, perhaps they’ve heard that story before? I read other reviews cautioning to follow the directions or pay the price, but it should be a red flag if you need guidance on how to put the hook in the vise. I understand cutting cost to make an affordable vise, but not where it matters most. The majority of the vise is made of plastic and that I get. The adjustment knobs wore out where metal came in contact with the plastic preventing it from holding a consistent horizontal position. Not a terminal failure, but often annoying. The construction makes it less stable than those made of stainless steel or even aluminum, so I’d recommend getting a good base to take the place of the flimsy clamp provided.
It is tough to speak badly about a vise that served me well over a number of years. Fly fishing and fly tying can be expensive, but on the upside there is quality in price. A good rod or vise can last a lifetime if ego and technology didn’t get in the way. That said if you are passionate about fly tying this isn’t a “lifetime” vise, it’s either a nice start or a stop along the way. Don’t get me wrong I certainly got my $89 worth, but if you are looking to “upgrade” to a Danvise I’d hold off. There are some really nice vises available in the $150-$200 range that will last a lifetime.
***Update: Thanks to Ryan from Risen Fly who sent this email with some helpful information on how to properly secure a hook without damaging the jaws.
"Hey it's Ryan from Risen Fly. Just read your post on the Danvise. I have one too and I think the problem you're having with the jaws denting is because you're not properly setting them with the cams. There's a 10/1 ratio with the cams and you can't just crank on it to keep your hook in place. With that much pressure it will surly bend your jaws. It's a fine touch to get it just right, but once you get it you won't bend any more jaws.
Here's a video to help, even though it's really old.
Hope that helps"
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