The fly tidy is a simple idea that needed someone to turn into reality. That person being Lee James of flytidy.com. In essence it’s a plastic tray ( not sure what type, maybe polyurethane) with the ability to mount a fly tying vice by the shaft ( thus dispensing with either the clamp or heavy weight base). What this then allows is truly portable fly tying. I got mine after I had the home office refitted and while I never bothered about the mess when fly tying on the old work surfaces, I didn’t want the new work tops getting droplets of varnish , scratches from scissors and pliers or bits of fluff, thread and peacock herl scrapings all over the place. The worst is when these wee bits get bonded to the drips of varnish!
The plastic tray base is a fairly heavy ( around 1kg I think) and solid bit kit, and rather than being moulded with all the holes and recesses looks to have been machined out of a solid thick sheet. As it comes it has a hole to take a standard vice shaft, from memory there are two size options for the common shaft diameters, and then each comes in right or left hand preferences. The vice shaft hole has a thumb screw to clamp down on the vice shaft threaded through the tray.
There are numerous holes in the thick end of the tray behind the vice, that allow the user to place tools like scissors, dubbing needles and pliers out the way within easy reach. The machined out side of the tray is a flat area with a lip surrounding it, that has space for the materials you are tying with. Hopefully you are not like me and are disciplined enough to tie one pattern at a time so can keep to a small subset of materials with your flytidy. With your materials, fly tying need no longer be a solitary affair in the back room, or kitchen, if you so wish you can take the whole lot through and tie on your lap while sitting with the wife and kids watching Eastenders or Coronation Street. On second thoughts best stay in the back room! If you are a regular traveller and tie on the road ( say a competition angler) a workstation like this will be indispensable as you can set up and tie like at home and not worry about spilling varnish or fluff etc on hotel furniture
Even if you have a dedicated fly tying station/desk the tidy is great as it allows you to stay organised and protects your work surfaces against spillages of varnish, glue, resins and cuttings. Any drops of glue, resin or varnish once dry just chip off with pressure from a thumbnail and quick once over with a vacuum cleaner now and then gets all the bits of residual fluff off the tidy so its easy to keep clean.
Now that’s not to say it couldn’t be improved. My biggest gripe was the tendency of my vice ( an Apex Anvil) to be less than rock solid in the shaft hole. Try as I might I could never get it to hold solid enough and was worried that over tightening the wing nut might strip the plastic thread. I don’t know if this was a common criticism but its an issue that’s now been mostly addressed. Ever helpful Lee James, the designer and supplier of the Fly Tidy supplies on request ( for another £15) a steel spigot that can be fitted into the shaft hole and then it in turn tightens down on the shaft of the vice in a more secure fashion.
As the spigot is “sacrificial” it can be flatted down on one edge so the wing-nut has something to bear down on and thus prevent twisting. I still think this could be improved upon. If the spigot shaft had a pre-drilled recess to locate the wingnut it would totally prevent turning with little effort. Or rubberized inserts on the end of the threaded end of the screws would provide some friction to the current metal on metal interfering surfaces. For me personally, and I know not everyone has my limitations, but having Arthritis, the wing-nuts are very small to get a decent purchase on to be able to exert a decent amount of pressure to get tightened up as I would like. I do realise though for “normal folks” and especially those of our fraternity having lets say, less mechanical sympathy, a wider wing-nut might be an invitation to over tighten and strip the plastic thread of the tray.
However all said and done the spigot is a much more secure fitting and if you are going to invest in the Fly Tidy you might as well get this too.
On a more minor level, the second area that could do with improvement is the holes drilled in the thick end of the base come in two sizes. It would have been cool if one row of the larger homes was a few mm wider again, to accommodate the commonly used test meter clamps used as clips for holding tied flies after varnishing. It is easy to modify but better if it came like this. I decided to drill an extra 6 holes of suitable diameter for this very purpose and can now clip my tied flies to them at the back of the tidy out the way.
I also feel there is some scope for accessorising the tray. What about a magnetised stick on pad to hold hooks on the tray, or plastic dowels to hold thread bobbins? Finally something to allow fitting of a back sighting board to make seeing your flies easier. I am looking to see if I can find something suitable for the job. When they are on your knee the background can be a telly or the general furnishings of your room and its not as plain as a wall in an office, a sighting panel would help. A clip on led light might also be useful.
I guess you can customise or personalise your fly tidy as much as you like. I love it though and if you are a keen fly tier who doesnt want to mess up the Kitchen worktop or dining room table, or a regular traveller with your vice, I reckon it’s a must have accessory. You can buy the Fly Tidy direct from Lee at flytidy.com, though I notice the site is currently down. He can be reached on facebook or you can buy the flytidy at Sportfish or Funky Fly tying who also sell the spigot.