Micro Tube Intruder for Chinook

Jay Nicholas Chinook Tube Intruder

Bare bones this morning, just a photo and note that this fly is a well proven Chinook salmon attractor when fished in estuarine waters.

Courtney just finished editing a video that features tying this Intruder and I’ll deliver it to Chris today, to be posted shortly, along with the usual materials list. May you find salmon and steelhead receptive to this and whatever flies you may be fishing soon.

Thank you all for your good wishes and positive spirits.

Jay (May 23, 2016)

Micro Intruder: “Trail Run”

Jay Nicholas Micro Intruder Trail Run

I’ll list the materials recipe for this fly, but the 20 minutes that I thought I was recording Video of this fly were a loss – no memory card in the camera! Boo-hoo. Oh well, here is a fresh image of a very pleasing tube intruder that will swing up summer and winter steelhead, guaranteed. Just add water and grabby fish and you’re in the game.

Tube: Pro Sportfisher Sink-4 Nanotube

Hook: OPST Swing Hook #3 usually

Thread: Vevus 12/0

Butt: Senyo’s Fusion Dub Muppet

1st Butt collar: Brilliant blue (Schlappen or Fish Hunter Marabou)

2nd Butt Collar: MFC Barred Blue Ostrich

Body: Lagartun Carded Flat Braid

Shoulder Bump: Senyo’s Fusion Dub Crusty Nail

Shoulder 1st collar: Dyed Pheasant Tippet Red or your choice

Shoulder 2nd collar: Fish Hunter Black blood quill Marabou

Shoulder 3rd collar : Dyed Red Guinea

Shoulder 4th collar: Purple Hen or schlappen

Cone: ProSportfisher Ultra Sonic Disc Metallic blue

I extend a special thank-you to the many people who came up to me at the Spey Clave on Saturday.

Question: “Are you Jay?”

Answer: “Yes.”

Questioner: “I thought I recognized your voice. I’ve been watching your videos and following your blog for years.”

Me: “Gosh, thank you very much for coming up and saying hello. It means a lot to me, honestly, to meet people and hear first hand that people have had fun and learned at least a little from those videos. Let me know if I can ever help you on your fly tying/flyfishing journey……”

I’ve recorded several more fly tying videos that Chris Daughters will be posting on the Oregon fly fishing Blog shortly. Thank you all for your good wishes—they mean the world to me.

Jay Nicholas, May 17th, 2016



Vintage 1970s Oregon Flies

Jay Nicholas Vintge 1970s Oregon Trout Flies.JPG

I met a young man, Adam, a few weeks ago in Eugene. He had purchased one of my books, Super Flies ~ Color, nearly a year ago, and he asked if we could find a way to have me personalize it for him. Of course. He mentioned that he was starting to tie flies and that he had a box of “old flies” that his fiancé inherited from her grandfather.

We talked a while, I suggested that he bring his book and the flies down to the Fly Shop, and promised that I would personalize his book and would appreciate being able to look at his collection of 1970s flies.

Well here we are. A very nostalgic collection of rusty hook, some bug-eaten, fishing flies. These are all patterns that I tied back in the 1960s and 1970s, mostly for Doughton Hardware in Salem, Oregon, for Wayne Doughton.

Thank you, Adam, for sharing these flies with me.

Jay Nicholas Vintge 1970s Oregon Steelhead Flies.JPG

May you all enjoy this view into the past, and remember that these flies would all fish well today, if given half a chance and a good soaking in the rivers and lakes we fish nowadays.

Jay Nicholas, May 7th, 2016

Great Day to catch up with Chris Daughters

Jay Nicholas McKenzie Trout Flies

Jay Nicholas with Chris Daughters 04:16

Far too much time has passed since I’ve had an easy going afternoon with Chris. Just back to Eugene with his family from New Zealand, Chris invited me for a float to check out his home waters on the McKenzie yesterday. We floated. He rowed, shared a half sandwich, and I fished wet flies from about 1 – 5.

Jay Nicholas McKenzie Trout Flies

Chris made about five casts with a dry fly, hooking about five trout. I managed to catch a few fish too, mostly cutthroat, with a few rainbow and many hatchery steelhead smolts in the mix—entirely on wet flies.

Jay Nicholas McKenzie wild rainbow trout 04:16

I drove home at day’s end and promptly fell asleep watching YouTube instructional videos on Macro Photography.

Jay Nicholas Olive Dub Bugger

Up this morning at 3 AM, I tied a few flies that might tempt a fish or so on the coast soon.

I wish everyone good health and eager fish to tug on your lines.

Jay Nicholas, April 21st, 2016

The Estuary in April

Jay Nicholas Oregon Sea Run Cutthroat

Jay Nicholas Oregon Sea Run Cutthroat

This is a place and time largely overlooked by most Oregon estuary fly anglers. Being a curious angler at heart, I often wander about with fly rod in hand, looking for spring Chinook, early summer steelhead, late winter steelhead, and whatever might be legal to fish for like starry flounder and surf perch.

I’ve learned that there can be a lot going on in these late winter/early spring months—or very little. Seals are chasing fish of some sort. Cormorants are working fish of some sort. I have found juvenile chinook (hatchery fish about 6″ long) wild and hatchery steelhead smolts, feeder coho (14″ – 18″), cutthroat (9″-18″), adult summer steelhead, spring Chinook, Winter steelhead kelts, late run winter steelhead, and shiner perch. And bullheads. I have hunches about starry flounder but have not caught one over about 6″ yet. I have had sturgeon roll within a dozen feet of my boat—fish so big that I nearly fell over backwards in my surprise.Spring chinook roll in two feet of water, and will sometimes grab a fly if I plopped it in front of their face within seconds of their show.

Of course most days find me without a tug at the end of my line, but an occasional yank yields great surprises. I’ve learned, for example, that immature chinook, steelhead, and coho venture into our estuaries and the lower reaches of coastal rivers during late winter and early spring. The hours and days I have fished the estuary in the off season, with virtually no one around me, has been a wonderful time to reflect on past seasons and dream about the season about to unfold. It is a time to discover new sandbars, learn how the incoming and outgoing tides swirl and eddy around shallows, find new buckets, and anticipate the days when schools of chinook (not just the rare few) might suddenly appear within my casting range.

Jay Nicholas Chinook Gotcha

May your days on the water be abundant and full of discovery.

Jay Nicholas, April 15, 2016

Nearly Time for Spring Chinook

Spring Chinook Gotcha 

Might as well tie a new fly for the 2016 season, something perhaps unexpected but likely to produce if fished at the right time and place. Hummmmmm. I know what to do. Kings eat plenty of Krill in the ocean, not only baitfish. This basic pattern is one that I found laying on Chris Daughter’s desk at the Caddis Fly. I asked him about it. He couldn’t remember—thought I had tied it. Nope. I fished it last spring for sea runs and had one of my most productive days ever in the estuary. Of course it helps to find the fish too. I tied up a dozen (10 yesterday and 2 this morning). I’m going to see if the Spring Kings will eat these beauties. My thanks to whoever crafted the sample that I’ve modified here.

Wish me luck, and may you have a wonderful season too.

Oh yes. These are tied on a #6 SW Gammie, light wire, with glass beads for the body and Ice Dub for tails and shoulder. Wing is orange ProSportfisher American Possum with a hint of black bucktail over the top. Bead Chain is large with the rough edges filed down. Thread is white. I have used clear or orange glass beads and a variety of clear and shrimp pink Ice Dub for the tail. I think these will do the trick for something in the estuary, at least the Staghorn sculpin should like ’em!

Jay Nicholas, April 7th

About time for a Nicholas Rant

March Brown dun on Scott Switch Rod

Yep, a first grade, full-on rant.

There are at least a dozen higher priority tasks I should be working on at this moment, and the same goes for writing projects too, but I’m currently seated here at the computer with so much swirling around in my brain that has being going around and around for months if not longer that I’ve decided to let go and see what comes out.

For one, I’m a little befuddled with the fact that I’m alive to write this as I’ve likely outlived my shelf life and bearing an expired “best if used by”  date. I chose the word befuddled rather than disappointed (I’m actually very happy to still be alive), or surprised (that Implies a greater measure of certainty than I had about when I’d expire), or ……. some other word.

This brings me to the realization that I seem less able to write in the last several years than I was twenty years ago or even ten years ago. This may or may not be true but it seems so to me. When I was in my late 20s, 30s and 40s I seemed able to write far more easily, and more richly than I can muster these days. Not just using fancier words with more syllables, but really creating richer images in words. I look at what I write in the last several years and think I’ve declined. This seems most obvious when I look at a book like Revelation (the fly fishing glossary) that contains passages created over a period of years. I read some of the older material and wonder who wrote it. I know it was me but wonder what happened to the fellow—why It seems so difficult or impossible to create similar narrative in recent years.

I look at myself in the mirror and all I can see is an old buck steelhead or salmon—a fish well past his prime.

In my 40s and 50s I felt entirely capable of taking on any task from the physical to the intellectual. I’m the guy who rode a bicycle from Seattle to portland in a day, the guy who rode from corvallis to the top of Mary’s Peak, down to Alsea, back to the top of M Peak, and home to my humble rental on 15th street. Im the guy who would ride fifty miles, run the stair in Gill Stadium at OSU with the Crew Club for 45 minutes, and then do an hour on the Concept Ergometer. I was in my mid 40s and fearless, pushing my body into condition that surpassed any thing I ever achieved in my teens and twenties. I laughed at physical and mental challenges because I just knew that I had the determination to build my strength or stick to the project until it was complete.

Now-a-days, I’m well aware of my limitations. Two heart attacks, two heart surgeries, five stents, two knee surgeries, two hernia surgery, one malignant melanoma removed, one Morten’s Neuroma removed, on and off SSRIs, on and off anti-epileptic mood stabilizers to moderate my bi-polar, therapy to deal with OCD, hell of a time sleeping, a two year rash that migrated all over my body, IBS that made wader wearing a challenge for two years, feeling drummed down most of the time, bouts of depression and anxiety, a right foot that hurts with every step, a knee that is weak and swollen to the point where it is interesting to get wading boots on and off, and a constant dull ache in my right hip . . . . . not complaining, just assessing my daily checklist of physical/mental status.

I still get up every day with something to drive me. A new book to write. A book to revise. An article to write for a fly fishing magazine. Work obligations that help pay for health insurance for my family. Flies to tie. Fish to catch. Tackle that requires maintenance. Cats and family to love. A blog post for the Caddis Fly. Rarely, i’ll write a post for this blog.

I met a young man recently, all smiles and enthusiasm. He was kind. He said he had read my books, and wanted to hang out and talk fly fishing for steelhead and salmon. He offered to row me down the river anytime. This young man seems everything creative and energetic that I was at his age—with more wisdom, more energy, more good karma, and generally a young me but way better. I don’t know if that made sense but what I mean is that I see a young person like Matthew smile when I imagine the possibilities he has ahead in his life.

I was tempted to let it fly when I began writing, at 3:00 AM on April 5th, 2016, but I also remembered my dear friend Boob Hooton telling me that unpunctuated and uncapitalized rants are really difficult for the normal non bi-polar and non-OCD reader to digest. Since in my heart I know Bob is correct, I tried to  create a narrative with basic structure that will allow the reader to take a mental breath once in a while by applying at least the most rudimentary elements of writing style and convention to this dump I’ve unleashed.

The winter of 2014-2015 was a remarkably good season for me fly fishing for winter steelhead. The recent 2015-2016 season was quite the opposite of the spectrum. I wade fished the upper Nestucca in January, February, and March. I fished at least 18 days when I never toyed with beads, egg patterns, jigs, or pink worms. In these 18 or so days fishing the swing, I hooked 8 steelhead, bringing 4 to hand, but was only able to get a photo of two fish. The best fish to hand was a 12 pound chrome hen that came loose before I could shoot a digital image. I guess that’s what I should say rather than take a photo.

I needed a photo of a live steelhead caught on one of my Micro Intruders. Needed it for an article in Pat Hoaglund’s Steelheaders Journal. This was the prime fish on the right fly. my knot severed in the middle of the clinch know and the silvery sided, blue-backed hen drifted back into the pool.

I was crushed by the loss the loss of the image, not the loss of the fish. which would have been released anyway.

I got to thinking about why we seem to need proof of our catches. A few of my friends just fish and never carry a camera. As a writer and photo journalist, the digital image seems like a requirement, a climax, the deal sealer. It seems essential to the point where –  without the image – it is as if the fish never existed.

Jay Nicholas Salmon fishing 2015

My mind wandered. What if i had been somewhere in the world and fallen in love. Fallen in love with someone who loved me as unreservedly and fully as I loved. What if we loved for two months, three months, a year. Really loved each other. What then if the love ended. The reason wouldn’t matter. A death, just falling out of love and moving on emotionally. Whatever. What if there was no one who had witnessed our love relationship. No photos of my lover. No mementos. Just memories. Memories of a deep and rich love.

Without evidence, would the memories be enough? Would memories be sufficient for who? For whom? For me? For my friends. Why would I care if my friends did or did not know about me loving and being loved? Why would I care to talk about it with anyone?

So I’ve been considering love and steelhead, each with and without tangible evidence, of their respective existence and whether they are they any less important in our lives under each scenario

Sadly, the absence of a steelhead photo to place with an article seems like quite an obstacle.

Where  love is concerned, the experience of loving and being loved fundamentally changes a person, I think, so thus the love intrinsically changes those who love and are loved.

Perhaps it is so with the un-photographed steelhead, with both angler and steelhead ultimately transformed regardless of whether or not a photographic image was recorded for anyone else to view.

So much for that. I took a nap from 4 AM to 6 AM and have been jumping from my Turbo Tax, to refinancing the loan on the cabin, to working on the Caddis Fly Catalog, a few Facebook messages, tying two reverse spider sea run cutthroat flies, eating two scones with three cups of coffee, a ten minute nap at 10:30, a walk around the block with Lisa, agonizing over returning a new camera that is not functioning properly, retrieving records of my military service, pondering how to mount my father’s Army Medals, and more.

So it’s a fact that there is almost no evidence of my father’s existance in this world but for records buried in the government files somewhere.

Col. Jack V. Nicholas

I went to Michael’s last week and bought a shadow box to frame his medals and two photos. Not much but something. Technical difficulties brought the project to a screeching halt but here is the basic layout.

Col. Jack Voorhies Nicholas (1909 – 1975) born in portland Oregon, died in portland Oregon. The photo in lower right is my dad as a child. He lived with his mother on Vista Avenue in Portland, his father was killed when a log fell off a truck on the southern Oregon Coast. I think my dad was 8 at the time but have no real idea what makes me think this.

The photo in center is his enlistment photo taken in 1941 when he joined the US Army to go to war. He enlisted from Butte Montana where he was working for his mentor Mr. Ed Craney at a radio station. His rank was ( I believe) a second Lt. and analogous to an Ensign in the Navy. Dad served in Australia and New Guinea during WW II. He was part of the Atomic Bomb testing in the US and south Pacific. We talked little and I have only the smallest scraps of information about his life.

The A-Bomb tests affected him deeply. He served in combat in Korea. One day he got in a dispute with a friend out in the bush about which fork of a road to take. The other fellow said left and dad said right. The man insisted so dad got out and walked. They never found the other soldier’s body. One soldier in a jeep with dad driving had to piss so he stepped out off the side of the dirt road. A shot rang out and the man crumpled to the ground, shot in the helmet. Dad retrieved his body and drove off fast. Turns out the bullet had pierced the helmet and traveled around the man’s skull, falling into the back of his jacket and shirt—to be retrieved when he regained consciousness later. Dad noted an old woman crying hysterically over her shattered treadle sewing machine in the streets of a village they were fighting in. She just sat by the rubble of the machine wailing and rocking back and forth. In the same village, same battle, dad stepped around a corner to come face to face with an enemy pointing a rifle at him. Six feet apart, they looked at each other for a moment, and dad shot him. Several men in Dad’s command lost their lives, toes, fingers, feet, and hands to frost bite when they got wet and the temperatures plunged overnight. Korea was a terrible war. Vietnam was a terrible war. Now we are sending men and women of all ages to be forever changed in new wars. The survivors of WW II and Korea are fewer and fewer these days. The ranks of survivors (and the casualties) of our new wars are mounting.

Dad sent me off to Oregon State University with a car and financial support. I worked as house manager and enlisted in ROTC and worked for the USFS during my summers to make ends meet.

I wish I had been able to talk to him when he was alive. I wish I had been able to talk to my mother when she was alive. I mean REALLY talk. About important stuff. The dynamics of living in a home with an alcoholic are tricky, and so the conversations never happened. I’m ready now, but it’s too late. So I deal with fragments of knowledge and am thankful that my life has taken a better turn.

I wanted to write a letter to survivors recently. Never got it done. A letter of thanks to all the boys, girls, men, women who have survived abuse of every imaginable nature. Physical, mental, sexual, emotional—hell, it’s all torture of various form.

Thank you, whoever you are. Thank each and every one of you. Thank you for not giving up. For not giving in to the abuser. Thank you for doing whatever it was you had to do to survive. Because you did, my world is a better place today. Because you survived. Because there is one more good soul in this world to speak out against the evil people in the world. Because you survived, I have shared your smile, your touch, your love and your understanding. I say this as if I know you, even though I know only a few survivors, I know many who are far away and who I’ll never actually meet. I take comfort knowing that you did survive terrible things. I don’t know if anyone has hugged you today or said something kind or reached out and told you how proud they are of you. This matter deserves pages and pages and pages. The matter of saying thank you to survivors of war and atrocity and the meanest of human behaviors deserves more than I’m capable of offering this moment.

In a few minutes I’ll be off blathering about fishing or tying flies or other mundane activities. But now and again I’ll pause to say thank you – if silently – for surviving.

I’m blessed with a family and two great fluffy cats. I’ve been able to love and be loved in many wonderful ways. My family is working on a project to collect a disaster kit, in case the 9.9 quake and subsequent tsunami hits during our lifetime. This very real possibility poses a dilemma—why invest in a new roof because the cabin could be gone before the old roof leaks anyway. Why bother writing those three new books because hell the computer could be washed away before I get it published.  Why bother with a new fish finder or new motor or camera or anything. Hell with that. Il’ll collect my disaster kits and get on with life, because every moment is precious. Got to live like life matters — because it does.

Courtney my teenager (formerly Jackson) just came in to show off a fabulous new pair of shoes she (formerly he) ordered to wear to the Prom. Wow! High heels. Bright white with a black toe. Matt called and told me he got a good tug swinging a fly in Lower Chicken Wire yesterday evening. I got off the phone with Thomas at Fish Hunter placing an order for the Fly Shop. I Ben our Lagartun Rep and am excited by the prospect of adding their wide flat braid to the Fly Shop inventory and catalog. I’ve been eating too much lately in spite of the fact that I have no appetite and nothing tastes good except pizza and scones. And in case you are wondering, the last several sentences have perfect harmony and logical connection.

Rob is working on the final edits to our most amazing book  Modern Steelhead Flies. Jason is sitting in a hog line catching spring chinook on the Columbia (probably) Jeff and Kathryn are within a week or two of a new baby arriving just prior to their departure to Kimsquit Bay Lodge where they will host clients all summer. Steve and Mike aren’t talking to me. My son David went back to work after bonding with his second child, my second grandchild, a beautiful baby girl. Trey is recuperating while working on his own steelhead fly book. I’m still pondering how I’ll find a donor to finance the considerable publication costs of my Salmon Journal at over 600 pages. One of my friends is in the process of purchasing a new sled boat. Guy and Jim are getting ready for their Baja trip. Ed is working too much, and so is Kevin, time to get the dory boat ready and out on the ocean. Jimmie is tying gear for commercial salmon fishing in the next few months. Jack and I have fished steelhead (barely) and trout up at Lake Hebo (just a little) but we are going to go after cutthroat very soon and the springers will be in the estuary by late April. Lisa is going to see the Star Trek Orchestral presentation tomorrow night. I’m tying collector’s flies and mounting them on wool felt in cards. My family’s friends at the Grateful Bread have been wonderful as always. Luke got some late season winter and early summer steelhead action. Rob and Erin are charging into the new season and ready to hit the ocean at PC. John may have been out already in the Fly Guy. Capt. John Harrell is making final adjustments to rigging on his dory Gold comet and will be ready to fish in a few weeks. Everything and everyone seems ahead and behind schedule this season.

A dozen favorite trout flies.

I really really really really hope I’m here this time next year to rant again. My right foot and knee and hip ache all the time and I do mean all the time but who cares because I scrambled (limped) up and down the river banks for three months just like when I was in my 40s (OK, maybe not quite like I did  back then but at least I did wade fish this season) and it was glorious.

All is how it is supposed to be in my funny little family. In the days to come, I’ll be writing about things that are not so personal, but for right now, this day, I wanted to ramble on about a few things that have been on my mind and a few things that just sort of popped into my head. 

Thanks to each of you who managed to make it this far, for your good wishes and support over the years.  Please let me know if I may help you in any way. Anytime.

Jay Nicholas, April 5th, 2016


Steelhead & Sea Run Cutthroat Flies

Marabou Tube Intruder – Inspired by Travis Johnson and Bruce Berry

On my 67th birthday, yesterday, I tied flies at Royal Treatment Fly Fishing with a nice group of friends and supporters. It was a fun day with me babbling and answering people’s questions about the flies and materials. My thanks to Joel for the cake and sub sandwich, and to everyone for their kind support and good cheer. I was overwhelmed to open my computer this morning and find so many Facebook friends who had sent their good wishes also. Thanks to you all. Only one inappropriate image was posted to my timeline and I promptly deleted it and resolved the matter.

I returned home to my family and cats to have a low key evening and a movie. Today I try to prioritize all the things I want to accomplish in the near future. Impossible. Daunting.

I’ll not list my to-do list here, just get to work on it. I also hope to catch a winter steelhead on the swing this week. I met a very nice young man on the river last week, and when I introduced myself, he said, “Oh yeah, I love your blog but you barely write anymore.”

My apologies to him and the people who have supported me over the years and encouraged me to persevere. I’m putting so much energy into books and work (yes I’m one of the working retired) that there remains little time to devote to this blog.

Still, I’ll close by posting images of the basic flies I tied at RT yesterday. I’m genuinely excited by prospects of the near future with family, friends, flies, books, and writing projects.

May each of you have days filled with good health and wonder, plus a few good hours at fly bench or on the water with fish pulling at the end of your line.

Jay Nicholas – March 27th 2016

Travis Johnson inspired Steelhead Tube Intruder
Sea Run Bugger inspired by European Tyers
Sea Run Bugger
Sea Run Bugger
Steelhead Simplicity – Stargate Blue
Macks Canyon Simplicity
Nicholas’s Steelhead Simplicity – Olive

On the virtues of the NORVISE: Jay’s Review


As I promised a fellow fly tier who is considering purchasing a NORVISE, I will tell a few stories here that I hope will help anyone considering this vise decide whether or not to get one.

Jay Nicholas NORVISE In actionThis is my fly bench  some years ago, with a gob of salmon Comets staged for the photo. I lost the original photo and had to pirate this version from the Internet. By the way, I do not drink beer when I tie flies. I do not normally drink beer. But when I do, I’m more likely to order a Coors Light than some fancy micro brew, and my friends laugh at me for being so unsophisticated. Who cares.


Why every fly tier should consider a NORVISE.

I’m writing this post to respond proactively to questions of a nature that I often receive through the Caddis Fly Shop. People see my tying videos and wonder if NORVISE might be right for them to tie on. I have been answereing these emails for years and finally realized that I should just write this piece and let it stand to save time when I receive my next email.

Here is how the email inquiry usually begins: “Even though I own and tie on several fly vises, the Nor Vise intrigues me. Other vises offer a rotary function too, or so it seems. Is the Nor Vise really different and do you think it would be a worthwhile addition to my collection of tying vises?”

My response: Naturally the rotary vise design catches your eye. Same thing happened to me sometime back in the 1980s. That was when I saw a friend carrying (not tying on) an early design Nor Vise. At first, I didn’t even recognize it as a fly tying vise. I asked Rick about the odd looking thing he was carrying on a wood board. He told me it was his fly vise, said the vise was really good, and gave it a spin to show me generally how it worked.

I was polite, couldn’t really figure out how it worked, mentally dismissed it as a gimmick, and continued tying on my standard vises (Dyna-King & Regal).

Over the years I have used many traditional vises and been largely satisfied with each, to varying degrees. Most fly vises seem more appropriate when tying with some hooks than with others—but some vises certainly perform well over a wider range of situations. I have crafted thousands of dozens of flies on vises that include the Thompson Model A, Dyna-King, Renzeti, and Regal. Of these vises, I gravitate to the Regal is an exceptionally good vise — I have no reservations whatsoever tying on hooks from about a#2/0 through a #18 with my Regal and I include the standard and the full rotary Regal in this assessment.

Jay Nicholas Regal Rotary Vise

This is a Regal Rotary Vise, an excellent and personal favorite fly tying tool. This post is generally about the virtues of the NORVISE, but this Regal Vise is equally as dear to my heart and fly tying hands as my NORVISE. Just sayin.’

Anyway, my tying life went on uninterrupted with my usual vises and life was entirely good (tying wise).

Then one day my friend Lou Verdugo piqued my interest in the Norm Norlander Clutch Bobbin. He eventually got my full attention and I decided to give it a try (the bobbin). I ordered a bobbin kit, loaded up three aluminum thread spools and started tying.

At first, I was not impressed. I found it strange that the bobbin required me to wrap the thread twice around one arm of the bobbin in order to provide proper tension. Weird. Then I struggled with the fact that the bobbin would retract all the thread when I cut off the thread—requiring me to re-thread the bobbin. It took me several days of this frustration until I learned that I could just pull out a foot or so of thread, ease about half of it back onto the spool, and the clutch spring would be in neutral and I could lay it on my desk without completely retracting the thread.

A few days were required to get comfortable with the bobbin, and a few weeks won me over to the virtues of Norm’s clutch bobbin. The fact that I could just lift up on the bobbin, positioning the bobbin tip close to the fly, and have the thread retract and maintain tension smoothly, was particularly attractive, and this feature eliminated ever needing to manually wind thread back onto a spool in order to position my bobbin tip very close to the hook.

Jay Nicholas NORVISE Bobbin

This is the standard Norn Norlander Clutch bobbin: they look gawky but they offer remarkable and wondrous operating qualities. They do take time to get comfortable with. It took me about two weeks.

I began using the clutch bobbin on a regular basis and this caused me to take the plunge and try the Norvise. I was not convinced that I would like the vise. If I remember properly, I was on the negative side of neutral in my expectations. It seemed too complicated, but ——

I was attending a fly tying demo event and noticed that an astounding percentage of the tiers demonstrating their skills were using a Nor Vise. Hummmmmm. Sure I saw every imaginable brand of vise represented—many were familiar brands, a few were hand made, and many were carefully polished and buffed for the event. But a huge number of tyers were using a Nor Vise. For the first time, I looked at people using the rotary vise. It was amazing. The spin and whir of the hook in the vise took me back to the days when I watched Audrey Joy tie flies up in the Meier and Frank Department Store in Portland in the mid 1960s. Her vise was hand-crafted by her husband — mounted on a treadle sewing machine. When she wanted the vise to spin, she worked the treadle with her foot and the hook would spin in whatever direction she chose.

At this point it didn’t take long for me to consider giving the NORVISE a try.

The trials began. I railed at first at the fact that this vise didn’t simply sit on my desk like a pedestal, or clamp on the table like the C-clamp vises I was accustomed to. I grumbled and muttered as I assembled my Nor Vise on a white plastic mounting board, the vise post in a hole on the left, the thread post in a hole on the right. My first vise was equipped with the standard In-line jaws. I’ll note that the NORVISE may now be mounted with C-clamps on any desk and the original plastic mounting board has been replaced with a bamboo mounting board.

I began tying on my first NORVISE nearly two decades ago. It took me a few days to learn how to avoid cutting my thread with the hook point as I started to lay down the thread base, but within a few days, I was intoxicated with the speed and symmetry with which I could tie my flies.

The NORVISE can be used with any of four vise jaws: (1) the small straight inline, (2) the large straight inline, (3) the Tube fly conversion, and (4) the fine point conversion. The vast majority of my tying is best suited to the small straight inline vise jaws.

Here is what the NORVISE can do for every fly tyer.

Save time: many of the normal processes involved in tying a fly are accomplished much more quickly with the rotation feature of the NORVISE. This includes simply winding on a thread base, winding hackles, dubbing bodies, winding chenille and yarn, winding hackles, winding tinsel, finishing off heads and more.

Increase symmetry: winding on a dubbed body, a chenille or yarn body, or a floss body can be accomplished while producing an outcome that is both quick, smooth, and symmetrical. Winding on tinsel over any body material is also something that may be accomplished in a very even manner. Same goes for palmering on a hackle and counter wrapping a copper wire over the palmered hackle. Many of the features of a fly are more easily crafted smoothly and evenly with the NORVISE.

Norm Norlander can do almost every aspect of fly tying at high speed with his vise spinning at breath-taking speed.

Limitations of the NORVISE? I am not nearly as accomplished (as Norm) at using my NORVISE in rotation mode—I still execute many parts of many flies without spinning the vise. In this aspect, I’d note that the NORVISE jaws hold my hooks so securely and positively that I would recommend this vise even if someone never or only rarely takes advantage of the rotary function of the vise.

Purchase recommendations? I would recommend starting with the following list of tools and accessories.

1 – NORVISE with small straight inline jaws.

1 – NOR Bobbin (one clutch bobbin with one spool)

1 – NOR Bobbin Kit (one bobbin with a total of 4 spools)

1 – Mounting board-bamboo

At some future point, you are likely to want to add the following items.

Jay Nicholas Norvise & lamp

Tying lamp (this mounts on thread post and has a magnifying feature if you need it. I have seen a great many fly tying lamps and this one is really good and mounts just as it should for optimum performance.

Jay Nicholas NORVISE travel-case

Here is the glamor shot of the travel case. The case does not include the materials. Naturally. When you purchase the case, you get the bamboo mounting board. The heavy foam interior has slots to hold the vise post, thread post, bobbin, spare spools and a few other tying items. This is a very nice case.

Travel case. Not essential but very handy if you ever move your vise from place to place.

Jay Nicholas adjustable-dubbing-brush-table

Dubbing brush platform. This is a fun toy for making dubbing brushes.


Tube conversion. This is a gizmo that will hold all sizes of tube fly mandrels. For dedicated tube fly tying, this is a good investment.

Jay Nicholas NORVISE fine point conversion

Fine point Conversion. These jaws are most useful for very small flies, and for flies that require a lot of work-around space. Personally, I use these more for photographic artistry than out of functional need. These jaws are far more elegant than the straight inline jaws but the inline jaws do a great job of holding all sizes of flies from 2/0 to 20 (that’s the range I have tied anyway. I also use these jaws to hold my HMH tube fly tool and tie both tubes and shank-style Intruders—so these are very handy.

Other NORVISE products are available, naturally, but the options noted above are the first you are likely to want to try.

Is the NORVISE just a toy? No

Will everyone use the NORVISE to tie as fast as Norm does? No.

Will some tyers become frustrated and give up on the NORVISE? I don’t know. As noted already, I would consider the NORVISE a great fly tying vise if I never used its rotational features at all.

How different is the NORVISE compared to other high-end vises that are advertised as fully rotational? This is a big one—I’m not aware that any of the so-called fully rotational vises are capable of performing like the NORVISE. While my much loved Regal rotational vise does rotate, I can not operate it in the same manner that I rotate the NORVISE. In my opinion, the NORVISE is unique and performs its rotation function at a level far above that of any other rotating vise I have ever seen.

Can you take my remarks seriously, or is this post just a paid advertisement?

Good question. Plenty of product reviews are written by people who have an economic incentive in writing the review. This post is based on my personal reflections and experience over decades tying flies on many different fly vises.

Is Norm a friend? Yes. Do I get paid to recommend his vise? Not a penny. Do I get a discount on my NORVISE Products? Yes. Do these discounts influence my opinion of the NORVISE? Not at all.

Consider my support of REGAL vises. Regal has never offered me a discount on their fly vises. I don’t know any of the people associated with REGAL vises. Yet my experience with the REGAL vise in various forms has been so positive over so many decades that I highly endorse these as superior fly tying tools. The point I’m tying to make here is that I find the NORVISE and the REGAL fly tying vises to be superior yet very different fly vises and recommend both highly.

Jay Nicholas Micro Intruder in the NORVISE.JPG

I hope these remarks help if you looking at a NORVISE (or REGAL) vise

Jay Nicholas

February 2016

Time to tie a few Intruders?

Cat Butt and Intruder

Think so. No point tying one of the pesty but highly effective Steelhead Intruders without taking a photo for the record, but it has been months since I’ve done any serious photography and consequently forgot most of what I barely learned the last session.

Got things sort of set up and looked in the viewfinder.

Hummmmmm. Something in the background? Yep, my dear orange cat Boomer just had to see what was going on up on the fly bench.

I love this cat. Just do. The fly is nice too. Bet it will swing up a big buck this winter when the water greens up a little. I’ll probably fish black purple and blue first though.

Hope the season is going well for everyone who reads this. I’m trying to decide on my next book project that will be the focus of my attention in January 2016.

Second editions of Intruders? Sea-run cutthroat flies? Flyfishing Oregon? I have at least fifty new pages to add to the Book of Revelation. A new saltwater fly book?

Jay’s blue/black Steelhead Intruder

Don’t know. Think I’ll close with another Intruder.

Best to you all

Jay Nicholas December 18th, 2015