Figure 7__Vise & Flies

mt mongoose caseGuest Blogger: Michael Vorhis, Fly Fisher & Author, FreeFlight Publishing

[…Continued from the second installment of my review of the Griffin Enterprises Montana Mongoose fly tying vise….]

Materials Clip


The included materials clip is a very nice design; I think I’ll find it helpful to hold long bits of herl, hackle and flash which will turn as the hook is rotated while remaining nicely and temporarily tucked out of the way until the time is right.



They give you a good bobbin rest; its adjustments are easy and I like it a lot. They give you a nice ceramic bobbin that has already become my primary. They give you a little hackle and hook gauge I didn’t crave but find that I use. The carrying case is fatter than I’d imagined but it’s durable and, after all, it’s all gotta fit. Again, the stalk extender, clamp base, and pedestal base are all included. Also there’s an extra little crank handle–optionally mounted via a (different) tiny Allen wrench.

Printed Instructions


See the notes on “tuning” earlier in this article. The instructions do need a few steroids.

Durability and Service


Yes on the durability; that’s obvious just by looking at it. And Griffin warranties the thing forever. It’s said they have a good reputation for that, although I haven’t had to put them to the test. I did ask two questions prior to buying, one of which was answered. I thanked them and repeated the second one but got no reply. I took a chance and bought anyway, then later sent a specific question about tuning and got no reply. So I learned on my own. I guess it was fishing season.

Where To Buy


I looked around and got mine from J.Stockard. Yes, I did see one or two eBay ads for a couple of bucks less, but remember there are older versions of this vise out there, and parts of older versions, and who knows what “frankensteined” hybrid or demo unit one might get?  And anything can be torqued and mistreated, and then sold. Buying from J.Stockard gives me the full lifetime Griffin warranty and a strong retailer to back me up. Will I notice a twelve or fifteen dollar difference, amortized over 30+ years of use? What I’ll notice is the service and support continuity.

And remember you can sweeten the deal substantially by applying some J.Stockard reward points…and the purchase itself also earns reward points you can use later. That math yields no small number. I’m a natural born skin-flint, but still to me it was a no-brainer.

Overall Usability


I’ve re-tuned a couple of times now and am already used to the feel. The vise I used before now feels odd. The tuning is where I’ll leave it. I’m tying much smaller flies than was my previous habit, and with more confidence because they hold so well. Good tools really do make for a high quality result.

But as good as it’s going, I get the strong feeling that I have to grow into this vise. Printed instructions aside, at the moment it’s still more impressive than I am. As time goes on each feature will feed into my rhythm I’ll be able to use each with skill. Until then, it’s discovery…epiphany…honeymoon.

Figure 7__Vise & Flies 2It’s a joy to explore all the things one can do with the Montana Mongoose vise. I find myself jumping from #12 emerger to tiny #22 dry, then a streamer, then back to a classic soft-hackle or

Hare’s Ear nymph…like casting to different points in the stream. It’s without question the best and last vise I’ll ever need. I have two other vises but I’m damned if I can remember what they look like anymore!








  1. Mike, nice review – Made in Montana – Yeah!
    You’ll come to appreciate the heavy base when tying larger patterns using kevlar, G or 3/0 threads. You tend to put a lot more pressure on the vise when crimping down heavier materials or spinning hair with these heavier threads and the heavy base helps keep the vise stable. Enjoy it, I know you will.
    Mike Cline, Bozeman, MT

  2. Excellent point Mike. Those zonkers you use are probably a good example. I confess I haven’t tried the heavy stuff yet on this vise, nor did I think about it.

    The point about putting the weight down via small-area feet rather than a 24 sq.inch pad is all the more relevant in the case of heavy ties I believe. Also, given that the pedestal base (even with feet added) can still move a little depending on the table, I’d probably use the table clamp if I needed to put any muscle into a tie.

    And yes, I forgot to add that “Montana” in the name is another big plus. : )

    – Mike

    1. What feet did you use for the base and where did you find them? I love the idea of the finger screw for tilting the head, but have yet to find one. But I will.
      Anyway, thank you for the excellent review. I love my Mongoose and I imagine I will continue to, until my time on this beautiful, amazing rock is up.

      1. Hi Kyle,

        I think I simply purchased adhesive-backed rubber feet at a hardware store. I chose feet big enough to have some surface area on the sticky side (so that they wouldn’t peel off in normal use…and they haven’t). They’re about a half inch in diameter (or less) on the sticky side. The additional height they give to the base is probably 1/4 inch or so. I figured they’d work until they sheared off and then I could put more on…but some years later they’re still on there as good as ever. There’s not much shear force on them when tying; the only point of them is to keep the vise from sliding around on a smooth table…and they do that jo well.

        I too like this vise, and despite seeing photos of some beautifully machined alternatives out there, I’ve never felt the need to change. I tie with #16 to about #02 hooks. I don’t tie hundreds of flies per month, but when I tie a few, the jaws hold as well as they did the day I adjusted it to my tastes.

        Good luck with yours! Thanks for reading.

        – Mike

        1. I looked more closely Kyle…I used square feet from a hardware store and I think they may have come as a number of feet on a card. I either peeled them off the card and applied them or I cut them apart from a small “sheet” of rubber feet and applied them. It looks like double-sided tape that holds them on, but I believe that came with the feet. You can get a decent look at them from the photo in Part 2 of the article. Anything similar would do…I’m a cheapskate so I know I didn’t spring for anything fancy or special.

          I went back and read a few of the other comments, and what I’d said in the article, and I take it back that the base is a little too heavy–Mike Cline had commented on the same thing. After seven years of using the vise I can say that the weight of the base is appreciated…sometimes just because I was clumsy and bumped the setup, and sometimes because I needed to pull in non-vertical directions, especially when putting together complicated flies or large spey streamers. And the weight makes the rubber feet do their job.

          Also it turns out the finger knob I found to retrofit the top mounting joint does need some decent torque applied. But I can still do it with a finger knob of sufficient diameter like the one I’d found. (A smaller-diameter knob wouldn’t do.) And the convenience of using the finger knob is still a big plus to me. I suspect it’s a metric thread; I found the knob in one of those specialty bolt bins at a really good Ace Hardware store (there wasn’t anything even close at Home Depot or Lowes). But another option could theoretically be to somehow “permanently” mount the allen wrench to the supplied screw via a blob of Shoe Goo or something…as long as you can turn, tighten, and loosen without scrambling around to find the allen wrench, and without losing it, you’re in business.

          Enjoy the vise!

          – Mike

  3. I very much enjoyed your review and in depth comments about the Griffin Montana Mongoose Vise. I am leaning toward a purchase of the Mongoose. Presently I am using a Universal II that I got in working order and looking to upgrade.
    Thank you for endorcing J. Stockard but still having difficulty justifying the price. You mentioned Stockard incentives or coupons and where would one find these, make the wife happier, items?
    Thanks again for the review and wishing you and yours a MERRY CHRISTMAS SEASON.
    God Bless,

    1. Hi Bob, thanks for your thoughts. First let me point out there’s one aspect of this vise that lingers in my mind after years of use that perhaps should be mentioned: It’s a rotating vise but I found it less than easy to adjust the turning friction on that rotation to exactly what I prefer. To make it turn easily I also have to let the shaft be just a tiny little bit on the “wobbly” side. It’s very minor and it does not impede the usability, and it can be snugged up nicely if one doesn’t mind the turning friction going up a little. It just doesn’t feel like it’s on ball bearings–it’s a nylon friction bearing and feels like it. But again I do love the vise, and I could probably work harder at making it feel just exactly like I would prefer…if I wasn’t too lazy or too eager to start tying the moment I sit down to it.

      Myself, I always use it with its base, never clamped to a table. The base is heavy and does the job. I’m glad I put the rubber feet on the base–it doesn’t slide on the table I’m using.

      The purchase incentives I mentioned are the points system. Points tend to add up before we know it. That’s what I was referring to. Also reviews of products earn you points as well–doesn’t have to be an article, just a few honest constructive words on products sold by J.Stockard for which you have experience. Kate and James are very good about valuing tier feedback.

      I don’t know the Universal II or who makes it so I can’t offer comparisons.

      I found that a really good tool like this pays off over years and years and years. Once we acquire it, we forget entirely about the cost, for the rest of our lives. I had to look up the cost just now. I do remember thinking it wasn’t cheap, but I’d had my fill of cheaper vises and knew they were holding me back. This one never does and never will. rotation and geometry is very key to its goodness, but so is the jaw strength. I have broken three hooks off pulling on heavy thread or catching them on my sleeve with this vise (those hooks might also have been defective), and I have bent finer-wire hooks with thread pressure, but I have never ever had a hook of ANY size slip. Never. Love this vise. The jaws are just plain dependable. The combination of features is excellent.

      If you make the jump to it I’d be happy to trade notes and describe a couple of other small ways I improve my tying by how I use this vise.

      – Mike

  4. Mike,
    Excellent breakdown on the Mongoose! I already own the Griffin Spyder, but got away from using it because I don’t like the way the head that holds the jaws just sits vertically, unlike the angled version the Mongoose has. But other than that, is there much difference between the models in terms of function?

    1. Hi John, thanks for the comments. I’ve used vises that might (or might not) be similar to the Spyder but I’ve never used the Spyder. From the photos it looks to me like what you say about that vertical section means the area to the left (for right-handed tyers) of the jaws is more constricted than on the Mongoose and lacks the materials clip…and may offer less materials-holding wiggle room…all of which is a difference but perhaps not a huge difference, when comparing the two vise models. And the Spyder may not come with a weighted base…from the photos I see it looks like that might have to be acquired separately, and if so whether an exact-fitting base from Griffin might or might not be sold separately I don’t know. Of course the stem of these vises could all be (and probably are) of a standard diameter making any weighted base usable…and I could be wrong about a base not coming with the Spyder vise. The rotation crank-handle looks small on the Spyder but that wouldn’t matter–one doesn’t need more than a way to turn it.

      The bigger difference (again from photos) looks like the jaw-closing lever of the Mongoose may be lacking on the Spyder. If so, that would imply that the Spyder’s jaws must be closed and tightened by turning that large knurled screw-head, which I would guess wouldn’t have nearly the leverage of the Mongoose’s levered design. It’s the levered jaws of the Mongoose that are the meat of the machine. I find them to be an excellent design; they hold the hook extremely well. Not having any experience with the Spyder, and seeing the phrase “for beginners” in its description, I can’t speak for its holding power. It may be that it’s fine, or it may be that it’s fine up to a point and up to a given size of hook…I just don’t know. The Mongoose jaws have even held 3-inch-long very thick & stiff hook shanks for me, even against serious pulling with very strong materials. It just does not slip.

      But I don’t want to disparage the Spyder in any way, as I’m sure Griffin knows what workable vise design is, and would not put out a less-than-serviceable design. I’m just looking at photos. It might simply come down to preference and that’s it. If those jaws hold no matter what, then it should do the job.

      Have a great rest of the holidays and let us know if you spring for the Mongoose and what a true comparison would be. Thanks again.

      – Mike

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