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Copyright:   Mike Sillett


1. Intro
2. Materials
3. Tools
4. Construction

1. Intro

Here is a nifty piece of fishing gear you can use for fly fishing or bait fishing. It's a vise to hold the fishing hook in a tight grasp, whether a fly, a plain hook or a hook full of bait, so that the fishing hook is held without using fingers.

THIS IS NOT for tying up new fly fishing flies. You will need a sturdy vise for that. As I said, this is for holding the hook, especially small hooks, to help you tie it onto the fishing line.

There are plenty of photos in this tutorial to make it easy to understand. Once completed you will have a portable pen vise you can use for trout and bass fishing. A great addition to your fly fishing gear.

Before you jump right in and start tearing ballpoint pens apart you should read the entire tutorial and review the photos to get a good idea what is involved and how to begin.

This project is reasonably easy and the parts are practically free.

I would bet money that you have some Epoxy or Krazy Glue, used ballpoint pens and toothpicks in the house.

Instead of throwing that useless ballpoint pen away make this Streamside Fishing Vise. You will not regret having one, and if you are like some of those that have made one, you will be telling other fishing friends what a really handy hook holder device this is.

2. Materials

A couple of Ballpoint Pens that have outlived their ink. ( or one pen and an extra spring from some other pen ).
Some Krazy glue or Epoxy.

all parts for making a streamside vise

A Pen, it's parts, an extra spring from the other pen and some Crazy glue.

Here's a close-up of what you will be working with, or something similar.
Note that the part that had the ballpoint in it has been ground down.

all parts for making a streamside vise

A Pen and it's parts.

Get the remaining ink out of the ink tube.
Some inks are water soluable others alcohol. If water based run it under the water tap.
If solvent based soak in some alcohol.

3. Tools

A pocket knife,
Needle nose pliers,
Round toothpick.

4. Construction

Use the pliers to stretch out the extra spring a bit. Just grab it with your fingers and pull.
You need a straight piece that you can cut off with the pliers so that you can form a loop.

Stretched piece of spring

Spring stretched.

spring stretched showing loop

Use the straight portion for making the loop.

What you want is a piece of spring steel, cut from the straight portion, about an inch long to make a loop.
Just bend it around a toothpick to form it and then twist the legs with the needle nose pliers.

showing spring wrapped around toothpick to make a loop

Here is a loop being made.
The one on the right is the initial piece cut from the spring.
The one on the left is the finished product ready to be inserted.

Now take the ink tube, go to the tip area where the tiny ballpoint is. The tip area is usually brass. Rarely steel.
I prefer the brass tipped ballpoint pens for making these.

You want to grind away the ball so that there is a hole in the end of the tube. I just usually go outside and rub the ballpoint on a smooth part of my sidewalk. A couple of passes and the ballpoint is gone.
There might still be a bit of ink inside the tube. Clean it out some more and let it dry.

Clean up the end where the hole is now, where the ball was, so you have a nice neat hole. A fingernail board will work. So will a fine file.
Put the pen together now, as if you are going to use the pen to write with. You'll see that too much of the front portion of the pen sticks through the pen opening when it is clicked as if to write with. That's not good.

What you want to do is grind down the brass front portion, the inside part, so that when you click the pen to let the inside tube recess, the part you made a hole in is either level with or slightly below the pen's opening.
This is critical because it is the spring inside that controls the clicking of the pen which holds the hook / fly against the pen's opening, the collar.(look at the last photo)
What I do is - push the button so that the brass forward part of the inside tube sticks out all the way through the pen's opening and while holding it rub/grind it some more on the sidewalk.
Keep working it, grinding it, working it, clicking it, checking it until, when in the'writing position', that is, as if it were still a pen you would be writing with it, the inside tube is, as I said before, level with or very slightly below the pen's opening.(look at the photo right below)

showing pen opening with inner ink tube extended

Showing the inside tube just behind pen opening while the pen has been clicked into the 'writing' position.

showing front of streamside vise - ink tube recessed

Showing the inside of the pen's opening.
Note that you can not see the inside tube because the pen is in the 'recessed' position, as if you were NOT writing with it.
This is what you want, that is, as both photos show.

When you have it just right take the pen apart again and put the legs of the loop you made into the hole of the ink tube.
Keep in mind that the loop can not be a very big loop. It has to be just big enough to be able to put a fish hook in it but small enough to slide in and out of the pen's opening.

You should try to get the loop close to the correct size before gluing the legs into the hole.
Small adjustments might be needed.

I like Epoxy. Mix it up, put some in the ink tube and stick the legs in.
Even though it takes longer to dry it is much more durable than Krazy Glue. Let it dry a few hours then adjust the loop like it should be.

Here I have the loop inserted into the front portion of the ink tube ( in this particular ballpoint pen the parts are plastic and come apart easily enough ).
However these Streamside Fishing Vises work just as well using the old style ballpoint pens that have a one piece brass ink tube.

loop inserted into ink tube of streamside vise

Here's the loop inserted into the opening that I had ground down.

Once the loop is as it should be put the pen together and use it.

It should look something like this when clicked to the 'writing' position.
When clicked again the loop recesses, like the ballpoint would have. That's what we want. You can visualize what happens to the bend of the hook when caught in the loop trying to recess itself.

completed Streamside Fishing Vise

Here is the Streamside Fishing Vise - all done.
Clicking it several times, as if it were still a writing pen, should reveal no binding as the loop goes in and out of the opening.

Now that it is all done what do you do with it?

You keep it in your vest or breast pocket while fishing.
When you're ready to tie on another miniscule fly or dinky little hook you put the hook into the loop and click the pen so that the inside wants to recess itself. That holds the hook/fly in place.

a fly inserted into the loop - ready to be held

Here is the Streamside Fishing Vise with a fly inserted.
Clicking it now will recess the inner ink tube clamping the fly in place.

Here is the finished product with a fly in it's grasp. Look closely at how the fly is held against the pen's collar opening.

a fly being held be a Streamside Fishing Vise

Here is the Streamside Fishing Vise firmly in grasp of a fishing fly.
It is now ready to be handled, rather than the fly itself.

You hold the pen in your hand and you tie on the fishing line. You twist the pen once the line is inserted into the hooks eyelet.
Proceed to tie the types of knots you usually use.
When tied, click it again to allow the loop to extend and take out the hook.

At least with this vise you are not trying to turn a little fly multiple times in your awkward hands, or cold hands, mangling it up to get it tied on.

Streamside Fishing Vise made from a used Ballpoint Pen.

I sell these on a regular basis for $5.00, plus $2.00 shipping in the U.S.A.
If you have a favorite ballpoint pen that no longer writes and you want it converted, send it to me and i'll make it into a streamside vise - same deal - $5.00 + $2.00 shipping in the U.S.A.

You can buy one from me or make your own using this tutorial.

Feel free to copy the information for your own use.

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