Some anglers can tie flies in the dark. I’m not one of them.
I need a lot of light to see what I’m doing, and I either like that light to be gentle and diffuse or focused and moveable, depending on precisely what I’m trying to do.
I’ve experimented with a few different lighting systems and have a pretty good idea of what works for me. And if you’re in the market for a fly-tying lamp, you've come to the right place.
Below, you’ll find reviews of some of my preferred options, as well as a short discussion on why you might choose one over another:
- Neewer Advanced 18-inch LED Ring Light - Best LED Ring Light for Fly Tying
- iZELL Book Light
- Alert FTL230 Bench Lamp with Dual 220 Lumen LEDs - Best Desk Lamp for Fly Tying
- Globe Electric 32" Swing-Arm Clamp-On Lamp - Best Architect Lamp for Fly Tying
- PEAK Vise Portable LED Tying Light - Best Vise-Mounted Light for Fly Tying
Table of Contents (clickable)
- 1 Best Fly Tying Lights & Lamps Reviewed
- 2 What You Need to Know About Fly-Tying Lamps
- 3 Final Thoughts
Best Fly Tying Lights & Lamps Reviewed
I’ve used a ring light for a few knot-tying videos, and after experimenting with it a bit, I discovered that it’s an excellent source of bright, diffuse light that’s perfect for illuminating my work bench, fly tying station, and flies.
Neewer’s 18-inch LED ring light is an ideal choice if you want lots of light - it’s really bright on its highest settings. It can be dimmed in 10% increments to just 10%, allowing you to dial-in the brightness for your specific needs.
It also allows you to tune the light’s color temperature across a range extending from 3200K to 5600K, and that’s a nice feature that enables you to increase contrast with some colors of material, letting you see your work more clearly.
Of course, this LED ring light is a floor model, extending up to 6’ 2”, rotating through 360 degrees, and tilting forward up to 90 degrees. When positioned behind you and a little to the side, it floods your vise with soft, bright light, really lighting-up your tying station. That also keeps it out of the way, and there are no cords or stands to clutter your surface.
I use this LED ring lamp in combination with two architect lamps to reduce shadows and saturate my bench with light.
If bright, diffuse light is what you need, this style of LED lamp is perfect.
- Relatively inexpensive
- Adjustable brightness
- Adjustable color temperature
- Extends to 6’ 2”
- Bright, diffuse light for your entire typing station
- Floor model that can’t be attached to a surface
iZell’s Book Lamp is a great addition to your fly-tying station. Offering bright, adjustable light for your vise, tools, materials, and flies, it’s a fantastic illumination solution, whether you’re on the road or working at a permanent bench.
iZell’s lamp sports a powerful, adjustable LED lamp. You can dim its brightness through ten levels, allowing you to find the best setting for your needs. And the LED can be color temperature adjusted through three settings, warm (3000K), warm and cool (4500K), and cool (6000K). Switching between these can improve contrast with some materials, providing you a better view of your work.
It’s available in two heights, 15.8 inches and 27.6 inches, and I’d recommend the taller option given my experience. You want to keep your lamp high and out of the way. Whichever you choose, the snaking neck of the iZell allows for precise adjustment to eliminate shadows.
The clip is robust, spreading to grab surfaces as thick as 6 cm (2.3 inches). That should suffice for most benches, tables, and counters.
As a portable option, iZell’s lamp is hard to beat, and for the price, it’s worth considering more than one on a permanent fly-tying station.
- Adjustable brightness
- Adjustable color temperature
- Two heights available
- Fully adjustable gooseneck
- Strong clip
- May not be bright enough on its own
If powerful, direct light is what you need, look no further than Alert’s FTL 230.
This dual-headed lamp features bright (220 L) LED lights, providing plenty of shadow-melting power for fly tying. The lamps themselves are on the ends of flexible, 18-inch goosenecks that allow you to manipulate light levels and change lighting directions as needed.
I’d like to have those arms be a bit longer, but their flexibility means that you can really saturate your work in bright light.
In my view, no other lamp on our list can provide the same shadow-free, bright, direct light for tying.
The base is heavy enough to keep this lamp stable, making it a great choice for anglers who can’t clamp a lamp to their work surface. That also makes it ideal for travel.
An included clamp adds greater security if you choose to use it.
Overall, you can count us as impressed with this lamp, but it doesn’t bring the bells and whistles of some of the other models: dimming and color temperature adjustment. That’s not necessarily a drawback, and I’d happily use this lamp on my own station.
As with most fly-specific products, there’s an angling tax that raises the price of this lamp.
- Fully adjustable gooseneck
- Strong clip and heavy base
- Two LED lamps allow you to completely eliminate shadows
- I’d like to see longer goosenecks
Globe Electric’s architect-style lamp is an inexpensive, effective light for tying flies. I’ve used a very similar model for years on my bench, and I’m pretty happy with how it’s functioned.
I’ve mounted my halogen architect lamp so that it’s elevated well above my work.
This lamp uses a single LED bulb that provides cool, bright light, but of course, you can swap it for an alternative in a different color spectrum. When illuminating your vise from above, the single light source can create shadows, and you may need to adjust the lamp’s position as a result.
That’s certainly happened to me.
But the long swing arm and 360-degree pivot allow you to place the lamp where it does the most good, generally eliminating problems.
The clamp can grip surfaces as thick as 2 inches, although you can also remove the clamp and opt for an alternative mounting strategy, which I’ll detail below.
Simple, inexpensive, and effective, an architect-style lamp may not be the best option for dedicated fly-tying illumination, but it certainly gets the job done.
- Long, adjustable swing arm
- 360-degree rotation
- Strong clip
- Can create shadows
Peak’s Portable Tying Light (PTL) is a perfect solution for anglers on the road or those who don’t have a dedicated fly-tying station. According to the folks at PEAK, “The bracket mounts to any PEAK vise stem, PEAK’s Accessory Shaft or other 3/8″ diameter vise stem,” making it a versatile option that’s easy to get behind.
The lamp uses cool-running LED tech, and it’s bright, providing plenty of illumination. But like any single light source, it can cause shadows, and you may need to adjust its position as you tie. The good news is that the 20-inch flexible gooseneck is easy to manipulate, and the full-spectrum, white light is easy on your eyes.
I really like the PEAK PTL, and if you’re an angler who ties on the road, it’s an awesome option. But as with many fly products, expect to pay a premium for this relatively basic lamp.
- Bright, full-spectrum LED light
- Cool running
- Full-adjustable 20-inch gooseneck
- Attaches to the stem of your vise
- No on/off switch or bells and whistles for this price
What You Need to Know About Fly-Tying Lamps
Precise work on tiny flies demands good lighting, and there are a wide range of effective ways to provide illumination.
Bulb tech: LED vs. incandescent vs. halogen
Lighting tech has come a long way since Edison, and you’ll find three common designs in lighting systems.
- LEDs, or Light-Emitting Diodes, are semiconductors that glow brightly when electrical current passes through them. LED lamps have considerable advantages over older tech, including cold running temperatures, lower energy use, and extended lifespans.
A combination of three lamps saturates my bench with shadow-free light.
- Incandescent bulbs produce light by passing current through a small filament that produces light as it heats up. While inexpensive, incandescent bulbs are energy hogs that produce high temperatures as they run. That may not be a deal breaker, but the first time you bump the back of your hand against an unshielded bulb or the metal skirt enclosing it, you may change your mind!
- Halogen lamps are a type of incandescent bulb. By adding inert gas and a tiny amount of halogen to the incandescent bulb, higher temperatures can be achieved, as well as long life spans. Halogen bulbs can also be quite small and still very bright, but they get extremely hot.
I use one on my workbench, and you definitely don’t want to touch the bulb or lamp head after it has been running for a while!
Lamp types: pros and cons
LED ring lamps
LED ring lamps are ideal for creating diffuse, bright light over your fly-tying station. Cool-running and energy efficient, they’re typically designed to be placed on the floor where the ring can be adjusted through 360 degrees of rotation and as much as 90 degrees of forward tilt.
While they don’t create direct, focused light, they’re perfect for illuminating your station, easy to move and set up, and typically come with adjustable brightness and color temperature. In my experience, they also reduce shadows, making it much easier to work on tiny flies.
Obviously, LED ring lamps aren’t great for anglers on the road, and though they store relatively well when folded down, they’ll take up more space than the alternatives.
Architect lamps are articulated, swing-arm style light sources that provide a good mix of diffuse light and focused illumination. And while they won’t necessarily light your entire area very effectively, they will illuminate your vise really well, providing plenty of visibility for your tying.
If they’re not sufficiently tall, however, they can get in the way of some fly-tying techniques, and there is the risk of burns if you’re using incandescent or halogen bulbs rather than LEDs.
Architect lamps usually feature heavy bases or strong clamps, but many models can be removed from their bases, allowing an effective mounting modification for permanent fly-tying stations.
Be sure to drill a hole only slightly larger than the stem of your lamp.
With the lamp removed from its base, you can drill a hole in a short length of wood, mounting the lamp there to create greater height while maintaining rotation.
The fit should be snug while still allowing easy rotation.
Flexible desk lamps with LED bulbs are a great lighting solution for your fly-tying station. Many now come with adjustable brightness and color temperature. Like architect lamps, flexible desk lamps can be manipulated to provide light right where you need it, but typically without the risk of burns.
They, too, need to be tall enough to stay out of your way.
Vise-mounted lights like PEAK’s PTL can be awesome, but you need to ensure that the clamp will fit the neck of your vise and hold fast. These lights are fantastic for providing focused, direct light on your fly, but they’re not very effective at lighting your work area.
The right illumination solution for your fly-tying station depends on a legion of factors we can’t know. Do you need to light up your desk, table, or bench, or are you looking for precise, focused light? Are you traveling, or have you created a permanent tying station? Which mounting option works best for your situation?
These are questions you should consider carefully as you make your choice, and we can guarantee that one of the lamps we’ve reviewed above will work well for you, whatever your answers.
We hope that this article has helped you make the best choice for your needs, and as always, we’d love to hear from you.
Please leave a comment below!