I think you are very smart buying a quality vise to start with. So many new tiers buy something inexpensive and then in no time they are looking to upgrade. I highly recommend the Peak vise. I would much rather have a stainless steel and brass vise over an aluminum vise.
I have an HMH Spartan and like it. Nothing fancy, but it holds hooks well, and turns so you can see a fly on front and back, and you can wrap tinsel with it. I hear a lot of good things about Peak vises though, and a lot are happy customers.
The HMH Spartan is a very nice vise. When I bought a new vise a few years
ago, it was a real toss-up between the Peak and the HMH. I'm still looking at
an HMH Spartan. Same deal on the jaws: quick change in several sizes, and
The search for the perfect vise-- this is a question that comes up a lot and it comes down to personal choice and what works best for you-- It's sort of like "what's the best car?"
Of those 2 you listed, I've heard a lot more favorable things about the Peak.
But the main thing to consider when shopping for a vise is its ability to hold the hook sizes you plan to tie--- it sounds obvious but there's a few catches.
Cheap Asian imports often have soft metal jaws and poorly machined parts
Most "good" vises are built to handle trout fly sizes very well say sizes 18-2, since that is where the bulk of the fly tying market is. But if you're going to be tying larger flies for LM bass, pike or saltwater stuff size 2 and up into the /0's, or smaller flies for trout (say size 22 and smaller) you may have problems with the jaw's ability to hold hooks. In some cases the standard jaws might work fine, in others it may require an additional set of jaws ("Magnum" or "SW" jaws for larger hooks, and "midge" jaws for small stuff size 20 and below), and in some cases the jaws may not be interchangeable and you're out of luck. If additional jaws are required, roll that cost into the price to compare apples to apples when comparing vises.
Ease of adjustment for different size hooks-- if you switch around hook sizes, especially in one tying session, you might want to see how fussy the vise is to adjust for different size hooks. Some are very fussy, some like Regals with Big Game jaws, aren't fussy at all and will accept size 20 hooks and 5/0 hooks and hold them rock solid with no adjustment at all.
Trying out different vises is a great idea. Here are a few that I would take a look at---- each of these vises are quality vises that would last a lifetime, but they are also very different in their design so you can compare features and get a feel for differences. These are not the only vises out there, but these are all good solid vises that each have a lot of fans, and will give you a good over view of different features available. Try seating a few different size hooks in each.
Some terms that might be good to know---
fixed jaws- jaws don't rotate
fixed angle- can't adjust angle of jaws up or down, but jaws may rotate. Fixed angle is usually 30 degrees
Adjustable angle- can move the jaws up or down, typically through a range of 220 degrees
360 rotary- jaws rotate, but the angle of the hook shank is not constant.
They allow you to view the fly in the vise from all sides, but are generally not suitable for "rotary tying" techniques
"true rotary" - hook shank rotates in a constant plane, can be used for rotary tying techniques as well as traditional tying.
Examples of different vises to look at:
HMH Silhouette SX or DynaKing Kingfisher 360 rotary, fixed angle, interchangeable jaws available- around 120
Regal InEX - non rotary, fixed angle, about 110
HMH Spartan 360 rotary, adjustable angle, interchangeable jaws available midge, standard, magnum for around 40 bucks- around 160 for vise and 1 set of jaws
Peak- True Rotary, fixed angle, interchangeable jaws available for around 35 bucks . Vise with one set of jaws 150
Regal Medallion- 360 rotary, adjustible angle, big game jaws will handle a wide range of hook sizes, optional jaws available but very expensive. About 180 (c clamp) base model more expensive.
Renzetti Traveller with Cam Jaws- True Rotary, fixed angle, Optional jaws available, but standard jaws fit a wide range about 180 for vise
DynaKing Trekker or Barracuda- True rotary, fixed angle optional jaws available but standard jaws fit a wide range.
I guess I would differ from my esteemed colleagues below as to the best value vise. In my opinion, you can't do better in vise for value than the Danvise. It is a true rotary, with ball bearings. and a bobbin holder to boot. Plus, it has the best clamp of any vise that I have seen.
The vises recommended below are all excellent vises; however, the Danvise is HALF the price of those recommended, and has all of the sophisticated features the best of them have. This has been borne out in various fly-tying media reviews, so I have to wonder why anyone just getting into the fly-tying experience would buy any starter vise (& lifetime, for that matter) other than the Dan-Vise.
You can buy a rotary vise for less than half the price of a DanVise. Hook&Hackle sells them, and there are plenty of them on ebay. I've seen people using them at tying demos, and gave one a whirl myself. As far as'price is concerned, get what you can within your budget. Some people don't have a budget, so the sky's the limit. If I didn't have a budget, there'd be a Law vise on my desk.
The Dan Vise has some good features if you can get by all the plastic used in the construction. There is no way I would have a plastic vise at my bench. That doesn't mean it is not long lasting or that it doesn't tie good flies. I just can't get past the plastic.
Interesting about Hook & Hackle's inexpensive rotary (true rotary?) vises. Has anyone had any experience with them? As a general matter, I've been impressed with H & H.
I share your dislike of plastic devices, but the essential parts of the DanVise are steel, not plastic (the jaws, the shaft, etc.). However, I do think that the DanVise is larger than it would be if it were all-metal. That said, however, it is also lighter than all-metal vises, which helps if you're flying with it, and its excellent clamp (the best vise clamp I've seen) also really helps in travel situations. If prices were equal, I would opt for either the Peak or the Norvise, but they're not - they're about double the price of the Danvise but they're not twice as good. Thus my value preference.
Here's a review of the Zephyr EZ Rotary vise: CLICK HERE I haven't looked at the current prices, but recall they can be bought for $35-$40 on ebay. Hook&Hackle's price is $45. The EZ I tried (briefly) worked just fine. Its owner said that he used it at demos, rather than bringing his DynaKing.
I bought an Anvil Atlas vise a few months ago, and I really like it. I switched over from one of those "EZ rotary" Indian vises. I heavily modified the "EZ rotary" vise to fit my needs, and got 3 years out of it, so it wasn't that bad. I did have a difficult time tying anything smaller than a 14 on it though.
The Anvil is great for a wide range of hooks, and it comes standard with a "C" clamp and a pedestal. Great deal for the $$