Home » Why I Caved & Bought High-End Fly Fishing Nippers

Why I Caved & Bought High-End Fly Fishing Nippers

After threatening to do it for over a year, I finally did it.

I bought a pair of high-end, premium, expensive fly fishing nippers.

For years I’ve used whatever. Usually this meant cheaply made, free, serviceable nippers. They performed well in the context of their primary function: they nipped tippet material. Even the dodgiest pair of nippers cuts 4X just fine.

That being said, there were moments when I was frustrated with my free, $5, or even $20 nippers.

  • Severing backing and fly line, while not a frequent event, is difficult.
  • Cutting the heaviest and the finest diameters of mono or fluorocarbon requires precise finger/thumb placement. When you’ve got a few things going on in your hands, this is a bigger deal than it sounds.
  • Since you have to grab them over and below the blades, their small profile can be obscured by your fingers. This makes precise cuts a little more cumbersome.
  • The needle for cleaning hook eyes is usually useless.
  • They’ve bent from too much pressure, being smashed, and general use.

At last year’s Fly Fishing Show, I deliberately got a hold of all the major names’ nippers. I felt them, simulated some action, and spoke to corporate reps. When it was all said and done, there was a pair of nippers that seemed to outpace the competition.

The Orvis Nippers were my choice that day, and they are the nippers I ended up purchasing.

A day on the water when a pair of $20 nippers sealed the deal for me. These “good enough” nippers failed to clean out the eye of a size 16 dry, and then they struggled when I tried to cut the tag end of the tippet with precision. Later, I had to drop them in favor of the scissors on my forceps to cut a leader’s butt. My fly fishing wasn’t ruined, but I had to get out two more tools and spend more time messing with my knot than I needed to.

I don’t anticipate having either problem with my Orvis Nippers.

Why? Here’s how they have handled my aforementioned nipper frustrations:

  • I’ve cut backing, mono, and flouro of various diameters with ease.
  • The mechanical design eliminates the finger/thumb placement issue. Again, this doesn’t seem like a big deal until you have a multi-fly rig in your hands while waist-deep in moving water.
  • They aren’t huge – they aren’t big But they are larger than dollar-bin nippers. This doesn’t add noticeable weight or bulk. It just makes grabbing, using, and seeing what you are doing easier.
  • The hook-eye cleaner isn’t going to fix head-cement in tiny midges, but it will clean out most flies 18 and smaller. And the fact that it rotates away will keep it sharper longer.
  • If I bend or break these, it will be a me They’re bomb proof.

For me, all of this was worth spending a few dollars on some premium gear. Many have balked at the idea of spending more than $5, let alone $95 on a pair of glorified finger nail clippers. My take on it is this: if I have to fiddle with my gear less and get to fish more, I’m willing to pay a little bit for that luxury. Plus, I take care of my stuff and keep track of it. I anticipate using these for decades.

But are my new Orvis Nippers going to lead to more fish caught? No. However, very few pieces of gear in your arsenal are going to directly lead to higher yields. What these nippers are going to do is streamline my processes. I’ll make adjustments quicker and more efficiently. Logically, that means less time messing with gear and more time fishing.

So technically, yes: my new nippers will lead to more fish being caught.


I highly recommend the Orvis Nippers, which you can check out here. At the same time, if you are in the same discontented place that I was before my purchase I’d encourage you to head to your local fly shop to take some of the big-name brands’ offerings for a spin.


  1. Stephen A Vanderhoof says:

    Hey Mathew, something tells me you didn’t tell your wife how much these “set you back”…

  2. Enjoy your new purchase. Put it through the paces. I bet it won’t disappoint. There’s something to buying gear you only have to purchase once. Personally, I haven’t applied that to my nippers (yet), but there’s no reason the same theory can’t be applied, especially if they are as thoughtfully laid out as your new set. Tight lines!

  3. Dennis Johnson says:

    I thought these were ridiculously overpriced when they first came out on the market. Then I bought two pairs of nippers in a row that wouldn’t cut the 2x-0x floro and mono I typically use. While it’s not a fishing day killer, it’s a major hassle and aggravation. The Orvis nippers cut thick lines like a lightsaber and are just a superior tool overall. I never bothered to use an eyelet pin before because they either got bent or portruded so I broke them off so I wouldn’t get cut….the one on the Orvis nipper works great and tucks away nicely. A luxury item, but money well spent and a time/frustration saver on the water.

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