Eben Fenton is a fly tyer from New Jersey who I first met when I lived and worked at the fly shop in New York City. Eben and I quickly became friends and enjoyed fishing for stripers and trout in the NYC area, bonding over tying flies and finding fishing respite in the midst of NYC's craziness. I enjoyed hearing Eben's perspective and I think you will too. Make sure to check out his striper-inspired tarpon flies on our website!
1. Talk to us about modern fly tying and fly design, where is it headed? What does modern fly-tying need more of?
We’re obviously in a whole new stage of synthetics and have been for a while. Stuff like Squimpish fibers function the way only bucktail used to be able to, and I doubt that trend is going anywhere. We’ll probably just see more ways to make synthetics behave as naturals do. What’s the most exciting right now is where fly tyers are looking to adjust swim depth and keeling with weight and hook eye angle. A lot of tyers are realizing that “what is a fly?” doesn’t matter as much as whether a pattern can be cast with a fly rod and if it mimics the bait profile and swim pattern. I think that mindset is the most important moving forward.
2. Who were your inspirations when you started tying flies? Who are your inspirations in today’s saltwater fly tying?
I didn’t live very close to good trout streams so tying was a way to obsess about fly fishing without being able to get to the river all the time. I started off tying mostly dry flies. A.K. Best’s quill bodied patterns are just so disciplined and precise, and I really enjoyed having to dye my own materials to get the perfect imitation color. Once I started tying for saltwater I started following Bob Popovics, since he was tying flies to imitate baitfish in the surf where I live (the Jersey Shore). Joe Cordeiro and Brita Fordice are my biggest influences in the salt. Joe really sticks to the (Kenny) Abrams flatwing structure, and Brita shows you how to play with it or adjust the fundamental design to imitate bait where you fish. Brita is also obsessive about imitating all types of bait and getting just the right color and motion, which is something I like in my flies.
3. What was the deciding moment that made you decide to take fly tying to the next level?
I’m not sure about the “moment”. But I started tying a lot more about 5 years ago when I moved to NYC to help deal with feeling so surrounded by the city. I’d just hold up in my apartment after work tying flies and asking different people on IG to test them for me.
4. What is your favorite fly to fish, and least favorite to tie?
Either mice or flatwings. Definitely beast fleyes. There’s something thoroughly demoralizing about watching your quality bucktail dwindle away for a single fly that a bluefish could (will) eviscerate.
5. Favorite and least favorite material to work with?
Squimpish fibers, and Craft Fur.