Ben Whalley: Breaking Horses to Chasing Striped Bass


Location: Maine, USA
Species: Striped Bass
Follow Ben on Instagram @benwhalleyfishing


Ben’s obsession with fly fishing began at a very young age in south Florida with a box of old flies and his dad’s old fiberglass rod. Most of his youth was spent in Brazil. When he wasn’t breaking horses or working on the ranch, he was exploring the wilderness and waterways searching for natural materials he could spin up to imitate local berries and forage fish.

In 2003, Ben moved to Maine where his obsession with wild salmonids and striped bass was born. By 2015, he began offering guided wading trips part-time for trout and striped bass. As both angler and guide, Ben continues to draw inspiration from Florida and South America, chasing stripers on the beautiful, expansive flats in the Gulf of Maine.

His saltwater flies are known for being functional and realistic, heavily influenced by the brilliance of Bob Popovic’s creations. As mentor and friend, Bob’s influence and guidance continues to heighten Ben’s ability to bring salty creations from behind the vise and teach others any chance he gets. In 2022, Ben decided to leave his career as Sr Engineer & Lean Six Sigma Blackbelt to pursue his calling and passion, founding Ben Whalley Fishing LLC to guide full-time.

Why do you enjoy tying flies?
Fly tying has always been a means to better understand how fish think regardless of the target species as well as a creative outlet. My favorite part of fly tying comes from time spent critically observing the details of the fishery, applying those learnings back at the vise, and continuously working through an iterative process with trial and error to perfect the patterns.


How did you get into fly tying?
I was introduced to fly tying as a kid when a family friend gifted me a starter vise and a box full of natural materials he had harvested while hunting. From then on, I never looked at material scraps or natural fibers the same. It's been a lifelong passion of mine in the various places I've lived including South Florida, Brasil, and eventually Maine, where I began targeting striped bass over 20 years ago.

Any big inspirations or fly tiers you admire?
There's no denying that my greatest tying influence comes from New Jersey legend Bob Popovics. His observation based approach to Fleye design has always made perfect sense to me and the way my brain works. I'm blessed to call him a friend and mentor.

What is your favorite species to chase and why?
My favorite species is definitely striped bass; they are a super versatile species that can be found in such a vast array of challenging environments from deep structure to shallow water flats, which is where I spend most my time these days with my guiding. I'm a total sucker for permit & tarpon but living in Maine I don't get to dedicate myself to them the way I do striped bass.

What are some of the challenges our fisheries face that are important to you?
The Atlantic Striped Bass population is in jeopardy once again after already coming back from the brink in the 1970's. Conservation efforts to rein in overfishing in the 80's and 90's led to striped bass recovery which went on to serve as a blueprint for fishery restoration and management. BUT the current population is overfished again and they have had five consecutive years of poor spawning success and not much in the pipeline for future spawning stocks. This past year the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Council enacted some emergency actions to protect the spawning stock as well as some other measures to help reduce harvests. The public is engaged and very clear that they want conservation-minded management. If you wish to learn more or get involved, please head over to American Saltwater Guides Association. For those unfamiliar, the ASGA is "a coalition of forward-thinking guides, small business owners and like-minded anglers who understand the value of fish in the water" with the firmly held belief that "We have everything to gain by speaking in a loud, clear and united voice, and expressing the concerns of a legion of conservation-minded guides, businesses and anglers."