Local fly fishing legends of the past & future

Each week we will share an interview with a local fly fisherman that has done many things for the sport.


This week we highlight Cleveland, Tn. native Elijah Ellis. Competition Fly Fisher, outdoor enthusiasts, and future legend.


Tu640: What was the first fish you remember catching? How old were you?


Elijah: My family took a trip out to the Little Red River in Arkansas. I had a snoopy spinning rod and reel, saw a big rainbow trout suspended below the boat dock. I dropped my lure down to it and it bit immediately. I was like 4 years old.


Tu640: At what age did you start fly fishing?


Elijah: My dad had a fly rod in my hand at a very young age but I didn’t really start getting into fly fishing until I was 12.


Tu640: What is your favorite species of fish to target?


Elijah: Brown trout, it’s a nice challenge to try and fool a wild brown and they put up a heck of a fight.


Tu640: What's your favorite river to fish? What makes it so special?


Elijah: Oconaluftee river inside the smokies. It’s full of nice wild fish, and is surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery around.


Tu640: What is your favorite method of fly fishing and why?


Elijah: Euro nymphing (tight line nymphing). It’s the most effective way to get a dead drift and you stay in contact with your flies the whole time so you feel/see every take throughout the rig.


Tu640: How did you get involved in competitive fly fishing?


Elijah: One of my friends messaged me and asked me to fish a comp with him. We did terrible, ended up not even finishing the second day. I then reached out to one of the guys I met at that comp, Austin Shoemaker, and asked him to help me get better so I could compete and the rest is history.


Tu640: What’s the best part of competing? Most challenging?


Elijah: The best part of competing is definitely the friendships made and the fellowship we have at every comp. most challenging aspect is learning to maximize your time and make the most of the beats you’ve drawn.


Tu640: Are you on a team, and if so, how do they choose members?


Elijah: I’m on Team Dead Drift. When I joined it was really just an application and team vote that decided if you could join. Minimum of 2 competitions under your belt. Now I think we are doing try outs for new members, not entirely sure what this year holds in the way of new anglers joining.


Tu640: Do you practice together or fish on your own and just meet at competitions?


Elijah: We get together and have team practices when we all can. There are a few guys on the team that I fish with often and we get our practice in that way.


Tu640: What style of fly fishing is used at competitions?


Elijah: Most comp anglers euro nymph or dry drop.


Tu640: Your go-to gear and rig?


Elijah: Harbinger 10’ 3wt, Redington rise reel, Cortland competition nymph line, a 15’ micro euro leader, trout hunter tippet, and usually some type of sexy walts variation or frenchie for flies.


Tu640: Do you remember the first competition you were in and how did you do?


Elijah: Yes, I remember it very well. I had just started euro nymphing, me and a buddy entered this comp in Cherokee with no knowledge of what we were doing. We did terrible and didn’t get to fish the second day.


Tu640: What's the most memorable competition moment you've had and why?


Elijah: Levi Ladlee and I were fishing the Rumble in the Rhododendron competition in 2019 and our 2nd session we drew a great beat and right as our session time expired I caught a 53cm(21 in) rainbow. We ended up winning that session and advancing to the money round, where we took 4th and brought some money home.


Tu640: What is your favorite competition you've been in and why?


Elijah: 2019 Gold cup. Me and my teammate Austin Shoemaker fished hard and were blessed with our first second place finish. That moment and feeling of accomplishment is really what got me hooked on competing.


Tu640: What's the biggest fish you've caught in competition and highest place in a tournament?


Elijah: 55cm (21-1/2 in.) and 2nd place is the highest I’ve made it so far.


Tu640: If you could fish anywhere in the world, where would it be? Why?


Elijah: Probably Patagonia. I watched the Trout Bums go and fish those waters when I was younger and that’s been a goal destination ever since.


Tu640: Best ways you’ve found to improve your skills?


Elijah: Spend as much time as you can on the water, practicing every tactic and presentation you can. Also, reach out to the people around you that are more experienced and ask them to help you. Read books and watch instructional videos. Learn all you can about the fish you plan to target.


Tu640: Biggest things competition guys do that casual anglers do not?


Elijah: We practice on every single water type, even the ones we aren’t comfortable on. We really study trout habits in different weather conditions so we can know where to expect the trout to be in different temps and conditions.


Tu640: Your advice for someone thinking of competing?


Elijah: Get ready to learn euro nymphing, start tying your own flies, invest in good strong thin tippet, and reach out to competitor and see if he/she would be willing to explain the rules to you and show you the ropes of the sport.


Tu640: What are your other passions and what does the future hold for you?


Elijah: Right now all my focus is on fly fishing, but I do enjoy camping and hiking. My goals for the next year or two are to work hard, fish some regional competitions and make it on Fly Fishing Team USA.


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