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 Caleb Luzader. Owner of TnFlyCo, Trout Unlimited member, and all around awesome guy.


TU640: What was the first fish you remember catching? How old were you?


Caleb: “I was about 3 years old, we had a community pond in the neighborhood. Dad gave me a Snoopy Rod and Reel, threw the bait out and a largemouth bass took me on a ride that I have not forgot to this day”


TU640: At what age did you start fly fishing? How were introduced?


Caleb: I watched “ A River Runs Through It” in high school. Bought me a cheap Cortland outfit and would cast in the yard. I got serious when I was about 20 years old. Mason Sims took me to the Nantahala and I couldn’t stop after that. I got into fly fishing to escape competitive bass fishing believe it or not. College was tough on me. I was depressed, frustrated, and just in a weird spot. I could let it all go on the river.


TU640: What is your favorite species of fish to target?


Caleb: Hard question, I love them all. But I must say I think smallmouth fishing is about as fun as it gets when they bite good.


TU640: What's your favorite river to fish? What makes it so special?


Caleb: It’s a tie between Tellico and Hiwassee. When I drive up both river roads, I almost have this highlight reel of times with my father and friends fishing all along the banks growing up. I honestly think that is why I love it so much. I revisit fond memories, while making new ones.


TU640: What method of fishing is your favorite and why?


Caleb: Euro Nymphing is how I really learned fly fishing. And it is a lot of fun, I must say though. Throwing poppers for schooling largemouth and striped bass is an absolute jam up good time.


TU640: Who has been your greatest inspiration in your fly-fishing journey? What motivates you?


Caleb: Mason Sims taught me most of what I know. Along with Chachi Avirett and Cooper Gray. There really isn’t just one person. Everyone inspires me to learn something different, and I think I could list about 50 people because so many individuals have invested in me.


The fish, our friendly adversary is my motivation. The biggest question I ask myself every time I’m on the water is “Why”. Why is that fish there. Why is it feeding that way. Why did it refuse my fly. So I guess in a way it’s not really the fish it’s the “Why”.


TU640: You fished on a bass fishing team in school, can you tell us what that was like?


Caleb: Competitive bass fishing was some of the best times and hardest times I’ve ever had. We all fished with a partner, it sometimes would change. We traveled on the college’s dime and they paid for part of our schooling. (Which was awesome might I add.) But you HAD to fish. Lightening storm? Pull out the rain gear and helmet. Sleeting? Bundle up.


I was and still am addicted to the competitive atmosphere. I loved how we would have to break down hundred of thousand acre lakes in two days. Compete against some of the best in the nation, and see how we panned out. I loved hearing your boat number be called and you hammering down 60-70 mph to your next spot.


But in the same instance, the hustle and bustle of that, is what led me to love and embrace the stillness of fly fishing.


TU640: What was your greatest moment fishing on that team?


Caleb: Honestly it was getting to see some major life change in a few guys. We had a rough bunch of dudes. I saw a guy become free of alcoholism and addiction on the front deck of my boat through that team. That beats any fish catch or tournament placing to me.


TU640: What made you change your focus to fly fishing?


Caleb: Honestly hopelessness. I needed rest. I needed a change of pace. I needed something to restore my soul. I was working two jobs, taking 18-20 hours of classes in a semester, AND fishing. Burning it on both ends. I didn’t like who I was, and I felt really lonely. That’s when I found Cooper’s Instagram. We were friends as youngsters in the same bass club. He and I talked, he introduced me to Mason. Mason took me fishing. The rest is history.


TU640: Did you always know that you wanted to be a fly shop owner?


Caleb: Absolutely not. I figured I’d be self employed in some way, shape, or fashion. Never thought I’d run a fly shop.


TU640: What ignited the spark in you to start your own fly shop?


Caleb: A very crazy series of events. One thing lead to another, and boom. I’m in the fly fishing industry.


TU640: Your shop is a family affair, how has it been having that support in you ventures?


Caleb: Working with my father has been the most amazing thing I’ve ever done. I knew he was a hard worker. Growing up he traveled 5 days a week. Saturday we would fish and do yard work. Sunday we went to church, and Monday he was back on the road. So we are making up for lost time. I couldn’t be more thankful of that. My Dad is my best friend and hero. I’m thankful that we are in this thing together. Is it hard sometimes? Heck yeah, but nothing worth doing is easy.


TU640: What other type of businesses do you own?


Caleb: We have a Firearms Store with a range and training facility.


TU640: What is the biggest mistake you see fly fishermen make of any level?


Caleb: Try to force it. Whether it be there cast or what fly to use. People just try to force what they like or think is “the right way”. I’ve come to find that trout are in fact experts in what type of presentation they like and flies they prefer.


TU640: What advice do you have for any level of fly fisherman?


Caleb: Just because it isn’t in an Orvis magazine doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. Be open minded when you are on the water or at the vice. You’d be surprised how many crazy things work.


TU640: Give me a life lesson you have learned from fly fishing?


Caleb: BREATH! Just relax, take it in, and fish. In today’s day and age, we don’t tune things out and just relax. Clear your head, listen to the trees rustle and sway. Listen to the birds sing and the squirrels bark. Just slow down and breathe everything will be okay.


TU640: What advice would you give someone wanting to open a fly shop?


Caleb: The most successful fly shop I know of got to where they are by offering free, easily digestible information. People that consume your knowledge will reciprocate by digging in their pockets and supporting you.


TU640: How supportive are you of the Tellico hatchery and what do you do to help them?


Caleb: Jon and the crew up there are the unsung heroes of most all our creeks and tail-waters in the South East Tennessee region. I have not been able to do as much as I would like due to work conflicts. I’m hoping to get in on some sampling of wild streams and hopefully any Brooke trout restoration projects in the near future.


TU640: How has being a fly-shop owner changed you and what do you see for the future?


Caleb: I would say mostly it has changed how I view our natural resources. It has made me realize how badly we must protect the streams we have. It encourages me to be a good steward of our resources, and to help build the next generation to fill the shoes of the ones before us.


The future is bright. There is a large age gap in the fly fishing world. It’s either flat bills and beards or a salt and pepper beard with a feathered felt cap. Young people are flocking to our sport at an unprecedented rate. Trout don’t live in ugly places, and my generation is starting to figure out you can actually go see those places and things on an IG timeline.


TU640: Outside of being a fly shop owner, guide, and personal fishing time what are your other passions?


Caleb: My faith is a big part of my life, I love being at church and simply being with the body of believers. And in close second to that Is my Wife Molly and Puppy Dog Winston. I just love to spend time with them.


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