Ellen McCaleb

Ellen McCaleb was born and raised in Virginia. Fishing, crabbing, and clamming are a way of life along those southern shores, and McCaleb spent many of her formative years partaking in these activities. Her first experience with a fly rod was along Canada’s Miramichi River when she landed a 5-pound grilse in 1992.

McCaleb, who studied art and architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, first began to carve in 1996 after reading James Prosek’s book Trout: An Illustrated History. She concentrated on full-body representations of fish. Later that year, she encountered her first antique salmon carving at the annual Waterfowl Festival in Easton, Maryland. This carving inspired McCaleb to research information about the English tradition of trophy-fish carving done by John Russell (1820–1893) and to try her hand at this art form. After honing her carving and painting skills and “hanging out her shingle” as a trophy-fish carver, McCaleb built a client list through word of mouth and enthusiastic reviews from the press.

To date McCaleb has carved more than 200 trophy fish, representing the fish of fifteen countries and seven continents. She is one of less than a half-dozen American trophy-fish carvers who practice the English tradition at the master level. McCaleb uses this art to promote preservation of fish populations and has been recognized by the Saco River Salmon Club and the Coastal Conservation Association of New Hampshire for her contributions.

McCaleb lives with her husband and children in southeastern New Hampshire. Her studio is located within her home and overlooks the Issinglass River. Her business has expanded to include copper sculptures and general half-body fish carvings. Ellen McCaleb has started a new business, Headwaters Studio, and produces whimsical growth charts for children.


Note: this text was written in 2011.

Photo courtesy of Ellen McCaleb.
Photo courtesy of Ellen McCaleb.