For those of us who sometimes think about fly fishing beyond catching fish, Lee Wulff is no stranger. By all accounts Lee Wulff was accomplished at whatever he set his sights on. When I read about Lee Wulff, I am reminded of how life should be lived, fully. An artist trained in Paris, he was renowned for his meticulous attention to detail and amazing finger dexterity. Those of us who fly fish owe a great deal to this man, and we are lucky that he chose fly fishing as one of his passions.
Undoubtedly Wulff is most well known for his Wulff series of flies. The classic harwing series all started with the Royal Wulff, he adapted from the Royal Coachman. Wulff also invented the White Wulff and Gray Wulff, and as most us now know there is a whole series of Wulff patterns. The great thing about classics is the imitations they spawn.
As great as the Wulff series is, we should probably be more thankful for his inspiration of catch and release. In 1936 Wulff was quoted as saying, "game fish are too valuable to be only caught once." And thus catch and release was born. Not fond of hatchery fish, Wulff knew that native fisheries could not be duplicated in concrete vats. Wulff pioneered through conservation groups, and his writings the idea, that we are all responsible for the future of fisheries. A concept that took sometime to catch on worldwide, and something we as fly fisherman are never done being concerned with.
Wulff was as skilled as caster as there was, at home delicately laying out a #28 Wulff, (which he could tie, without the aid of a vice), or casting to his beloved Atlantic Salmon. Using his now infamous 6 foot bamboo rod for either.
To his list of accomplishments he became a pilot, and was active well into his eighties, when at 86 a plane crash took his life. While many that know him, claim his life must have ended first, and then the plane crashed. We will never know.
But we can take genuine appreciation that men like him don't come along every day. And further appreciate that with all his talents and energy, that he chose fly fishing as a medium of his expression. And left a wealth of information and inspiration for generations to come.