Lee Wulff - Trivia - Fly Fishing Forum
Classic Atlantic Salmon No pursuit rivals salmon rivers, flies & legacy

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Old 01-23-2003, 09:02 PM
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Lee Wulff - Trivia

"Some Flies I have Designed and Fished With" Lee Wulff - 1987. Grays Sporting Journal

"Fishing wet is more effective than fishing dry since trout do most their feeding underwater most of the time , so I was fishing wet much more than I fished dry. Somehow I got started using a very simple nymph which was just a plain Gray Wulff body without any adornments. Soon I was catching most of my trout on it. I tried to get customers to buy some. They didn't. Then I reduced the price to 15 cents each. thinking that a bargain might draw some sales. No one, apparently wanted to insult the trout they were fishing for with a cheap, 15 cent fly. I don't believe I sold a single one of those nondescript nymphs I was finding so effective. even though I fully dressed them up with a couple of turns of peacock herl at the head.

Theres a strange sequel to this story. In 1970 at one of Charles Ritz's Fario Club dinners at his famous hotel in Paris I sat next to Frank Sawyer, recognized as the premier nymph fisherman in England. In the course of our conversation he asked "What do you think I catch most of my fish on ?

A medium sized gray nymph I replied. He turned sideways in his chair, fished into his pocket, and brought out a box of nymphs. There it was in his hand a simple gray wool body on a #12 hook. I held the box in my hand while he dug into his pocket again.and came up with another box. Here he said is what I have to do to sell them. I put a winding of gold tinsel on them and a little darker material at the head.

Maybe he was a better salesmen than I or the fact that a lot of people saw him fish helped out. I had tried to sell those nymphs in New York when none of my customers had ever seen them work on the stream".

Lesson learned, simple flies work.

Growing up fishing the Catskill rivers we always had our simple gray nymphs, and they worked.

I am sure they will also work today.

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Last edited by pmflyfisher; 01-24-2003 at 09:25 AM.
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Old 01-23-2003, 09:39 PM
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Hal...Love this stuff!
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Old 01-23-2003, 09:40 PM
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Kind of like the simple grren caddis eh? Greys, greems, and browns are killer.

Probably because everything they have eaten (river wise) was a shade on that color. Never saw a pink hopper or mayfly in the brush.

I have always found the KISS theory to be true many times in fishing. All those beautiful flies many times were tied to attract the fishermans eye and not the fish.
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Old 01-24-2003, 09:12 AM
John Desjardins John Desjardins is offline
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Yes simple flies work. But we still love the complex ones. Such are the philosphical debates that get us through the winter.
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Old 01-24-2003, 09:34 AM
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After rereading this Lee Wullf article from my collection of Grays Sporting Journals (I started buying them in 1979, only the fly fishing ones) I am going to tie some more simple nymphs in gray, olive, black, etc....

Keep it simple.

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Old 01-24-2003, 10:39 AM
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Our (GL) Steelhead seem to love them. I have a box stuffed with them. If you have ever been lucky enough to be Steelhead fishing on a warm April day you see the sky black with them.

When that happens the big Steelies really turn on. They must be impulse feeding while spawning.

Last edited by mjyp; 03-19-2003 at 04:32 PM.
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Old 01-24-2003, 12:07 PM
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I think I will do a series on Lee Wulff trivia.

I met him once back east, and he lived the last years of his life in the Catskill region rivers I learned to love during my teenage and twenty year fly fishing years. At 29 is was off to the GLs for fly fishing.

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Old 01-24-2003, 08:41 PM
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Trivia # 2

Same source as previous one. (I bought this volume of Grays Sporting Journal in 1987 just for this story by Lee Wulff. I am very glad made that decision)

Quote:
Joan and I were giving a trout fishing school for Garcia and the Sportsmen Club on the Elk River neat Steamboat Springs in the summer of 1969. In the evenings after fishing I'd tie flies along with the other members of the group. As we were about to finish and clean up one the night, the discussion, turned to the question of the need for the fancy feathers that cost so much. I allowed that most of those feathers were for beauty as we saw it, for our own enjoyment, more than for effectiveness with the fish. I went further and said that the stuff fly tyers throw away could make as effective a fly as any one needed.

Reaching down into the waste materials scattered on the floor I picked up some hackle of soft, feathery butts of the hackles that every one throws away saying. " Here's some poor mans marabou". Then I found enough gray wool to make a body and a tiny bit of bright yellow yarn. From these I fashioned a nymph with a gray body, a yellow tail and four legs of the soft fluffy gray fibers off the hackle stems. It looked like a crawly thing to me and though the trout didn't have it on their list of known bugs, when it hit the river they felt a real urge to see what it tasted like. Charlie Meyers, outdoor writer for the Denver Post sang out I have a name for it! The Wretched Mess. I make it weighted and unweighted, a simple fly of simple materials.
Lesson learned:

Don't throw away those butt fibers on your hackle feathers, they have many uses for nymphs and wet flies. I have an excess material bag of this stuff which has many uses.

Well time to tie some more natural simple looking nymphs !

I will work on some more Lee Wulff trivia also.

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Old 01-25-2003, 01:08 PM
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Hal,
Feathers are fairly cheap. This is frugality running amuck.

Whats next M.S. trivia????
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Old 01-25-2003, 01:15 PM
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Why waste good fly tying material. Lee Wulff didn't either !

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Old 01-26-2003, 11:31 AM
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Howard Hughes saved all his hair and toenails, what does that tell you?

I have a feeling Lee tossed a whole bunch in his day.
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Old 01-27-2003, 12:55 AM
flytyer flytyer is offline
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As great as Lee Wulff was, he did not know how to tie full dressed feather wing salmon flies, perhaps that is why he had no use for the "fancy feathers". I had the great priviledge of meeting him and seeing him tie a #12 Grey Wulff in his fingers (no vise and no bobbin) while standing up at a FFF Flyfishing Clave in 1981 in West Yellowstone. Lee was a gentleman and a very knowledgeable fisherman; however, he was not a great flytyer, although he tied flies that worked and worked very well. If it were not for Dan Bailey and his tyers, Wulff's flies would not have developed the following they have.

Yes, simple grey, black, brown, olive, and tan nymphs tied with a sparse tail, wool or herl body, without wing cases and having a turn or two of soft, mottled hackle at the head are very efffective indeed. For the large stoneflies, flies tied the way Charlie Brooks (who I also has the pleasure of meeting and getting to know) that are tied in the round with wool or yarn bodies, split goose or turkey biot tails (or rubber legs material tails), and a grizzly hackle dyed brown or tan along with a natural grizzly hackle tied over the thorax of the fly (right over the yarn or wool) and with a white or very light grey ostrich fiber that are all wrapped just two wraps over the thorax with a slight space between the two wraps is most effectie as well.

Eastern helgramites tied like Bob Clouser's Helgramite, black or very dark slate grey ostrich fibers (about 15 or 20 of them) tied like the marabou tail of a woolly bugger and clipped off a full shank length beyong the hook, a black chenile body, black or very dark slate grey saddle hackle palmered woolly bugger style, and black rubber antennae is a superb fly for smallmouths.

And small (#8 to 12) steelhead or salmon spiders tied low water style with no tails; a bright little (and I mean little, only one turn of material) butt of florescent braided mylar, yarn or floss; body of black, purple, dark blue, or claret, dubbing; and a sparse oversized hackle in black, claret, or purple is a superb fly for the skinny water of late summer or early fall.
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Old 01-31-2003, 09:12 PM
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Trivia # 3

"In 1962 I travelled to Scotland to fish competitively for salmon on the Dee. with "Jock Scott" pen name for Donald Rudd, the most widely read writer on salmon fishing at that time. I used my 6 foot, ounce and three quarter bamboo rod which he labelled a "toy". He used his 161/2 foot greenheart Grant Vibration Rod.

I caught a salmon on a White Wulff dry fly (where George Labranche had failed with the dry fly) and he caught none. I had spent a week of practice on the river before our contest week, to learn the river and to test my flies."

I would of loved to have been there to see the looks on the Scot's faces. Malcolm can you lend more from the Scottish salmon fisherman's perspective on this ?

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Old 01-31-2003, 09:39 PM
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And to think he probably didn't use a spey.

Never heard much talk of him with the long rod. I alwyas wondered if he ever used one.
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Old 01-31-2003, 11:05 PM
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Wulff was one of several fly fishing writers and profesional fly fishers who extolled the virtues of short rods. He never used a 2-hander that I am aware of and he disparaged them quite often in his recounting of various exploits while fishing for Atlantic Salmon (as he did in the passage Hal quoted).

Interestingly, after graphite rods had become the norm, Wulff began writing about using 9 ft graphite rods as being the best all around rods, when before graphite hit the market, he wrote that it was uncessary to use a rod of over 7 1/2 feet for any fresh water fish for the average fisherman.

I suspect Wulff was simply telling people that they did not have to learn specialized casts (like the spey), buy special lines (like the long double taper speys), or spend a lot of money on fly gear.

I wonder why he disparaged classic feather wings, spey flies, 2-hand rods, and spey casting. Perhaps it was because he couldn't tie the feather wings or spey flies properly? Keep in mind that Wulff's flies are really pretty easy to tie. And he certainly did not know how to spey cast and wrote that he felt the extra long 2-handers were too big and heavy for fishing. Too bad he never moved beyond his prejudice against 2-handers to actually use one.

I can't really fault him for his anti-spey though, all of the American fishing scribes of his vintage had no use for 2-handers and spey casting. Bates was just as bad in his bias against 2-handers, at least Bates was not opposed to using spey and classic featherwing flies.

And he was still a terrific fly fisherman and a gentleman too boot.
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