Lee Wulff

by Jack Samson
(reviewed by Louis Bignami)

When told of his death, Charles Kurault, host of CBS's "Sunday Morning" said " Lee Wulff was to fly fishing what Einstein was to physics."

Ed Zern said, ". . . Lee's name will continue to stand, as it does today, for the concept of game fish as too valuable and too precious to be caught only once."

Photo by Joan Wulff

Only a writer of Jack Samson's experience and honed skills could have done justice to Lee Wulff who did more to bring flyfishing to its present angling eminence than any other. This year's "must read" for fly fishers, and a wonderful read for anyone who glories in the variety of human achievement.

Jack Samson wrote successful biographies of Ernest Thompson Seaton and General Claire Chenault of Flying Tiger's Fame before he tacked Lee Wulff's. Good thing too. Lee Wulff did everything -- and most things two or three times. Let's see: father, or at least Godfather, of catch and release, trained engineer, skilled artist, wonderful pilot. Wulff flies, the Portland hitch, opening up Newfoundland tourism for tuna and Atlantic Salmon, founding father of both the Atlantic Salmon Federation and Fly Fishing, book author, multiple record holder of fly and all-tackle records, the list goes on an on. We was even a three sport athlete in college.

This wonderful biography shows Wullf was primarily an artist who expressed his insights on paper, in print, with a fly rod and at the controls of an aircraft. Art never got less than Wullf's complete concentration even at the cost of his personal life. His focus at the stream, honed by early years in Alaska was legendary. He simply saw more fish, cast more gracefully, and played fish better than anyone else. Then he managed to juggle a host of other activities with panache and style. Lee defined "unique."

A fine artist trained in Paris, Wulff's manual dexterity was beyond legend. What else can you say of a size #28 fly tied without a vise? What can you say when this same size fly took a salmon as Lee's sensitive fingers controlled the tiny fly on the six and seven foot fly rods he favored.

The other thread of the tapestry of Lee's life was rawboned toughness. He could slug it out with a tuna for over 13 hours. At 80 he ran chainsaws and dozers. He fought a several hundred pound Pacific blue marlin on a fly rod for an hour and a half off Golfito, Costa Rica at age 85. The next day he hooked a potential world record Pacific sailfish and fought it for six hours before the hook pulled out.

Lee died in his 86th year at the controls of his light plane. Nobody who knew Lee thought the crash killed him. His co-pilot said, "I will always believe that Lee's death was the cause of the accident -- rather than a result of it. Lee died, as he lived, doing one of the things he did best long after anyone's reasonable expectations.

Hardcover, 5 by 9 inches, 238 Pages, Frank Amato Publications (US). Ask for an autograph or suitable inscription from Jack Samson, 222 West Lupita Ave., Santa Fe, NM 87505.