Lee Wulff

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Lee Wulff is a former artist-turned fly fisherman who helped to transform sports fishing.[how?]


He was born in Valdez, Alaska in 1905.[1] In his early years Lee always had a fascination with the outdoors. Lee declared "Apparently I started fishing as soon as I could crawl",[1] and started to fish with a pin as a hook. In 1915 after Lee's father failed to find gold in the Alaska Gold Rush, the family moved to Brooklyn, New York.[1] Where Lee would fish every summer running around the state of New York during his childhood years. During his college years he studied engineering at Stanford University in California, but three months[1] into school he lost interest. Mr. Wulff decided to take a much different path and became an artist; he moved to Paris, France, and studied art.[1] After about a year of art school he moved back to the US and started to work for an advertising company in New York City.

Mr. Wulff worked long hours at the advertising firm, but he still fly fished regularly. Something about fly fishing just drew him in and he kept coming back for more. Lee figured that he could fish streams in the Catskills and New Jersey for around $3.00 to $4.00 a week. This included "gas to get there, cheese, bread and milk and a tent to sleep in".[1] Mr. Wulff soon decided to quit his job at the New York City advertising company and work as a full-time artist.

During his time as an artist he fished more and more, giving him more experience. During the 1950s, Mr. Wulff started fly fishing around the world, and he created promotional videos for certain areas.[2] Taking fly fishing to the general public, he created a sustainable business. Two key ideas helped him make fly fishing into a profitable business. In 1939, Lee Wulff released the book, Handbook of Fly Fishing,[3] where he maps out the principals of catch and release fishing. The way he puts catch and release is that there will be more fish in the rivers, so you can come back again and again and catch fish. Also he says that the fish get smarter making them harder to catch and making the fisherman have to be more accurate with his casts. Lee Wulff is considered the premier proponent of catch and release fishing. The second part of the business model is setting up organizations such as Trout Unlimited and other like it to protect the habitats[4] that the trout live in and making the beautiful places where fishermen fish stay beautiful.

In 1967 Lee married Joan Wulff;[5] Mrs. Wulff is just an avid fly fisher as Lee was.[6] The couple set up the Wulff School of Fly Fishing in 1979 on the Beaverkill River in New York.[7] According to the school's website, Joan explained the couple's reason for open the school. "Lee's and my dream to share, with willing enthusiasts, the skills and lore of our wonderful sport. Lee will be with you through his words, films, and philosophy."[7]

Another passion that Mr. Wulff had was flying planes; sadly this led to his death in 1991, when his plane crashed in hills of Hancock, New York. His death was a loss to the fishing and fly fishing communities.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Bryant, Nelson. "Lee Wulff, 86, an Outdoorsman Who Transformed Sport Fishing - New York Times." The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. New York Times, 30 Apr. 1991. Web. 21 Nov. 2011. <http://www.nytimes.com/1991/04/30/obituaries/lee-wulff-86-an-outdoorsman-who-transformed-sport-fishing.html>.
  2. ^ "Salar, The Leaper - YouTube." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. 9 Jan. 2007. Web. 05 Dec. 2011. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Q6-6A3vCpo>.
  3. ^ Jones, Stephen. "Lee Wulff." Lee Wulff. Yale Library, May 2010. Web. 5 Dec. 2011. <http://www.library.yale.edu/beinecke/images/wulff_news_release.pdf>.
  4. ^ Wulff, Lee. "The Bright Future of Trout Fishing." A Gamefish Too Valuable. 1978. 261-70. Print.
  5. ^ Wurtmann, Jon. "Joan Wulff, Saratogian." Wurtmann Advertising. Web. 05 Dec. 2011. <http://www.landing.net/Joan_Wulff_copy.html>.
  6. ^ Wulff, Lee, and John Merwin. The Compleat Lee Wulff: a Treasury of Lee Wulff's Greatest Angling Adventures. New York: Dutton, 1989. Print.
  7. ^ a b "About the Wulff School of Fly Fishing." Wulff School of Fly Fishing. Web. 05 Dec. 2011. <http://www.wulffschool.com/about.html>.