Another side of Warrenton Photographer Doug Lees
Photos by Doug Lees
When you hear the name Doug Lees in Warrenton, the first thing you think of is, what a great guy. The second thing that comes to mind is his award-winning widely-published steeplechase photos.
But Doug has another love: fly fishing. He says, “I’ve been fishing since I was a kid. My first time, my father took me fishing on the Rappahannock with a fly rod, but I didn’t catch anything. We were fishing against my cousins that day, and they got all the fish.”
Then, a fortuitous meeting occurred. He went to work at the Piedmont Virginian (a previous incarnation of our current magazine) in 1972, and met Harrison O’Connor, an author and an expert fly fisherman from Upperville. “Harrison guided me and really got me fishing. He helped me use some of my grandfather’s bamboo fly rods from the 1940s which I had inherited. He taught me to cast, which is the hardest thing, and I actually started catching fish.”
“I’ve been lucky to meet people who have really helped me. I think that’s the key. Without that mentorship from Harrison, and Marcia Woolman in The Plains, another fly fishing expert, I would have struck out.”
And as usual, Doug always had his camera with him. His photography became a big part of his adventures on the river.
Photography is a big part of my fishing. My friends say I’d be a much better fisherman if I didn’t take pictures all the time.
“Harrison was a big deal, and he wrote a lot of articles for big fishing magazines. I started taking photos for him for some of his articles. Way back then, I was using a Minolta with a 55 ml lens. By 1978, Harrison was nationally known and writing for Sports Afield. They paid a lot of money for photos, so that was really good for me.” Then Doug met Anne Macintosh, another author writing fly fishing books who used some of his photos. And then John Ross, author of 100 Best Trout Fishing Streams, who also used Doug as a photographer.
Doug has fished all over, from locally to Pennsylvania and Maryland, and abroad in Canada, England, and Argentina. While he doesn’t consider himself an expert, he does do some informal guiding on fishing trips for friends. These days he primarily fishes in central Pennsylvania, while taking quick trips to Shenandoah National Park in between bigger trips. “There I can be on the river in 40 minutes,” he explains.
And even when he doesn’t catch a lot of fish, he still loves to go for the photography. “The scenery is incredible, and the fish are beautiful,” he says.