In the late 1950’s
After one of these forays we were returning home when I began to discuss the problem. I said to Tom, "I'm going to design a fly that won't foul on the cast! It will have a fish shape, but can be made in many lengths. You can vary the color combinations; it will also swim well but when lifted for the back cast it will be sleek and have little air-resistance."
Since I was just making another pattern, I really didn't record the exact date I tied the first Deceiver - just like most anyone who was tying something new. I only hoped it would work and didn't consider it might become a part of fly-fishing history.
The First Lefty's Deceivers were pretty simple. They were tied with a wing of four to eight saddle hackles tied in at the bend of the hook, and they had a simple bucktail or calftail collar at the front of the hook. The fly was all white, which is still one of the best all-round colors. It may have been two or three years before I added other colors. As I recall the first color change I made was to have a white wing and red collar. Other combinations followed.
The Fly worked just as we wished and Tom and I began to spread the word among the few local saltwater fly fishermen. I wrote an article about the fly in the Maryland Conservation magazine in the late 1950's.
It wasn't until I later moved to Miami that I learned about Mylar. Captain Mack McChristian (who made Sea Master fly reels) introduced me to Mylar, which was 1/8-inch wide and I added it to the fly.
The Lefty's Deceiver is a type of fly design, not a specific pattern. That is, it can be an inch long or 14 inches long and can be of any combination of colors to suit the fly fisherman - or the fish. You can make it of natural or synthetic materials, or as I often do, use a combination of both. However, over the years and around the planet, the pattern that has been most successful for me has been one with either a lower portion of the wing being yellow or white with a collar of the same color or a collar of chartreuse. The top of the wing is chartreuse. The past several years I have had great success in deeper water with a cone head Lefty's Deceiver. In very clear water I use synthetic materials, such as Unique Hair. These more translucent versions draw more strikes in clear water than do the more opaque versions constructed of hair and feathers.
I believe eyes on a Lefty Deceiver often out-produce those without eyes. If the eyes are secured to the head with epoxy a different action (dipping) will be achieved than those constructed without the use of epoxy. By dressing the fly heavily with bucktail it can be fished near the surface or it can be "suspended"; using less dressing will cause it to sink faster. Of course the fly can be weighted with lead wire and even be dressed with lead eyes or bead eyes for additional weight. Slimmer dressings better resemble a thin baitfish, such as the sandlance.
The fly is now used globally and it and the Clouser Minnow are the two most copied saltwater fly patterns I know of. May tiers have added a feather or two or made an epoxy head or added large plastic eyes and other minor additions and have labeled it with their name. This doesn't bother me so long as they are enjoying using the pattern and are successful with it.
I have long believed that with the exception of permit, milkfish and bonefish, you can carry five basic styles of flies in various sizes and colors and will be well-armed to fish anywhere in the world. They are: Lefty's Deceiver, Clouser Minnow, popping bug, foam Gurgler and a Whistler.
Well, now you have the story and history of my Lefty's Deceiver, a fly I am very proud of and one I certainly hope has been as great a winner for you as it has been for me.