There was only one Lefty. So pervasive was his imprint and influence on modern angling that his last name is scarcely necessary in conversation among anglers.
When Bernard “Lefty” Kreh died at his home in Cockeysville, Maryland, March 14, 2018, at 93, fishing in general lost a guiding light and fly fishing in particular, an unmatched champion, teacher and innovator.
Over the course of his career Kreh authored more than 30 books and innumerable magazine articles, as well as appearing in videos, on television and a nearly-constant schedule of public appearances.
A fly pattern of his design, the Deceiver, remains a staple in the fly boxes of fresh and saltwater anglers alike. One of the best-known saltwater patterns of all time, in 1991 the Postal Service commemorated the Lefty’s Deceiver with a postage stamp.
But most of all he’ll be remembered for the thousands of fly-casters whose game he elevated, beginners and seasoned hands alike, to which he offered advice and coaching, usually with an always-ready joke or quip, many of which are repeatable in polite company.
Kreh was born February 26, 1925, in Frederick, Maryland. As a young man, after military service, he gained substantial renown on his home waters fishing smallmouth bass on the Potomac. He soon came to the attention of Joe Brooks, iconic angler and writer to a prior generation, who introduced him to fly-fishing in 1947.
Kreh began his career as an outdoor writer for the Frederick News-Post, as well as numerous magazines, and later served a stint running the Metropolitan South Florida Fishing Tournament.
In 1972 he returned to Maryland as the Outdoor Editor for the Baltimore Sun, from which he retired after 18 years.
Retirement only freed him to do more of what he did best: entertain, instruct and continue to expand possibilities in modern fly fishing.
Shortly after returning to Maryland, in 1974 he published two seminal books: Fly Casting with Lefty Kreh and Fly Fishing in Salt Water.
Fly Casting with Lefty Kreh introduced a then-radical approach to fly-casting that re-defined the fundamentals, codifying the mechanics incorporating technical advancements in tackle materials such as glass and graphite rods, eclipsing the British traditions in fly casting that had long-dominated instruction and practice.
Fly Fishing in Salt Water introduced anglers to a new aspect of the sport, which was rapidly developing and gaining popularity, and it remains a valuable primer today.
He retired from a constant schedule of appearances, activities and fishing adventures in 2017.
In a public letter disseminated via email in October of that year, Kreh announced his health would no longer allow him to follow the active schedule that he’d maintained for decades. He explained he had plenty of projects at home, and true to form, that he was “busier than a Syrian bricklayer.”
In closing, he said:
I’m busy and content but I want you to know I am so appreciative you’ve have shared your lives with me.
All The Best, Friends,
To which we can only add, “Likewise, Lefty.”
Lefty Kreh held a masthead position with Salt Water Sportsman from 1990 until his retirement in 2017.