Standing at an indoor fly casting pond with my 19 year old daughter and exceptional fly fisherman and fly caster, we were varying casting distances and experimenting with different fly fishing scenarios. It was that time of year… we were at the International Fly Tackle Dealer show where each manufacturer unveils their latest innovations to the world. We were testing the latest Sage fly rods made with the newest technologies in fly rod design that were about to hit the market. As I handed the new Sage, Salt HD rod to Alecia and stepped away so she could test it, I heard a faint shaking voice from behind me. “Is that your student Eddie?” As I turned around to see who was talking to me, a humongous smile overcame my face. It was the great ‘Lefty’ Kreh, probably the most influential and significant grandfather of modern day fly fishing that has ever lived.
After greeting my old friend and mentor with hand shakes and salutations I replied. “No lefty, she’s not my student, she’s my daughter…” Alecia had grown at least 2 feat since he had last seen her.
“Does she want a lesson?” he asked.
The large smile that had overcome my face must have been contagious, because it instantly spread to Alecia and she immediately replied “A fly casting lesson from the ‘Great Lefty Kreh’? You bet I do!”
‘Lefty’ insisted that I hold on to him while he worked with Alecia. He was 92 years old now and was acutely aware of his lack of balance. I took a photo of ‘Lefty’ working with Alecia and later we both reflected on the significance of this chance meeting. This would be one of ‘Lefty’s’ last casting lessons… if not the last.
On March 14, 2018, the news of his passing, spread through the fly fishing community like wild fire. And while there were many ‘rest in peace’ comments being shared on social media, I wondered how many modern day fly fisherman truly understood what impact this great adventurer really had on the sport they called fly fishing.
Along with Flip Pallot, Dan Blanton, Bob Clouser and a few others, Lefty discovered how to catch saltwater game fish on a fly at a time when no one else even thought it was possible. His famous Lefty’s Deceiver fly has even been featured on United States postage stamps. He developed ‘Lefty Kreh’s Modern Fly Casting Method’ and taught it to thousands of fly fisherman during the time that technology was changing fly rod and line design to a degree that the age old techniques being taught were not in line with the new age equipment being developed.
I am reminded of a time over 25 years ago when as a young fly casting instructor, Lefty asked me to throw a number of bad casts on command. I had spent my whole life learning to cast a good loop and couldn’t imagine why it would be useful or productive trying to make a bad cast. “Look Eddie, if you ever want to be a good fly casting instructor, you’ve got to learn how to throw all the bad casts well” He declared.
Since that time, I indeed learned how to throw the bad casts well and eventually I could do them intentionally. Over time, I came to understand what he meant and why he taught me that valuable lesson.
Lefty was never interested in impressing an audience with his knowledge, or the fact that he had traveled the entire globe and caught over a hundred different species of fish on a fly. He used to say, “You can impress people with your knowledge or you can teach them how to fish.”
I can truly say that beyond all of the fly fishing knowledge he shared with the world, the most important thing he ever taught me, was how to share the sport with people and how to have more fun doing it.
In our fast growing information age of fly fishing, social media has created a number of well respected heroes and fly fishing demigods. I will never forget, nor will I lose respect for the giants who’s shoulders I stand upon. I travel the road that has been forged, by the adventuring fly fisherman and innovators who came before us… they laid the foundation on which we build.
For your life long contribution, and from the bottom of my heart, Thank you ‘Lefty’. I am better for having known you.