‘All the Best’: celebrating Lefty Kreh
From the July 9, 2008 Issue
Sun Outdoors Editor Rusty Chinnis and
Kreh share a moment while fishing during a Florida Outdoor
Writers Assoc. conference in Tampa.
Flip Pallot’s new book "All the Best," is both a tribute to and biography of the life of Lefty Kreh. The coffee table-sized book tells the story of Kreh’s extraordinary life through pictures and the words of Pallot, Kreh and people that played an important role in his life. Arguably the most important angling figure in the 20th century, Kreh’s life is a compelling chronicle of a man who lifted himself and his family from crushing poverty with a combination of will and humor. Pallot is the perfect person to tell this story because of his long and close association with Kreh.
Pallot’s book is a fitting tribute to his friend and a man who can truly be called a living legend. As much as I already admired Kreh, reading the details of his life’s challenges and accomplishments further deepened my appreciation for this extraordinary man that I’m proud to call a friend.
The book begins with a fitting thank you to Evelyn, Kreh’s wife of more than 60 years. It reads, "This book is for Evelyn Kreh, who has so generously and for so long shared Lefty with us all. Ev, we’ve always tried to send him home in better shape than when we got him." From the first time I met Kreh in 1988 and at every meeting since he has never failed to thank the woman that he calls his best friend.
In the foreword John Randolph (editor and publisher of Fly Fisherman magazine) pays homage to a man he considers to be the greatest angling figure in the last half of the 20th century. He rightly observes that his success is based on many factors, chief among them his strength of character and enduring values. He considers Kreh to be his greatest mentor, and bemoans the fact that, "there will be no new Lefty Krehs because there will be no new audience to demand the message." I disagree with his assessment, because of the many men, women and children, myself included, that Kreh has taught and inspired. Many of these will no doubt carry on the legacy of a man of character and humor who loved people and made his life’s mission mentoring them.
The book then recounts Kreh’s early years growing up in Maryland. It’s a compelling story of the loss of his father at age six, his family’s need to depend on welfare and the development of strength of character and sense of responsibility that would characterize his legacy in later years. There are many photos of Kreh and the family he helped support through fishing and hunting the streams and woods near his home.
A year after his graduation from high school in 1942, Kreh was inducted into the U.S. Army, an experience that touched him deeply and one that he carries with him to this day. After the war, the years of learning the woods and waters around his home would lead to his association with his mentor, the late Joe Brooks, and catapult Kreh onto the national stage. From that point, Kreh began his rise to prominence with his writing, photography and association with the great fly fishermen and fly tiers of his day.
It was the call he received from Joe Brooks in August of 1964 that would be the defining moment for Kreh, one that Brooks described as "the time Lefty began to smell saltwater.’ The call was an offer to manage the prestigious Metropolitan Miami Fishing Tournament (MET). He accepted and the experience increased his exposure and fame, leading to associations with some of the greatest names in fishing and publishing.
In the next section, Kreh shares his friends, family and favorite places with readers through a gallery of images and his own commentary. This was one of my favorite sections because it revealed the best of an extraordinary life with a passion that I share.
In the final section, Fish Tales and Tributes, a few of the many people that have been touched by Kreh get a chance to share what the association has meant to them. This is a tribute by both relatively unknown anglers as well some of the world’s fly fishing luminaries. In the Afterword, renowned publisher Nick Lyons does an admirable job of summing up this treatise on a remarkable human being.
I’ve had the pleasure of fishing with Lefty, visiting him at home and watching him teach and touch people at numerous events. Lefty became a mentor to me, a friend and someone who I admire greatly. In anyone’s lifetime there are a few people who make an indelible mark on your life, those that you attempt to emulate and who give you positive direction just by the way they live their lives and conduct their affairs. I encourage you to buy this book and learn about the life of Lefty Kreh. And if you are fortunate enough to see him at a future event, you can experience firsthand the warmth and humor of this man who has fished with presidents, CEO’s and legendary figures like Ernest Hemmingway and Fidel Castro. His most enduring gift, in my mind, is his ability to make you feel as special as anyone he has met in a life of notable experiences.
To obtain a copy, contact Collectors Covey at 1-800-531-2403 or visit their Web site at www.collectorscovey.com.