In my life there have been a few people that have made a lasting impression. Some rise to the top, rich experiences, like cream on fresh milk. Bernard “Lefty” Kreh is just such a person. At 93 years young, Kreh is a fly fishing legend. He is a renowned outdoorsman, a skilled hunter, writer, photographer and fly-casting instructor.
Kreh was born in Frederick, Md. on Feb. 26, 1925. His father, who taught him to fish and hunt, died during the depression and Kreh used those skills to help feed his mother and three siblings. He began fly fishing in 1947 when he was introduced to the sport by fly fishing pioneer Joe Brooks.
Kreh guided Brooks in the Chesapeake Bay, where the two developed techniques and patterns that formed the foundation of saltwater fly fishing. Brooks encouraged Kreh to share his knowledge through writing, and over the years he has been a columnist for more than 15 newspapers, including the St Petersburg Times, the Baltimore Sun and the Miami Herald.
Kreh lived in south Florida from 1964 to 1972 where he ran The MET (Miami Metropolitan Fishing Tournament). During that time, he was influential in the development of saltwater fly fishing in the Florida Keys. In 1991, a fly pattern he developed with Brooks, the Lefty’s Deceiver, was featured on a U.S. postage stamp.
He has published articles and photographs in every fly fishing magazine in the world, has authored over 20 books, including LL Bean’s “Guide to Outdoor Photography” and books on knots, as well as numerous CDs and DVDs.
This is but a small part of Kreh’s many contributions. Despite all his fame and accomplishments, he is perhaps the most unpretentious man I have ever met. It’s his attention to people, affable nature, humor and teaching style that stand out.
I first met Kreh in the late 1980s, when I was invited to fish with Capt. Rick Grassett and Kreh when he was the speaker at a Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers banquet. The night before the banquet, we fished for snook around lights in the Venice area, and I was immediately captivated by the attention he paid to us.
That’s one of Kreh’s traits that I most admire. He takes a sincere interest in everyone he meets and treats everyone with a gracious warmth. It doesn’t matter if you’re a plumber or the CEO of a major corporation, everyone is treated the same. During the banquet, he signed and personalized six of his books I had brought to the event. He did the same for over 20 people that night.
Kreh also has an innate ability to create practical solutions. One example of this was when we were fishing and he took an interest in my camera case and suggested I attach strips of an old conveyor belt he had found to keep my hard case from sliding around the deck. Less than a week after our trip, strips of the belt showed up in the mail and have been a part of my equipment ever since.
Besides his vast store of knowledge and his willingness to share it, he is also one of the funniest men I’ve ever met. Whether he is in front of a large group or just fishing with a couple of fellow anglers his earthy humor is infectious.
Over the years I have taken every opportunity I could to visit with Kreh and have soaked up his freely given tips on writing, fly fishing and photography, and I’ve enjoyed making people laugh, repeating many of his jokes. I cherish the times I’ve spent with Kreh, the books he’s signed for me and the letters I’ve received.
One of his favorite quips speaks volumes to me, “It’s only common sense, only common sense ain’t so common.” Then there’s the way he closes every letter, a valediction I adopted with his permission, “All The Best.”