March 16, 2018
Florida Sportsman staff mourns the loss of Bernard “Lefty” Kreh, who passed Wednesday in Cockeysville, Maryland. Kreh was 93.
Among many proverbial feathers in Lefty's cap was a stint as Associate Editor of Florida Sportsman. The lead story in the magazine's premier issue, summer of 1969, was Kreh's “New Secrets for Snook!” In the early years of the magazine, he contributed many articles on a range of topics, from tarpon to fishing the Marquesas Keys.
At the time, Kreh was living in Miami and running the Metropolitan South Florida Fishing Tournament, or MET. He would describe his eight years in Florida as tantamount to earning a “master's degree in fishing.” “I knew many good, great and miraculous spots throughout south Florida,” Kreh wrote in his 2008 memoir, My Life Was This Big. “In the 1960s and 1970s, the science of fishing made enormous leaps in terms of technology, design, strategy and technique. Virtually all of those advances occurred in Florida.”
In the same memoir, Kreh described growing up in poverty. At his childhood home in Frederick, Maryland, the “only heat was the cookstove in the kitchen.” He really did walk 32 blocks to school, through 10 inches of snow. He became an expert marksman with a rifle, an avid fisherman, and, thanks in part to his ambidexterity and peripheral vision, successful in ball sports.
Kreh served in a U.S. Army artillery division in World War II, experiencing combat during the Battle of the Bulge, marching through blasted-out villages, hunkering in trenches as German projectiles screamed overhead.
Following the war, Kreh parlayed his fishing skills and connections (among them, Joe Brooks) into a career as a famed outdoors writer, photographer, fly caster, and fly tier. By 1954, he was syndicated in 11 newspapers, according to longtime Florida Sportsman contributor Doug Kelly, who profiled Kreh in Florida's Fishing Legends and Pioneers.
After his time in Florida, Kreh returned to Maryland and took up a position as Outdoor Editor for the Baltimore Sun, where he worked until 1993. In the intervening years, Kreh traveled, wrote and lectured widely.
The early 1990s would see something of a fly fishing renaissance—with Florida again serving as a locus of attention for its bonefish, tarpon, redfish and other strong, discerning species. Many anglers would rediscover Kreh's methods through his influential book, Fly Fishing in Salt Water, published two decades earlier. In his memoir, Kreh said he'd written the book largely in response to questions posed to him about Florida species and techniques. In 1991, Lefty's eponymous streamer fly, the Deceiver, was selected to adorn a U.S. Postal stamp. He continued to nurture saltwater fly fishing through how-to articles in Florida Sportsman Magazine, among other sources.
Of his time in Florida, Kreh wrote: “I did more than live there, I immersed myself in it.”
Click here for a tribute to Lefty Kreh in the New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/14/obituaries/lefty-kreh-a-fly-fisherman-with-few-peers-is-dead-at-93.html
Also, Flip Pallot writes about Kreh in the current (April-May) issue of Fly Fisherman Magazine.
A few notes from FS Staffers:
Bob Mitchell, Florida Sportsman Marketing Director, 1969-2015
Capt. Mike Conner, Fishing Guide and Staff Editor, Florida Sportsman 1998-2010
“Everyone seems to have a favorite story about Lefty, mine came from a mid-'70s trade show where Lefty asked me if I've ever fly fished. I told him no so he brought me out into the hall and effortlessly cast the fly out more than a hundred feet. He then went on to explain that this is a very nice and expensive rod but it's not necessary and preceded to remove the butt section of the rod and then quickly cast the fly 70 to 80 feet with just the top section of the rod. And then he said, you know the rod really isn't necessary at all, and while holding just the flyline cast the fly every bit of 60 feet.”
Doug Kelly, alumnus managing editor of Florida Sportsman, author of Florida's Fishing Legends and Pioneers
“During the 35 years I've known Lefty, he said one thing to me that shaped my fishing professionally-- Diversify! Do it all, Mike: Guide, teach, write and publish articles, tie flies. Do it all and you might actually make a fun living at it.”
Steve Kantner, Author, Ultimate Guide to Fishing South Florida on Foot
"You know, the world was just a brighter place with Lefty in it. After returning to the dock in Islamorada one day in which Lefty caught four bonefish to my zero, he flashed that toothy mischievous smile of his and said, "Doug, you couldn't get a nibble in a school of starving grunts."
"Seems like my wife, Vicki (who kept in touch with him till he quit reading emails) and I knew Lefty forever. He'd stay at our condo back back when we hosted seminars. Mostly, he made me better at so many parts of the puzzle, from learning to Spey cast, and shoot better photos, to reading people. Fly casting was just part of a greater 'Leftocracy.'"
"Despite his years of running the MET (once the world's largest FREE fishing tournament), he was leery of contests--except those that raised money for charity. Said they 'turned friends into competitors.'