Bernard "Lefty" Kreh

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1925 -
2003 Inductee

Lefty Kreh is perhaps the best known and most respected fly-casting instructor and fly-fishing author in the world. Growing up in Maryland during the Depression, Lefty learned to fish and trap to put food on the table, earning a reputation as an accomplished fisherman while still a youngster. In 1947 he met Joe Brooks, the man who became his lifelong mentor and companion. Brooks was responsible for introducing Lefty to fly fishing; together they fished Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, pioneering many of the techniques and patterns now used almost universally by saltwater fly fishers, including Lefty’s Deceiver. Initially designed to catch striped bass, the effective pattern is actually an innovative tying style that can be modified to almost any game fish. The Deceiver is perhaps the best known saltwater fly pattern in the world and in 1991 the U.S. Postal Service honored Kreh’s creation with a postage stamp. It was Brooks and Tom McNally, outdoor editor of The Chicago Tribune, who encouraged Lefty to start writing, and his career officially began in 1951 with a column in The Frederick News-Post. Expert with all types of tackle and a skillful hunter as well, Lefty filled his column with simple but solid information. Local sportsmen began to rely on his advice and as his readership grew so did national and international interest in his work. By 1954 he was writing for 11 different newspapers. From 1964 to 1972 Lefty made his home in South Florida where he ran The MET (The Miami Metropolitan Fishing Tournament), wrote for The Miami Herald and, together with Karl Wickstrom and Vic Dunaway, started Florida Sportsman magazine in 1969. While in Florida Lefty did much to promote the catch-and-release ethic. Catch-and-release was not a very popular concept in 1964, especially among guides. But Lefty showed them how the sizes of popular sport fish were declining and how release fishing would help their business, and over a period of time he won them over. Lefty Kreh is the consummate fisherman. Always looking for new and better ways to do things, he believes that tradition is good for fly fishing so long as it doesn’t stand in the way of progress. He has traveled the world extensively - all 50 states, every Canadian province, Iceland, and much of Europe, South America and the South Pacific - learning something from the top guides and fishermen in each location. Lefty loves to share his skill and knowledge with anyone interested in learning. He was one of the first to make personal appearances around the country, demonstrating his fly-casting technique. A gifted and witty speaker with a seemingly endless supply of stories and jokes, he is known for his infectious enthusiasm, incredible energy, and charismatic personality. “He is the best teacher of fly casting I have ever seen,” Frank Woolner said. “A 10-minute session with Lefty is better than 10 years of trial-and-error experimentation. He is a master of trivia and knows more shortcuts than anyone in the business . . . a superb showman who can produce the goods.” In the early 1970s Kreh returned to Maryland to become outdoor editor of The Baltimore Sunpapers, retiring from the newspaper in 1993. But the concept of “retirement” is a difficult one for Lefty. When he’s not fishing and traveling, he is giving casting demonstrations, instruction or seminars; shooting photos (he developed a passion for photography in the 1950s and is world-famous for his outdoor images); working on an article, book, TV episode or video; or consulting with tackle, boat or clothing manufacturers. He has written for nearly every major outdoor magazine and authored more than 20 books, including Saltwater Fly Patterns, Practical Fishing Knots (with Mark Sosin) and Fly Fishing in Salt Water, the latter published in 1974 when the idea of casting a fly to bluefish, stripers, bonito, tarpon and tuna was not only novel, it was ridiculed. He has received numerous awards and accolades: Fly Rod & Reel’s“Angler of the Year,“ the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Sportfishing Association, and IGFA’s Elwood K. Harry Fellowship Award, all in 1997, and is a member of the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, the Fly Fishing Hall of Fame, charter member of Saltwater Flyrodders of America, Senior Advisor to Trout Unlimited and The Federation of Fly Fishers, and founding member of Bonefish & Tarpon Unlimited. There is little doubt that Lefty is the virtual father of saltwater fly fishing and that he will continue to define the sport. Yet his greatest accomplishment may be that he has never failed to help just about every person who has sought his assistance and advice. It is said that when Lefty asked Joe Brooks - the man who had so enriched his life -- how he could repay him, Brooks replied, “Just share with others what I have shared with you.” And for more than 50 years, Lefty Kreh has been doing just that.