Lefty’s fly-casting legacy lives on

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What is it about a well-cast fly line that unfurls gently across a quiet trout pond or a roiling river? Done properly it is a graceful ballet. There is a rhythm that can mesmerize, not only the angler, but the onlooker as well. And when the softly whispering line finishes its ufurling roll, and the floating tippet dances the #16 parachute Adams upon the water like a descending butterfly, well, sir, that is the crescendo moment.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, performed this like the legendary fly caster Lefty Kreh. Although I did not know this man on a personal level, I saw him in action twice: once at a sportsman’s show casting pool and once on the Upper Androscoggin River fishing smallies. Word was that the fly fishing icon would rather fish Maine smallmouth bass than our coveted brookies!

Bernard “Lefty” Kreh died in March from congestive heart failure at age 93 at his home in Cockeysville, Maryland. According to news reports, he passed away with his family at his side mumbling that he was on his way to “Spirit Springs.”

Kreh, a World War II vet who fought in the Battle of the Bulge, was an outdoor writer for the Baltimore Sun. He knew how to relate to the ordinary Joe and yet he fished with big names all over the world: Fidel Castro, Jack Nicklaus, a number of US presidents, and Red Sox icon Ted Williams, no slouch either when it came to tossing a long fly line.

In his lifetime, Kreh wrote more than 24 books about fly fishing and fly casting.

Those who admired his prowess with a fly rod described his cast as “powerful yet smooth and balanced and fluid like a ballet.”

He taught millions of fly casters over the years. A fellow outdoor writer, Joe Evans, reported that Lefty once said, “Most people cast so hard they look like monkeys hoeing cabbage. Cast any harder and you’ll tear your underwear.”

Lefty’s most famous artificial fly creation is “Lefty’s Deceiver,” which actually wound up on a US postage stamp!

So we bid farewell to Lefty Kreh, known by friends as Will Rogers in waders. For sure, in the fly fishing community and wherever anglers gather to improve their casting techniques, he will not soon be forgotten.

The author is editor of the “Northwoods Sporting Journal.” He is also a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program — “Maine Outdoors” — heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on “The Voice of Maine News – Talk Network.” He has authored three books; online purchase information is available at

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