Lefty Kreh - expert fly fisherman
- great entertainer

Fishing instructor, fly fishing tuition and fishing trips based in Scotland. Salmon and trout fishing advice, flies and articles.

Casting with Lefty Kreh by Ally Gowans

joan wulff
Lefty Kreh

Lefty Kreh started fly fishing in 1947 and since then he has become one of the most respected fly fishers, instructors, photographers and fishing writers on the planet having written more than a dozen books about fishing and contributed to many others. Lefty Kreh is a no nonsense practical and pragmatic fly fisherman with a fantastic sense of humour, always a pleasure to be with and a fund of knowledge. I was very pleased when he took time to talk to me about his life whist we were demonstrating fly casting in Denver, September 2003. Surprisingly it seems that Lefty came to fly fishing from spinning almost by chance. I will now let him tell the story of how he entered our sport. Sadly Lefty Kreh died on 14th March 2018 aged 93 years after a long an illustrious career.

I guided a guy named Joe Brooks who was fairly unknown at the time but who later became our best known American fly fisherman for many, many years. Joe asked me to take him small mouthed bass fishing and this was just about the time spinning was coming into the country, I think about 1947 and I was using light bait casting reels. Almost always a good fisherman on his own stream will out fish anybody else on their stream. Joe Brooks brought a fly rod along, an old bamboo Orvis and I had never seen anybody use a fly rod before they never used them. I lived in Maryland and there just weren’t any fly rods. He was sort of a regal person and I said Mr Brooks if you don’t have a plug rod with you I’ll be glad to lend you one. He said “why” and I said “well the wind is blowing”. It was blowing at about 12 miles an hour and I thought that was terrible for fly fishing at that time. Ally, you and I have learnt a lot since then! Anyway he said “do you mind if I use a fly rod” and I said “no”. Well he caught almost as many fish as I did which impressed me but what really sold me was that we were on the Potomic River above Washington DC and there was a rock a ledge which ran across the river and upstream and we walked on the top of it. That was the first time I got a look at a fly line and couldn’t believe how big they were after using 6lb test braided silk. Now I’ve alluded to what might have happened that day because we have migrating flying ants at that time in September in our part of the country and the Potomic there is about 3 or 4 miles wide and these ants would come off the high hills at one side and a lot of them didn’t make it they fell in the river. I saw these little rings but I didn’t know what the hell they were. Joe had a black spruce streamer I know what it is now but I didn’t know what it was then and a ring turned up and he threw that thing out and he caught a fish. Another ring and he caught another fish and he did that about eight times. So the next day I drove 50 miles down to Baltimore Maryland where he lived. He picked me out a GLF line which is now a #9 line and big old soft glass rod and a phluger medallist reel which I still have and he gave that 9 o’clock to 1 o’clock method that everybody used and I started out by myself with no help. He gave me a lesson and left town next day I don’t know if I was the reason or not but anyway I began casting with that 9 o’clock and 1 o’clock. We were fishing small mouthed bass and the longer you can throw the line the better so gradually I developed the system that many people use today and of course its not my system because I read a book by Jock Scott who used the same dammed method that I am using now but the point is in those days it was rare in our country to see somebody who did not go from 9 o’clock to 1 o’clock. Now its rare to see anybody other than trout fisherman who just go from 9 o’clock to 1 o’clock. That’s how I got started with the thing.

Who has had the biggest influence on you?

Joe Brooks had the biggest influence on me; he got me into writing and got me into fly fishing he got me interested in salt water fishing. People know me as a salt water angler but actually I fish much more fresh water than I ever did salt but the main thing he did for me and the most important thing he did after he introduced me, was that in 1964 he got me a job in Miami Florida which at that time only had a few people living down there and in Florida Keys there were only a few guides. He got me a job working for the largest fishing company in the world and I met and got to know all the guides on a first name basis. All the major writers in the United States would come down there to fish and I took them fishing so I learnt from the writers and a lot of National Geographic people came down, they were fisherman and they taught me photography and I taught them fishing and it worked out for both of us. I don’t know if you are interested or not but back in the fifties my wife and I did not have enough money to buy mosquito underwear we were really poor and I wanted to fish all over the place not just to fish but learn how to fish and I did not the money and to my knowledge I was the first one back then to start doing casting demonstrations, lessons and slide shows and the reason I did it was they would pay my way there. Not only would they pay my way but they would pay me something for being there and in those days all you needed was crackers, cheese and coke and I could always arrange to fish with the best local guides. Actually I did that in England I used to go to England and stay with John Goddard who is one of my very best friends. I got to fish all over the world on someone else’s money.

How would you convince someone else to go fly fishing?

Best way convince someone else to go fly fishing is to go fishing with them in a situation where fly fishing is better for example if you take somebody bone fishing, bone fish are more frightened than a chap in a bears path and if you chuck out a jig or something out there you scare the bone fish but if you drop a delicate fly you can catch them. Or else if you have trout rising on a dry fly stream you can throw spinners and stuff but they will never beat a dry fly. If you can show them that fly fishing is an efficient and the most enjoyable way to catch fish they will want to do it. Also if you then help them with their casting that is a great encouragement. The only people I know in fishing that will go out on the lawn and cast in the air are fly fisherman, spin fisherman are not going to go out and throw lures around. You imbue them with the idea this is a good way of catching fish and also a lot more fun. Incidentally I find more women coming for fly fishing lessons than men.

More interesting discussion with Lefty. See page 2. See page 3.

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Copyright 2007 Alastair Gowans AAPGAI and FFF Master and THCI, APGAI. All rights reserved.