Celebrating Lefty

All the Best Celebrating Lefty Kreh By Flip Pallot, with contributions from the fly-fishing community" 2008, Collectors Cov

  • By: Seth Norman

While fly-fishing has a small galaxy of stars known for casting, teaching and writing, fix Lefty Kreh among the most visible, say somewhere in the Belt of Orion. For the saltwater tribe, drifting flats or cruising bluewater, he’s more like Polaris. But casting’s just a part of his picture and portrait: I don’t think anybody’s published more about techniques, flies, gear, exotic destinations. A whole lot of people have favorite Kreh-lessons; by my lights, his bucking of the 9-to-1“clock face” dictum commenced a sea change in casting. For those seeking distance before that, frustrated or already guilty of“drifting hands,” his call to common sense was as secretly liberating as the Kinsey Report, for sinners secretly waiting to go blind.

In the first part of this biography/celebration, author Flip Pallot chronicles Kreh’s life and time and achievements in four liberally illustrated chapters. Pallot’s fond narrative contains lots of Lefty speaking directly: it’s a blend that works. I certainly found surprises here: during WWII Lefty was among troops liberating the Leipzig-Thekla concentration camp, an experience that“has been the source of nightmares for Lefty throughout most of his life. Always in the back of his consciousness is the knowledge of what human beings are capable of doing to each other.”

Following this history is a 60-page photo gallery,“Friends and Favorite Places,” with many shots captured by Lefty’s own camera. There are a lot of those luminaries here, many of fly-fishing’s most-appreciated suspects, along with people who are merely true-blue parts of Lefty’s life.

Many of whom, and more, appear again in a third segment, added per Pallot’s insight:“Then I remembered all of Lefty’s other friends. Shouldn’t they share the opportunity to celebrate Lefty, too?” They certainly think so; thus we receive tributes and stories from scores of fans from at least two generations.

A pattern emerges from these, something the individuals could not have noted, writing on their own, but the reader can…how many of the stories reveal small moments in which Kreh halts his passage—to fishing, from fishing—and, absent fanfare, gives somebody a hand. A lesson, usually, always a joke, or 19 minutes or hours of real attention.

To each reporter this suggests a special kind of largesse: that uncommon, common touch; the humility of a man who’s never lost sight of his origins, or allowed fame to inflate him so he rises too high to be touched. Kreh may be a businessman, known to play hardball with those at the upper echelons he travels, but he’s not about to disdain anybody of modest means or modest skills. He knows what it means to get help, so he gives it.

From his first book, Kreh spoke to a larger audience than those traditionally included in the sport. And inclusive is the word—the sense that no pilgrim should let him- or herself be baffled.•

Seth Norman lives in Washington State and is the author of Meanderings of a Fly Fisher and other books. He also is the Freewheeling Fly-Fisher at flyrodreel.com.