Wapsi Friends: Lefty Kreh

Lefty Kreh

by Pat Neuner, Product Development Manager

It is safe to say that no other single person has impacted the sport of fly fishing as much as Lefty Kreh.  Has was my icon growing up as a boy in rural Kentucky and was a role model to literally millions of fly anglers worldwide.  He was a great ambassador and legend.  It seems that everyone who met Lefty has a memorable story to share about him.  He was that kind of guy — one that you cannot forget.

With Lefty’s passing earlier this week I was reminded of the first time I met him.  I barely old enough to drive and my friend Alan and I decided to make a trip from our homes in Kentucky to fish the legendary Letort Spring Run in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.  Growing up passionate, aspiring fly fishermen, both Alan and I had probably almost every bit of fly fishing literature written by the prominent fly fishing authors of the time.  Since the Carlisle area was “the cradle” of American fly fishing literature it was the first spot we wanted to hit on our fly fishing “bucket list”.

Never having fished (or even seen) a spring creek neither Alan or I knew what we were in for but we were “young and dumb” and soon we loaded up Alan’s Honda and left for Carlisle.  We arrived in town on a Sunday afternoon and after visiting one of the local fly shops (the old Cold Springs Anglers) we obtained directions to the stream.  Upon arrival to the public access, we were surprised to dozens of cars parked in the nearby field.  Surely the stream didn’t have this many people fishing it on a Sunday afternoon!  People or not, we decided to toss on our waders and give it a try.

We walked down to the stream and were amazed at how “different” it was from any other trout stream we’ve ever fished.  It was clear to us that there would be very little wading in this stream so we crept along the banks in search of trout.  Within just a few minutes I stepped into a “soft spot” (spring) on the edge of the stream and was soon stuck to my upper leg in the mud.  Trying to pull me out Alan became stuck also and we laughed mightily as we struggled to try and get out of the mud.  While we were laughing and flinging mud clods at one another a small man with a camera around his neck walked along the edge of the stream and called out to us asking if we needed help.  We immediately knew who it was — it was Lefty — and he pulled us (starry-eyed teenagers) out of the mud.

Lefty went on to explain to us that all the cars in the field were because we stumbled upon the annual picnic of the Letort Regulars –a group that included several of the fly fishing icons of the day.  Lefty invited Alan and me to join them and we spent the day listening to countless stories.  Being welcomed like this into “the world” of our fly fishing heroes made a huge impact on us.  It is one of the reasons I chose to work in the fly fishing field and is one of the reasons why I remain today.  Looking back I can remember that day very vividly although it was almost 35 years ago.  If I can wrangle up some photos I’ll add them over the next few days.  After talking with Alan today he too has similar memories and will look for photos.

Over the years I’ve seen Lefty at various events a number of times.  He was always very quick to tell a funny story, always very gracious with kids and fly fishermen on all levels, and always very kind.  He was a great man and will not be forgotten.