DALLAS Bernard Victor "Lefty" Kreh is a small man who casts a long shadow. Ask him what he does for a living and he'll probably says he's an outdoor writer, but he's really more of a teacher. His insatiable desire to acquire and pass along knowledge has done more to popularize fly-fishing in America than any other factor.
In Dallas recently to promote a new book, Kreh, 83, stood for four hours in sweltering heat, giving fly casting lessons to a local fly-fishing group. He walked with a limp and a crutch, the result of a fall that separated his kneecap from his knee, but he'd been on two fishing trips since the accident.
Dubbed "Lefty" as a youth baseball player, Lefty is really ambidextrous. He does most of his casting with his right hand these days. "I kind of wore my left elbow out," he admits with a snorting laugh. He once joked that he played sports left-handed so he wouldn't have to go through life as Bernard Victor Kreh.
The book, "All the Best, Celebrating Lefty Kreh," is an anomaly for Lefty because he didn't write this one. Friends wrote most of it. His friends are the Who's Who of fly-fishing, from Flip Pallot and Bob Clouser to John Randolph and Nick Lyons.
Kreh has written about 30 books, mostly on the art of fly casting and fly-fishing. Always eager to embrace technology, he's wrapping up a lavishly illustrated photo book on how to cast a fly line. Hundreds of sequenced images illustrate the mechanics of a cast like no book has done before.Here are excerpts from a conversation with the "Lord of the Flies":
Question: What do you want people to know about fly-fishing?
Of all the kinds of fishing I've done and I've done them all fly-fishing is the most fun, but only when the conditions are right. When the wind is blowing and it's miserable out, it's a whole lot more practical to use casting or spinning gear. Despite the impression that I'm only a fly fisherman, I use all kinds of tackle whatever the situation dictates. Most of the time, flies better represent baitfish than do lures with treble hooks. There are many times when fly-fishing will work better than anything. When other lures spook fish in shallow water, the fly lands as quiet as a mouse walking on cotton. Also, the casting is fun, even when you're not catching fish.
Question: Do you see fly-fishing as a growing sport?
Absolutely. And one of the biggest growth segments is women anglers. Women like fly-fishing because it's noncompetitive. A successful fly fisherman will go out of his way to tell another fly fisherman what fly or technique he's using to catch fish. You don't see that very often in other forms of fishing. It's a different philosophy. One thing that helps fly-fishing growth is the emergence of good quality equipment that's reasonably priced. Most $100 rods are capable of casting better than the person who uses them.
Question: Who's the best fly caster you've ever seen?
Probably Marvin Levine, the guy who designs the interiors of Bass Pro Shops stores. A bunch of guys used to come over to my house and cast, and Marvin was the best.
Question: Who's the best casting instructor you've seen?
Ed Jawarowski, a retired assistant professor of classics at Villanova. A good casting instructor never displays knowledge; he shares it. You must be able to cast with either hand so you can work with either left-handed or right-handed casters. The most important thing is that you've got to be able to duplicate all the bad casts that people make. If you can't make a bad cast, you probably don't know how to correct it. Ed can do those things better than anyone I've seen.
Selected wit and wisdom of fly fisherman and writer Bernard Victor Lefty Kreh:
• Common sense ain't that common.
• An expert is a guy with a slide show that he shows more than 10 miles from his house.
• I thought bill was a man's name until I got married.
• He thinks his candle will burn brighter if he blows out the other guy's.
• I can teach any woman to cast as long as I'm not married to her.
• Hillbillies use only one fly, and they catch fish. So don't let this thing get too complicated. Half a dozen fly patterns will catch 90 percent of the fish 90 percent of the time.
• Casting is simple. And clocks ain't got a damn thing to do with it. If you did that 9 o'clock to 1 o'clock stuff all day, your arm would fall off.