Well, he's a hero to me, at least. Lefty is probably the most well known fly fisherman in the world through his books, instructional videos, and TV appearances. Since he was born and has most of his life here in Maryland, I've been lucky to have met him many times, and the latest time was Saturday on Kent Island.
Saturday was the annual event originally called "TieFest" but recently renamed "Lefty Kreh's TieFest" in honor of him. Before he gave his usual fly casting instructional demonstration I had a few minutes to talk with him and ask about fishing with baseball Hall-of-Famer Ted Williams. I could have asked him about other celebrities because he's fished with many politicians, entertainers, and athletes, but I was curious about Williams who brought the same passion and intensity to fishing as he did baseball. Along with that intensity, he was known to be bombastic and opinionated, so I was curious on how well he got along with the easy-going Kreh.
Lefty said Williams was very pleasant to be with during the many fishing trips they took together. Although he's over ninety, in many ways Lefty is still a modest country boy, and I had to read into his account of his first meeting with Williams. He described how the big, strong Williams first showed off his fly casting ability and then watched Lefty cast. No one, then or now, casts a fly rod better than Lefty Kreh, so I'm guessing Williams immediately realized that he could learn from spending time with him. Williams applied fanatical dedication to anything that interested him whether it was hitting a baseball or fly casting, and he did not tolerate well anyone of lesser dedication. He probably saw in Lefty a man of similar devotion to excellence.
But his ability as a fisherman is not the only reason I describe Lefty Kreh as a hero. He was a WWII vet who fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He clearly likes people and has a great sense of humor, and seems to radiate a pleasant aura. In turn, people adore him. You can see this adoration in the eyes of the crowd as people watch and listen to him explain the dos and don'ts of casting. Lefty has a way of bringing smiles to everyone's faces.
Finally, in an interview I read a few years ago he gave some of the most practical advice on marriage I've ever heard. His job may have been his passion, but writing and teaching about fishing required a lot of travel, and he described the tenderness he expressed to his wife before and during his many absences. They were married a long time, and I've also heard him describe the pain of her death a few years ago.
To Lefty I'm another familiar-looking face whose name he doesn't know, but to me he's a friend. I'm certain I'm only one of thousands who feel the same way.