Maryland fly fishing legend Bernard ‘Lefty’ Kreh dies

WASHINGTON — A legendary Maryland fly fisherman, known for his incredible skill and generosity, has died.

Bernard “Lefty” Kreh of Cockeysville passed away Wednesday at 93. He grew up in Frederick, Maryland.

“He could put a fly into a paper cup from 25 yards,” said Candy Thomson. “He just had this amazing casting ability. It was smooth, it was beautiful, it was a powerful cast, and it was ballet — one of the most gorgeous things. He was doing ‘A River Runs Through It’ before anybody even thought of it.”

Both Thomson and Kreh spent time as outdoors writers for The Baltimore Sun.

“Lefty was a guy who fished with presidents,” Thomson said. “He fished with sports stars, he fished with celebrities, but he was just as happy going to a fishing show here in Maryland and talking to regular folks and giving out free advice.”

Some of those big names included Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Fidel Castro, Ernest Hemingway, Jack Nicklaus, Ted Williams, Michael Keaton and Tom Brokaw.

“Fly fishing in itself is either art or science and requires a lot of skill, and he made it seem so easy,” said Potomac River bass fishing guide Capt. Steve Chaconas. “He inspired me to go out, get a fly rod, and make the effort. And, I really enjoy it based on my experiences with him. For those of us who were touched by him, it will live on with the other people that we take out.”

Kreh wrote more than two dozen books, was named to several fishing halls of fame and traveled the globe.

“He fished in all the continents but Antarctica, he used to say,” Thomson said.

A fishing fly he created called “Lefty’s Deceiver” ended up being featured on a U.S. postage stamp.

In Maryland, Lefty Kreh’s Tie Fest is an annual event and the Lefty Kreh Fishing Trail is located in Gunpowder Falls State Park.

Thomson said Kreh was a World War II veteran who survived the Battle of the Bulge and went on to survive a run-in with anthrax. After the war, while working at Fort Detrick he was accidentally infected.

Later, in what must be the oddest of his honors, an anthrax strain was named after him. It was called BVK-1, because Lefty’s full name is Bernard V. Kreh.

“He’s a treasure,” said Thomson, who’s now with the Maryland Natural Resources Police.

She said she will miss the man with the cackling laugh.

“I always used to say Lefty has two kinds of jokes: corny and salty.”

According to a Facebook page run by Kreh’s granddaughter Sam, Kreh was surrounded by family and other loved ones when he passed away, and a celebration of his life is being planned.

“During the course of the week that I’ve been here, one thing he kept mumbling was Spirit Springs, over and over,” she posted. “When I asked him, what or where that is, he simply replied, that’s where he’s going, to fishing heaven, to Spirit Springs.”

Here is a video of Kreh’s doing what he loves.

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