In this uncertain year that 2020 has been, we check in with TFO National Advisor Flip Pallot down in the deep woods near his home in South Florida.
Flip Pallot has been apart of the TFO family as a National Advisor since 2006.
Flip was born and raised in South Florida. An avid outdoorsman for as long as he could remember, Flip began his career as a banker, for “way too long” according to him. After finding the courage to leave the corporate world, Flip began his second career as a fishing and hunting guide. After 12 years Flip moved to television producing and bringing his life’s fishing travels to the small screen for us to enjoy. He is best known for bringing us the Walkers Cay Chronicles, which aired for 16 seasons on ESPN and as a founder of Hell’s Bay Boatworks.
Flip’s keen sense for storytelling and bringing to life the best part of fishing adventures has continued with teaching instructional classes and writing books on fly fishing.
If you’ve followed TFO’s How to Get Started in Fly Fishing series, you have a rod, reel, fly line and leader from partsI, II, III and IV. Now you need to be able to cast.
You don’t need to be Lefty Krehor Flip Pallot to catch fish, but you do need to be able to cast effectively. Freshwater is more forgiving. If you can cast 20 or 30 feet and maintain good line control, you can catch freshwater species consistently, particularly if you are willing to fish subsurface.
In saltwater, the game is more demanding because of wind and moving fish. The rule of thumb is 50 feet with only a couple false casts. You can catch fish on shorter casts than that, but you’ll also need to be cast farther.
Distance is just one factor. There’s speed, your ability to get the fly to the fish before the window of opportunity closes — and there is accuracy —- the ability to put the fly where it needs to be. Could be on the fish’s nose. Could be a few feet in front. It all depends on the angles involved and the speed of the fish in relation to the angler.
Since I’m not a casting instructor, I won’t go into the mechanics of learning to fly cast. Instead, I’ll wade into a few insights I learned along the way. And I’m still learning. Casting is akin to a good golf swing. It’s never perfect. It’s something that can be honed during a lifetime. You can always make it better. Below are a couple ideas that should help you do that.
Get Some Instruction
You don’t necessarily have to find a certified instructor. The important thing is to find someone you’re comfortable with who can teach. A lot of people can cast. Not everyone can teach. Teaching is a skill. Not everyone has the knowledge and patience to communicate. You don’t need to find the best caster. You need to find the best teacher —- for your needs and personality.
Lefty, who passed away last spring, was a fabulous teacher. So is Ed Jaworowski. Both TFO advisors produced The Complete Cast, an outstanding DVD. However at some point, you might need in-person, one-on-one instruction.
How do you find that? Go to seminars. Go to YouTube. Ask around at the fly shop. Then assess your personality and needs. Not everyone can teach beginners. Not everyone can teach intermediates or advanced casters. So assess yourself and abilities and try to find an instructor to match. It takes time, but it’s worth it.
Ten, 15 years ago video was cost prohibitive for any type of instruction. Now, thanks to technology, it’s not. Grab your cell phone or your point-and-shoot camera. Both devices should have decent video. Get someone to take footage of your casting. Then watch it. You’re probably not doing some things you should be and you’re probably making some mistakes you’re not aware of. The tape won’t lie. And after you look at, get your instructor to do so as well. Now you’ll have an idea of what to correct because you have a visual roadmap.
Casting hinges on timing. Ideally you will be able to feel the rod bend on the back cast, but in the beginning it’s difficult. TFO’s Accelerator can expedite the learning curve. It’s an auditory tool, which allows you to hear when to actually stop on your back cast and forward cast.
You can’t get better without it, and if you don’t practice, your skills will erode. Let’s assume you can’t get out on the water as regularly as you would like. In that case, your yard will do. Set up targets for accuracy. Crosswinds, tailwinds and headwinds are all available. Most back yards are not compatible for distance casting, but work with your available space. You can work on delivering a good back cast or go across your body. And if you’re really ambitious, cast with your non-dominant hand. The main thing is to develop repetition. After you’re done, it’s smart to clean your line. Grass can gunk it up easily, which is why I often use a retired fly line, although I still clean that to make it cast better.
The Low Elbow
I’m assuming you know the basics of the grip and have picked up a fly rod once or twice. If you’ve haven’t, that’s OK, here’s the bare-bones version. Grip the rod with the thumb on top of the cork and aligned with the guides. Your back cast should start low near the ground or water and end abruptly near your ear. Pause. Let the line straighten. Start the forward cast ending at roughly eye level before coming to a quick, complete stop, at least to start out.
If you can’t see your rod in your peripheral vision on the back cast, you might need to shorten your stroke. The easiest way to make sure you lock into these positions is to maintain a low elbow. As Lefty says, keep your elbow on a shelf. You keep your right elbow (if you’re right handed) at your side. Don’t raise it. Don’t let it flare. Pretend you can only use your forearm, hand and a bit of wrist. Essentially, you have a short lever. A short lever gives you more control. Why? It’s easier to maintain a straight line for the path of the rod and it’s easier to stop the rod.
Many anglers, once they reach the intermediate level, lengthen their cast for more distance. But, the longer the stroke the more that can go wrong. Think about it. It’s akin to a hitter in baseball. Big cuts can lead to home runs, but they also yield a lot of strikeouts. It’s the same thing with fly casting. You don’t need a big stroke for the majority of your fishing. If you want to win casting competitions, you need a big stroke with hard stops and a straight-line path, which is easier said than done.
None of the above information is rooted in absolutes. There are a lot of ways to cast. There are a lot of ways to learn. Find what works for you.
Keep it simple. It solves a lot of problems.
For more info on fly casting, check out this video from Mad River Outfitters.
Thoughts on fly casting? Struggling with you cast? Feel free to weigh on one of our social media pages.
So says the editorial staff ofFly Fisherman Magazine, which compiled a list of the 50 most influential anglers of the past five decades and placed TFO’s Bernard ‘Lefty’ Krehat the top of the heap.
“Absolutely, he deserves to be No. 1 on that list,” fellow TFO advisorRob Fordyce said. “I never saw Lefty seek (that type of attention). He was a very humble guy. He was Lefty being Lefty enjoying teaching women and children to fly fish for the most part as well as tens of thousands of others. I think it was deserving, but I don’t think he would have (cared) about it.”
Kreh, a long-time TFO advisor until his passing last spring, was followed by Joe Brooks, John Voelker, Tom Rosenbauer, Lee and Joan Wulff, Dave Whitlock, Cathy & Barry Beck, John Randolph, Nick Lyons and Ernest Schwiebert to round out the top ten. However, fly-fishing’s premier ambassador would have bristled at the notion of such a pecking order.
“I think Lefty would have, first of all, resented the list,” said TFO advisorFlip Pallot, who was a close friend of Kreh’s. “It was a silly endeavor. All you had to do was look at that list to know how silly it was. Lefty was the guy who didn’t want to be in the IGFA Hall of Fame, who didn’t want anyone to do anything special for him. I think that list would have gotten a laugh and chuckle out of him, and he would have kept right on going.”
Pallot, for what it’s worth, cracked the list at No. 16. The popular host of Walker’s Cay Chronicles said he found out about the honor from a congratulatory text message.
“I had no idea, so I forgot about it,” Pallot said. “Then someone else said something. I knew there had to be a list somewhere. I proudly followed in Lefty’s footsteps and ignored the list. Lefty was very fond of saying that a piece of paper will sit there and let you write anything you want to on it. It was someone who made a list, and that was that.”
For the record, TFO placed two other anglers on the top 50, fly tyer/guide Blane Chocklett (27), who invented the Game Changerfly; and noted fly-casting author/instructor Ed Jaworowski(39), who teamed up with Kreh to produceThe Complete Cast, now available through TFO. Chocklett and Jaworowski are members of TFO’s national advisory staff.
“I think it’s cool,” TFO chairman Rick Pope said. “But, I didn’t need that list to tell me the (TFO) people on the list are more than worthy. All our Advisory Staff share certain personality qualities — humility, a desire to teach and, needless to say, pride in their knowledge and ability with a fly rod. Lefty exhibited the best of these traits, and I’m sure that most all named would feel the same as Flip and Rob.”
Anytime a list is compiled that honors the elite of any profession, someone will be slighted. The most obvious omission: TFO’s Bob Clouser, the inventor of the Clouser Minnow.
“For them to miss Bob Clouser tells you how well vetted (the list) was,” Pope said. “I think the Clouser Minnow is the most widely fished fly in the universe.”
Best-of lists are not always journalistically bulletproof, but one thing’s for sure, they create controversy and, in turn, attention.
Thoughts on Fly Fisherman’s list? Let us know what your opinions on one of our social media pages.
Editor’s Note: Even though summer yields many opportunities to fly fish, we can all use quality instruction. Ohioans need to look no further than Mad River Outfitters, which runs the Midwest Fly Fishing School near Columbus. TFO editor Mike Hodge chatted with Brian Flechsig, who runs the school and the fly shop. Both are big supporters of TFO.
TFO: A few basics: Where do you all conduct the schools? Tell me about the venues.
BF: “We do it in a few different places. We do a lot of the two-hour classes and then we do what we call on-river seminars, which is for the intermediate (anglers). We just did the carp school last weekend. It was on some quarry ponds where we have a lot of carp. On our website there is a tab that lists the locations with a map and everything. We also work at a place called Sunnybrook trout club up near Sandusky. I do a lot of one-day and two-day schools up there. We also do some one-day schools near Columbus at Zanesfield Rod and Gun club. Those are really nice, manicured trout clubs that we have access to. The good thing is people are typically going to catch fish, which is really cool, especially if it’s the first time they’re picking up a fly rod where you get them into a fish and get a picture with is kind of priceless.”
TFO: I know this is kind of a tough thing to nail down (with fluctuating demand), but how many times a year do you have the schools?
BF: “We’re in the ballpark of 15-20 counting the beginner and intermediate-type things.”
TFO: What’s the student-to-instructor ratio?
BF: “One instructor for every four students I would say. It’s pretty straight up.”
TFO: How important is that, the low ratio, of students to instructors?
BF: “That’s really critical. Now the book-learning part, I can teach a group of a hundred in a classroom. When you put a rod in someone’s hand, putting a fly on and trying to catch a fish, (the low ratio) is critical. I rarely go beyond one for four.”
TFO: How long has the school been in existence?
BF: “I’ve been doing this since the early 1990s. It was just that was under the umbrella of Mad River Outfitters. We made it official and branched out and basically just created another name for it. It sounds more official to be the Midwest Fly Fishing School. We did also ramp things up as far as the curriculum. For example, I brought on TFO as a sponsor. They’ve helped out immensely. We brought on Scientific Anglers as a sponsor. Simms is a sponsor. Those are the three corporate sponsors we have right now. We’re in our third season as the Midwest Fly Fishing School. I think that can be deceptive. I’ve been more or less teaching these formats since 1992.”
TFO: How did the relationship with TFO come about? How much has that helped in terms of putting on this school?
BF: “I’ve been working with TFO basically since day one particularly through Lefty’s encouragement. Flip Pallotcame along later. I also runFlip Pallot’swebsite. Flip, of course, is a big ambassador of the (TFO) brand. Basically I needed to update and upgrade our rods and reels that we use. One of our goals for the beginners’ schools is that people don’t have to buy anything. They can sign up for the school. It’s not a sales pitch to sell them a bunch of stuff in order to take the school. They can sign up and they don’t have to make a single purchase. They just sign up for the class and everything is provided. So, it was very simple for me to reach out to our rep. And I’ve known (TFO chairman) Rick (Pope) for many, many years. He’s been a huge supporter of ours. Anything that he’s asked me for he’s always said yes. And basically TFO sent along everything I needed at no charge and they also have an amazing program where I can purchase gear at ridiculous prices. I was really helped out by them sending everything at no charge. I’ve also purchased quite a bit at ridiculously cheap prices. I could put good, quality gear in students’ hands. They could feel the difference between different rods, rod series and rod families and what not. So (the relationship) has been nothing short of fantastic. TFO has been nothing short of supportive. If I had to go out and buy that stuff, the first few schools would have been break even whereas we were able to make money right out of the chute.”
TFO:A lot of shops guide, but they don’t have separate schools, how did you come up with the idea for the schools? What was the catalyst?
BF: “Many years ago, since we started Mad River Outfitters in 1994, we’ve always done classes and schools. Education, I’ve always said, is the cornerstone of our business. That’s what we really what we do. In turn, we also have a retail store, where people can buy stuff. I really view us as educators first and foremost. I studied music and theater in school. I view it as the same thing. When class starts, I’m on stage performing.”
TFO: Tell me about your series of instructional YouTube videos, how they started?
BF: “The idea was you have this captive audience and you’re going to win them over with your personality and your willingness to share. I stayed away from YouTube for a number of years, because I didn’t want to give the information away. It’s turned out to have a reverse impact. Classes are more popular than ever. People see it on YouTube and then they want to see it in person. It’s really had the reverse effect of what I thought it would. It’s been nothing but positive. …You know now have these educated customers. You take the intimidation factor (of fly fishing) away. That’s one of the things that’s always bothered me about this industry. People were intimidated. They had all these misconceptions. They thought it was going to be expensive. They thought it was going to be hard. They thought a fly shop was going to be an elitist place, that they should shop at Cabela’s instead because the guys at the shop would turn their nose up. That’s one of things that we’ve worked to overcome through the Midwest Fly Fishing School. It’s working. Our shop, our guide business, our online business, our travel business is through the roof right now, like I’ve never seen it.”
TFO: Do you think education and teaching have been become a lost art in our sport? If so, why?
BF: “It’s a tough question, but I don’t know why. I think it’s like with anything — it’s a lost art. Part of the problem is YouTube with learning all this stuff. (People) don’t need to come and take a class, because they can learn it on their own time and they can learn it for free. I think we did see that. When the (internet and YouTube) started up 10 years ago, I thought our schools would go down the tube because people will get this for free. I think we saw a bit of that for a few years. Now it’s coming back strong and in a big way. I think part of the problem is that there’s so much stuff out there. It used to be that if I worked in a fly shop, that gave me credentials. I’ve studied with Lefty (Kreh), worked with (Dave) Whitlock and over the years done work with Flip Pallot. That gave me credentials. YouTube came along and any joker with a cell phone can edit and make a video and throw out information that’s almost fake news. It’s just crap information and it’s just wrong. I’m filming stuff on fly casting tonight and that (instruction in the sport overall) is just a disaster. You’ve got people out there telling you how to grip a fly rod. Nobody’s teaching it properly. One person says use your index finger forward. Another says hold the bottom of the grip. It’s not factual information. Here’s what’s happening: People go to YouTube, they get 10 different opinions. They close YouTube, they get on my website and sign up for a class. Now that we’ve been doing this for 30 years our authority now means something, maybe more than it used to. People get frustrated and they say they need us to straighten them out. ..They know to call Mad River Outfitters because we know what we’re talking about.”
Comments, questions? Give us a shout on one of our social media pages.
Father’s Day is almost here. Temple Fork Outfitters has you covered when it comes to gifts for dad —- rods, reels and accessories that are sure to make him smile on his special day. See below for a handful of options.
This is the perfect starter rod for father and son. It’s light (3 ounces) and relatively short — it comes in lengths of 7 and 8 feet — so it’s great for short casts for pond fishing or to stay out of the tree limbs on small trout streams. Comes in a candy-apple red hue in weights 4-6. Cork grip is downsized for smaller hands. The NXT LA reelis the perfect companion to this little rod and reasonably priced at $79.95.
The perfect rod-and-reel setup for the novice adult angler, but it can also serve as a backup rod for the veteran angler. This outfit comes with fly line and leader, so you’re ready to hit the water instantly. The NXT Kit comes with anNXT LA reel spooled with weight-forward line, backing and leader. The rod case is a bonus, making it easier to store and travel.
Arguably one of the best fly rods that TFO has made. What sets it apart is its versatility and the ability to accommodate a broad range of casting strokes and styles. Usually the angler has to adjust to the rod. Not so with the Axiom II. It tracks well with a nice feel. But fishing is more than just casting, and the A2 delivers with a degree of sturdiness that can withstand the pull of the fiercest fish. As for a reel, there’s no better option for dad than TFO’sPower($399.95-$499.95) reel, a good-light weight, durable complement to this fine rod.
Designed by the late Lefty Kreh and Flip Pallot, the BVK is light weight, but offers loads of power and strength. Both of TFO’s Advisors got it right in this TFO classic, which features a slick of olive finish and carbon-fiber reel seats. If you need a reel to go with this rod, look no further than the aptly named BVK reel. It’s machined aluminum, highly ported and has a stainless steel drag system, all for a good value ($159.95-$299.95).
New Zealand Strike Indicator Kit
Suggested retail: $16.95
Tis the time for nymph fishing in the heat of summer when the trout are stacked in the riffles. In this situation, you’ll want a strike indicator that rides high in the foam. And the New Zealand Strike Indicator fits that need. It’s easy to rig, adjust and it’s light enough to cast efficiently. And most important, it stays on the leader securely.
These are just a few items that TFO offers for dad. Any suggestions or questions, let us know.
So you want to buy a fly line. Should be a snap, right?
Not exactly. Not anymore.
When I bought my first fly rod in the late 1980s, I found an affordable weight-forward, 5-weight fly line, bought it and began fishing. I didn’t know how to cast or even how to fly fish, but the setup worked just fine.
Those days are long gone. Fly lines are heavier than ever, and a 5-weight line is no longer a true 5-weight line, more like a 5.5, or even heavier.
Forgive me for the technical explanation that’s about to follow, but background is needed for proper context. Historically, fly lines have been measured by grain weight (otherwise known as grainage) in the first 30 feet of line. An 8-weight is supposed to weigh in the neighborhood of 210 grains, a 9-weight 230 and so on.
The system was developed by the late Myron Gregory, an ardent pistol shooter and competitive fly caster, who decided in the late 1950s, early 1960s that fly lines needed a reliable, standardized system of measurement.
Prior to Gregory’s work, fly lines were designated by letters, apparently with little rhyme or reason. Consumer chaos ensued because aspiring anglers had little idea what they were buying. Nearly 60 years later, chaos rules once again.
I looked at 8-weight lines from four different fly line companies — Scientific Anglers, Orvis, Rio and Cortland. Lines were consistently one weight higher than Gregory’s standard, which is used by the American Fly Fishing Trade Association, known as AFFTA. Sometimes weights were right on the money. Sometimes they were two lines too heavy, meaning an 8-weight was closer to a 10.
“We don’t know what anything is anymore,” TFO advisorFlip Pallotsaid. “If you go into a shop to buy a fly line, one thing you can be sure of is it’s going to be much, much heavier in grain weight than what a 7-weight line should be, according to the adopted (grain-weight) system. That’s where we stand again. We got so smart that we completely got ourselves lost in the woods again.”
Full disclosure: Flip told me about this issue a few weeks ago. I thought he might be exaggerating. He wasn’t. So I reached out to others in the industry.
“It’s horrible,” TFO chairman Rick Pope said. “And it’s getting worse, not better.”
And fly shop owners have noticed the trend as well.
“What happened was the line companies didn’t say this line is really an 8.5,” said Vaughn Cochran, a former Keys guide who owns the Blackfly Lodgein the Bahamas and Blackfly Outfittersin Jacksonville Beach, Fla.
Why fly-line makers strayed from the accepted standard likely stems from a number of reasons. Opinions vary, but many in the industry agree that rods got faster. Novices and inexperienced anglers didn’t have the skill to cast the quicker sticks. To compensate, newcomers bought lines that were one size heavier than the recommended size. Soon after line makers started doing it for them.
“My answer: The industry was trying to make it easier to fish,” TFO Bass Category Manager Collins Illich said.
Others are a bit more blunt as to what happened and why.
“Somebody needs to take responsibility,” Pallot said. “We had a perfect situation. We shouldn’t design things for goons; we should design things the way they should be. Goons should be able to aspire to use it. If they choose to put a 10-weight line on an 8-weight rod, that’s their decision. They can do that. But you should be able to go into the store and buy and 8-weight rod and line. You can’t do that.
“Someone has to step up. Either rod manufacturers have to build rods that conform to the traditional, established grain weight scale…or… line designations and grain weights need to be readjusted (and standardized) according to current, higher performing rods. In a perfect world, both of the above would take place. The industry OWES THIS TO THE CONSUMER and to itself.”
So what’s a consumer to do? Shop around.
“It’s really important and you want to test it on the rod that you’re going to use,” Cochran said. “It’s kind of like when you used to go buy a shirt, you buy a large. Now you buy a shirt and large is not always the same as a large in another company. There’s no consistency. You have to try on a couple shirts to get the right size. If you want to find the right fly line, you have to put it on your rod and try it.”
There’s only one flaw with the trial-and-error method. The wrong tool often gets the blame.
“It’s more difficult for the rod maker, when everyone questions the rod, but not the line,” Pope said. “No one really knows what the line weighs. We have 8-weights that range from 210 grains to as much as 350 grains. The difference in an 8-weight lines is totally random. The 8-weight rod maker like us struggles. Everyone questions the rod first, not the line.”
Interestingly, Pope says anglers who use two-handed rods are the opposite. They often will evaluate the line first. Each two-handed TFO rod, it should be noted, lists grain-windows for the appropriate line weight. Traditional fly rods only list suggested line weights.
Should one-handed rods list a grain window for anglers to match the ideal fly line? If it were only that easy. The truth is there is no easy answer to this predicament.
“It’s like in golf,” Pope said. “A 6-iron used to be for 165 yards; now people hit it 190 yards. Did the clubs change or the ball change? I’m not sure who’s chasing who. The reality is it’s the industry’s fault.”
I met Lefty Kreh back in the mid-80s on a hosted trip to Turneff Island in Belize to learn more about bonefish and fly fishing in saltwater. Flip Pallot and Mark Sosin joined us in a week of the absolute worst bonefishing trip ever — but one that I’ll never forget. I met Flip first – as Lefty suggested Flip as a guide on my first trip to Florida in the early ‘80s. Like all who met Lefty, he was and has been a friend since.
A career change and my entry into the fishing business in 1995 meant that I would see much more of Lefty and, like all of us, I clung to every piece of fishing advice that he so generously dispensed. He honored me with acclaim for TFO’s entry into rods that were “affordable” – as he lived a frugal life and he believed affordability would allow more folks to enjoy the sport.
Our friendship grew along with our opportunities to spend time together at various fly-fishing events around the country. Lefty’s personality, people skills, humility and candor began to impress me even more than his casting skills. His interest in TFO’s affordable concept also grew, and ultimately, I decided to write him a letter and beg him to join us and help design our rods. That was in late 2002. Unfortunately, he suffered a “minor” stroke just before Thanksgiving, so I delayed my pitch. Then between Christmas and New Year’s Day, he suffered his first heart attack. Not wanting to add to his stress so again, I delayed.
I got a report in mid-January where Lefty performed at the Denver ISE show that he was in fine form. He even shared with everyone the story of both the stroke and heart attack. So I sent the letter. He replied with a phone call “I can’t say yes, but I’m not ready to say no. Can we talk about this for a while?” What was essentially an interview with Lefty lasted almost a month and consisted of much more than rod design and concept discussions. Life stories, family, relationships and business philosophy dominated the many conversations we had. Not one mention of money was made. Ultimately, he called me in late February and confirmed that he made the decision to leave his rod company of 20 years and would enjoy helping us with rod design. The press release was written February 25, 2003 – the day before his 78th birthday – and TFO’s business world changed dramatically.
By that point, we had established a good consumer following – although many dealers and certain rod companies threw stones at us for being Korean made and “too cheap.” I even had advice, or a threat, from one dealer that we needed to raise our price, that the rods are too good for their price. Even more upsetting were the complaints levied against Lefty for working with a cheap rod importer. Our exclusive Korean factory was (and still is) owned by a brilliant engineer who both Lefty and even Gary Loomis claimed is one of the best they’ve ever worked with.
With the benefit of hindsight, splitting design from engineering proved to be very beneficial. Lefty could see transition issues in a rod by analyzing loop and shock wave issues in the fly line. He could quite accurately predict where within the blank such issues exist – and how much line weight or fly resistance caused them to appear. To this day, I’ve never seen another with such an intuitive understanding of rod dynamics.
His first trip to Dallas was in March of 2003 and involved three days of evaluating every rod we had while we took detailed notes on action, performance, power and finish out. Changes and modifications were made while he took over the design of our prototype TICR series that, after six different 8-weight prototypes, we were able to introduce the family at IFTD in September.
Lefty proved to be more than the “pied piper” with consumers following him as he would call and ask, “Do you knowEd Jaworowski… then Nick Curcione, then Bob Clouser,Jake Jordan and Flip Pallot? They might be interested in working with us and each has excellent insight into rod design.” Through the 15 years and one month Lefty worked with us, we prototyped over 2,000 rods and he gladly accepted final responsibility for every one we’ve introduced. We became a true family, with epic sales meetings, dinners, stories and jokes – all because of Lefty.
Our incredible family of Advisory Staff members – four of whom are inductees into the IGFA Hall of Fame – have ideas and solutions to enhance rod performance and fishing enjoyment. Lefty always enjoyed the group discussions whether small or all inclusive. From talking knots with Cliff Pace and Larry Dahlberg to rod design with Flip Pallot and Gary Loomisto casting with Ed Jaworowski, he learned, taught and made us all better people. Ed, as one of his closest friends, convinced him to join us on an epic three-year production of The Complete CastDVD set and watching its evolution remains as one of my life’s highlights.
He loved women and always seemed to pick one out of the crowd when on stage while claiming he could “teach any woman he wasn’t going with or married to” how to fly cast unlike “hardheaded guys who don’t listen well.” Lefty even coached a Catholic girls’ basketball team for a while after his return from WWII. He always claimed, however, that his greatest catch was Evelyn – his wife and best friend for 65 years. Ev Kreh passed away November 25, 2011 after several years of declining health that caused Lefty to limit the length of his travels as he didn’t want to be away from her for more than two nights. With her passing, he came to Dallas the following weekend for an event with our major dealer, and we met a couple with a lodge on Ascension Bay that offered great permit fishing. We booked for the spring of 2012 and I caught my first (and only) two permit the same day with Lefty as my boat partner. After that, we always kept a couple of trips planned and enjoyed many until his health and lack of stamina began to slow him down.
Over the past few years, I came to realize that Lefty was much more than one of the best fly casters, teachers and rod designers in the world. His humility, people skills, passion and insights proved to be incredibly valuable to me as well as all who were fortunate enough to know him well. I regret that I never begged him to write the Lessons on Life book. I was blessed to work with him for the past 15 years and I pledge that his teachings on life will eternally remain part of our corporate ethic as his rod design influence will continue to exist in every TFO rod we make. May he rest in peace.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw Lefty Kreh. It was nearly 30 years ago. I had just started to fly fish and was mingling with a local glad-hander at a fly-fishing show near Charlottesville, Va.
A weathered looking fellow walked in wearing a pair of khakis, a chamois shirt and a sheepish grin. And in mid-sentence, the local celebrity I was chatting up shot out of his chair toward Lefty like a spring creek brown after a hopper.
Though somewhat startled, Lefty handled the social ambush with a firm handshake and a pat on the back.
I was a relatively young adult, but I learned two things that winter afternoon. People are drawn to Lefty, and there’s a good reason why. He makes everyone, no matter where they are on the social pecking order, feel like a rock star, even though he’s the rock star.
I’m sure others have similar stories that have been shared since Bernard Victor Kreh passed away last week at the age of 93. He is nationally known for his books, lectures, videos and the ability to teach us to throw a fly farther and more accurately than we thought possible. But to those at Temple Fork Outfitters, he is considered one of the initial bedrocks of a proud company.
Lefty joined TFO 15 years ago. As the company’s first advisor, he had a significant say in every single-handed fly rod TFO produced since February of 2003, from the Signature Series to the Axiom II, which was released this fall.
But Lefty was more to TFO than a mere gatekeeper for affordable, quality fly rods. He believed in TFO’s mission and its people. He was the type guy who would rather promote others than himself. He asked there be no funeral. Cremation was more his style. And those close to him made sure those wishes were carried out, along with the request that he spend his last hours wearing his favorite TFO hat and shirt.
How’s that for loyalty?
Below are memories and anecdotes about Lefty from well-known folks in the fly fishing community. Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments section.
TFO Chairman Rick Pope on Lefty’s legacy:
“Fly casting is the easy answer. …Affordability would be neck and neck with fly casting. He’s a guy that wore $14 Sears Chinos. As has often been quoted, by the time you spent more than $150 on a rod, it’s often going to outperform the caster. Barrier to entry. He was not flashy. He was a frugal guy. It was a way that he saw to get more people in the sport, which all circles back to our mission statement.”
“I knew who Lefty was. I had read a lot of his books as a young person, by young I mean 8, 9 years old. Unbeknownst to me, he had written a book, Fly Fishing in Salt Water, which I had. My parents had given this book of Lefty’s to Flip (Pallot). Flip sent it off to Lefty and he wrote a nice note inside the book and actually glued a fly in there and made sure when he sent the book back, to list his phone number, to call him. Lefty Kreh, I mean here is this little kid, who is just eat up with fly fishing, Lefty Kreh was Babe Ruth, the Babe Ruth of fly fishing, so the thought that he … I was scared to even call him. My dad told me that if he put his number in there, he wanted me to call him. And I did, Lefty spent probably 20, 30 minutes on the phone with me. We met later, through Flip, and we became good friends and have been good friends our whole lives.
“The reason I told that story is it fits what I’m going to say about Lefty and the fishing industry. Lefty, to me, was probably the most iconic ambassador of fly fishing. There’s obvious things. He wrote books and did classes all over the world and taught tens of thousands of people how to fly cast. More importantly, Lefty, as a man, when he went somewhere everyone knew who he was, everyone wanted to talk to Lefty. He took the time to talk to these people not with a handshake or a hug, but he took time to hear their story. What was their background? And if that doesn’t say something. … There’s not a lot of people like that on this earth. Lefty, as a whole, was the greatest ambassador for those reasons as much as any of the other things he did.”
Ross Purnell, editor, Fly Fisherman Magazine
“Lefty Kreh changed fly fishing more than any other person because he was the greatest teacher we’ve ever known. Yes, he knew more about casting, knots, fly-tying, and tackle than the rest of us, but his humble and outgoing personality was his greatest contribution to our sport. Because of that, he became a mentor to an entire generation of guides, writers and instructors. Whether they realize it or not, literally everyone who fly fishes has learned directly or indirectly from Lefty. He’s changed all of us . . . for the better.”
Vaughn Cochran, artist and president/owner of Blackfly Outfitter/Lodge/Restaurant
“I recognized what a powerful personality he was many years ago and I wanted to paint him for lots of reasons. Never one to go along with the crowd, I decided to paint Lefty in a ‘Pop Art’ style. I completed the series of nine paintings that were featured in a one-man show at the IGFA gallery several years ago. Every time I saw Lefty at a fishing show he would always say, ‘If you think I look like that, you need glasses.’ We had conversations about all sorts of subjects, but our favorite was all the different portraits I did of him over the years. One of my favorites was the portrait I did of him when we decided to name the rooms at the Blackfly Lodge in the Bahamas after famous fishing personalities. Of course, his name came up first so I came up with this painting. Around the top of the painting is one of Lefty’s more famous quotes, ‘Throwing a crab to a permit is like rolling a wine bottle into a jail cell.’’’
Lori-Ann Murphy, President of Reel Women Fishing Adventures, former cast member of Buccaneers and Bones
“Lefty has recently written a letter to his fly-fishing friends. It strikes me so funny because he even explains in this letter his (health) condition so everyone can understand what is going on with him! It’s like he is showing us his cast or explaining why he invented a pulley system for his mail from the mailbox. Who does this? Special characters who want to share their life findings. And we thank them! We thank you Lefty! Thank you for taking the time to share you with us.”
John Randolph, former publisher Fly Fisherman Magazine, as told to FFM.
“Famed British fly-fishing writer John Goddard, whom Lefty called the best trout fisherman he ever saw, told me once of a Lefty encounter on the River Kennett. There was a large brown trout there that no one could catch. It lay in a particularly difficult spot to which it was virtually impossible to present the fly without drag. Goddard pointed out the trout to Lefty, who was his guest on the club water. Goddard explained: ‘Bloody hell, he caught that trout on his first cast! No one else could have made that fly presentation, only Lefty.’’’
Flip Pallot, TFO advisor, as told to Fly Fisherman Magazine
“My house in Homestead, Florida, was totally destroyed (after Hurricane Andrew). There was not a tree left standing, and most homes were reduced to rubble. Miraculously, after a day or two, with Diane and me living in the bed of a pickup truck, Lefty materialized through mountains of debris. We hugged . . . and cried . . . . and Lefty handed me a paper sack. In it was $25,000 that Lefty and his wife Ev had stashed away for an emergency. ‘You and Diane may need this,’ he said. ‘Ev and I will not. Don’t worry about paying it back, we really don’t need it.’ I had thought to have the measure of Lefty. I was short. As it turned out, we had no need for the money either, but Lefty was there for me all the same.”
“Lefty’s been everything to me as far as a lot of things in my career. He’s introduced me to tons of people. He got me hooked up with TFO. Back in the late ‘90s, he got me hooked up with Umpqua with my first patterns. He’s always had a place, definitely, in my career. I owe him a lot.”
TFO blog editor Mike Hodge caught up with TFO advisor and television host Rob Fordyce for a few minutes after the Florida Keys guide finished up working the Miami Boat Show. We discussed a number of topics, everything from outdoors television to University of Tennessee baseball. Enjoy.
How did you get started in TV?
RF: “Actually the first experience I had with television was in 1991 with (TFO’s)Flip Pallot, a friend of mine, who had a show called the Walker’s Chronicles. And he asked me to be a camera boat for him for the first episode of that whole series. And after we did that episode, the show took off. Shortly thereafter, he asked me to do a couple episodes with him in front of the camera, not in the camera boat, but as a co-host. Things went on from there, and I did a lot of shows with a good friend of mine, Jose Wejebe, who was one of my best friends. Shortly before Jose passed in a tragic plane accident, he decided after a 13 years of being in front of the camera that he wanted to be behind the camera and produce, and he asked me to host his show. That didn’t ever come to be, because of the plane accident. The same crew we were going to move forward with to host that show decided that since Jose thought enough of me to host his show, that maybe I should pursue this opportunity myself and that’s what we did. That’s kind of where we’re at now.”
So Seahunter evolved out of your involvement with Jose, correct?
RF: “That’s basically it.”
What’s your favorite part of television, being a television host and being in front of the camera?
RF: “Several things, being a co-host with other people’s shows, I didn’t really have a say. The show didn’t have my personality so to speak, my efforts, my view of how that story should have been told. What I’ve really enjoyed about the Seahunter show, I produce it and the final episode you end up seeing is how I wanted that story to be related to the viewer. It’s a very cool process to go out and do the fishing part. And then when you take the footage, with the fishing part, back in the studio and start editing that and start telling a story and basically taking the viewer on an adventurous ride, it’s really fun to do that whole process.”
What do you think the biggest misconception is from people on the outside, who are not involved in the television process? From the viewers? The public? Other anglers?
RF: “One thing that I run into on a regular basis is I tell people I have to go to work tomorrow. They laugh and say, ‘You’re just going fishing. You’re not going to work.’ I don’t think people understand, whether you’re guiding or filming a TV show, how much work is really involved. There’s a difference when you’re fishing for fun and when you’re paying up to $10,000 a day to shoot a fishing show. You’re paying all these camera guys and for all the fuel and all that kind of stuff, there’s a lot of pressure to make that happen. One of the biggest misconceptions is I don’t fish for a living; I take people fishing for a living, whether it’s on film or as a customer on the bow of my boat, as a guide.”
You live in the Keys now, correct?
RF: “I actually live in Homestead, the last town before you enter the Keys. Most of my fishing is in the Keys and the Everglades.”
Do you have a favorite episode of Seahunter? I remember the one with Chico Fernandez. …
RF: “The most memorable was the one I did with (fellow TFO advisor) Flip Pallot. Flip was a mentor of mine going back to when I was 10 years old, when we started fishing together. And my first TV experience was fishing with Flip on his TV show. It was coming around full circle when I invited him to be on my show. I think it was an emotional experience for him, too, to be part of that circle. Flip and I are great friends. He’s like a brother to me. Though I’ve had other episodes where I thought the fishing was more cool, that is definitely one I’m most proud of.”
I read in your bio that you’re an athlete? What sport do you compete in?
RF: “I grew up as an athlete. I don’t compete now. I do get up and work out five days a week in the weight room, 4, 4:30, five o’clock in the morning before I go fishing. That’s a carryover from competing earlier in sports. I went to the University of Tennessee on a baseball scholarship. Before the baseball scholarship, I had a full ride to Florida State for football, but I injured my neck before I could make that happen, so I always played football and baseball. I went to Tennessee and played there a couple of years. … Going back to the sports thing, one thing that’s allowed me to be successful as a fisherman and TV host is I’ve always pushed myself. Every day is a competition with me. I always try to learn more and become better at what I’m doing. I’ve never been satisfied with my knowledge of the game. I think that stems from being pretty serious about sports in my youth.”
Where are you from originally?
RF: “I was born in Miami, so I’m a native South Floridian.”
Back to the fishing. What is your preferred type of fishing?
RF: “If my last day to fish was tomorrow, and it was my last opportunity, I would take a big fly rod, go down to the Keys and fish for giant tarpon, in clear water.”
How long have you been with TFO?
RF: “I want to say more than 10 years, 12 years going back to where there wasn’t any conventional. It was just a fly company.”
Who was your connection to the company?
RF: “I’ve known (TFO Chairman) Rick Pope for 25 years. We’ve been very good friends. The only reason I wasn’t with TFO from the inception was because I was with a couple other companies for a couple years. Once those contracts ended, I immediately called Rick and he accepted me on as an advisor and I’ve been thankful ever since. I’ve been working with TFO hand-in-hand the last 10 years or so making some pretty cool stuff.”
Describe your relationship with TFO, how it’s helped you and maybe how you’ve helped them?
RF: “I’m fortunate I was able to work with some other companies before I went to work with TFO. I was used to the normal where you give the company a lot of input. It’s up to them whether they take it or not. Some companies do not use their advisory staff to the fullest extent. TFO is the opposite of that. What separates TFO from everyone else is you take their advisory staff and the amount of years those people have been professional fishermen, and it’s hundreds of years of experience behind every rod that you use that says TFO on it. I think that’s something that not everyone realizes when they go into a tackle shop and see a rod with TFO on it. When they look at that rod, there’s hundreds of years of experience in building that rod.”
Any TFO rod that you’re particularly fond of by any chance?
RF: “My favorite until lately was the BVKseries. Since the A2(Axiom II)has come out, I like it the best. I still like the BVKs, but I love the A2s.”
What do you like the best about them?
RF: “I’m kind of a fast-rod caster. It allows you, although it’s not as fast as the BVK, for the short game. We deal with so many quick casts in sight fishing that you don’t always have time to get 30 feet of line out of your rod tip. I think the rod, as a tool, is a good all-around tool. I really like the rod. It does everything well. It casts short and long. If you overpower it, it doesn’t collapse. And when you get a fish on, it’s got plenty of backbone behind the butt to land a big fish quickly.”
Let us know what you think of the interview with Rob with a comment or two below. Your feedback is always welcomed.