Lefty is No. 1.
“Absolutely, he deserves to be No. 1 on that list,” fellow TFO advisor Rob 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 advisor Flip 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 Changer fly; and noted fly-casting author/instructor Ed Jaworowski (39), who teamed up with Kreh to produce The 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.
The Gold Cup features the best of the best in tarpon fishing. The invitation-only tournament is one of the most prestigious events of the competitive fishing season. TFO advisor Rob Fordyce has set the standard for Gold Cup consistency with 13 second-place finishes, the last of which came earlier this summer.
And he’s always learning.
“I’ve never been satisfied with my knowledge of tarpon,” Fordyce said. “I take fishing seriously. I do it for a living. Tarpon fishing, I take to a different level. That consistent (success) comes from never being satisfied with my knowledge of the game. I’m always trying new things and I’m trying to get better at it.”
TFO blog editor Mike Hodge chatted with Fordyce about his success, and the host of the outdoor series, Seahunter, offered a few tips. Among them:
Get In Shape
Tarpon fishing is not for the meek. It’s physical and fast paced. Many newbies assume the rough stuff comes once the big fish is hooked, and there’s no doubt your biceps, core and thighs will burn as you try to land your quarry.
Often overlooked, though, are the skills needed before the hookup. Good balance is essential. Why? Because if you fish the flats near a pass or a beach, swells can rock the boat. Sea legs aren’t a big deal for a hardened tarpon fisherman, but the newcomer needs to be strong and flexible to maintain good enough balance to spot fish and make accurate casts.
“It’s not a controlled environment,” Fordyce said. “A trout fishing setting is somewhat of a controlled environment. The fish aren’t moving. The fish are holding behind a rock and you know which rock that is. If you make a bad cast in a trout scenario, you get another shot. In tarpon fishing on the ocean side, there can be wind. There’s often extreme current, and sometimes both are in different directions. You can have waves over the bow with wind, and the fly has to end up in a six-inch diameter circle. It’s a game of inches.”
Use the Right Gear
Use gear that’s heavy enough. You don’t want to be under-gunned. A rod that’s too light will result in prolonged battles. A 10 weight is adequate. An 11 or 12 weight is better. For conventional gear, try medium heavy to heavy rods.
Picking the Right Fly/Lure
The Cockroach may be the most famous and productive tarpon fly. I personally prefer the tarpon toad in black and purple. It’s easy to tie and it works. Rabbit strips are one my tying favorite materials simply because of the movement generated. And movement, as TFO advisor Blane Chocklett explains, is key to enticing strikes. I had never really thought about this concept before, but it makes perfect sense. Fish are predators. Feed them what they want.
When it comes to movement, conventional lures are hard to beat. Obvious choices are Bombers and DOAs and Yo-Zuri minnows.
“In sight-fishing scenarios we often use unweighted bass worms or flukes,” Fordyce said. “These baits will almost suspend allowing a lot of movement with a short, twitchy retrieve that can still be pretty slow without having to reel much. This can entice traveling fish to bite that aren’t in a feeding mode much the same way as a fly retrieve.”
Entire blog posts have been devoted to tarpon lures and flies. If you want more info, talk with your guide. Local knowledge is always best.
Seeing the Fish
There’s also a mental challenge involved with tarpon fishing. Count on long periods of time between schools of fish. The ability to concentrate through the doldrums is essential and usually acquired with experience.
“There can be times when you’re getting a shot every thirty seconds, and then there could be hours in between shots,” Fordyce said. “It could be four, five hours of just nothing. That’s when you really have to dig deep and focus hard. That’s when the shots are few and far between and you only get so many.”
You and your guide are a team. Ideally, he puts you on fish. The client’s job is to make an accurate cast, hook the fish and then land it. Rarely is it that easy. Mistakes happen and tempers can flare. The key, as in any relationship, is communication, particularly when it comes to the client’s skill level and expectations, so the chaos can be managed.
“There’s a lot of moving parts,” Fordyce said. “It’s a team sport. Your guide is trying to set you up for the most productive shot. There’s a lot going on.”
Headed out to pursue the Silver King? Let us know how you do on one of our social media channels. Want to add more tips or suggestions, feel free to speak up.
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.”
TFO advisor Rob Fordyce
“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.”
TFO advisor Blane Chocklett
“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 advisor Wanda Taylor on her favorite Lefty quote:
“I can teach any woman to fly fish as long as I’m not married to her.”
TFO advisor Bob Clouser
“I have known and fished with Lefty for over 50 years and his honesty, integrity and loyalty was with him all his life.”
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?
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.