The Postal Service dedicated a stamp to his most famous creation and federal health officials slapped his initials on a strain of anthrax that almost killed him. Now it's time for Maryland to put Lefty Kreh's name on something that matters.
Kreh turns 86 next month and wouldn't that be a fine time to get moving on a tribute to the Maryland native and World War II veteran who has done so much to promote fishing?
Normally, the state gets all squirrelly about naming something for a living person — except if that person happens to be an ex-governor (Glendening), current state senator (Mike Miller) or well-connected former Department of Natural Resources secretary (Torrey Brown). Why, I don't know. Isn't the point to let someone know that they done good while they still look good?
The O'Malley administration was wise enough to ignore that rule of thumb two years ago and start the wheels in motion to name something for outdoors writer emeritus Bill Burton before he died. My former colleague didn't live to see the dedication of the Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park outside Cambridge, but he was reminded of how much he meant to us.
So, let's put on our thinking caps and come up with a state-owned outdoors feature deserving of Lefty's good name: a kids' fishing derby, a launch area, a fish hatchery. Heck, the city of Frederick ought to honor its native son with something, too. How about that new nature center in Catoctin Creek Park? He deserves it.
Bernard Victor Kreh was born during the Depression and honed his outdoors skills to put food on the table for his widowed mom and three siblings. He went to war, survived the Battle of the Bulge and like many GI's returned home looking for a way to make a living.
Lefty sold his first column to his hometown paper in 1951. Three years later, he was syndicated in almost a dozen newspapers.
In 1948, he got a job at the biological warfare lab at Fort Detrick. After his biohazard suit sprung a leak, he spent a month in a hospital isolation ward, fighting an anthrax infection. A grateful nation named the sub-strain, BVK-1.
Lefty pulled up stakes in 1964 and moved to Miami to run the Met Tournament for eight years. He later became associate editor of Florida Sportsman Magazine and outdoors editor of the St. Petersburg Times.
In 1973, Lefty came home to be the outdoors editor at The Sun for nearly two decades. The Jedi master of fly fishing burnished his credentials as a lecturer, photographer, author of two dozen books and teacher of thousands. He's fished with Hemingway and Castro and a president named Bush. He helped nurture the Maryland chapter of Trout Unlimited in its early days.
His accomplishments have earned him a spot in three fishing halls of fame and enough awards for a dozen trophy rooms in his Cockeysville home. In 1991, the Postal Service issued a first-class stamp featuring "Lefty's Deceiver," a baitfish-shaped fly that is the most successful saltwater pattern on the market.
Former NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw, who fished with Lefty as part of last year's TV series, Pirates of the Flats, told Outside magazine that a day with the master was "like going to the batting cages with Ted Williams."
He caught his first smallmouth bass on Tuscarora Creek, just north of Frederick. The Monocacy, Gunpowder and Potomac rivers are like home to him. Lefty's Deceiver was born on the Chesapeake Bay.
He belongs to Maryland.
"I can't think of anybody who did more for trout fishing and conservation in Maryland than Lefty. We owe him so much," says Jim Gracie, a founder of Maryland Trout Unlimited and chairman of the state's Sport Fish Advisory Commission.
Lefty signs all his notes, all his books, all the gear fans ask him to autograph with a simple inscription: All the Best."
And he means it.
It's time for Maryland to give its best back to him.
Tie one on
If you've never met Lefty — and really, you should — circle Feb. 12 on the calendar and make plans to attend Tie Fest at the Kent Narrows Yacht Club in Chester.
Tie Fest began about a decade ago, a small bunch of anglers, burning up with cabin fever and holed up in a basement, talking fish and tying flies. Now the Coastal Conservation Association Maryland event attracts hundreds of pent-up anglers yearning to be free.
In addition to the master, who will conduct a casting demonstration (weather permitting), there will be lessons and talks by experts such as Bob Clouser and Bob Popovics. Casting instruction, new gear displays and just, plain fishing talk make the day worthwhile. The whole thing is pulled together by the Kent Narrows chapter of Coastal Conservation Association Maryland.
Festivities will run from 10 to 4. It's free. The yacht club is at 117 Yacht Club Drive.