Yesterday marked one year since my mother passed. It was really no different than any other day since, significant only that it was marked by a milestone. I chose to unplug, keep quiet and got through the day doing what I had to do until I could escape into my tying room. Mom was always fascinated with my fly tying and the number of flies I tied. She asked me once how I learned to tie so many different patterns. I showed her a book, the first one I bought when I was just learning to tie and told her that it and the man who wrote it had changed my life.
That man passed yesterday.
I took the book of the shelf last night and thumbed through the pages as I have done millions of times while memories of mom and the author alternately flooded my mind.
I met Lefty Kreh several times over the years at shows I was tying at. I say “met” because we never spent more than a few minutes together nor had conversations that people who have “known” each other for years do. Lefty would stop by my table, paw through my display box and pick up a fly, look at it and nod or give me a wink and then put it in the box as he asked me how I was and how striper fishing had been the previous season. I’m not sure he ever knew my name, he would always greet me with, “Hey, Mad Dog…” I never corrected him, doing so seemed disrespectful and to be honest, I thought it was cool.
There was an occasion nine or ten years ago at the Bears Den Fly Show where I shared a moment with Lefty that I will never forget. It was late in the afternoon, the crowd was thinning out and a gentleman and his son were at my table watching me tie a sand eel pattern. The boy was probably twelve or thirteen and had just bought a fly tying kit. He was full of questions about materials and asked me to tie another sand eel so he could see all the steps. As I put a fresh hook in the vise Lefty sat down in a chair at the table next to me and watched and listened as I went through each step of building the fly. When I finished I gave the boy the fly out of the vise and reached for another that was finished with epoxy.
Lefty grabbed the finished fly from my hand and asked me what I called it. I said, “That’s called the Cichetti’s Sand Eel.”
He asked, “Who is Cichetti?” I told him how one of my customers had been given one of the flies by a fisherman on Cape Cod named Rob Cichetti and asked me to duplicate it. I explained that after talking to Rob and asking for his blessing to copy it, I added it to my line. Lefty nodded and said, “Good man. That’s a neat fly.” Handing the fly to the boy, he said, “That’s gonna catch you some fish.”
I asked Lefty if he wanted one of the flies and he just smiled, tapped the side of his temple with a finger and said, “I got it right here.”
The boy and his father thanked me and as they walked away Lefty put his hand on my shoulder and said, “You made that kid’s day.”
Lefty, you made this kid’s day every time we met, as you did with everyone blessed to share time with you over the years.
Thank you, sir. You will be missed.
Rest in peace.
South River, MA
15 March 2018