Notes from the Tackle Room: Lefty’s Deceivers

When I took up saltwater fly-fishing in the late 1970s, I was blessed to have some wonderful mentors on the Vineyard. Legends such as Nelson Bryant, Arthur Sylvia, and Bruce Pratt were my teachers and encouraged me to learn all that I could about this newfound passion. Thus I jumped at an opportunity to travel to Florida in 1978 to attend a fly-fishing clinic run by Lefty Kreh.

Bernard “Lefty” Kreh is the virtual father of modern-day saltwater fly-fishing. He was born in 1926 in Frederick, Maryland, and began his fly-fishing career in 1947 as a guide and casting instructor and soon thereafter as an outdoor writer. In 1965 he moved to Florida, where he pioneered casting and angling techniques. Lefty has been an active outdoor writer for fifty years and has authored more than twenty books, including his 1974 Fly Fishing in Salt Water, which is considered the seminal volume on the subject. His skills, innovations, and humor are legendary, and at eighty-eight years old he remains the most iconic figure in the fly-fishing world.

In the late 1950s Kreh invented the Lefty’s Deceiver as a streamer that would swim like a baitfish, be easy to cast, and would not foul. It is arguably the best-known saltwater fly pattern in the world, and Lefty himself has caught more than one hundred species on it. In 1991 the U.S. Postal Service honored it with a postage stamp.

With its tail of saddle hackles and a collar of bucktail, the fly is not difficult to tie and it fools fish in both salt and fresh water. Colors are optional, and the examples I tied in the accompanying painting are but a few of many possibilities. Back in the 1980s I used an all-yellow Deceiver to catch a forty-three-pound striped bass at Cape Pogue and an all-white to land a forty-pounder at Lambert’s Cove.

In those days big stripers were not as scarce as they are now.