Lefty Kreh has spent a lifetime perfecting his cast, his knots, his fly tying. The U.S. Postal Service has put one of his flies on a postage stamp. Anglers pay serious money to be in his company, to mimic the master.
But there is one thing Lefty Kreh knows he will never master: his wife of almost 53 years. If someone were to hold a convention for the long-suffering wives of anglers, who tend to be up at daybreak and out of the house on weekends, Evelyn Kreh would be elected chairman."She's the CEO of Lefty, Inc.," says fishing guide Sarah Gardner. "There's not many people who could keep him in line.""Ev" Kreh runs his business, their Hunt Valley home, even the old fisherman himself."She controls me," Lefty readily admits. "She gives it as good as she takes it. She's the best friend I ever had."
In fact, she is the president of Kreh and Associates, which books Lefty's appearances and handles his business affairs."I work for her," he says."And I can fire him," she says. "He comes in the door and hands me the check.""I don't get anything to eat until I do," he grumbles.
To call Lefty a character is to call the Great Wall of China nice landscaping. He doesn't put on airs and he doesn't expect anyone to kiss his ring. He is opinionated, salty and knows more jokes than a comic at a Catskills resort."I've heard them all a thousand times," Ev Kreh says, deadpan. "Good thing they're so funny."
They are both natural lefties, although he is an ambidextrous angler and she bowls right-handed. They love telling stories on each other.
He is proud of the 100-pound tarpon that hangs on the living room wall - the first one he caught on a fly rod in 1964 while living in Florida.
She rolls her eyes and says: "Don't ask my opinion of it. When we moved up from Florida, it got more attention than the furniture."
And it's not just the big fish above the couch that Ev Kreh isn't fond of."I hate fishing," she says. "The only time we argue is when we go fishing - so we don't. He's too bossy. I can't stand sarcasm, and there's a lot of sarcasm behind his comments."
Lefty learned to steer clear of her world, too, albeit the hard way.
While she was away once, Lefty decided to organize her kitchen."The pot and lids were on one side, the stove was on the other. The canned foods weren't in any order at all," complains the man whose reels and rods are lined up on basement shelves according to size.
So Lefty spent the day labeling the shelves and restocking them. Then, he proudly showed off his hard work to a returning Ev."My puppy love turned into a dog's life," he says, hanging his head. "Boy, was she mad."
Now, he says, the shelves are a mess. The tuna is with the orange juice and the tomatoes are behind the cereal. Who can find anything?
She smiles gently behind him as he as he finishes his mock rant."She's her own woman," says C. Boyd Pfeiffer, an author and long-time friend. "She's allowed Lefty to do his thing. She keeps track of who owes what to him, and it gives him more time to do the casting clinics, the seminars, the books and the video tapes."
Lefty, a former outdoors columnist for The Sun, says his wife keeps him humble.
Once he was trying to arrange a fishing trip with Jimmy Carter, but both men's schedules were in conflict. Lefty got off the phone and started telling Ev about it."She looked at me like I had worms, and said, 'Why would the president want to fish with you?'" Lefty says, laughing.
The Krehs have known each other almost forever. They grew up in Frederick. Lefty finished school and went off to fight in World War II, including the Battle of the Bulge.
When he returned, he wasn't thinking about settling down. "All I wanted to do was hunt and fish," he says.
Ev knew he was back home. "I always had a crush on him, but he was practically engaged."
Then one night, Lefty and two buddies went to the movies. Ev was the cashier at the Tivoli Theater and sold Lefty a children's ticket.
Lefty swears she did it so that the usher would send him back out to pay the adult admission and she would get another chance to talk to him.
Ev disagrees, "He asked for 'a small, please,' and I gave it to him."
He walked her home. "I had no intention of doing that," Lefty insists.
They were married in 1947, when Lefty was 21 and Ev 19.
The Krehs had very little: a table and two kitchen chairs, a dresser, a bed and a used Sears radio."She couldn't make steam," Lefty says of her cooking prowess. "She'd bring tears to a glass eye."
Now, friends say, she is an accomplished cook; her beef stew draws rave reviews from the bridge club.
But, Ev tells visitors that her cooking is wasted on her husband."He's easy to cook for, but he's no fun to cook for. A piece of meat, a green vegetable, maybe some fruit," she says.
The Krehs have two children, Victoria, now 52, and Larry, 47 (that's him casting on the cover of Lefty's newest book). They have four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Even though he just passed his 75th birthday, Lefty is on the road three weekends every month, teaching and guiding.
Ev is a homebody who has grown used to her husband's travels. "Sometimes I say to him, 'Don't you have someplace to go?'"
Both say his schedule has made them closer."She looks better when I get home," Lefty says with a twinkle in his eye. "Of course, I hope I do too."
In addition to cooking for friends and playing bridge ("I'm a darn good player"), Ev has bowled in a league in Timonium for 28 years."She has a totally separate life that is exclusively hers," says Gardner. "They have an adorning, affectionate relationship, and they do better together because each has something that belongs completely to them."
Says Ev: "It takes a certain kind of woman to be married to Lefty. He does have the right woman."