There is one book in particular that I almost wore out. I was in college during the ‘70s and far from home and salt water. It was tough. There was local freshwater fishing but I was really homesick for the South Florida fishing I had grown up with. It was around that time that his famous Fly Fishing In Salt Water book came out. Somehow I learned of it and managed to get a copy, but I really do not remember how. I do know that book got me through some tough times. I read it so many times I bet I could almost recite it from memory.
Later, after college, I became involved with all things flyfishing. I was the president of a local club, went through the FFF certifications, and volunteered at the IGFA. While all of those activities were rewarding, currently it seems the most valuable memories I have from that period were the number of times I lucked into meeting and spending time with BVK himself.
Around the time I went through my certifications the Florida Chapter of the FFF got off the ground. I made it a point to attend every fishing or flyfishing show in Florida that I could, where I spent the bulk of my time giving free lessons to the masses as an FFF representative. That was a hoot. My dedication earned me a trinket that says “Florida Council Award of Excellence” but the real award was that I managed to see Lefty hold court quite a few times. I thought then that he was a magician with a flyrod, and I still do.
At one show I looked up and saw him walk to the casting pond by himself. That did not last long as I blatantly invaded his privacy to ask a casting question. What the question was I have no recollection. He didn’t seem to mind, but instead of answering, he thrust the rod into my hand, and with a smile said, “cast”. I did, and I swear to my total surprise I made the most beautiful cast I had ever made up to that point in my life. He snorted, and said something like “who sent you over here”? I don’t remember exactly what he said because I was in shock. I just stared at the rod! I had never felt such a well-balanced and responsive rod in my life. It was a Scott Heliply, and to this day those rods still fit my casting style like a glove. Maybe it is because of that cast, or because Lefty put it in my hands?
I am not going to pretend we were fishing buddies, but we met enough times that he eventually knew me by name, which was an improvement over “you again?”
Later on, I was actually lucky enough to assist him at a demonstration he did at the IGFA. By then I was pretty well versed in his routine, and as usual, at one point he laid out a long line behind him, then cast it by balancing the handle over a finger of one hand and cast the entire length by rotating the rod over with two fingers of the other hand on the fighting butt. After his demo I asked him if a “speed up and stop” was important, how did he make that cast as there was obviously no way to stop the rod? He just looked at me with that smile, and winked.