BOOK REVIEW: My Life Was This Big and Other True Fishing Tales – by Lefty Kreh

My Life Was This Big and Other True Fishing Tales – by Lefty Kreh

My Life Was This Big and Other True Fishing Tales is quite a ride. The book’s 299 pages chronicle the life-to-date of probably the world’s most famous fisherman and outdoor writer, American Lefty Kreh, now more than 80 years old. For younger readers who may not know the Lefty Kreh story, he revolutionised fishing – fly fishing in particular – by turning the mechanics of fly casting on its head. The catalyst was a 1965 magazine article in Outdoor Life magazine he’d written on this radical new fly-casting technique. At the time the concept was criticised by traditionalist fly fishers, and seen as a landmark event by true believers. Kreh’s casting techniques have since spread the world over and introduced countless neophytes to a facet of fishing previously shrouded in elitism and mystery.

My Life Was This Big starts with Kreh’s humble upbringing in the 1930s, a time he developed his love for fishing, and discovered the local market paid 10 cents a pound for fresh catfish! A financial goldmine for a kid in need of pocket money in hard times.

The book covers Kreh’s drafting in to the army in 1942 and his deployment to Europe to fight in WWII. Typical of the author’s straight-shooting style he pulls no punches by noting his open dislike for the military.

Post WWII is when it all falls into place for Lefty Kreh. He meets lifelong partner Ev, and embarks on a career as one of the world’s most prolific outdoor writers and instructors. Along the way he demystifies the writing process and describes his passion for photography and the outdoors. He also pays homage to many fishing personalities that influenced him (and vice versa) along the way, many are past and present household names in flyfishing – Joe Brooks, Dan Blanton, Stu Apte, Bob Clouser and Bob Popovics to name a few.

My Life is riveting reading. I found myself wide-eyed during the chapter on Cuba and the author’s time fishing with Ernest Hemingway and Fidel Castro. Anyone who’s read Hemingway should find Kreh’s telling of his experiences with the iconic writer essential reading. Not shy of a tilt at the odd sacred cow, “I was never really being a fan of Hemingway’s writing” writes Kreh in the chapter’s closing.

While this is a book that essentially details the author’s life, it’s littered with essential fishing and casting tips, and pearls of wisdom. He outlines the attributes and failings of all the fish species he’s ever caught, and delivers the odd surprise along the way.

Having designed the world’s most popular and imitated saltwater fly – the Lefty’s Deceiver – and brought flycasting into the 21st century, Lefty Kreh’s huge contribution to the pursuit is unquestionable. As an Aussie I was chuffed at the recognition of renowned past and present Fishing World writers, Rod Harrison and Dean Butler, who in the early 1990s steered Lefty to New Guinea’s jungles and the black bass – “the toughest fish I ever faced”. 

Dan Blanton says it all in the book’s foreword – “There are lots of well-known anglers, but none will ever fit into Lefty’s old shoes, they’re just too big to fill.”

It’s great stuff.

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