Merwin: Farewell, Mel Krieger

Mel Krieger, the world-renowned flycasting instructor, died of brain cancer yesterday morning in San Francisco. He was 80 years old. It is a huge loss for the fishing world, and a huge loss for me as well. We had been close friends for more than 30 years.

Krieger’s easy going, good-humored nature masked an absolute fanaticism for fly-casting technique. His search for better, more concise explanations of how and why flycasting works was both endless and all-consuming. We argued, discussed, theorized, and—yes—actually cast for hours at a time over the years, from his home “water” at the Golden Gate Casting Club in San Francisco to my home near Vermont’s Battenkill.

He was truly an extraordinary teacher of casting and fishing. His book, The Essence of Flycasting, is an ongoing classic. He spread his casting gospel through decades of global travel and fishing, making friends where ever he went. While it was sometimes easy to disagree with whatever casting theory Mel had of the moment, it was impossible not to like him.

The older one gets, the more one’s longtime friends tend to disappear, claimed by accidents or disease. Younger people tend to think of this not so much. Older people, like me, think of it often. Death and loss are a part of living. I know that as a matter of fact.

But I sure don’t like it much. Farewell, old friend.