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On the fly: Executive privileges

Scott Spooner
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Kirk WebbA Roaring Fork River rainbow, ready for release.
ALL |

BASALT – With Presidents Day approaching, we are reminded of how many of our chief executives have enjoyed a day on the water with a fishing rod in hand.

President Herbert Hoover was noted for saying, “Fishing is discipline in the equality of men, for all men are equal before fish.” It is interesting to note how many of our esteemed (and perhaps not-so-esteemed) presidents were and are avid fishermen. It makes perfect sense if you ponder this notion for a moment. Casting flies to sipping trout in a gin-clear stream or hunting bonefish in flats couldn’t be further removed from the partisanship struggles and pressure of the White House.

The most notable Colorado fishing president was Dwight Eisenhower. Republican Creek near Tabernash is rumored to have been his favorite stream, and he was once actually accused of keeping more trout than the limit allowed! Opposition research teams could probably run with that today, but he emerged from the “scandal” unscathed.

Grover Cleveland enjoyed a fly-fishing honeymoon in Maryland and was famous for his outdoor exploits before, during and after his presidency. Warren Harding had a penchant for chasing tarpon when not playing golf.

Of all fishing presidents, Hoover was the most avid. Hoover was viewed by many as out of touch when they learned he was out astream while folks shivered and starved in “Hoovervilles.” His fishing addiction eventually took him to the bonefish and permit flats after years of trout fishing in the West, which today is still the natural progression of serious fly fishers.

Jimmy Carter was probably more at home in the Appalachians stalking trout or on the banks of a Georgia bass pond than he was in Washington. Serving only one term certainly got him back to the water, though sooner than he wanted. His introspective “Spruce Creek Diary” fishing journal was published in Fly Fisherman magazine in the early ’80s and was exceptionally well-written.

Both Bushes are well-known anglers. Kennebunkport is striper heaven, and both of these former presidents are more than proficient fresh and saltwater fishermen. Even President Obama enjoyed a recent foray on the East Gallatin in Montana; his guide reported that the president thoroughly enjoyed the experience and was planning a return trip before the first one was over.

Whether pauper or president, a quiet day on the water connects us to the deeper mysteries of nature. Fishing helps us remember who we are and where we came from. Even presidents need these reminders on occasion.

“The gods do not deduct from man’s allotted span the hours spent in fishing.” – Herbert Hoover

On the fly is provided weekly by staff members of Taylor Creek Fly Shop in Basalt.


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