Fishing Presidents

While just about anyone who fly fishes would prefer a president who shares their curiosity about and appreciation of the natural world, a front-page Wall Street Journal article this morning might make us want to think twice about having another “fishing president.” That label was first given to Herbert Hoover, who many blame for extending the Great Depression when, as the Journal‘s Louise Radnofsky describes, Hoover was perceived to “put ideological loyalty to the free market ahead of trying to help people suffering from the downturn.” Hoover earned a reputation — deserved or not — for indolence, aloofness, and foolish disregard. If you consider that an entire 388-page book has been written about Hoover’s fishing habits (Hal Elliott Wert’s Hoover The Fishing President: Portrait of the Private Man and His Life Outdoors), and very few historians praise him for political adroitness, it’s also worth considering whether an addiction to fly fishing recommends anyone to the highest offices of the land. (We have other negative examples that spring to mind, along with visions of Blackhawk helicopters on Wyoming streams, but I’ll skip those.)
Fact is, U.S. citizens are more in need of a leader who won’t treat leisure time and aloofness as privileges of office. Don’t get me wrong: if today’s winner wants to learn the Belgian cast, I’ll be the first to offer. But I’m more than a little hopeful that the notion of the president being truly a public servant enjoys a revival. It’s the only way we’re all going to have more time to go fishing.

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  • scott burrell

    Not to mention jimmy carter, usually considered the most ineffective president of the latter half of the 20th century (remember gas lines and hostages) was an avid fly angler.

  • brian

    Plenty of 20th century presidents were fishermen. FDR used to enjoy fishing from the stern of the presidential yacht the USS Sequoia. There are several famous pictures of FDR fishing while talking with Churchill during the war years. He may not have been a serious fisherman, but he enjoyed wetting a line now and then.
    Dwight Eisenhower enjoyed fly fishing (along with hunting, golf and a good number of other outdoor activities). There is one famous picture of Eisenhower trying to teach Nixon how to fly fish. They dressed Nixon up in all the correct fishing garb and put him in the stream with Ike for a publicity shot. Ike looks like a natural, Nixon like a fish out of water. That may have been the first and last time Tricky Dick ever went fishing.