(HOST) While researching his book on Presidential fishing, commentator Bill Mares ran across the following story of Dwight Eisenhower’s fishing trip to Rutland County, 54 years ago.
(MARES) Not all or even most Presidents have fished as a respite from the lonely cares of that office. But enough of them did that we can make a few generalizations. They fished across the country and beyond, from Georgia sloughs to Pennsylvania streams, from the Texas shore to the Maine Coast, from big rivers in the West to small lakes in the East. They pursued the lordly salmon and the lowly perch, and all species in between. They brought home their limit, and they came up empty. They killed fish and they released others to fight again. They told the truth, and they lied, when they could get away with it. In short, they were human like the rest of us; for, as Herbert Hoover wrote, "All men are equal before fish." But some of their experiences were distinctly Presidential. Calvin Coolidge had Secret Service agent shoo away anglers from waters reserved for him. Franklin Delano Roosevelt got to fish off a Navy cruiser. And only a former President like Jimmy Carter could, in his fishing memoir, compare the theft of two prized fly rods to the loss of a national election.
In June 1955, President Dwight Eisenhower flew into Rutland, Vermont, as part of a "non-political" tour of New England. Sandwiched between an inspection of livestock at the Fairgrounds, a luncheon in his honor, and a trip to the Mountain Top Inn in Chittenden for another celebratory meal, the President got in a little fishing on Furnace Brook, with famed local fisherman and attorney Milford K. Smith.
Now, Ike was a decent fisherman. He’d fished in different parts of the country and even abroad. He eschewed worms for flies, and he had a good casting technique. After the trip, Smith rhapsodized in his weekly newspaper column on how well Ike had handled the two and one half ounce bamboo rod. He noted how patiently – and silently – Ike released the fly when an alder branch "…seized the fly in an exasperating manner." The pair talked of reels and rods, waters fished and waters wished for, and, as Smith put it, "All those wonderful and useless things that are so much nonsense to the non-fisherman but are meat and drink to the dedicated angler."
But despite all his skill and Smith’s attentive guidance, Ike was skunked.
It wasn’t for lack of effort by his aides. The night before, eager beavers at the U.S. Fish Hatchery in nearby Pittsford stayed up past midnight hauling fat two- and three-pound rainbows from the pools to Furnace Brook. Unfortunately, the change in environment was too much of a shock for the fish, and they refused to strike at any of Ike’s flies.
Harold Blaisdell, who helped with the stocking, wrote later that "…local fishermen fared considerably better after the big trout had been at least partially acclimated. Unaware of the nocturnal stocking and prepared for fish on a few inches over the legal limit, these fishermen left the stream in a happy daze, toting trout that wouldn’t even fit in their creels."