President Jimmy Carter loved to fly fish! He had an addiction and really enjoyed the simplicity of catching some trout. Recently, his wife Rosalyn died. She loved to watch Jimmy fish, but they would often have fishing competitions.
Years ago, I was a college kid working for the Maryland DNR at the Beaver Creek Trout hatchery. We were charged with taking trout to an area in Camp David, in the Catoctin Mountains. My boss had to stock the trout on his own and I was stuck at the gate.
While I was waiting, Rosalyn Carter came up, while she was taking a walk. I started to chat with her and bragged about Maryland’s trout fishery and the local Big Hunting Creek. This fishery was a fish for fun fly only resource. She told me that Jimmy would love it and I gave her my contact info. In case they needed a guide.
As a young man/guide, I never expected a return call but… The secret service called and asked if I could meet the President on Big Hunting Creek for some fishing. I said heck yea and told them where I would meet them and when.
I parked my truck in the spot I said and waited. Sure enough, a Lincoln Continental pulled up with some other vehicles. Out stepped Jimmy and Rosalyn. The Secret Service guys spread out, each packing weapons, under their long coats. Finally, I would get to fish in my favorite pools without competition!
The pool I chose I called “Brookie Basin”. It was full of big fat Brook Trout. They were 15-18 inches and had bowling ball bellies. These fish were also super smart. Everyone, and their mothers, had cast a line at these beautiful trout.
Rosalyn took a seat downstream, on a flat rock. She and Jimmy talked about their fishing contests. She said what a great fisherman she was, and Jimmy didn’t argue. Today she just wanted to enjoy the sounds of the river and the beauty of the Catoctin Mountains as she watched Jimmy fish.
We looked at those smart, fat, brookies and I brought out my secret weapon. Slow, dead water fishing is hard. If you don’t see the fish open its mouth and take, you will never see the strike, unless… I was playing with a balsa wood strike indicator. This was decades before the Palsa, bobbers, and floaters that fly guys use today. I made an inch long balsa stick a few feet above the fly. When a fish would strike, the balsa stick would stand up tall.
The President liked the idea and made several smooth, perfect casts. Finally, the small nymph drifted right in front of one of the fat brooks. The stick indicator lifted straight up, and Jimmy set the hook. After a great battle, I netted the first of several 15-18-inch Beer Belly Brookies. Even the Secret Service guards came over to look.
The best thing about fishing is the simple joy it brings. I was guiding the President of the United States, and he and his First Lady were as pleasant, and down to earth as my mom and dad. Nothing else in the world was more important than those fat brookies sucking in a tiny nymph and making a balsa wood stick stand up straight.
Rosalyn has passed and Jimmy is not far behind. Maybe one day I will get a chance to guide them again in the great beyond. This time, there will be a big competition.
Thank you for a wonderful trout fishing memory!