Everybody has to make a living, and some do a much better job of it than others. I, on the other hand, have perfected the art of doing what ever the hell I want for a living. I’m a furniture maker, I tie flies, and I’m a campaign consultant. I’d love to incorporate VCR repair into my repertoire just to really dominate the real estate on a business card, but for now I’m really happy making a living this way. In my work with campaigns I’ve noticed a litmus test that gained prominence with the election of George W. If you’ll remember, pundits explained his appeal to voters as a “guy you’d want to have a beer with.” And he was. And it worked. And ever since that’s been an examination that every campaign has to undergo in order to most effectively present their candidate to the public.
I’m no connoisseur of beer by any stretch of the imagination. If it ends in “light,” fits in a coozie, and incorporates boobs in its advertising, that’s probably a really good beer. Cheap and plentiful is how my liver likes ‘em. I am, however, a connoisseur of people I drink beer with, and it ain’t candidates. I’ve worked with some incredible people, people who’ve sacrificed so much for the call of public service. They’re passionate about their beliefs and there’s an uncontrollable drive to share these beliefs with everybody within earshot. Also, they’ve usually attended so many speaking engagements that they speak in paragraphs. They can’t just say, “Well, shit,”; they state their disappointment, provide clear, well thought out facts to support that assertion, then summarize the reasons they’re disappointed. May not sound that bad, but it gets exhausting after a while. Add all this up and it makes it really hard to just relax and have a beer around one of them. They suck all the oxygen out of them room and you’re just along for the ride.
Since I don’t drink with candidates, the “have a beer with” test does nothing for me in this year’s presidential election. It’s my rule and I’m sticking with it. Instead, I propose a new test: “Who Would You Rather Fly Fish With?” Makes more sense than drinking. Any idea you say loud enough sounds pretty good when you’re drunk. I’ve seen it happen. That’s why so many people die in my state trying to outrun trains. Fly fishing is equal parts of skill and knowledge. You can’t just spend a fish into your net with fancy tackle; you have to know what you’re doing and how to do it. It takes experience, quick decision making and a level head; all qualities we need in the executive office.
So here’s how I think it’d go.
Mitt’s a gear head first of all. Maybe that’s not a strong enough word. Mitt has an Orvis shop strapped onto his back. If they made a kitchen sink, he would have it. It’s a late summer afternoon and he has two boxes of poppers in every color and size. Waders, just in case the water drops from 80 to 60 while we’re out. The guy brought a 4, a 6 and an 8 wt to cover all the bases, and extra spools for all three. He didn’t pack for the trip; he packed for ALL the trips. If I say, “hey, the shoalies are done here, what say we drive to the other side of the country real quick for somesteelhead,” he’s ready. And he’s constantly in his fly box. Each fly gets a couple of chucks then he ties on a new one. Caddis to clouser, hopper to dropper, streamer to stonefly. Guy’s bound to catch something, and he can twist a clinch so fast you hardly notice.
And then there’s his cast: incredible aim, like he has a rifle sight on the end of his rod. He’s pitching bugs in the brush like a sniper. I’m not saying it’s the right bug, but he’s deadly with his presentation. On the rare occasion that he hits a snag, he doesn’t try and roll cast it out of there, he just stomps up and cuts his tippet where he can get to it and moves on to a different run like it never happened. Overall, though, it’s a textbook cast. He’s well read on the subject, talking a lot about casting angles and the importance of opening up your loops in certain situations. My only real criticism is that he’s audibly counting cadence through his false casts, and when he shoots line he whispers, “and theeeeeeeeerrrrrreeeee.” It’s a little off putting, but the guy can throw.
With Obama, it’s a different story. First of all, when we pulled up to the river a bunch of tubers where yelling andlaughing as they floated downstream. You see, there are three different companies ferrying teenagers up river since Conservation relaxed it’s rules on recreational boating in this bit of water, so the fish are pretty stressed out with all the splashing and screaming. But it’s the spot we have, so we’re going to fish it. He packed simple, maybe too simple. He’d gotten one of those online fish reports that guess the flies and the feed, so that’s all he brought. He brought a slow action bamboo 5wt; it looks like a simple rod but there is a good bit of engraving in the reel seat and butt cap. I’m not crazyabout bamboo rods; I know they just don’t cut it for my kind of fishing and I tipped the only one I ever had, rendering it completely useless. Still, though, this is a great rod from an aesthetic point of view.
His fly box is just staple bugs. Nothing fancy. He’s tied on a wooly bugger and he defends that choice with a clear, concise argument, explain that this is one of the most productive flies in a variety of fishing situations, you can strip it to mimic a leech or a baitfish, and widely heralded as a “must have” in any fly box. Hell, its such a compellingargument that I’m even thinking of tying one on even though I’ve brought 2 to my hand with a gurgler.
His cast is incredible. Beautiful loops. He even does that thing from “A River Runs Through It” where you just waggle the line in the air so it looks like a doctor’s signature. And it all happens in slow motion, too. It’s incredible. After my 3 fish in hand, I notice that he’s still doing it. Hasn’t wet a single fly this whole time. With all that time in the air, you start to wonder if he’s trying to trick the fish into thinking there’s a flying swarm of wooly buggers getting ready invade theirwater. When he finally shoots the line, he immediately gets a bite. Boom. But it’s a bluegill. It counts. The guy still caught a fish, just not exactly what we’re looking for. Before you can even comment on the little guy, he’s back in the air. A beautiful, dead straight roll cast picks up the line into another 5minutes of back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. He’s not catching many, but it’s an inspiration to watch.
So at the end of the day, neither of these guys is perfect to have in your boat. There’s more tackle and talk on your bow than fish on the line. They each have their strong suits, you can certainly improve your game by taking either one along for a day, but theyjust don’t smack of “fishing-buddy” material. I’ve made a decision long before we hit the water, but I’m not especially excited about it. I think we could do better, I think we’ve done better, but you can’t pick the weather, you can onlypick your flies. Instead, you’re left with the impression that you’d be better off fishing with locals, guys that grew up around here and know the water like the back of their hand.
Wait, this wasn’t helpful at all.
Cold beer, anyone?