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President Eisenhower's Fishing Gear

Published by David Weaver [Fishidiot] on 09/23/2013 (13107 reads)
By Dave Weaver

President of the United States and General of the Armies Dwight Eisenhower was an avid outdoorsman and enjoyed a wide range of shooting and fishing pursuits. His retirement home here in Gettysburg is managed now by the National Park Service as a museum and historic site. NPS archivists and historians currently hold many of Ike and Mamie’s personal possessions in a separate storage area where they’re being conserved and catalogued. I was able recently to get access to this storage site to photograph Ike’s fly rod and some of his other fishing gear. Also on display at the farm’s reception center is a fly/spin combo rod.

Ike undoubtedly owned a good many rods and reels and some have perhaps been lost to history, held in private collections, or may be stored at Abilene. While he enjoyed all manner of fresh water fishing, Ike was particularly fond of fly fishing for trout. Local rumor has that streams around Camp David were stocked with trout whenever Ike was visiting and local anglers, upon hearing that Ike had been at camp, would flock to fish the downstream areas of these creeks and catch the remaining fish.

I’m not sure if he spent much time salt water fishing however there are three different sand spikes and a chum pot in the NPS collection. The fly rod is a Pflueger R3780 in eight foot length and made of fiberglass. The White House tag can be seen on the rod bag. The small bottle is dry fly treatment and labeled Silicote Dry Fly Dressing, copyright 1946. I’d like to believe that this fly rod and some of the other gear might have some neat stories to tell. Ike loved fishing and, with the great responsibilities he carried on his shoulders, one certainly can’t begrudge him his days on the stream.

For Eisenhower, like many of us who love fly fishing, the sport probably served as way to make a point about something else. In the next photo, Ike has just been nominated and is getting acquainted with his new VP Richard Nixon in Fraser, Colorado. The renowned historian Stephen Ambrose wryly wrote of this photo, In casting, as in politics, Eisenhower was terribly earnest in his attempts to educate Nixon, with frustrating results in both cases.

(Photo and quote courtesy Eisenhower Soldier, General of the Army, President- Elect 1890-1952 by Stephen Ambrose, p 170

Resized ImagePerhaps the most famous wartime photo of Eisenhower is just before D-day when he’s chatting with paratroopers from the 101st Airborne getting ready to jump into Normandy. For years I’ve wondered what sort of pep talk was he was giving them? Well it turns out that the tall lieutenant on the right in the photo was from Michigan and later told the story that, when he told the general where he was from, the discussion turned to – no surprise – fly fishing. The cameraman just happened to shoot the photo as Ike was demonstrating the intricacies of fly casting to his rapt audience of Soldiers. Perhaps we can hope – and I’d like to believe – that this brief focus on fly fishing, at least for a few moments, served as a brief escape for these troops from the onerous duties awaiting them over the next days.

The author would like to thank Mike Florer of the NPS for assistance with access to these artifacts. For more information on the Eisenhower National Historic Site or to plan a visit, please hit:

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Author Thread
Published: 2011/9/21 9:04  Updated: 2011/9/21 9:04
Joined: 04/08/2007
From: SEPA
Comments: 19
 Re: President Eisenhower's Fishing Gear
Is he holding some sort of automatic reel in the picture with Nixon? Who'd a thought that a President of the United States would fish with such pedestrian gear.
Published: 2011/9/21 9:08  Updated: 2011/9/21 9:08
Joined: 04/12/2011
From: Lancaster Co.
Comments: 664
 Re: President Eisenhower's Fishing Gear
Would have thought he would have been outfitted with a high end bamboo rod, Orvis CFO or equivalent, etc. Like you said, maybe that kind of stuff ended up elsewhere. Any idea if Ike ever fished the local streams around Gettysburg, particularly the Conewago or maybe FSB? Thanks for the interesting read Dave. Never heard that the iconic pre D-Day photo included a talk about fly fishing.
Published: 2011/9/21 12:38  Updated: 2011/9/21 12:38
Joined: 09/09/2006
From: Gettysburg
Comments: 439
 Re: President Eisenhower's Fishing Gear
I noticed that too and scrutinized the picture - the reel is mounted flat side against the reel seat. I don't know if it's an automatic.

Ike fished around here but I haven't seen any info that he fished in Adams County specifically other than the small fishing pond he had out at the farm which no longer exists. He might have fished Conewago up in the upper section which was, and still is, popular private club water. He did fish down in the Catoctin area just below the state line, probably due to the proximity to Camp David.
Published: 2011/9/21 13:16  Updated: 2011/9/21 13:20
Joined: 06/25/2008
From: Pgh
Comments: 212
 Re: President Eisenhower's Fishing Gear
Could that be a classic ReeLever Automatic?

ReeLever Fly Reel

Back in that period of time, technology was making inroads in the fine sport of fishing. Spinning gear -- a new concept at the time imported from our WWII visit to France -- was becoming mainstream and the automatic fly reel was seen as one of the latest and greatest advances in flyfishing.

It would make sense the President would be sporting that "advanced" gear. And it makes further sense that he was in Colorado, the birthplace of Tuttle's ReeLever.
Published: 2011/9/21 14:25  Updated: 2011/9/21 14:25
Joined: 09/09/2006
From: Gettysburg
Comments: 439
 Re: President Eisenhower's Fishing Gear
I think you nailed it! I tried to blow up the pic a bit and although I can't see the large lever arm, it does have a large slit on the side of the reel housing just as the ReeLever does. It certainly does appear to be some type of automatic. Thanks.

Ike certainly wasn't prone to buying the most expensive high end stuff. If you've visited his home, you know he lived modestly. He owned some nice guns but nothing really high end. The collection in storage has a S&W revolver, a couple Winchester 94s (some were customized gifts given to him) and a couple O/U shotguns the make and model I can't remember.
Published: 2011/9/21 14:35  Updated: 2011/9/21 14:35
Joined: 09/08/2006
Comments: 1357
 Re: President Eisenhower's Fishing Gear

Again thanks for the great post. Big Hunting Creek is less than two miles from Camp David. It is a currently a stocked stream and a popular spot for fly fishing in the area. I would imagine Ike could have spent some time there back in the day.
Published: 2011/9/21 16:34  Updated: 2011/9/21 16:34
Joined: 09/16/2006
From: Bucks County
Comments: 136
 Re: President Eisenhower's Fishing Gear
I know Ike had at least two Payne rods. One was a Payne 100. This was one of two identical rods commissioned by H. Meade Alcorn through Clapp & Treat. Merritt Treat sold the business to Edward Ruestow in Connecticut. Clapp & Treat were at one time agents for Payne. Alcorn, who would become National Chairman of the Republican Party asked Merritt to have Jim Payne build a rod similar to the Payne 100 to present to Eisenhower as a gift. Merritt also asked Jim Payne to build a duplicate rod. Both rods were received with one given to Eisenhower. The rod is tagged as a 3-3/8 ounce 100 on one side with “M.W. Treat” inked on the other side. The tube and bag are original with the bag also having MW Treat Hartford Ct inked on it.

The other was a 7’ two piece and probably a Payne 97 or 98. This one is in “fair condition” with only one tip and is located at the Eisenhower museum in Abilene. While not on display, the rod was confirmed by Dennis Medina who was curator of the museum up until a couple of years ago.

I also understand there is an Orvis, probably a Model 99 at the American Museum of Fly Fishing.

Thanks for posting this David, interesting stuff to know about.
Published: 2011/9/21 21:56  Updated: 2011/9/21 21:56
Joined: 07/06/2011
From: Ephrata, PA
Comments: 1465
 Re: President Eisenhower's Fishing Gear
The guy who gave me those glass rods that I wrote about in the equipment section was a student at Penn State when Ike's brother was president. While he was there, Milton taught a fly tying and fishing class, which my friend took (its where he learned to fish and tie). Their final exam was to tie a fly. He said Milton would have a big bucket at the end of the semester w/ flies in it that students tied and my friend *HEARD* that Ike came in to see his bro, and asked him for some flies. Milton supposedly reached into the bucket, grabbed a handful of flies and gave them to Ike. My friend gets very excited telling this story because he's convinced one of those flies was his final exam tie!
Published: 2011/9/22 7:50  Updated: 2011/9/22 7:50
Joined: 09/09/2006
From: Gettysburg
Comments: 439
 Re: President Eisenhower's Fishing Gear
What an extraordinary story! I knew about Milton at PSU (he was also pres of Johns Hopkins and, I believe, another school in the mid-west). Milton liked fishing too but I didn't know about the fly fishing class. I wonder if he did this in conjunction with George Harvey? I'll have to go back to Dan Shields book and see if this is noted. Whatever the case, it's a really neat story about the "final exam" part.

(Not to mention a university president who actually has time to interact with students rather than just go fundraising and hobnob with politicos and doners)
Published: 2011/9/22 10:17  Updated: 2011/9/22 10:17
Joined: 07/06/2011
From: Ephrata, PA
Comments: 1465
 Re: President Eisenhower's Fishing Gear
Yeah I thought it was a cool story! Times were different in the 50s I guess. There was an article in Eastern Flyfishing this month about Ike and Spring Creek I believe. It reminded me of my friend's story, and then this popped up.
Published: 2011/9/22 21:54  Updated: 2011/9/22 21:54
Joined: 05/17/2009
From: Media Pa
Comments: 94
 Re: President Eisenhower's Fishing Gear
is Nixon wearing a vest? You are talking about a guy who used to walk the beaches in San Clemente wearing wing tips!
Published: 2013/9/29 7:21  Updated: 2013/9/29 7:21
Joined: 12/03/2006
From: Mechanicsburg, Pa
Comments: 208
 Re: President Eisenhower's Fishing Gear
Nixon looks so grumpy...

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