Al Campbell, Field Editor

June 14th, 2004

Learning How to Mend
Al Campbell

This is the third time I have started this. For some reason, my mind keeps going back to Ronald Reagan. I'm not sure why exactly, but that man had a great impact on my life. In fact, he will continue to have a great impact on my life as long as I live.

When Ronald took the presidency from Mr. Carter, he inherited a lot more than just the presidency. Inflation was running way high, and the economy was in the slumps. As is usual, he got credit for the problems of his predecessor as well as his own problems. However, he did what he thought was right; and watched the economy turn around slowly.

I was in the US Air Force at the time, and I can truthfully say that I was glad to see him take office, even though Mr. Carter had tried to support us for the most part. There is a big difference between trying to support your troops and really supporting them. Everything from the uniforms we wore to the outfits we drove changed under President Reagan. He was very in tune with what and who keeps this country secure.

He said something I'll never forget. He said that he was the president of all the people, not just the Republicans. You didn't hear much of that on the news, but that was the way he felt, and he was willing to say it. That didn't mean he was willing to give in to the ways of the others though. He was determined to do what he felt was the right thing to do.

So, what does any of this have to do with fishing? Well, probably very little, but then again, maybe more than we thought. Let's take a look at some of the things I remember, and how they compare to the fishing we do today. No, I don't believe that Mr. Reagan did everything great, so don't get all consumed about that. However, I do see a positive attitude in what he did, and that plays well in fishing as well.

The day Mr. Reagan took office; the hostages were released in Iran. I sincerely doubt that this was a gift from President Carter. Some folks just don't play games, and the guys in Iran knew they had little time to play. It is that way when fishing too. If you select the right fly, you are likely to have a much better day than you would have had using the old regular that isn't working today.

When Mr. Reagan approached the Soviet Union about nuclear weapons, he did so with new weapons being built, a bigger military, and plenty of ideas to trade away. He knew that the trade would have to do with all we had, so having more gave us a better chance. Don't you suppose the guy who has a better selection of flies has a better chance than the guy with only a few? Of course he does.

Look at the weapons we used in Iraq. Most of those were either in limbo or hadn't even made it off the drawing board when Mr. Reagan took his first oath of office. Just three that come to mind are the B1, B2 and M1 Abrams tank. He took us from the fumbling military that had left Vietnam with our tails between our legs; and converted us to the most supreme fighting force of today's world. The guy who fishes with the best we have to offer, usually catches more on average than the guy who fishes with 30 year old technology. There are exceptions of course; but the guy with the biggest advantage usually wins.

Then there are the times Mr. Reagan made mistakes. Oh, he sure did make a few mistakes. Probably the best known mistake was the Iran/Contra mess. I'm sure there is a lot there that we will never know, but mistakes were definitely made. However, he was able to do a line mend with considerable skill. It isn't that he didn't make a mistake, but rather how he handled that mistake that counted in the end. We do the same thing in flyfishing. We cast and mend the line for a better drift. Sometimes it takes a lot of mending to get the drift we want, but with the right mending, we have a better chance of success.

No, I don't think Ronald Reagan was the best president we have ever had. I just think he was the best we have had in my lifetime. He made mistakes and rolled with the punches as good as anyone I have ever seen. He also knew that the best way to win a war (cold as it was), was to approach it with more cards than the other guys had. I'm betting he would have been a dandy flyfisher too. He just knew how to win the game. And, that's more than many of us know. ~ AC

Previous Al Campell Columns

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