That’s why they call it “fishing” and not “catching.”
It’s an old angling cliche, used sometimes to soothe the wounded spirit of an angler skunked.
But it’s true, too. There’s no guarantee when a fly — even one astutely selected and artfully cast — settles gently on the water of a moving stream that a fish will rise and take it. Nor should there be such a guarantee.
First, we go to fish, and all that means. Next, though, it’s nice to catch something, especially if that something is a brightly colored rainbow trout in the 16- to 17-inch range, which rose to take a dry fly.
So when Cameron Enright watched the fly rod held by Donald Trump, Jr. bend and dance, the fishing world became an even better place for both of them.
Or at least the little part of the fishing world along Rapid Creek below Pactola Reservoir. There under the eyes of two focused-but-pleasant Secret Service agents, Enright and the president’s eldest son were fishing on the morning of July 3, when the rainbow rose to the fly.
“That was quite the catch,” Enright says. “He caught that one on a beetle pattern, on the surface. And I got to watch the fish come up off the bottom and take the fly.”
When the fish was landed, photographed and released, Enright could finally relax in a way he couldn’t quite relax earlier as Donald Jr. worked and worked and worked to finally catch three nice-but-smaller trout.
There’s pressure in guiding anyone. And there’s a particular kind of pressure in guiding a president’s child, as Enright was doing early in the morning of the day that the president would speak during a political bash at Mount Rushmore National Memorial. And the 22-year-old Enright, a Lead-Deadwood native now living in Spearfish, could feel the pressure, cast after cast.
It didn’t help that Don, Jr. had just come from fishing in Montana on bigger, better-known trout streams — rivers, really — that typically produce bigger fish. Rapid Creek was being asked to match something truly grand.
“We have great fishing here, but it’s not quite like out there,” Enright says.
The downstream area of Pactola holds a wonderful population of brown and rainbow trout, with the potential for a 20-incher. But those fish see a lot of flies. The water is gin clear. And sometimes the fish can be, well, lovely to look at but very difficult to catch.
“The morning started off a little slow. It’s a tailwater up there, kind of like an aquarium,” Enright says. “The first 45 minutes were really stressful. Then we started catching fish. It wasn’t a banner day, but I feel like that bonus rainbow at the end kind of set things off for me.”
Enright got the guiding job through the Spearfish Creek Fly Shop in Spearfish.
“They asked me if I might be available on July 3rd to guide a politician in the area,” he says. “I put two and two together and agreed.”
After being cleared in a security check, he was ready to guide, without any hesitation over political philosophy. With his first vote in a presidential election four years ago, Enright chose Trump, largely because of fiscal policy.
“I’m definitely more of a fiscal conservative. I support a lot of his (the president’s) fiscal ideas,” Enright says. “I think it’s tough to find someone who represents all of your ideas.”
That’s as close as he came to any criticism of the president. And he had nothing but praise for Donald Trump Jr. as a fishing partner.
“He’s an awesome guy to be around, very well spoken and an awesome fisherman. He probably didn’t need a guide, but it helps to get that local information and experience,” Enright says. “After my nerves settled the first few minutes, it was just like any other time out there on the water with someone.”
Don Jr. brought his own 10-foot-long, 5-weight fly rod and reel. Enright brought 4-weight and 5-weight outfits. Each rig had different flies, so Trump could switch rods quickly if one wasn’t working.
After about 2-1/2 hours, Enright finished the guide work but Trump continued fishing, this time for trout and dollars with guests during an exclusive political fundraiser. That part of the morning probably gives rise to questions about proper use of public fishing water.
I’m OK with closing a stretch so Don Jr. could fish safely. But was it appropriate to use public water and deny public access — some fly fishers who wanted to fish were turned away — for a partisan-political fundraiser? That feels a lot different to me, and not in a good way.
Enright didn’t have anything to do with that, of course. His job was to take the president’s son “fishing,” which he did. And it turned out, he took him “catching,” too.
And that rainbow? It’ll be rising in Enright’s recollection for years to come.