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Mares: Fishing With George

I was in Kennebunkport to interview George Bush senior for a book on presidents who fished. As former First Lady Barbara Bush waved cheerfully from the veranda, the former president was welcoming, and refreshingly candid.

"Fishing" he said, "totally clears your mind … In this setting you relax. It's not just catching the fish; it's the environment, the background, the beauty of it all."

Vacationing Presidents are often criticized for inattention to national business, and Mr. Bush recalled that “During the preparations for Operation Desert Storm, the press gave me a hard time when I was out fishing. Well, I didn't want to scare the American public that summer by creating a crisis atmosphere. We knew what we had to do and were going to do. We even called the president of Syria from that fishing boat!"

Mr. Bush also remembered fishing for Maine bluefish with son Jeb and then-Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Conditions were “dead calm,” he said, “and then the bluefish really began hitting on bait and big Rapala plugs. Now Jeb was having trouble with his reel and he made a bad cast so that the plug came winging back and pierced my right ear. Well, there I was with a big Rapala earring!

Mulroney urged me to get to shore and get it attended to, but I said “No, we don't get fishing like this very often."

So one of the Secret service men pushed the hook through the ear lobe, cut the barb off, and put on a Bandaid. And that was one of the greatest bluefishing days I've ever seen.

If it had been in an eye ball, I guess we would have gone in, but it wasn't and we didn't."

Another time, while in Labrador to fish for salmon, Mr. Bush stepped on a mossy place that looked solid when he suddenly “started sinking, up to my knees, then my hips.

If I'd been alone I could have been dead. But fortunately there was a Secret Service agent and a Canadian Mountie who pulled on each arm, and out I came with what Ross Perot would call a 'giant sucking sound.' "

Writer Bill Mares of Burlington is also a former teacher and state legislator. His most recent book is a collection of his VPR commentaries, titled "3:14 And Out."
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