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Jimmy Carter’s Spruce Creek Diary


Shortly after leaving workplace, President Carter trekked along with his fly-fishing household to Pennsylvania’s Spruce Creek to fish the Inexperienced Drake hatch. The depth of his curiosity in fly-angling is mirrored in his hour-by-hour, day-by-day journal printed right here.


This text was initially titled “Spruce Creek Diary” within the Jan-Feb 1982 problem of Fly Fisherman journal. Click on right here for a PDF of the print version of “Spruce Creek Diary.”

It was in late Might of final 12 months, and my spouse Rosalynn and I have been taking our first non-public motor journey since our daughter Amy was born greater than 13 years in the past. We had spent two days in a camper-van shifting via the Nice Smoky Mountains and up the Shenandoah Valley to Pennsylvania. As we crossed every mountain stream in northern Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and southern Pennsylvania, we examined it fastidiously to evaluate the results of current heavy spring rains. Some have been muddy and silted, whereas others have been pure and clear, however I used to be sure that Pennsylvania’s Spruce Creek, our vacation spot, could be among the many higher ones.

Wayne Harpster, our host, farms a lot of the Spruce Creek Valley land alongside the higher reaches of this productive stream, and he makes use of no-till practices to keep up a everlasting sod cowl and reduce erosion of the hilly however extremely productive land. His a whole bunch of acres of corn and pasture are usually not cultivated in any respect, and he has adopted this energy-saving and worthwhile process for the previous ten years. I want that each one outdoorsmen and farmers of those worthwhile backside lands would come to understand Wayne’s knowledge as a lot as we did once we arrived and located the land free of abrasion and the stream clear and in glorious situation. Additionally, in fact, controlling runoff minimizes the prospect of harm to the ecology of a stream from pesticides and herbicides.

Wayne Harpster is an excellent dairy farmer and, not coincidentally, probably the greatest trout fishermen I do know. Whereas dwelling within the White Home we visited Wayne a number of instances, spending a day or two in one among his farmhouses on the north financial institution of Spruce Creek, and for greater than a 12 months we deliberate to return the final week in Might to have fun two vital occasions – Wayne’s birthday and the annual Inexperienced Drake hatch. We by no means fairly determined which occasion was extra vital to him, however we did accuse him of fixing the date of his birthday to match the hatch.

I had referred to as Wayne from Plains the night time earlier than we left dwelling and he reported that the Inexperienced Drakes had arrived about on schedule, however had moved up the creek extra quickly than typical. The primary of the heavy hatches occurred on Sunday night time, Might twenty fourth, however he anticipated them to proceed every night for at the least per week, nicely after our arrival.



Thursday Afternoon: Shortly fishing Spruce Creek

As we sat on the entrance porch assembling our rods, checking our leaders, and dressing our strains within the late afternoon, we may see the massive mayflies (referred to as “shad flies” by a number of the native fishermen) darting up and down, their all the time­entrancing mating dance outlined in opposition to the darkish branches of the hemlock bushes on the far financial institution. An occasional trout rose, though we couldn’t but see any of the massive flies on the water. I could not wait till after our early supper, although, so I floated a small yellow-bodied Adams far below the overhanging limbs and shortly netted a pleasant stream­bred brown trout. It was an excellent omen for the approaching days.

Jimmy Carter's Spruce Creek Diary
President Carter’s enthusiasm upon seeing mayflies dancing over Pennsylvania’s Spruce Creek landed him on the water as quickly as potential. (Photograph courtesy of the Carter Presidential Supplies Mission, Nationwide Archives and Data Service)

As nightfall approached we have been in a closely wooded space, waist-deep within the chilly water, casting Inexperienced Drake patterns upstream into the riffles and alongside the overgrown banks. There have been no stocked fish on this space, however we knew there was a heavy inhabitants of untamed browns within the wealthy limestone stream. About 8 o’clock the cloud of mayflies started dipping to the water’s floor for the females to deposit their eggs, and trout started to rise frequently to take the floating bugs. When our casts have been heading in the right direction and the floats pure, we caught fish, even after darkness compelled us to rely on tough estimates of distance and path. Most of our catch have been 11- to 13-inch browns, however Rosalynn netted and launched an attractive 16-inch fighter. Nonetheless, over the last half hour I missed on each strike and was disgusted that my judgment and reflexes have been so poor. Again on the cabin, I found that my hook was damaged off on the bend. I used to be silly to not have checked my fly and tippet frequently, even within the darkness.

Thursday Night: Streamside Seminars with George Harvey 

Throughout the subsequent few days our total household could be collectively, all avid fly fishers besides daughter Amy, who nonetheless maintains a couple of different extra pressing priorities. After greater than a decade in public life we naturally worth privateness throughout our uncommon trip instances, however we additionally cherish good companionship, so at our request Wayne had invited our fishing mates Lloyd Riss and George Harvey to hitch us.

They’re each excellent fishermen, and in the course of the earlier autumn they’d launched us to the particular fishing abilities required in the course of the swarming daytime Tricorythode hatches. We might sit on a shady rock within the meadow, look ahead to the telltale sign of barn swallows and different birds diving via the clouds of diminutive mayflies, then transfer to the world and wade cautiously upstream, casting fastidiously constructed 12-foot leaders tipped with the tiny fly simply above the quietly sipping trout.



At instances I’d be capable of induce George Harvey to wade alongside me within the stream, an illuminating however sobering expertise to a relative newcomer struggling to grasp one of the difficult strategies of angling. With virtually good accuracy his line would straighten out two or three toes above the water, cease in midair after which drop gently to the floor as he checked and lowered his rod. The chief would fall in sinuous curves, and the apparently unattached fly would float naturally towards a ready and hungry trout. George was affected person with my errors, having taught greater than 35,000 college students each the rudiments and the superior abilities of fly-fishing and fly-tying as a professor at Pennsylvania State College. Now retired, he nonetheless shares his data and knowledge – and his stunning flies – with a couple of fortunate mates. We have been delighted that he and Lloyd had come to hitch us.

For these of us who often launch trout, George crusades for barbless hooks, and in the course of the week we have been to be satisfied of the worth of his recommendation. It’s a lot simpler to slide the hook out of the trout’s mouth with no moist and wild wrestling match and potential damage to the fish. For fishermen like me who could be involved about shedding too many hooked fish with out barbs, George has a easy argument: After a trout is on his line he’ll ostentatiously lay the rod on the bottom and ignore it for a minute or two, then raise it once more and reel within the fish. Throughout these demonstrations he not often loses a trout.

Along with our discussions about fly-fishing technique and techniques, my fishing companions commiserated with me over my loss in shifting from the White Home again dwelling to Plains-but not in reference to the elections. Together with my different prized rods I had packed two excellent bamboo rods, one among them specifically designed by Tom Maxwell and constructed for me after their regular working hours by the craftsmen at H. L. Leonard Rod Firm as a present for a fly-fishing President. It suited me completely and was a favourite for light-tackle fishing. The opposite rod was a part of a particular conservation award commissioned by one of many sporting magazines after we had moved efficiently to guard greater than 100 million acres of the Alaska wilderness.

They have been amongst my most cherished possessions, and had been dealt with with particular look after the journey from Camp David to the White Home for crating and transport to Georgia. Once I opened the picket crates containing my fishing tools the 2 rods have been lacking. A subsequent investigation indicated that they’d been stolen. These rods, not the election marketing campaign, appeared to be the extra severe loss to all of us as we mentioned vital issues by the tumbling waters of the Pennsylvania creek.

Friday Morning: Early Chicken, With out Worms

Early the following morning I used to be the primary one up, desperate to attempt the meadow stream above our cottage. For an hour or so I needed to be glad with solitude, the fantastic thing about the dawn and a few apply in wading, casting and testing my dexterity within the early-dawn chill by tying on all kinds of dry flies. Lastly the solar warmed each me and the water and, utilizing a Deerhair Black Ant, I started to take trout. The extra frazzled and bedraggled the fly grew to become, the extra eagerly the trout seized it. On my final 4 casts I caught and launched three fish, so I went again to the cabin to get my spouse and three sons out to share the promising fishing. It was noon earlier than we lastly realized we had forgotten to eat breakfast.

Friday Night: Transient Lesson in Fly Fishing Ethics

That night we had good fishing to a considerably sparser Inexperienced Drake hatch – pleasurable aside from one unconcerned fisherman who got here from upstream, forged from the financial institution into one pool after one other, and coated a mile or extra of the water with none obvious regard for the opposite fishermen who have been casualties of his flailing line. All of us simply needed to wait patiently till he handed to relaxation the water and let the fish resume feeding.

I used to be fishing once more with the massive “shad” fly, however it quickly grew to become apparent that the heavier hatch was the Pale Night Dun. On subsequent evenings we fished with these imitations or with #12 and #14 Mild Cahills with equal success.

Saturday Morning: Out Fishing – and Out-Fished

Don Daughenbaugh is a high-school instructor in close by Williamsport who has spent every summer time for the final 17 years as a fly-fishing specialist within the Yellowstone space, the place we met him on one among our Presidential journeys. I had invited him to hitch me early the following morning. I started to take a couple of fish on a small Fore-and-Aft fly with one grizzly hackle at every finish of the hook and peacock herl wrapped in between. Later I tied a couple of of them and the sample proved to be surprisingly efficient, each within the riffles and within the clean water, even at instances when the all-black Spruce Creek Particular or the redoubtable Black Ant wouldn’t work within the meadow swimming pools.

Simply as we have been getting ready to depart the stream, Don flicked the little fly behind a partly sunken snag close to the left financial institution of the creek; a big trout took it, and with an amazing whirling dive, instantly broke his chief. I marked the spot very fastidiously and decided within the coming days to offer different alternatives for the massive brownie to check his shrewdness and power – and my chief.

Saturday Night time: The Loneliest Night time of the Week

That night time introduced my most irritating expertise: I had determined to check out a brand new and heavier rod in order that we may shift to some late­night time fishing with streamers after the night hatch was over. The climate was good, however every thing else was mistaken. Due to a malfunctioning reel I discovered it very tough to strip off line when casting, and I broke my chief twice when giant fish made robust runs downstream. I had forgotten my small gooseneck flashlight and needed to tie the double surgeon’s knots and the “gin­ and-tonic” knots with out mild; I did not even attempt the extra difficult blood knots at the hours of darkness.

The bushes, grass, and snags reached out for the fly on virtually each forged. Fish have been feeding voraciously on a superb Night Dun hatch, however they weren’t for me. I lastly gave up and waited for the others to return from the stream and, predictably, everybody else had had notable success. I spent a number of hours that night time and the following morning disassembling and servicing reels, tying flies and placing collectively new leaders.

Jimmy Carter's Spruce Creek Diary
President Carter has fly fished all through his life, nicely into previous age. This extra up to date shot of him with a big brown trout from Spruce Creek highlights his love of the game.

Sunday Morning: To Church, Then Again to the Previous Vise

The subsequent day was Sunday, and after my unhappy expertise everybody was satisfied that I wanted to go to church. Afterward, we drove as much as State School to go to George and Helen Harvey. We discovered them hospitable, as typical, however fairly disconcerted by an unbelievable gypsy-moth larvae assault on the bushes round their home. The little black caterpillars (which correctly selective trout refuse to eat) coated the bushes, roofs, streets and yards, and hung by threads of webbing within the air. We went inside to flee them and George ushered us into his work room, the place a number of the finest fly-tying on the planet takes place. Every of his flies is a murals. He gave me a much-needed lesson after which helped as Amy and Rosalynn changed me on the vise. As we left he supplied me one among his final presents – a field of pre-World Conflict II hooks made by S. Allcock & Co., Ltd., in England. We in contrast them below a magnifying glass with a number of the costliest hooks made immediately, and their superiority was shocking.

Sunday Afternoon: Amy Catches a Trout

We returned to Spruce Creek later that day for Wayne’s celebration, attended primarily by his family and previous mates of his father. For a gift I gave him a small, handmade mahogany field, with dovetailed corners and a panel-top lined with leather-based, hand tooled along with his title and a leaping trout. It had taken me virtually per week to make it, and I may solely hope that my apparent particular effort made up for the novice high quality of a number of the workmanship.

Everybody was in good spirits, dampened solely by a fly hook embedded within the lip of Wayne’s six-year­ previous daughter Heidi, who had walked too carefully behind daughter Amy on one among her backcasts.

After a quick journey to the native hospital Heidi returned with a big ice pack and an virtually regular lip, and Amy gave her a small toy raccoon and a handwritten observe “to my courageous fishing companion” to assist ease the ache.

Sunday Night: Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

That night Rosalynn and I fished collectively on Spruce Creek, leapfrogging upstream in alternate swimming pools. I managed to enter the massive pool on the other aspect from Don Daughenbaugh’s nicely­remembered sunken snag, and picked up a number of trout as I fished a broad, shallow stretch. It was simply after I returned the final one which I noticed the massive trout once more, rising methodically to take the sunshine golden mayflies as they floated throughout his lair, which was shielded by the sunken log and a close-by pile of limbs and trash.

It will need to have taken me 5 minutes to alter to a heavier 2X tippet after which ease quietly out into the middle of the stream, my coronary heart pounding as I mentally rehearsed tips on how to forged a righthand curve. Lastly I used to be prepared, took a deep breath and launched my fly. It curved completely, landed two toes above the trout, and he swallowed it as he rolled beneath the snag.

Much more amazingly, the massive brown moved ahead into the clear water, and I slowly however steadily labored him nearer in. All went so nicely that I turned to name out to Rosalynn about my luck – simply because the trout turned effortlessly downstream, stripped off line and plowed below the mound of limbs and trash.

He and I had an extended tug-of-war as I waded nearer and nearer to the pile of particles. I could not pull him out, and at last ran my hand down the chief and felt his mouth. As I attempted to raise him free, he thrashed free, leaving me with a cleanly damaged chief.

That morning’s church sermon and my Baptist upbringing had not completely ready me for such ignominious defeat, and I used a couple of selection phrases which disturbed the tranquility of the now quiet, gurgling stream. (To ease any suspense on the a part of the reader, let me report now that, sure, I attempted once more to catch him a few days later, bought him to rise as soon as extra to a Pale Night Dun, however lastly needed to admit that I had greater than met my match. I remembered, with resignation, “that the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.”)

Monday Morning: We Make a Splash at Grey’s Run

On Monday Rosalynn, my son Chip and I drove up above Williamsport to Grey’s Run as visitors of Don Daughenbaugh and the Grey’s Run Rod and Gun Membership. Since Spruce Creek is a limestone stream, it will be a special form of fishing at Grey’s Run, similar to the freestone creeks round Camp David that we had loved a lot. It’s a wilderness space with deer, bear and different animals steadily seen alongside the stream. Throughout the morning we caught a couple of fish, all brook trout besides for 2 small browns, however within the crystal-clear water we did see a number of very giant trout.

After lunch none of our dry flies would increase a fish, and so lastly, out of desperation, I attempted a barely weighted previous Muddler Minnow variation of my very own design, retrieved diagonally upstream and throughout the tail finish of a deep pool. The response was electrical, and the massive brook trout struck repeatedly, shifting out of the deep water to assault the fly. After shedding two giant fish, I lastly netted and launched one, and referred to as Rosalynn to take my rod. Inside a half hour she, Chip, and I had caught and launched brook trout weighing over 2 kilos. Anticlimactically, we caught a number of different smaller ones earlier than we stopped for the day and drove again to Spruce Creek.

Jimmy Carter's Spruce Creek Diary
Good works carry good rewards. Rod excessive, line taut, a nice pressure on the wrist, the President assessments the mettle of a Spruce Creek brownie. (Photograph courtesy of the Carter Presidential Supplies Mission, Nationwide Archives and Data Service)

As we left Grey’s Run, one among our hosts was already considering a change within the membership’s bylaws to outlaw the Muddler Minnow, however he determined to desk the movement till he had an opportunity to attempt it a couple of instances himself – to see if its effectiveness was everlasting!

Tuesday All Day: Professor Joe Humphreys and a New Textual content

I used to be glad the following morning to satisfy Joe Humphreys, who has managed most successfully to fill George Harvey’s waders at Penn State for the final a number of years. We talked about our current fishing experiences for a couple of minutes as I thumbed via his new e-book, Trout Ways, after which I requested if he needed to go fishing. He replied with a query: “What’s your favourite form of fishing?”

I replied, “Dry fly, rising trout, lengthy leaders, effective tippet, deep water.”

“Okay,” he stated, “then let’s attempt nymphs on the underside in riffles and shallow pocket water!” It was like coping with Congress!

As we sat on the porch, Joe shortly tied a few Gold-Ribbed Hare’s Ear nymphs and we headed for a riffly part of Spruce Creek. It was the primary time I had fished this manner. In a couple of minutes I used to be utilizing the tuck-cast to place the fly deep earlier than the road drag started to maneuver it downstream, and attempting to recollect to maintain my rod tip excessive because the nymph floated towards me. As an previous south Georgia creek fisherman for crimson­breast and bluegill bream, I had no bother detecting the delicate takes. The fish appeared to be ready for us and took the nymphs frequently.

They have been bigger, on the typical, than our typical daytime catch on dry flies. After a couple of hours I used to be happy with this new expertise, however pretended to be considerably chagrined that I hadn’t matched Joe’s earlier 16-pound brown trout, a Pennsylvania fly-fishing report.

That Tuesday night introduced my finest fishing expertise. Every part went proper. On my second forged, round and below a deep financial institution, I caught a 17- inch wild brown magnificence, and from then on I could not appear to overlook. By no means a damaged chief or a foul-up within the bushes, hitting my targets, catching virtually each rising trout I noticed, I netted and launched greater than two dozen good-size fish. Then I accepted an invite to hitch the weekly neighborhood poker sport, and my luck nonetheless held. I lastly went dwelling drained, forward of the sport all the best way round, and pleased and grateful for probably the greatest days of my life.

Wednesday Night: Too Quickly Darkish for this Fly Fisherman

Throughout our remaining afternoon at Spruce Creek, Rosalynn and I climbed the steep and rocky slope above our cottage in order that we may benefit from the view and see the thick pink and white laurel blossoms rising close to the highest of the mountain vary. It was an exhausting climb, however definitely worth the effort.

Drained after supper, however considerably unhappy to be leaving quickly, I made a decision to do my final fishing with Wayne Harpster. It was a moonless night time, drizzling rain. As we left our cabin later than typical, we seen a number of of the Pale Night Duns clinging to the window display. It proved to be an excellent hatch and we each took fish, however the darkness got here too shortly for me.

Wayne was completely at dwelling, and continued to web trout once I may barely see the banks of the stream. With years of expertise, he knew precisely tips on how to place the floating fly to cowl every barely audible dimpling within the water. We moved upstream for a number of hundred yards, and I listened intently as he recalled for me a number of the earlier angling recommendation he had gotten from his father as a boy and younger man on this similar effective stream beside the mountain. (I instantly labeled this info as “prime secret” – for my ears solely.)

Late at night time as we walked again towards the distant cottage lights, Wayne recommended that we cease briefly close to a big willow tree, with deep swimming pools instantly above and beneath us. I could not hear something besides working water, however he moved instantly to enter the higher pool. Satisfied that we have been losing our time, I waded out into the darkish, belt-deep water of the decrease pool and started to forged, safely however futilely, towards the center of the stream. I could not see Wayne, however each couple of minutes I may hear his comfortable laughter and the splashing of a preventing fish.

Then he introduced that they’d stopped feeding – after, in fact, he had landed the three largest trout of the night. “I do not see the way you do it,” I stated admiringly, and he replied gracefully, “You are actually enhancing as a fisherman – when it is mild sufficient to see.”

That night time Rosalynn and I talked about how Wayne, George, Lloyd, Don and Joe all appeared very near us, half of a giant however close-knit fraternity of sportsmen who love God’s world with its altering faces and seasons and wish to protect its magnificence and its problem and its pleasure. After my week on Spruce Creek, I may see very clearly how far I nonetheless must go to understand one among my objectives in life: to develop into an excellent fly fisherman. However I sit up for the problem – and to the thrill it brings.

Previously a resident of Washington, D.C., the creator now fishes out of Plains, Georgia.

Different Fly Fisherman articles by President Jimmy Carter: 

Large Trout of Tierra del Fuego

On Fly Fishing For Taimen

Guanaja Bonefish



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