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Presidential candidate fished the Rogue

We've grown accustomed to presidents who relax by playing golf or clearing some brush on their ranch, but one of our chief executives found his joy at the end of a fly rod.

To Herbert Hoover, our 31st president, fishing brought "meekness and inspiration, reduces our egoism, soothes our troubles and shames our wickedness. It is discipline in the equality of men — for all men are equal before fish."

Hoover loved fly-fishing so much he probably should have tacked up a semi-permanent "gone fishing" sign on the Oval Office door.

"To go fishing is the chance to wash one's soul with pure air, with the rush of the brook, or with the shimmer of sun on blue water," he said.

At the end of July 1928, a month and a half after accepting the Republican nomination for the presidency, Hoover motored into Jackson County.

He had come north from his home in Palo Alto, Calif., twisting northward through the Coastal Range on his last whirlwind fishing vacation before the November election.

In a caravan of 16 newsmen, 11 photographers and newsreel men, two politicians, one secretary, his son, Allan, and 10 eminent private citizens, Hoover was racing to the mighty Rogue River, a stream he had fished nine times before.

"It's the best fishing in the West," he said.

Ten miles out from Medford on Highway 99, in what looked like political kidnapping, Bill Isaacs blocked the highway with his car and prepared to guide Hoover's party to "the best fishing hole on the river," Isaacs' brand new Big Rock Lodge.

Isaacs owned the Toggery, a men's clothing store in Medford, and was known as the person who had "done more to popularize steelhead fishing in the Rogue River than any other living man." This, unquestionably, was a man Hoover had met before.

When Hoover learned the lodge was isolated eight miles from town with no telephone service, he had his people cancel room reservations at the Medford Hotel and agreed to stay at the lodge overnight.

Up at 5 a.m. on July 30, Hoover, in waist-high waders, was sliding through the ice-cold water, sizing up the river, looking for just the right spot.

The opposite bank swarmed with photographers and movie men, loudly shouting for Hoover to "smile" or "look this way."

"Hurry up. Take your pictures!" Hoover shouted back, as he lightly cast his line into some choice riffles and eddies. He got two strikes, but landed no fish.

Isaacs had hooked a fighting steelhead, its silvery flash breaking the water's surface. He offered his pole to Hoover so the candidate could land the fish, but Hoover refused.

When a low fog blocked the morning sun, photographers began splashing into the river and sloshing toward Hoover, looking for a better shot. One boldly asked for a close-up.

"You shall not have one!" Hoover said as he turned his back and angrily waded out of the water.

At breakfast, back at the lodge, Hoover was still annoyed.

"The most sacred time next to prayer," he said, "is when a man tries to fish."

By 10 a.m., he was dressed and gone.

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at newsmiller@live.com.

A lifelong fisherman, President Herbert Hoover considered the Rogue River the best place to fish in the West. In July 1928, while he was a candidate for president, he went fishing a few hundred yards upriver from what is now the Denman Wildlife Area.