Famous fly fishing enthusiasts

Veteran Rockers do it, Presidents and Prime Ministers do it – even educated actors and writers do it.   So lets do it – lets… go fly fishing.


Image source: Gentry George
The sport of kings, actors and presidents

Fly fishing may be the sport of kings, but it would seem that many other well known people have developed a taste for wetting a fly or two. Here is a selection of a few of the most famous fly fishing enthusiasts.

Fly fishing musicians:

Eric Clapton

He is arguably one of the greatest musicians of modern times – but Eric Clapton’s personal life has been anything but straight forward.  Battles with addiction and the tragic death of his four year old son Connor in Manhattan in 1991 have taken their toll on the singer songwriter.

But fly fishing is one way that Clapton is able to get away from it all.  Speaking to CNN’s Larry King back in 2007, Clapton said of his expeditions to the River Tees in Hampshire, “I can forget everything. I go out there and my life – it sort of – time stands still. It really does, you know?” We do Eric, we do.

Bing Crosby

He didn’t just like “Walking in a winter wonderland”, he liked a spot of fly fishing too.

In 1951, Bing Crosby paired up with the one and only Louis Armstrong to set his love of the fly to music in the duet “Gone fishing”.

Jimmy Buffet

He surfs, he sails, he’s the ultimate surfed out beach dude – Jimmy Buffet, front man of the Coral Reefer Band likes nothing better than a bit of salt water fly fishing.

A bit of an innovator, Jimmy has been working with a friend to come up with a design for a stand up surf board, that can be used as a fly fishing platform to get to places others cannot. Wave to go Jimmy!

Fly Fishing Presidents:

From the world of song to high politics, many American presidents have found some welcome relaxation on the river bank.

George Bush

George H W Bush (the older one) is a dedicated angler and fly fisherman – rumour has it that his son George W is keen on a spot of fishing too.  In fact George junior is a great defender of fish – although as the clip above shows – it could be that he’s confusing creatures that swim around in the water, with aliens from outer space…hmm.

Richard Nixon

President Dwight D. Eisenhower is well known to have been a keen fly fisherman.  But when he attempted to pass on his love of the sport to a young Richard Nixon, things didn’t go according to plan.

Nixon managed to get his line tangled in the trees, with each of his first three casts and when his fourth attempt snagged Eisenhower’s shirt, the lessons came to an abrupt end. Following this first “Watergate”, Nixon is said to have conceded that fishing just wasn’t his bag.

Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter sought refuge from his troubled presidency in solitary activities of which fly fishing was one.  After his humiliating re-election defeat to Ronald Reagan in 1980, one would have assumed that he would have had plenty of time to indulge his hobby.

But at just 56 years old, the former President still had plenty of life in him and while never universally loved, he did go on to arguably greater successes as a campaigning ex-president.

Neville Chamberlain

Neville ‘peace in our time’ Chamberlain will always be remembered as the British Prime Minister who sought to appease a certain Herr Hitler.

Characterised by some as weak and ineffectual. The experience of the slaughter of the First World War perhaps made him keen to preserve the peace at almost any cost.  A man of peace – and of course a fly fisherman.

David Lloyd George

David Lloyd George – a British Prime Minister of tremendous vigour and vitality.  He led a coalition government through the First World War and beyond, and was instrumental in the post-war settlement.

Lloyd George was a devout Christian of an evangelical hue and some would say the greatest liberal politician of the twentieth century. He is often credited as the founder of the welfare state…perhaps a good idea he had whilst out fishing?

Fly Fishing Actors:

Brad Pitt

From politicians to thespians, “a career-making performance” was how the the Los Angeles Times described Brad Pitt’s performance in the 1992 film “A river runs through it”.

Based on the 1976 semi autobiographical novella by Norman Maclean, it tells the tale of the intertwining lives of brothers Paul (Pitt) and Norman (Craig Sheffer). There’s also a great deal of spectacular fly fishing footage on the Blackfoot River, Montana.

Liam Neeson

It’s hardly surprising that Liam Neeson was so great with the Jedi’s weapon of choice, the light sabre.  As a keen fly fisherman, his proficiency with the cast must have helped.

When interviewed in 1999 on the release of Star Wars Episode I, The Phantom Menace, the actor who played Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn said that he had designed the Jedi knight of flies and called it the the Qui-Gon.

The Fonz

We have left the greatest until last.  He’s just published a fishing memoir called: I’ve never met an idiot on the river.

A look back upstream by the much loved actor Henry Winkler. The book covers his family and professional life and is described as: less a hard edged memoir than the delightful ramblings of man who loves to fish. Yes folks it’s official – The Fonz is a fly fisherman.  Heeey.