Fishermen are known for their whoppers. But the one Vince Wilcox tells is no fish story.
On Thursday and Friday, he guided former President Barack Obama and five of his friends on a fly-fishing excursion in the Adirondacks.
“The president has only done it one other time, in 2009 in Montana,” Wilcox, owner of Wiley’s Flies in Ray Brook, said. “Apparently, when you are the president, you don’t have a lot of time. But he did great. He’s a natural athlete.”
Wilcox could not say how many Obama caught or where he hooked them, but he did say the 44th president honored the tradition of catch and release for the brook trout — with a single exception.
“He never ate one,” Wilcox said. “He wanted to know what it tasted like.”
Obama got a taste of Wilcox’s home-brewed beer, which uses a recipe familiar to his guest, White House Honey Ale.
“I had it cold and waiting for him,” Wilcox said. “I told him to be honest, I really wanted to know. He said it was excellent.”
Wilcox said he was told it took nine and a half months to plan the visit to the area between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, where an Obama friend has a home. Wilcox learned of the trip to what he calls the “heart of the Adirondacks” just a few weeks ago.
“I don’t know if I could keep it a secret for nine and a half months,” Wilcox said. “I also couldn’t talk about it until he left.”
Wilcox said the Secret Service agents who accompanied Obama were friendly and everyone on the trip was calm and relaxed. “Nobody was uptight,” Wilcox said. “The president and his friends were able to move around freely.”
Wiley’s Flies is an outfitter that guides experienced anglers and novices on fly-fishing trips. Wilcox’s team also gives scenic boat tours, and there’s a small motel where outdoor enthusiasts can stay. The former leader of the free world, Wilcox said, stayed at his friend’s spot in the North Country.
“He definitely had a nicer place to stay,” Wilcox said.
The Adirondack Enterprise reported that the former president flew in and out of the Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear.
While Wilcox can now boast he guided the former president through the trout waters of the region, he said his operation has not been overrun with customers or phone calls about the area’s newest famous angler.
Wilcox did say his fly-fishing competitors have asked him to “send the president their way” next time — if there is a next time. “I don’t think I can do that,” Wilcox said. But he is basking in the memories. “It was great.”