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Obama's fly-fishing trip is apt metaphor for health care pitch

  • Story Highlights
  • CNN White House producer: Fly-fishing is a metaphor that fits Obama's presidency
  • Beginning anglers desire to catch bigger and bigger fish, expert says
  • Obama is in the "big fish" stage of his presidency, Shawna Shepherd writes
  • Delicate processes of political success are like casting, reading the water, etc.
By Shawna Shepherd
CNN White House producer
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- After a town hall meeting on health-care reform in Belgrade, Montana, President Obama will escape to Big Sky country on Friday evening where he'll spend time with family and go fly-fishing for the first time.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel carries fly-fishing tackle  to Marine One on Friday.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel carries fly-fishing tackle to Marine One on Friday.

Fly-fishing requires a singular focus, much like golf. Having newly discovered the sport myself, it occurred to me as I watched Marine One lift off the South Lawn on Friday that there are probably some lessons on the river that could apply to Obama's presidency.

Thinking like a producer, I called an expert -- fly-fishing instructor Tony Derosier, who described the evolution most fishermen go through.

"Usually, when you first go fishing, all you want to do is catch a fish, and then all you want to do is catch a lot of fish, and then you just want to catch the larger fish. After you've caught a lot of large fish, you kind of go back to square one and catch just one fish," said Derosier, manager at Taylor Creek Fly Shop in Aspen, Colorado. "You basically just want to go fishing -- the numbers, the size, it doesn't matter any more."

Obama is in the "big fish" stage of his presidency: He's trying to get health-care reform legislation passed hook, line, and sinker. If he's successful, anything else he gets passed will be icing on the cake.

Learning the fundamentals of fly-fishing can serve as a metaphor for health care reform. Obama just needs to look at hooking and landing Blue Dog Democrats and Republicans like he would trout.

The first step -- learn how to cast. "Fly-casting is all about maximizing the energy you put in your rod and you lose energy if you wait too long," Derosier said. "And conversely, if you don't wait long enough, your line will crack like a whip." Obama has to strike the right balance between rushing things through and losing momentum; and maintaining support while bringing others over to his side.

The second step -- reading the water: "Instead of blindly casting anywhere in the river you want to understand where you might find fish," Derosier explained. Obama zeroed in on a fairly conservative state, Montana, where he faces a land full of skeptics about his health care reform plan.

Third -- hook and land the fish: Derosier said once you hook the fish you have to know how to play the fish, which is a delicate balance between applying pressure but not so much that the line breaks -- much like the delicate balance of Obama's courting members of Congress.

"The ultimate goal is to gain an advantage over the fish so that you can land him," he said. "It's the hardest thing to teach when it comes to fly-fishing," he said.

Out in Montana, the game is catch-and-release trout. But in Washington, Obama is trying to hook Congress and take home health care reform, or risk it being the big one that got away.

All About Republican PartyBarack ObamaHealth Care PolicyU.S. Democratic Party

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