It probably comes as no surprise that I stalk — with my fly rod — trout. In fact, many would say that I am a zealot when it comes to fly fishing.

What will surprise many is that most of the trout areas in Missouri’s state parks are in ruby-red counties, but when trout anglers pursue their sport, they put aside political differences.

When I traveled down to Roaring River State Park in the southwest corner of Missouri a few years ago, I got into an argument with a fellow wearing a T-shirt portraying a Confederate battle flag.

His message to me was, “If you don’t know what this means, you don’t know history.” I returned that I have a degree in history and I know that his side lost.

We argued and finally we both became convinced that we were not going to change each other’s minds.

At that point, he said, “The hell with it, let’s go fishing.” And so we did. I was a bit concerned about fly fishing next to a person wearing an offensive T-shirt, but fortunately the back of the shirt was blank and since the offensive Confederate battle flag was facing the stream (and assuming that trout can’t decipher our messages), I concentrated on my surface fly rather than any political statements.

This is not unusual. When I travel down to Montauk State Park or Roaring River State, I am definitely in “enemy” territory. But, with the notable exception of my interaction with that deluded and somewhat disagreeable fellow down in Barry County, I have never encountered any political statements.

It is not that the anglers don’t have their political beliefs, but that they are just not expressed. My compatriots, instead of inflicting their beliefs on others, concentrate on catching trout.

With the notable exception of the Missouri Department of Conservation’s winter trout program, most of the trout live in the southern areas of Missouri, necessitating a trip down U.S. 63, or in the case of Roaring River State Park traveling on various highways to Cassville.

The reason for this is explained by the Upper Current and Roaring River being fed by springs, keeping the water temperature at a level that leads to year-round trout survival. There are simply no spring-fed rivers or streams north of Interstate 70.

To me, living in liberal and progressive Boone County, it is somewhat refreshing to travel to areas completely opposite and hear no pro-Trump views. While one may suspect that residents of Dent or Barry counties are far right, those abhorrent notions are set aside while fishing.

No doubt, in their motel rooms they watch Tucker Carlson on Fox News (Trump TV) while I watch MSNBC and Rachel Maddow’s show. But when we’re on the Upper Current on Roaring River, those different views are not mentioned.

I plan to travel down to Montauk and Roaring River state parks this fall (not now, it is too danged hot; even die-hard trout anglers have some sense) and, once again, enjoy a respite from political arguments.

Casting for trout means setting aside disagreements. As the fellow down at Roaring River put it: “The hell with it, let’s go fishing”.


About opinions in the Missourian: The Missourian’s Opinion section is a public forum for the discussion of ideas. The views presented in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Missourian or the University of Missouri. If you would like to contribute to the Opinion page with a response or an original topic of your own, visit our submission form.

Ken Midkiff, formerly the director of the Sierra Club Clean Water Campaign, is now chair the city’s Environment and Energy Commission and serves on the board of directors of the Great Rivers Environmental Law Center.

Recommended for you