KEN MIDKIFF: Trout fishing brings political opponents together

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Last week, I wrote about trips to Montauk State Park and Roaring River State Park in a search to relieve my cabin fever.

I am now back in Columbia from my most recent trip to Roaring River State Park, where, in addition to catching and releasing numerous trout, I had what can only be called a “bipartisan experience.”

On the second day of my stay at Roaring River, I parked my vehicle next to an aged Jeep where a stocky fellow was preparing his fly rod for trout fishing. He noticed me and my fly rod (already prepared), introduced himself, stated that he was retired and from Neosho, which is about an hour away.

His T-shirt displayed a Confederate flag, and below the flag was printed, “If you don't like this flag, you don't understand history.” I pointed out that I did indeed understand history, that I in fact I had a bachelor's degree in history and that the Confederates lost.

He was espousing the Lost Cause (or as the white folks I met in Charleston, South Carolina, tagged it, “the War of Northern Aggression.” After exchanging gentle insults, we agreed that I would not change my mind and he would not change his.

We agreed to disagree, we jointly decided to set aside differences and we said, “let's go fishing.”

His T-shirt continued to annoy me, but mostly I just ignored what I considered to be his mistaken sympathies. After all, the Civil War was about slavery, and his Confederate flag T-shirt supported that lost cause.

While it is essentially true that “history is written by the victors,” it is also true that there were brave men in the Confederate Army who viewed the Union Army as the enemy of their state's rights.

The fellow with the offensive (to me) T-shirt and I spent the rest of the day in a mutual pursuit of the wily trout. We fished the same pool, more or less side-by-side, and while I used a sub-surface (wet) fly, he stuck to a dry fly fished topwater.

I caught several, and he hooked and lost several. At one point, after once again hooking a trout only to see it break free, he turned to me and said jokingly, “Want to buy a rod and reel, cheap?”

I declined and he kept casting.

In short, while we were absolute enemies when it came to political matters (he was a hard-core conservative, and I am a dyed-in-the-wool liberal), we had a common interest in trout fishing. He did eventually land a couple of trout, and I congratulated him on his success.

I do have friends locally on the opposite side of the political spectrum. There are some things we just don't discuss. As the fellow at Roaring River stated, “You are not going to change my mind, and I am not going to change yours, so let's go fishing.”

That is the secret to bi-partisanship: Set aside differences and find something(s) to agree on.

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