Sunday Words of Wisdom

Repost: Sunday Words of Wisdom

Repost: Sunday Words of Wisdom

Speaking with Dave McKee the other day and he said something interesting.

I did not catch the meaning of what he had said until mid way though the day.

Dave said “I love fishing the Missouri River at this level. It makes the river so much larger.”

Larger, I thought? He said larger right.  But it is so much lower, less water volume, than normal. We have not fished this level since the mid 2000’s. It’s not larger, it’s smaller.

Then while my mind was wandering, navigating, meandering, the afternoon bobber float the true meaning came to me. As I was staring into the sun, somewhat flashing back to those killer May ’92 Dead Shows at CalExpo, the meaning was spoken to me in a dream scene.

Dave was speaking to me from the clouds, godlike, and whacking me on the head with an oar.

The river fishes larger because you can actively fish the entire thing. The countless mid-river subsurface structures become even more relevant in low water periods because you can access them in a manner you cannot in high or even normal water events. 

The river is actually larger, bigger, grander, revealing, certainly more interesting, palpable, textural, even metaphysical.

And Dave is the Metaphysical Montana River Master. At least in my mind. I would gather to guess that I’m not the only one on to Dave’s surgical yet seamless guiding tactics. But there is only a few.

But you gotta tune your mental dial to a place you may not have known about, certainly not been to before.And the knowledge to find that mystical place on the metaphysical fishing dial follows a long road. To gain access to the connection you must have logged 10’s of thousands of river hours sitting in the middle of the boat. The view from there is different. Not necessarily better, but different. Watching anglers fish for 8-10 hours a day leads you to an understanding of river rhythms that are not accessible to all parties.

At least that is how I got there. Dave has 10 guiding years on my journey. He still rows the same boat he bought his first year guiding. I believe in the early 90’s. He’s gotta be a 30 year plus guy.

He’s pretty fucking wise, man.

You may never see him on the river. But those in tune, or getting closer, with McKee once in a while will think to themselves…Man, it feels like Dave has been here. But I’m not sure. I have’t seen him? 

Aha! Dave was right again. Seems to be a pattern with that guy. When Dave speaks I generally listen.

As a wanna be Dave McKee disciple, I tip my hat to yet another river parable dropped to me by Dave. A river riddle. A passage designed to engage the critical fly fishing mind. How to think about fly fishing tactics to capitalize on the features available to the Missouri River angler.

I have not been as excited about fishing in a number of years. This year I am personally jacked up. I have enjoyed re-visiting the lower water era’s of the past 30 years since this author has been enamored and stricken by this particular river. To learn about the gravel migrations of the past 5 years of micro high water events and the ice flow movements of February and March 2019 has driven my excitement level even higher.

So a public thank you to Dave for again stimulating my often soft boiled mind into growth and continued deeper thought of this unreal Montana resource Mother Mo.


Ed Note: That is not Dave in the image above. I wanted to keep his identity hidden for his family and mental privacy. It’s Ben Hardy spring time ’20. Ben has many, many, talents too.

Add’l Ed Note: I used to read Dave’s column in the Bozeman Chronicle weekly Outdoor section. That is going back few years ago. Loved it. He’s is a fantastic writer and human being. I respect him a ton. Dave is a long time fishing guide that fishes the Mo quite a bit. Love seeing him around. I truly enjoy our brief boat ramp conversations. And fishing guides in our age bracket gotta stick together. Beat up those young guys with wisdom.

Dave McKee, Pequod, Sunday Words of Wisdom
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  • That’s some deep shit, you lost me half way. I’m going to turn on some Grateful Dead, rip a bowl, and see if I understand.

  • Pete Cardinal
    April 2, 2022 12:09 pm

    I have been on this river for 43 years and the changes it has undergone are simply mind boggling, and I am talking about the habitat not just the people using it. What was once a graveled river with sparse weed growth now resembles more of a sewer than a clean healthy river. As a matter of fact, the flow of around 3,000 cfs is not the norm for spring or any other time of year. The norm is 4,100 cfs, the recommended minimum flow for the Missouri below Holter. These lower flows are survival mode for this resource. Productive gravel areas for aquatic insects are barren and lifeless. Bank habitats essential for young trout survival are greatly reduced and so will this years survival of young browns and rainbows. Hatches will be weak and sporadic this summer not much change actually from what is increasingly happening every year now anyway but perhaps even worse this year. With Canyon Ferry 5 feet lower than any previous year on record and a weak snowpack we need a biblical flood to save the flows this summer. Fishing will be good this summer because of good numbers of small fish from the previous years high water springs recruiting into the catchable fishery. We will pay the price for this low water in years to come. That said thanks to Bureau of Reclamations staunch efforts to maintain flows no lower than 3,000 cfs we will survive better than many other rivers in the state that are over irrigated. Give Bur Rec a call and thanks them for their dedication to preserving our resource. Anyone truly interested in this river should be honest about the changes , red flags, and challenges facing this river. Declining mayfly, caddis and midge populations even in high water years and the lass of the native whitefish population are red flags. The excessive and worsening aquatic weed growth is directly responsible for these changes and shows no sign of declining. Action will be required to reverse this tragedy in the making. One group especially gets this and is fighting the good fight for our benefit, Upper Missouri Waterkeeper. Please join them and the fight for the future if you care about clean water and healthy rivers.If all we do is live in denial and keep fluffing the greatness of this river for profit without recognizing the crisis ahead then we are on the wrong side of history. Shame on us. What are we leaving our children and future generations? Thanks for your ear. Now let’s all get started and fight the good fight for this river. Respectfully, Pete Cardinal

  • Amen Mr Cardinal

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