What is the definition of home waters? Is it the water where you have spent the most time creating memories or is it the place where your heart and soul are most fully engaged? Is it possible to have more than one home water? How about in very different geographical areas? Do the people, as well as the landscape, make up the ingredients of home waters or is it the species of fish that live there?
Possibly each and every one of us has a very different reason why we call certain waters home.
I thought I knew exactly what “home waters” meant to me once I moved away from them. After five years, I found myself returning to my old stomping ground. I was beyond excited. I could not wait to be comforted by “my” waters: the places I had spent years getting to know through much blood, sweat and tears.
The first day hitting the water, all five senses were hard at work; taking it all in. The mountains delivered the typical “wait five minutes and the weather will change” kind of fishing. Fresh, spring-green leaves reflected the regeneration my soul was undertaking. Standing in the middle of a boulder strewn river, with rushing, gin-clear water gushing by my wading boots, atop a moss carpet, I paused, took a deep breath, and thought I’m in “my” mountain stream.
Feisty the rainbows were; lots of jumping and running. They never disappoint. A few surprise Atlantic salmon joined in with an aerial show and some wild brookies rounded out the day. I felt I had a true homecoming.
My cup was running over with glee and happiness.
After a few weeks of visiting old riparian friends and the nostalgia began to wear off, I could not shake this niggling feeling in the background.
But this nagging question kept popping up: “where’s the challenge?” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the type who is never happy with what I have. But somehow revisiting these waters opened my eyes to just how much I have grown as an angler. To be honest, I started to realize that personal challenge is the single most important drive that gets me onto water.
Toothy fish kept flashing in the back of my mind along with slow moving, warm, slack waters. I felt a major dilemma. Here I am, back in the bosom of waters I had been pining over for years. Meanwhile, I can’t get a particular stretch of water, back where I just left, out of my head, (along with the species that live in those waters).
Talk about chalk-n-cheese! These waters could not be more different from one another. Clear vs. Brown, Cold vs. Warm, Fast vs. Slow, Mountains vs. Flatland and Trout vs. Musky, as well as being many, many miles apart. Yet I somehow felt a yin & yang balance between them. Is it the waters of where I’ve been, balancing out the waters that I’ve grown into? How can they BOTH feel like “home waters?” AHHHH! How is this possible?
Yet this slow, dark and downright scary water of understanding seems to have seeped into my blood.
What makes us so connected to a particular stretch of water as anglers that we identify them as home?
I’m here to tell you it’s very possible to love two very different waters at once. This concept has made me wonder what these two places have in common, since so much about them is different. Both are raw nature areas that only hardy souls frequent; mostly untouched by man because of the ferocious biting bugs and sometimes inhospitable weather.
Angler traffic is low and both systems present the challenge of figuring out their natural rhythms. I’ve spent untold hours getting to know every bend, boulder, wood pile, scum line, sand ridge, mudflat and drop off. Days and days of getting to know the multiple personalities these waters and the species that dwell within them can have on any given day.
In the end, for me when I am challenged by waters that capture my imagination and force me to grow as an angler, I can’t help but pour my soul into figuring the wild mysteries out. I believe this is what eventually creates the very deep and intimate connection which provides a sense of “home waters” for me. I had a recent conversation with a very insightful individual who opened my eyes to the fact that home is never one place.
She is absolutely correct. In that case, I very much look forward to finding future home waters. (I think I may have just found one in Montana recently).
In the meantime, I’ll do my best to cherish the two I already have.