• Home Waters

    Sometimes life throws you curve balls you can’t hit and the world just seems to be a joke I don’t get. My personal life has been in a shambles lately and I don’t seem to have the ability or capability to change it. I actually caught myself driving down the road on a beautiful early summer morning, headed out on a fishing trip, thinking about my marital options and solutions and realized that I was so very sad that tears were rolling slowly out of my eyes, of course I blamed it on the sun and the wind since the top was down but even I couldn’t convince myself that was really it, I was actually crying. Well after making a few indelicate and certainly not politically correct remarks about what lingerie I must be wearing and a stern “get your shit together” lecture I shifted my thoughts to my “home waters” which fortunately for me I was actually in route to. It had been way to long since I had visited my old friend and we all know that the special bond with your home water is something that always makes you feel better. As I came over the next hill top and dropped down into the valley I couldn’t help but smile at the towering ridges which shown in a shadowy blue relief against the mid morning summer haze. I could see the heat shinning through the distance, even though it was not quite yet June. My face actually broke into a smile as I crossed the river for the first time and realized that it was running at a perfect depth and with just a very, very light shade of color which those of us who fish her regularly, know always makes the fishing better than normal. I was amazed when my favorite stretch of water appeared to be empty of fellow anglers and I quickly jumped out and rigged up one of my new favorite rods, an Oyster 7’6” 4 weight bamboo, a perfectly gorgeous blonde that made my heart skip a beat just looking at her, but the casting stroke and sensitivity were even more sublime than her beauty. By the time I had busted the 40 feet or so of brush to the water’s edge I was dripping with sweat, but the sound of the water rushing just feet away from me made me feel cooler already, my first step into the delicious chill of the water brought both my temperature and blood pressure down by a serious level. I fished that first hole and didn’t even raise a strike, I was irrationally afraid that my long absence away from my old friend was going to be paid back with a lack of fish. But the next hole which was one of my favorites, rewarded me with four quick fish in succession including 2 browns, a brookie and a rainbow, the slam for the day was complete already, in just the second hole of the day. The fish were attacking a yellow stimmy and I do mean attacking it. I had a little gray and red soft hackle dropper on as well but it was shaping up to be one of those days when it wouldn’t be required.

    I caught fish consistently from each pocket of water, but my thoughts weren’t on the fishing as much as on my memories from this river. The rock shelf that had sheltered me as I waited out a vicious two hour thunderstorm, ohhing and ahhing at the jagged lightning streaks so close I could smell the burning ozone and hail so heavy it was actually ripping down small limbs. The rock wall eddy where I had turned… … and of course missed, the largest fish I had ever seen in this river, the sandy ledge where I had stumbled on the two rattlesnakes sunning themselves, nearly stepping on them. Memories of the deep crosscurrent hole where I had caught a pair of doubles, a fish on dry and dropper, on back to back casts. That hole where if you stand below the big rocks and the waterfall which is nearly head high, you get these wonderful unique eye level strikes and the potential of a fish jumping higher than your head. With nearly each cast I thought of past fish and their locations, laughing when the same locations drew strikes yet again today. Yet even with all of these memories of fish and locations the most fun of all is that isolated strikes in locations that hadn’t held fish previously … … or should I say hadn’t held fish “stupid enough to fall for my poor presentations”. I laughed in spite of myself at the mental picture of me trying to walk across a thin underwater rock ridge on a bitterly cold winter’s day and losing my balance spending what seemed like a full minute frantically wind milling and flailing my arms while trying to regain my balance on the tippy toes of my boots to avoid taking the header into the icy river, and yes on that one occasion I had been lucky enough to beat the Nestea plunge. Which of course lead me to memories of all the other hundred times I hadn’t been so lucky and found myself sputtering and gasping after a shocking cold water full body immersion bath.

    The memories were fun to reminisce about, but the fishing was too good to stay in the background for long. By mid afternoon I had changed the stimmy three times simply because hungry fish had disintegrated them. It was one of those days where when you miss a strike or pop a fish off the hook you don’t really even have time to get worked up about it before the next one. The bright afternoon sun on the water silhouettes the fish as they rise making it a requirement to play that tantalizing waiting game that we all love, where you have to wait patiently for the strike even after the fish has risen to view the fly… … and of course the first few times it happens in a day you rip the fly away from the fish as soon as you see him, before he even gets a chance to attack, but as the day progresses you remember your timing and start enjoying the challenge. But by late afternoon, my fat ass finally wore out, after about 5 hours of fishing but I had a specific hole I was waiting for. Over the years this had been my favorite piece of water. For two or three of those years, I had a particular fish with a unique fin deformation that had been in the same lie of the same hole. I bet I had caught him 8 or nine times over those few years. This was one of those holes that was hidden off the main channel and virtually invisible with a grass island and some trees in the way, hard to find if you didn’t know it was there. Every time I got to that hole I would worry that he wouldn’t be there anymore, but when I got that strike in nearly the same place I would know he was alive and well. I clearly remember that fall afternoon when I caught a smaller brookie out of what had been “his lie” and I knew the smaller fish wouldn’t have been there if my friend was still around… … and I actually missed him. Well even without my special fish this hole had always consistently produced the largest fish in the river and been my special place. So there was no way I was going to not fish it. I forced my tired legs to push through the currents and around the boulders till I got there. I got slightly confused and busted through the wrong island once and thought my hole had gone dry but was relieved when I realized that I was in the wrong spot and soon enough found my hole not only intact but as pretty as ever. I crawled through the grass till I had a good “open” side arm shot between two saplings and under the overhanging branches of a big oak. For once my cast was dead on perfect and landed just where I wanted it too, the drift was almost perfect but I didn’t get a strike where I thought I would and had just shaken my head in frustration, when I got a solid slashing strike that hooked itself in a long run back upstream. The little blonde rod flexed deeply with the solid weight of a nice fish, I saw a flash of gold and clearly saw a very nice 16 to 17 inch brown running heavily for a large brush pile. I leaned hard on the little 4-weight and it responded perfectly, turning him at just the last instance before he tangled himself up. From there it was a short fight and I had a picture perfect brightly colored bar of gold in my hand and a perfect conclusion to my fishing day. As I watched him swim away after the release, I bit my flies off and stuck them on my patch and reeled up, content with my days fishing. I sat on a rock to let my legs rest for a minute and just sat enjoying the late afternoon sun rays streaking though the heavy tree cover. Each ray was individually drifting down in soft silver trails of light, illuminating like spotlights dancing on the water’s surface. I realized with a shock, that I hadn’t thought about any of my problems for the last several hours, I mean not even a glancing thought. Yet somehow I seemed to have more clarity on some of those thoughts than I had when I was struggling with them. I tried to focus in detail but decided that I really just wanted to sit and bask in the fading light and let my mind roam free on the current. So that is what I did… … and it was a perfect ending to a great visit to my home waters.

    I wish each of you the luxury of a “home” river. A place where you know all of the holes in order before you even park the car, a place where you know the way to fish each hole sometimes the opposite way from the grass tracks and boot prints. A place where you know several of the fish on a first name basis and can accurately tell what time of day it is by how much water you have covered and which hole you are at. I wish you the luxury of a place, not necessarily well known for big fish, but a river where your heart and soul beat to the tune of the rivers current. A place that seems so comfortable to you that it is like visiting an old friend and you can fish without thinking at all and still catch fish. And best of all a place where your troubles and worries disappear on the current. I realize that a river and fishing can’t solve your problems … … and even if you get to forget them for a while they will eventually return to you… … but that luxury of getting to relax in the company of an old friend … … Your Home Waters … … is a priceless gift and one I thank God for.

    Now if I can just get a few good solutions for “life”.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Home Waters started by rbaileydav View original post
    Comments 2 Comments
    1. adam's Avatar
      adam -
      Wonderful words, thought provoking...

      The call of the wild is very strong.
    1. JPSierraGuy's Avatar
      JPSierraGuy -
      Great article! I have been not to your home waters, but to where you were when you were heading there. There was a day when I got "Gut Shot" as I was leaving on a fishing trip with my daughter. A little parting wisper in the ear before driving away. Interesting dynamic...feeling sick to my core, and trying to act as excited as I always do on a fly fishing trip with just my daughter... Fast forward many years and that day was the greatest blessing in my life. I now fly fish often on special streams with my kids, and a beautiful "second chance" that loves to share life with me and sometimes goes along and really enjoys it. I am just so thankful for a hobby or sport that got me through a rough childhood, throught the end of a long and dark period, and now to be the peace and joy I look forward to that has created so many great memories with my family. Your story was spot on and I loved the imagery and the fondness that you remember your home waters. I have such a place, and you took me back there. THanks again! JPSierraGuy