home. An environment offering security and happiness; A valued place regarded as a refuge or place of origin. (home. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved August 04, 2009, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/home)
We often think of home as a “place of origin” or place we currently live. But in this particular definition, I’m referring to one’s homewater as that place in which one finds refuge; a place where one is secure or happy. For an angler, there are several factors, one or more of which might cause him (or her) to label a place as homewater—that cause him to find refuge, security or happiness.
One obvious factor has to do with the fish. If there are usually many fish caught, or they are of a certain size, or typically put up a spirited fight, or are super-selective, or are of a particular species, or whatever criteria the angler uses, and it’s fairly consistent on each visit, this could cause the angler to find happiness on that water.
Another factor might be the proximity to the angler’s dwelling, which is most often associated with discussing a home water, which maybe should be referred to as “local water” instead. This proximity often leads to the frequency with which one visits a water, and the familiarity that comes with such frequency. However, many anglers frequent water that is not close to their permanent residence. A friend who lives in Boise, Idaho spends one month a year in New Zealand and considers the waters on the South Island his homewater as much, or more so, than those near Boise.
The esthetics of a place may be brought to bear as well. Something about a water can strike a spark within an angler, maybe something hard to put a finger on, but a spark of beauty or rightness of a place; which can be two components of refuge, security and happiness.
For me, what I perceive to be beautiful in a homewater, is what I consider as the archetypical trout stream: high mountains covered in evergreens and aspens towering over golden-bottomed rivers running through meadows of wildflowers and trees sprinkling the banks. My two homewaters fit this description and I have had fine experiences at both.
Experiences related to one or more of the above factors is what creates a homewater. In fact, I believe that an angler sometimes has a local water without it becoming a homewater because the right factors have not coalesced, on that particular water, for that angler. There are no repeating experiences that cause deep memories for the place.
It is the memories of the experiences that causes one to find refuge, security or happiness in a place. It may be memories which are old and come from well established traditions, maybe created in youth; or even recent memories created in adulthood. Whenever the memories were created, they are compelling enough o want the angler to return and re-experience them.
When an angler is removed from these experiences, whether moments away with the homewaters receding in the rearview mirror, or decades removed, he feels a longing to return to his homewater. This longing is a nostalgia for the homewater, which is often thought of as just a desire for something from the past, but this has not always been the definition:
1770, “severe homesickness” (considered as a disease), Mod.L. (cf. Fr. nostalgie, 1802), coined 1668 by Johannes Hofer as a rendering of Ger. heimweh, from Gk. nostos “homecoming” + algos “pain, grief, distress.” Transferred sense [the main modern definition] of “wistful yearning for the past” [was] first recorded 1920. (nostalgia. (n.d.) Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved August 04, 2009, website: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=nostalgia)
It is the older definition, not the modern one I would like to dwell on, the one formed from the Greek nostos and algos: a homecoming of pain, grief or distress. How could such be the case, how could a homecoming ever contain one of these negatives?
When one has a homewater, there are hopes, there are expectations that the water will still resonate with the original factors that made such a place a homewater, The angler fully believes it will be so. But that’s not quite right, the angler actually fears that it is not so: there is the fear that something, whether within the angler, or at the water, has changed. Will something that factored in the original experiences not be recaptured? Will the place have physically changed? Will there be no more refuge, security or happiness there?
It is then that the homecoming, the anticipated event that should be filled with thoughts of refuge, security or happiness are overcome instead with pain, grief or distress. The full burden and weight of nostalgia sweeps over the angler.
It is so with my homewaters, the two places that I feel most at peace in, that I long for, where I am wading the cold waters of my dreams at, it is there I most fear will be lost. Lost to development, or to ATVs, or other anglers, or nonnative species. Or whatever malaise the mind can conjure. Where is the refuge in that?
Once in the cold press of water, with the weight of the fly rod in hand, I close my eyes and memories return. Then the burden momentarily lifts and refuge comes in the hope of the conjunction of feathers and fins.
A nod to Tom at Trout Underground for his recent post on Home Water.
Some posts of mine that deal with the same type of topic:
The Return (a poem)