September 8th, 2008

Where Is Home?
By Neil M. Travis, Montana/Arizona

I grew up on a small dairy farm in upstate New York where we milked a large herd of cows twice a-day every day of the week. When I was about thirteen years old we moved away o the suburbs of Detroit where I finished my education, meet and married my wife, and began a family. I always harbored the hope that I would return to my 'home' in New York, and I even tried for a brief time after I was married. I discovered the truth of that old adage, 'you can never go home again.'

Once you have left 'home' you can never truly return. Moving away from your childhood home, whether a joyful, sorrowful, or mixed experience is a defining moment in anyone's life. After that, you can never recapture the feeling you had as a youth or even as a middle-aged person.

When you return to the place you once called home, thanks to the passage of time, it's probably not going to carry the same connotations as it once might have. The changing of your hometown, the gradual growing apart of old friends, all signify that fact that the home you once knew is now, for all intents and purposes, gone.

The same thing can be said for your 'home water.' Over my six plus decades of walking around on the surface of this third rock from the sun I have called many pieces of water home. For over 10 years the Au Sable River in Michigan's Jack Pine country was my home water. First it was the Mason Tract water on the South Branch where I really first cut my teeth on fly fishing for trout. It was on the South Branch at the old Canoe Harbor campground that I first met JC, and we struck up a friendship that has endured for all these many years. The lessons that I learned on the South Branch have remained with me although it has been a half a life time since I last fished its tannin colored waters.

From the South Branch I transferred my affections to the Main Stream somewhere between Keystone Landing and Wakeley Bridge. From the Hendrickson hatch in April until the last Trico's and Pseudocleons in September I haunted that water like a specter. The memories of nights that I sat on a log in Green Cabin Pool waiting for the hatch to begin still wash over me like a warm blanket on a cold night. It was here I met the Ladyfisher, and witnessed her marriage to JC. I fished with Vince Marinaro, swapped patterns and information with Carl Richards, and met a plethora of other anglers whose impact on my life still resonates to this day.

For the last 34+ years I have called the waters around Livingston, Montana as my home waters. From the spring creeks in Paradise Valley to the freestone waters of the Yellowstone and the Madison River my horizons have broadened to include them all. I have added lakes, reservoirs and tail waters to my repertoire of favorite places, but somewhere in the back of my mind those tannin colored waters flowing through the Jack Pines and sand barrens of Michigan's Lower Peninsula will always be home water for me.

I have not been back there in more than two decades, and it is unlikely that I will ever ply those waters again for I know that one can never go home again. The Au Sable that I moved away from all those years ago is no longer the Au Sable that I knew. It has changed and so have I, but in my minds eye it has never changed.

This stream was an integral part of my life for many years, and its contribution to my mental 'sanity' during those years is beyond measure. The stream, and those that I shared it with, is a part of my life that has long since slipped into the distant past. Regrettably, I don't believe I will see the likes of them again.

I've not been back, nor will I go,
To places that I used to know.

To sparkling brook or wooded hill,
Treasured places, treasured still.

It would not do me good to know,
That Father Time has changed them so.

For now within mind's eye I see,
Those places that were dear to me.

Places where I stopped to play,
To wile away a summers day.

In meadow green or forest deep,
These places in kind memory sleep.

For sheltered there from prying eyes,
The past grows old but never dies.

[Original poem by the author] ~ Neil M. Travis, Montana/Arizona

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