Home Waters

I’ve lived many places in the United States, but if “home is where the heart” is, then my home remains in Montana.  I grew up there, and I visit often.  My “home waters” are those on which I learned to fish, near the family cabin at which I still spend a lot of time.  They have not just a sentimental significance to me, but a religious one as well.

Our family cabin is located on a small lake, on the border of the Scapegoat Wilderness area.  The Scapegoat is part of a massive wilderness complex that includes two more wilderness areas as well as Glacier National Park and Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada.  This country is truly wild.  The forests are inhabited by all types of animals, from grizzly bears, to mountain lions, to wolverines.  Of course, the rivers and lakes fed by the mountain snow are filled with life too.  Trout are plentiful and insect hatches are abundant.  Needless to say, fly fishing can be excellent.

Of course, I fish regularly on the lake where our cabin is located.  In the evenings, the water is usually placid, and rising trout are easily spotted sipping mayflies, caddis, bees, and terrestrials that have blown into the water.  The fall caddis hatches, in particular, bring many fish to the surface to feed.  Fishing for these trout, on this home water, is one of my biggest joys.

I love to fish on another piece of home water too.  This is the North Fork of the Blackfoot River, which lies just one ridge over from the lake where our cabin is located.  The North Fork flows out of the mountains of the Scapegoat Wilderness and into the Big Blackfoot River.  The main branch of the Big Blackfoot cuts through a nearby valley.

Many fly fishers are familiar with the Big Blackfoot, thanks to Norman Maclean’s novella, A River Runs Through It, which was later made into a movie by Robert Redford.  The Big Blackfoot figures heavily in the story of the years Maclean spent fly fishing with his brother and his father, the latter of whom was a Presbyterian preacher.

Like Maclean’s, my father was also a Presbyterian minister, and he introduced me to fly fishing in the same beautiful part of the world.  My father has never been passionate about the sport, but he provided me the basic tools and to become a passionate fly fisherman myself, and he raised me in a place where the fishing can be fantastic.

Anthropologist Keith Basso writes that “sense of place may gather until itself a potent religious force, especially if one considers the root of the word in religare, which is ‘to bind or fasten fast.’”[1]  Without question, the sense of place that I feel when fishing my home waters is religious in that it helps me to appreciate how I am bound or fastened to the world around me.  It orients me as an individual, by reminding me of where I stand relative to a much larger, beautiful, mysterious world.  The beauty and mystery of that world arise from the presence of the clean waters, the healthy trout, the wild animals, and the knowledge that something much greater than me created these things.

Note: I thank my nephew Kyle Kleschen for the photos of the cabin and of my fishing.


[1] Keith Basso, Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language among the Western Apache (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1996).

2 Responses to “Home Waters”

  1. Nate Says:

    Dang, what a beautiful stretch of water.

    Like

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