Our Man In Canada
November 4th, 2002

Heat is Where the Home Water Is
By Jim McLennan

I don't think anyboey feels sorry for me when it comes to fishing, for I've certainly done my share. In fact I've probably used up several other peopl's allotments of "trips of a lifetime." The memories of fishing trips are one of the most important parts of the sport for me, but lately though, I've been thinking more about the idea of home water.

It started when I spent a couple of days with me friend Bob Scammell, fishing his home stream - a tempermental brown trout creek in the foothills of western Alberta. Over the last 20 years I've fished and hunted with Bob dozens of times. He has been both friend and mentor to me, and is regarded by many as the dean of Canadian outdoor writers.

The first day started with Bob showing me the location of a big brown trout. His directions were anything but vague: "he lives under that dead spruce branch hanging out over the water. Not by the green branch, and not by the stump. Under the dead branch." When I'd caught the fish and we were admiring its gold sides and orange spots Bob said, "I haven't seen this guy since last fall. He's wintered well."

The rest of the trip went pretty much the same way - Bob predicting with great accuracy where the fish would be, what they would take and how big they were. Some of them had names. He possesses the kind of understanding that you simply can't get by fishing a stream once or twice, or even 10 or 15 times a year. Bob began fishing this water 30 years ago and now spends more than 50 nights a year in his cabin on the banks of the stream. It's not the only water he loves - he has favorites all over the province - but when he's on his home creek he never wishes he were someplace else.

When you have a piece of home water, you can afford to ease up in your single-minded pursuit of fish, and that allows you to notice some of the other things that go on around a trout stream.

Bob has certainly kept track of his brown trout over the years, but he's also kept track of some of the other things. He knows when the wild roses will bloom behind the cabin and when the stoneflies will emerge in the bouldery pool upstream. He knows when the whitetails will sneak into the hayfield across the creek to feed, and which fallen log the cock grouse will drum on. I don't know is he get a bigger kick out of fooling a big trout or find a big patch of Morel mushrooms.

One of Bob's passions is studying the correlation between the blooming of wildflowers and the hatching of aquatic insects on the stream. This started as a way to get an idea of what bugs might be around so he could have a better chance of catching a fish, but it has since become an end unto itself. Bob has been noting the hatching and blooming dates and photographing the insects on the corresponding flowers for the last ten years or so, and the results have become a book called The Phenological Fly.

I'm envious of Bob because of his trout water of course, but I'm even more envious of his deep understanding of the stream and the land it flows through. Through his initial fascination with fly-fishing, he's attained a rare degree of intimacy with the small part of one ecosystem.

Fly-fishing can do that. It can show yo things you didn't know you were interested in. Some times it shows you things you didn't know existed. Bob started out as most anglers do - as a guy with a dream of catching a big fish. But along the way he got sidetracked into a greater understandin of how the outdoor world connects with itself. And he's richer because of it.

Credits: This article is from the Canadian magazine, HomeWaters. They are a new Sponsor here on FAOL, and we appreciate use permission!

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