A lot of emphasis goes into traveling to faraway lands within the angling community and rightly so as it's one of the greatest gifts we have on this planet. The multitude of unique and beautiful untouched places while seemingly dwindling every year are still plentiful to the angler willing to look hard enough or pay someone enough who has taken the time to seek these places out. These places will always hold a special place in my heart, but most of us have that one place that started it all, the place we often drift back to in our minds when we crave time on the water. Depending on the location, person and circumstances, this could range from a tiny stream, a lake or an entire river, in my case it's the St. Joseph River, specifically the lower section of this river beginning at the Indiana border and flowing Northwest into Southern Lake Michigan. I grew up on this section of river and the hospital I was born in is even located right on its banks.
What makes these places special to us likely depends on the individual, for most of us, it's probably the first place we went fishing, caught our first fish or maybe simply the place we loved by default as it's all we were able to get to. Maybe it's a confidence thing, that one spot with that perfect sweeper where if we put the fly just on the other side of that seam and swing the fly just right over that tree laying on the river bottom, we usually can coax a strike. For guides what may make it special above all else is the ability to put food on the table because of this place and their knowledge of it or it could be the only place they truly feel at home. Most of us that have been fortunate enough to call this passion a job has likely felt all these things at one time or another. For me, it was all of these things and the fact it was the one place I felt like I belonged, a place where my social anxiety didn't get to me as I was part of this environment, not an outsider. To this day I felt more connected to the resident wildlife I would see and recognize on a daily basis than I ever have to most human beings in my life. I will never forget the pair of Ospreys that would commonly fly alongside me as I would run my boat through their "territory" or the grumpy Great Blue Herons that would squawk at you as you drifted by, the grumpy old men of the river if you will.
I have been very fortunate to have spent a significant amount of time traveling throughout the United States, there is likely no place on Earth more unique and breathtaking as the rivers behind the Redwood Curtain in Northern California, despite living there for a year and traveling there many times in my life, they still never felt quite like my home waters though, nothing likely ever will. I was an outsider and always would have been, which is fine because it was a reminder of where I came from and how special our Earth is to have such a wide variety of unique places to visit so we can strive to travel and explore faraway lands as many of us live to do, yet always respect home.
These days I live several hours North of my home waters and I couldn't be happier where I am, all of the rivers in Michigan hold a special place in my heart and frankly, you can't beat Michigan's year-round plethora of angling opportunities, but I suspect no matter how much time I spend on other rivers or living in other places, I will never feel quite at home like I do when I journey back to the Joe. May these places forever live wild and free in our hearts and when we feel the need, be there to remind us of who we are, where we came from and appreciate where we have been.