I fished the Green River this week – my home water. I do not remember my first time on the Green any more than I remember the first fish I caught from its waters. In my life, this river has simply always been there. Like three generations of our family before me, I came of age on this river – in the upper reaches of what Marc Reisner called the American Nile. We have watered our horses in these icy headwater streams at its beginning in the Wind Rivers, and we have hunted its cottonwood bottoms from Gypsum Creek to the Utah border. It has been our home water for over a century.
It occurred to me while we were fishing for Colorado River cutthroats on one of the small streams that drain the east side of the Wyoming Range that I have always come back to this water. Like a young salmon or a steelhead, I went out into the vast ocean of America once I reached a certain age. But I came back. I have always and will always return to this, my home water. Somewhere there’s a photo of me taken on the edge of that timber in November of 1963, during a late season deer hunt. And on that ridge across the creek, I killed a huge bull moose back in the 1980s – Grandpa’s last big game hunt. This country, these small tributaries of one of the West’s great rivers – “blue lines” on the map as my old friend Tom Reed says – form the backdrop to my life and the life of our family. This is our place here on earth.
I think many of us – maybe most of us – have home water. For one of my friends, it’s the three forks of the upper Missouri. For another, it’s the South Fork of the Snake. Some of us claim designer waters like the Mighty Mo near Craig, MT or Silver Creek near Picabo, ID. For others, it’s these thin little blue line streams – many without names. Some of us are fortunate enough to live on our home waters. Others live in exile all year to come home for just a few days. But these home waters make us who we are. They shape our thoughts and our hearts and our dreams. We pass them on to the next generation like precious family heirlooms.
I worked in conservation for 35 years before I came to TU. Some of my young colleagues think I came down the Green in a bullboat with General Ashley and Jim Bridger in 1825. That’s not quite true, but it is true that I came to TU by choice. I ride for the TU brand because they understand the notion of home waters. There is a shared understanding in this outfit that fishing is a passion and that as humans, we have a need to share that passion. But even more importantly, there is a shared commitment to protect, reconnect and restore the home waters of people across this great land. I’m not shy about telling people about the great work our outfit is doing, and I’m not shy about telling people why I think they ought to be a member of TU. I hope you won’t be, either. After all, it’s not about TU. It’s not even about trout. It’s about who we are as individuals, and who we are collectively as a people. But really, in the end, it’s about home.