I went fishing the other day. I left the house in the late afternoon with the hopes of getting hooked up with a couple of catfish as the evening settled in. But by the time I parked the truck and was getting my gear together there was a rumble of thunder overhead.
I hadn’t been fishing since last fall, and really wanted to go. So I ignored the darkening skies and headed off down the trail.
I’ve been away for 90 days. And no I wasn’t in jail. I was on sabbatical. Which is kind of like a “timeout” for pastors. I didn’t have to sit in the corner holding a kitchen timer because I pulled my sisters hair, but I’ve been absent from my familiar haunts, and missed my routine.
By the time I made it all the way back to my fishing spot, the storm had broken over the mountains and the few patches of blue skies that I put my hopes in were long gone. The water was calm, but the air was heavy; and by the time I got one line baited, big drops were plunking the surface, and leaving concentric rings as if someone was tossing nickels into a fountain.
That sweet scene lasted about thirty seconds. The storm dipped over the mountain and began strafing the lake. Lightning and thunder tumbled together and the rain came so hard and fast, that by the time I got my umbrella deployed I was already wet.
Yes, I carry an umbrella fishing. Don’t tell anyone, it’s kind of embarrassing, but it’s one of the concessions I’ve made to old age. I don’t like getting soaked to the bone, so I slip one of those oversized golf umbrellas into my pack with my fishing rods if I think it might rain.
And boy-oh-boy did it rain. We really do get some excellent storms here in the Appalachians. The mountains here have a fantastic way of amplifying and echoing the thunder, and storms with lots of electricity seem to arc across the atmosphere with the peaks and ridges acting like giant tesla coils.
I just stood there as the heavens opened all of its bomb bay doors, and water fell so hard that the surface of the lake turned white. If it wasn’t for the leafed out trees and all the greenery of May, I could have believed that the lake had just frozen over and been dusted with an inch or two of snow. The whiteness of the water so intense and the sheets of water blew across the surface with such force that it was easy to imagine an apocalyptic arctic blast had been dropped from the north.
I must have been quite a sight standing there under my umbrella in the storm. Not that anyone was there to see me, lakes are like villages, they’re only allowed to have one idiot. But there was no bunker to dive into, and no house to seek shelter in, so I stood at attention and tried to keep the rivulets from dripping down my back.
At some point in the bombardment I realized that I had left my pack open. So I flipped the flap back over it, and was just leaning it against a tree. SNAKE. When you almost step on a snake everything stops. I don’t have ophidiophobia, but I absolutely don’t want to get bit.
The thing that scared me the most was that if it had been a rattler, I never would have heard it. The rain was falling so hard that it was deafening. So as I jumped back and it slithered away toward the water I looked to see if it had rattles. I’m pretty sure it was just a common water snake that was sheltering from the storm under that cedar tree, but it made my heart pound.
Like all storms, this one also passed. As its trailing edge flew off to the east, it left behind big wet wisps of mist that swept gently up the mountain sides and reminded me of my granddaughter’s eyes.
The lake turned back to spring, and a hint of yellow and red reflected off the still water. I set out a second line, spread a plastic bag on a log and sat there watching nothing. And that’s how many catfish I caught. Nothing.
Jeff Ell is pretty good at catching, killing, picking, and growing things to eat. He regularly finds bemusement in the outdoors and enjoys telling his stories to anyone who will listen. Jeff’s the author of Ruth Uncensored, blogs at pastorjeffell.com. and can be contacted via Facebook or smoke signal.