The Rain Dance
Even wet weather has its rewards
The weather report for the evening was not pleasant. Uncomfortable winds were forecast, as well as a good chance of rain, and the tides were going to be poor. What was more disheartening was that the weather would worsen the rest of the week.
I decided to head out anyway. This was obviously my last chance to fish for days, and I already had cabin fever from last week’s spate of bad conditions. I pulled on my foul-weather gear, loaded the boat and disregarded the sinister sky.
I drove toward the ramp through a smattering of raindrops. The river there was sheltered from the predicted wind direction; if the present light drizzle didn’t get much worse, I would be fine. I’d fished in bad weather before and sometimes found it enjoyable.
By the time I reached the ramp, the drizzle had become a steady shower. I ignored it. Launching the skiff and then parking my rig, I returned to find the automatic bilge pump running amok.
I fooled with the electrical connections and it shut off, but it didn’t seem to want to go back on. I had a backup manual scoop, certainly enough for the conditions, but the pump’s failure nagged at me. This might not be a good idea.
Still, my engine fired right up. Ignoring my qualms, I headed out. The rain held steady. Jumping up on plane out of the No Wake Zone, I saw nothing but flat water ahead of me. The wind was calm. That, at least, was good.
I held the throttle wide open all the way as rain inched up my sleeves and blew down my neck. Wet searched my pant seams for flaws. I felt it find some.
Arriving at a deserted shoreline, I scanned the distances around me and confirmed I was alone on the water. The rest of the world had a great deal more sense, but that was not a fresh revelation. I began to work the river with a top-water bait.
Moving around the point, I cast to the more interesting structure and got no takers. Continuing on, I worked and reworked waters that had held fish in the past. They didn’t now. I moved again.
Falling into a trance induced by the steady drum of raindrops on my slicker, I made cast after cast over the water along the rocky shoreline. My daze was broken by a tardy realization that there had just been a bulge of water behind my lure. I paused my retrieve and let the plug sit. Then I moved it just a bit.
Rain giddy, I worked out a little baitfish tragedy with my plug: Twitch, twitch (I’m hurt), jump, jump (I’m afraid), swim (I’m getting away), stop (I’m exhausted). I was beginning to feel ridiculous with the pretense. Then, I inched bait ahead one more time, a fish slammed it.
My whole body warmed instantly as I felt resistance and hammered home a strike. The light rod bent double. Water erupted, and I could see the distinct flash of a striped body through the rain-dimpled water. God is great.
I played the fish carefully, for I didn’t want to jeopardize a party that was already being rained on. The fish wanted nothing to do with me and made that very clear. The clever devil ran around the boat, and I was thankful I hadn’t dropped anchor. Then it ran straight at me, under the boat and out the other side. I could only admire its tactics.
At long last, as it came to the net, it rolled on its side, gills flaring but still struggling. It wasn’t a particularly big fish, but it was certainly game. I untangled it from the net and thought briefly about putting it in the cooler. But in tough times you’ve got to remember who your friends are. I eased it back into the water.
The rain increased. A dozen more casts, and I decided to move again. Halfway to my new destination, I noticed water in the skiff swirling around my feet. I throttled back while I scooped it out. The sky was dark in front of me, and I felt the wind stiffening. Enough.
The boat heeled over responsively as I brought it back up on plane, changed course and headed for home. That one fish would keep me happy in the stormy weather of the next few days.