Sometimes things happen that you just can't explain. This past week was a prime example - one I will not soon forget. It started with a couple of job interviews for me and a lot of work and studying for Mary May. We both had impending deadlines at Duke and were working hard to meet them. So when Gary "froggy waters" Ribet gave me a call to do some night catfishing from the yaks I could not refuse. It was a more than welcome break from a long, anxiety filled week. And on top of that, I knew some big cats roamed the stretch of river we were going to be fishing.
We met up with Gary and fellow angler Rob at the launch site. The sky was beginning to rumble, with sections of blue and sections of dark grey. Thunder could be heard in the distance and ocassionally we spotted a distant lightning strike. Because of this we decided to stay close to the launch, but even the looming storm couldn't keep us off the river.
Our target was going to start as bass on topwater, shifting to gar on cut bait, and catfish on carolina rigged bait. Within the first 10 minutes Rob had a small blow-up on his swimming frog and Gary had a gar chomp his cut shad. Unfortunately, neither fish stayed on the hook. The front was moving closer and we could see storm pods up river. At that point the wind was blowing it away from us, so we were hoping we would luck out.
Mary May positioned her Coosa along a bank and made a perfect cast with her Storm Chug Bug below some vines. A fish blew up on it and missed it. She kept her cool, kept working it, and the fish came back to hit again. She landed a solid river largemouth and would get us on the board! Shortly after I stood in my Coosa throwing my R&S Baits Chatterbuzz buzzbait along some timber when it got inhaled. A chunky river bass nailed it and somehow I got the 3.5 lber out of some heavy cover without falling in. Gary and Rob had a couple more short strikes, but couldn't get one to hold on.
At this point we decided to head toward our main catfishing area. But the wind was changing and the front had stalled. Storms could be seen and heard in all directions as darkness fell and I started getting nervous about paddling away from the vehicles. Mary May and I decided to turn back and Gary and Rob agreed with our plan. Within minutes the skies overhead were filled with thunder and we knew we made the right choice. A hard rain started before we could even get the gear unloaded and yaks on the car. Thankfully, we got loaded up pretty fast and hit the road. Although the trip wasn't what we had hoped for, at least we hadn't gone skunked!
We traveled home via the winding backroads of central NC. After about 15 minutes we had driven out of the heaviest rain and things appeared to be letting up. Suddenly a white light lit up the vehicle like I had never seen before. It was so bright I had to close my eyes. A split second later there was a deafening boom. Within moments it was gone and I sat in silence trying to process what had just happened. Finally Mary May said what we were both thinking - "did we just get hit by lightning?" I honestly wasn't thinking clear enough to remember if anything else had happened, but the jolt had caused her phone to light up for no reason. It was an intense experience to say the least. Thankfully, we were both OK and the car seemed OK. But the rest of the drive home was a bit nerve wracking.
The next morning I checked out the Escape and the yaks. I could see no visible damage, which was a relief. I guess Coosa's aren't just tough river boats - they are lightning proof! The whole trip just goes to show that saftey doesn't just pertain to time on the water - it should be taken seriously from start to finish.
However, maybe the lightning was a bit of a turning point in my job search. Within the following 72 hours I had fantastic job offers from two top ranked organizations. It was a welcome relief for me as I have wanted nothing more than to end my job search. Mary May also submitted her application for the Duke Masters of Nursing-Nurse Practitioner Program, so hopefully the lightning brings her equally good luck! Until next time, I hope everyone stays safe out there and catches some big fish...Tight lines!