Canoeing in the Rain
Here in Colorado we get what is called the “Monsoon Season” where we regularly get heavy afternoon storms this time of year, into the next month. It varies year to year in both timing and severity, and this year it has been a heavy monsoon season over the past two weeks. My personal opinion is that it is part of the grand scheme of Mother Nature to put out all the fires she started, and then wash everything away.
I knew that today was going to be a stormy day, but I really wanted to try out the new rack I got for my truck and take the canoe out to the lake, and I wasn’t going to be stopped by a few pesky thunderstorms. Plus I was inspired by a potential canoe trip in the near future with a good friend, but even though that isn’t going to work out, I still wanted to try out my new rack.
Last night I put my canoe on the rack, and I’m glad I did it last night because the canoe did not sit well upside down on the rack like I thought it would. Instead I put the canoe on the rack right side up, which was actually better since I could secure the canoe solely to the rack with nothing touching my truck, not even tie-downs. I will say that getting the canoe up there was a little more difficult, as it is much easier to load my canoe onto a vehicle when it is on my shoulders, which I can’t do when the canoe is right side up. But I figured it out and it was fine, and the rack works great!
I headed to Chatfield Lake this morning with storm clouds already in the air, but it looked like it would be OK for several hours. With the prime fishing times not until later in the day (3:39 – 6:39) I had planned on staying on the lake until at least 7:30 unless the storms got too bad, which they did. Sometimes my own determination is my worst enemy, as was proven today. I was bound and determined to fish that three hour period of high productivity, and I had to do it on Chatfield Lake today in my canoe.
The day started off great, the wind was coming from the northwest where I could see storm clouds on their way, and I never mind paddling into the wind to begin the day, as long as it is at my back at the end of the day, which would be the case if the wind stayed from that direction. The lake is so low right now I really don’t have many options as to where I can put my canoe in without carrying it on my shoulders for a quarter mile or so, so putting in on the southeast part of the lake was my best option.
I paddled out about half a mile, anchored the canoe and started fishing with a shallow running shad crankbait over some submerged weeds in 10 feet of water. In no time I caught two largemouth bass of average size, about 17 inches each, and then no more strikes for a while. So I moved on to the eastern end of the massive dam face, about a half mile away. The wind was still from the northwest, and the wave swells were getting larger as the first round of storms was getting nearer.
A light rain began to fall, but I could see that this first round of storms was going to blow south of me, so I paddled on. I reached the dam face on the northeast corner of the reservoir, a dam made of 3’ x 3’ boulders towering hundreds of feet above me. I anchored the canoe and put on a craw fish crankbait and caught four smallmouth bass in the next hour, bouncing the lure off of the submerged rocks. It was a great day of fishing!
It was about 1:30 in the afternoon, the fishing had slowed down, and I decided to head for shore to have lunch. I paddled to a sandy beach on the far eastern side of the lake, made a sandwich, had an apple, and relaxed on the shore as I watched the next round of storms moving in. They didn’t look so bad; I was determined to stay on the lake through that crucial feeding time.
After lunch I headed back into the lake looking for the deep hole that I had fished a few weeks before with great success. The only problem was the wind was picking up and shifting, each breeze stronger than the last, and each wave taller than the one before. It was becoming a challenge just to get my canoe where I wanted to go; between the wind and the waves I was getting pushed around, and then the lightening started. I could see it strike in the foothills to the west, and flash behind me with the crack of thunder not far behind.
I had made a mistake and stayed out too long. Now I was out in the middle of a big lake with a storm swirling around me. The wind had shifted almost 180 degrees and was coming from the southeast in strong gusts. I paddled hard to get on my way, but I had a long way to go. The clouds opened and the rain fell hard in large, cold drops, soaking me in an instant before I could get my raincoat on. Lightening was striking all around me, and the strikes were getting closer as two storms began to converge.
I was already soaked by the time I put on my raincoat, but it helped to keep me warm as I fought my way back to shore. In 30 minutes I reached the shore, with rain pounding against my face as I pushed the canoe onto the muddy beach. The first two trips of carrying my gear to the truck 50 yards away weren’t too bad, but on the third trip carrying that canoe on my back in that blistering wind was quite a challenge. After getting the canoe strapped down in the pouring rain, I headed home.
I didn’t meet my goal of staying on the lake until 7:30, but that’s probably a good thing. Not long after I got off the lake, bigger storms came in, with strong winds and lightening striking very close. But I did use my new truck rack, and I like it! I guess that was the goal of the day, and I achieved it.