Just one more cast, part 1

Standing on the bow of your boat, the bite has been on for 15 minutes and you have been having an incredible time catching fish. Sure the weather is starting to get a little rough, but you have time for one last cast…or do you? I recall fishing a tournament a few years back on Toledo Bend Reservoir…

Standing on the bow of your boat, the bite has been on for 15 minutes and you have been having an incredible time catching fish. Sure the weather is starting to get a little rough, but you have time for one last cast…or do you?

I recall fishing a tournament a few years back on Toledo Bend Reservoir. The weather had called for a 60% chance of rain with some possibly severe thunderstorms. Spring weather can be unpredictable and this day proved to be just such an experience. We had decided to stay fairly close to the blue lake launch around the 1215 area. We had caught three weigh fish but were looking for some of the infamous spring lunkers commonly found on Toledo Bend in the spring.

The sky was overcast, but the air was still. We trolled around a small island and were casting and pitching jigs and spinnerbaits when we heard what a first sounded like a high performance boat running wide open, this turned out not to be a powerboat but the beginning of a frontal line coming through with winds at 70+ mph.

Instantly the shallow waters around the 1215 area swelled and white capped. My partner was attempting to finish getting into his rain gear while I was on the trolling motor keeping us pointed into the wind. The wind blew us back into the buck brush and turned us sideways. The side of the boat against the buck brush started to ride up it and the other side started to dip down, taking on water. We had both dawned our life jackets earlier; I pulled up the trolling motor, turned on the bilge pumps and fired up the big motor. We chopped some buck brush, shined up the skeg in the mud and were able to extricate ourselves from the precarious situation we were in and turn the boat into the wind. Next, came the deluge of rain, with drops as big as fingernails pounding us relentlessly. Fortunately I was able to get back to the launch and beach the boat to wait out the storm, finally loading the boat up and calling it a morning as did most of the anglers there.

Forecasters today make use of satellites, weather balloons, super computers, Doppler radar and a complex communications network to produce reasonably accurate daily weather predictions. Weather is one of the most unpredictable things to we have to deal with on a daily basis. I have been in locations where I didn’t get television or radio reception and the only forecasting that could be done was by observing nature. Seeing what is going on around you, it may not be 100% effective but can help you in determining what/if there is any weather coming your way. Here are some telltale signs that can let you to know that Mother Nature may have a surprise in store for you.

Darkening of clouds near the afternoon with gathering of Nimbo-stratus/Cumulus cloud (thunderheads)

Grayish dull mornings with gathering of dark clouds near the horizon. Slow formation of such clouds means long lasting rain.

Pale yellow sky indicates drizzles, change of winds after a period of good weather.

Rainfall preceding any winds indicates heavy rains with strong winds.

If birds are flying high in the sky, there will probably be fair weather. (Falling air pressure caused by an imminent storm causes discomfort in birds’ ears, so they fly low to alleviate it. Large numbers of birds roosting on power lines indicates swiftly falling air pressure.)

Seagulls and lake birds tend to stop flying and take refuge at the coast if a storm is coming.

Animals, especially birds, get quiet immediately before it rains.

Cows will typically lie down before a thunderstorm. They also tend to stay close together if bad weather’s on the way.

Ants build their hills with very steep sides just before a rain.

Cats tend to clean behind their ears before a rain.

Turtles often search for higher ground when a large amount of rain is expected. You will often see them in the road during this period (1 to 2 days before the rain).

Look at the moon during the night. If it is reddish or pale, dust is in the air. But if the moon is bright and sharply focused, it’s probably because low pressure has cleared out the dust, and low pressure means rain. Also, a ring around the moon (caused by light shining through cirrostratus clouds associated with warm fronts and moisture) can indicate that rain will probably fall within the next three days. Remember: Circle around the moon, rain or snow soon.

Many people can feel humidity, especially in their hair. Hair tends to curl up and gets frizzy(just ask any lady) You can also look at the leaves of oak or maple trees. These leaves tend to curl in high humidity, which tends to precede a heavy rain. Pine cone scales remain closed if the humidity is high, but open in dry air. Under humid conditions, wood swells and doors to your camp may stick or the hatches in your boat may be harder to open. Did you notice if the salt shaker worked well at breakfast? Salt will clump in high humidity.

Clouds going in different directions (e.g. one layer going west, another layer going north) – or Easterly winds = bad weather coming, Greening hues preceding a thunderstorm implies heavy hail or tornados.

Take a deep breath through your nose, smell the air, just before a rain scents are stronger in moist air.

Plants release their waste in a low pressure atmosphere, generating a smell like compost and indicating an upcoming rain.

Swamps will release gasses just before a storm because of the lower pressure, which leads to unpleasant smells.

Strong winds indicate high pressure differences, which can be a sign of advancing storm fronts.

By knowing and observing the signs around you, you can make determinations about the weather that may just save your life. Sometimes that one more cast, just may be “one too many”.

By Garry McCollum

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