- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 9, 2009

How can I ever forget the time five of us were on a Maryland charter fishing boat when a monstrous thunderstorm erupted over the waters of Tangier Sound and lightning struck the boat? It fried the wiring needed to turn on the ignition to the engine and ruined everything else that required electricity.

Even worse, a man who was aboard for a day of fishing with his 10-year-old son suddenly lost it, fearing he would die. He apparently suffered a nervous breakdown. It wasn’t good for the kid to see his father in such a frightened state, but I believe the boy took the whole affair better than any of us adults did. That storm even scared the bejeebers out of the captain.

Eventually, we were towed in by a passing vessel, the skies cleared and all turned out to be OK. The lightning-damaged wiring and other items were replaced later that week.

Every time I see dark, heavy clouds when I’m on the water, I instantly recall that storm-shortened day on the Chesapeake Bay. The arrival of nasty storms also brings memories of every bad weather event that I’ve been in. Many of them could give a body a case of serious goose bumps.

Take one that occurred little more than a week ago when two friends and I sat in a boat, fishing for Norfolk spot and croakers. A wicked rainstorm sneaked up behind us. It happened within minutes.

There was no time to pull up the anchor and try to run to a safe port. We were drenched by the type of downpour that even a rain suit can’t protect you from. Besides, when the mercury reads 90 degrees and the humidity stands at better than 80 percent, it’s likely that your skin will get wetter from perspiration inside the suit than it would from the rain if you didn’t wear one at all.

And what about a pal and I fishing for bass in one of the Potomac’s Virginia coves recently when we noticed the granddaddy of all black clouds drifting slowly over the Mattawoman Creek on the Maryland side of the river? Actually, it wasn’t just a cloud - it was a black wall of water that reached from high above in the sky down to below the tree line. Heavy rain was falling, but the blackness of the massive, square-looking rain cloud stopped sharply - vertically - on the right. There, it appeared to be dry.

We ran for the bright side and made it, even though the wind picked up speed and within minutes we figured the rain would engulf us. It didn’t. However, by the time I hit my driveway, it poured puppydogs - as heavy rains are sometimes described.

My most frightening summer storm dates back a few years, when I visited Venezuela’s Amazonas region to fish for trophy peacock bass, or pavon grande, as the natives call these brightly-colored fish. We were fairly close to Brazil, on the Rio Ventuari.

I sat in a small aluminum boat with Leonel, a superb local Bare Indian guide, who worried about me like a mother hen.

The world champion of all thunderstorms arrived, and so much water fell in a short time that we pulled the boat up on the shore of the Ventuari and opened the transom plug to drain the considerable amount of water that had collected. Then the lightning started - and I don’t mean one bolt here and there. No, these lightning charges came in groups of four and five, and some of them struck trees not all that far away from us. Leonel started chanting something that sounded like a coyote howling.

When the storm moved on, we were wetter than the fish that lived in the river. The guide smiled and said something soothing. I believe it was, “I was never worried. Were you?”

Yeah, right.

And my all-time memory of weather-caused frights happened some years ago during late autumn in Canada when a group of us flew to Prince Edward Island to fish for giant bluefin tunas.

No one knew that a bit of a frost arrived during the night, coating the Charlottetown runway. Our Canadian pilot landed and almost instantly had his plane do an unexpected 360-degree turn, followed by another 360 pirouette. It was like we were in an ice ballet.

Hoo, boy! Talk about never wanting to get on a plane again. I considered it at the time.

c Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com. Mueller’s Inside Outside blog can be found at www.washingtontimes.com/ sports.

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