The window has closed.
Mother Nature is in control.
Know when to pack it in.
Eerie crackles spring forth from unseen hiding spots in the ghostly gray followed by a monstrous boom that carries near and far. Puffs of black stitched with creepy green hues hover precariously above the building chop. A slight breeze has given way to bristling gusts, the kind that chill and dishearten even on lukewarm days.
“We’ve got about two more casts.”
The taunt does not fall on deaf ears.
A lure retrieve later, a misshapen mass of white-hot energy materializes near the horizon, its radiant gleam burning a stirring glow on the landscape and leaving a shadowy warning in its wake.
Hunters, anglers must exercise caution
As hunting and fishing enthusiasts, we play our games on Mother Nature’s time and table. That means living with Texas weather variables of rain, snow, sleet, hail, lightning and heat. We control the other factors. You pick the destination, when you want to go and how you want to prepare, but the wild card always is what weather will be thrown our way — regardless of whether the weatherman is right.
This particular late spring excursion to Lake Texoma a few years back was rushed. Fishing guide and friend Chris Carey offered an outing on an off day after fishing for 30 straight mornings, and I was quick to accept, knowing the forecast was not looking good. The morning started out with superb promise as most days do when there are storms around. But after running only a short distance and plying a shoreline known for producing hefty smallmouths with crankbaits, it became clear we were on borrowed time.
We waited by his boat slip.
We left and grabbed a breakfast taco.
We came back and waited some more.
Ultimately, the game was called on account of rain — several inches in a couple of hours with no end in sight — but more importantly for the spiking columns of death that no fish is worth braving.
Modern man has become adept at controlling everything around him, but getting beyond the cocooned barriers of the backyard shows us just how insignificant we are. It also lets us know we truly are blessed and that we need to appreciate the sunny days along with the other ones that aren’t as pleasant.
I’ve felt the sting of pelting rain along babbling high-country Colorado streams and waited out fast-moving storms that agitated already daunting Alaskan depths. I’ve seen a freakish gale blow apart a West Texas deer hunting camp and dump an inch of rain in mere minutes. I’ve been chilled to the bone on a summer day on the Texas coast when another cloudy mess sprang up from nowhere, soaking the whole operation and making for a harsh boat ride back as lightning sent us scurrying.
Each scenario reinforces two things about Mother Nature: You’re on her time and we are guests when it comes to Texas weather.
Sometimes you just have to hunker down. I’ve heard frightening tales of hunters and anglers basically getting stuck and having no other recourse than to hope and sometimes pray that things will turn out in their favor. A fishing guide on the Texas coast once relayed an alarming account of having to rescue kayakers who paddled out onto redfish-rich flats on a morning that showed no cause for concern but ended with near hypothermic conditions. A storm simply rose from its slumber in that exact spot and left a trio of folks trapped on a spring outing with nowhere to hide from icy winds that spurred chop and forced them out of their crafts.
Fishing and hunting guides teach us an important lesson, too: Always be observant and cautious. Don’t go overboard and think that every blip on the radar or prognostication on the TV is going to always turn out, but stay vigilant and don’t press your luck. It’s also good practice to make sure you’ve got all the stuff you need.
Pack extra gear, food and water. That applies anywhere and everywhere.
When you’re thrown a curveball, take time to enjoy it, too.
I’ve had good discussions, enjoyed a sardine or jerky snack and taken in some astounding scenery on outdoor breaks whether it’s on a Panhandle spring turkey hunt, an Alaskan fly dapping excursion or a slow Central Texas deer outing.
Occasionally we try to cheat Mother Nature and she’ll let you know pretty quickly when conditions are lousy or simply downright dangerous. If we’re smart, we’ll take the cues and either wait it out hoping for a rainbow after the storm or pack things up and call it a day.
“Know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em.”
Truer words have never been spoken.
Sometimes it’s not worth the gamble.