Just another day fishing . . . well, not quite!

Last week, I drove several hundred miles to southern Virginia to spend a few days fishing with friends Bob and Cindy on Lake Gaston, a man-made impoundment that straddles the North Carolina-Virginia border along the I-85 corridor.  I’d been to the 20,000 surface-acre reservoir many times, and looked forward to challenging its resident bass population, as it readied itself for fall.  When I think of fishing, the scenario I envision is most likely that of a lake, with its placid surface reflecting its surroundings.   Seldom if ever do I associate this pastoral sport with danger. Little did I imagine what lay in store.  But I digress.

The first day was uneventful.  Bob and I got on the water around two in the afternoon, fished until dinnertime, and got off the lake before dark.  The fact that the fish were nowhere to be found didn’t damper our enthusiasm one bit.  When we returned to shore, we were told that a local man, nicknamed “Bubba,” was missing, and his empty boat had been found washed ashore.  A massive search was underway, with a number of boats and a helicopter engaged in the operation.  Everyone was praying for a successful outcome.

Dinner was some homemade turkey chili I’d brought, and, after devouring that, along with some cold beer, Bob and I settled in to watch a Monday Night Football game between the New York Jets and the Cleveland Browns, while Cindy opted to read a novel.  Her choice of activity was by far the better of the two.

Tuesday brought the first hint of trouble.  As we rolled out of the driveway and slowly made our way up the road from Bob’s cabin, there was a loud thunk! as we crossed over one of the many speed bumps within the lake community.  The hitch on the boat trailer had slipped off the ball attached to the truck’s bumper.  When Bob attempted to reattach the trailer hitch to the ball, he couldn’t get the hitch to lock in place.  With towing chains attached, we limped on back to the cabin, where Bob tried to rehitch the trailer to the truck with no success.  At some point, Cindy asked if she could give it a try (she’s an ICU nurse), and after about twenty minutes she magically got the trailer connected to the hitch.  We were in business.  By now, it was about two, and we fished without success until around four, when an afternoon squall ended things abruptly.  A dinner of hot dogs, beans, and sauerkraut sated our appetites, and an evening of watching YouTube quelled our need for entertainment.

On Wednesday, Cindy said goodbye and headed for home, while we got on the water early and fished until just past noon.  Bob managed to corral several white bass (not our targeted species) and I managed to incur numerous line twists, most of which I successfully unraveled.  Again, I caught no fish.  Not even a hint of one.  After a leisurely lunch at a local eatery, we headed back to the cabin for a nap.  Two hours later, our batteries fully recharged, it was time to mount a serious offensive, so we returned to the lake, launched the boat, and began moving methodically from cove to cove.

Around 6:30, Bob announced that the battery to the trolling motor had finally run out of juice.  We were about three quarters of a mile from the takeout ramp and a hundred feet off shore.  Since sundown was less than thirty minutes away, we decided to call it a day. Bob turned the key to start the massive 175 horsepower Yamaha engine, and I listened patiently as the starter motor groud and ground noisily without success.  “Must be flooded,” Bob said.  We waited a few minutes, and he turned the key, again without the motor catching.  “Maybe we can use the trolling motor to get us to shore,” Bob suggested.  But, of course, the battery was still dead, so that wouldn’t work.  By now, I was fighting the early stages of panic.  I looked at the sky and it was clear.  Not a cloud in sight.  Not good.  The previous night, temperatures had dropped into the mid 50s.  Without any cloud cover, chances were good that it would dip even further this night. Hypothermia was a real possibility.

“I think I’ve got some oars,” said Bob with a smile.  A few minutes of rummaging through the many storage compartments on the boat revealed the sad truth.  There weren’t any oars (with an s); there was just one oar and we’d have to share it.  We immediately began paddling furiously, passing the paddle back and forth to one another after every six strokes or so.  Twenty minutes later, we’d managed to make it to shore, where we tied up alongside a large dock that adjoined a boat slip, complete with boat.  “Looks like there’s a light on,” I said, pointing at a house nestled high above in the pines.  “Maybe we’re in luck.”

Bob climbed the one hundred steps to the house above (he counted every one), and I waited patiently on the dock, calculating our odds of surviving the night.  I had on jeans and a long sleeved shirt, but Bob was wearing shorts and a sleeveless top.  We’re both in our seventies.  This was not good.  However, after what seemed like forever, I heard voices in the dark—and laughter (always a good sign).  Sure enough, the owner of the lake house, a fellow named Jeff, was home, and he and Bob were making their way down the stairs toward the dock, talking and laughing.  The rest, as they say, is history.  Jeff lowered his boat into the water, attached a rope from Bob’s craft to his, and towed us all the way back to the marina.

We gobbled down a hastily assembled dinner of hot dogs and nachos, accompanied by a celebratory mixed drink, and prepared for bed.  Score one for the good guys!  Next time, we’ll make sure we don’t exhaust the trolling motor battery, and, if Bob knows what’s good for him, he’ll make certain that the main engine is running perfectly.

One sad footnote: Bubba wasn’t as lucky as we were.  Apparently, his history of heart trouble must have caught up with him (he had a defibrillator implanted in his chest) and his body was found by search and rescue that very afternoon.  It was sobering news, especially in light of our “little adventure.”

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To learn more about me and my writing, visit my website at: www.joeperronejr.com or my author page on Amazon.com.  If you’ve not read one of my Matt Davis mysteries, I hope you’ll give one a try.  Start with As the Twig is Bent; it’s the first in the series.  All five Matt Davis mysteries are now available in pocketbook editions, as well as full-sized and large print editions, and, of course, in Kindle.


About AuthorJoePerroneJr

I am a former professional fly-fishing guide, and I write the Matt Davis Mystery Series, which presently consists of five books: As the Twig is Bent, Opening Day, Twice Bitten, Broken Promises and Deadly Ransom. The series is set in the real town of Roscoe, NY, in the Catskill Mountains, where I guided for ten years. I love fly fishing, movies, cooking (and eating), and music. To learn more about me and my writing, please visit my website at: http://www.joeperronejr.com.
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12 Responses to Just another day fishing . . . well, not quite!

  1. Richard Dawley says:


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Don Brann says:

    I told you to always carry extra 12 volt batteries with you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Adventure fishing…that might be what it’s called! Good to know your crazy day ended on an up-note for your threesome. Sorry to hear about Bubba…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Bruce Pfeffer says:

    Glad that you lived to tell the tale. Call it fate, or luck, it wasn’t your time. The power of your storytelling summoned that feeling of dread from my own similar experiences. One pre-cellphone night, I left my home in Newburgh, NY in late fall, to pick up some papers from my my uncle in Norwalk, Connecticut. My two year old BMW was a joy to drive, and I was relishing the opportunity to be one with my machine, on the two hour trip. I’d arranged for the papers to be left in the mailbox so I wouldn’t have to wake anyone up. A half hour into the trip, the engine started to misfire and the speed dropped off, even as I pushed down on the gas pedal. The cabin temperature dropped off, leading me to believe that the thermostat had stuck open. I had no coat, hat or gloves, unprepared to face a breakdown on a deserted road. “This is gonna be bad” I thought, as the engine quit. I coasted to the edge of the road, and turned the key off. I contemplated my choices. As an auto mechanic, I could certainly fix the problem. But there was no sense in even opening the hood, as I had no parts or tools, and only a small flashlight. This was the same feeling of dread that you described in your story. At least you had one paddle and a friend. After ten minutes of contemplation, I said a prayer and turned the key. It started! I got on I-84 and headed back. In a few minutes, the engine ran smoothly, humming along as if nothing was wrong. During the following week, all my checks revealed nothing. BMW tech support was no help, either. I called the dealerships in my area, finally, getting the explanation: A factory issue with a gummy residue in the fuel line had coated the needles and seats in both carburetors. After sustained running at high speed, it was possible for the needles to stick open, flooding the engine and causing a misfire. Apparently, during my ten minutes of soul searching at the shoulder, the needles reseated. Alas, the solution was clear! I replaced both seat assemblies, replaced the rubber section of the fuel line, adding an inline filter, and most importantly, sold the car.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. balroop2013 says:

    That was a scary adventure Joe! I marvel at your spirits. Take care!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Really! It’s all about teamwork, though, and we had it!! 🙂


  7. It takes real fishermen to go out day after day and have no action. Unless, of course, you count all the other action you had. One oar? Really?

    Liked by 1 person

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