You know that sound when your bones shake and teeth rattle? The bright white light indistinguishable from the loud crack? Man I hate that sound. Right about that time you are thinking, “Where the hell am I gonna go?”. Then you quickly realize, there isn’t anywhere to go. You are on a river in the middle of nowhere.
So, what to do when you get caught in a lightning storm while fishing?
Well for starters lets examine where we are. There is no shelter on much of the river. If you happen to be near a river access you might find an outhouse. I guess you could take your chances with that one.
Here is an account of some LDS girls on a hike on the east side of the valley that took to the trees for shelter. You can read more about their encounter with lightning.
The girls from the Fifth Ward soon joined us and as we reached the spot where we had left our lunches it started to rain, so we scrambled under the trees for protection from the rain. Our group, Fifth Ward, was under one tree, sitting on the ground and leaning against a fallen tree that was leaning against a standing tree. The rest of the girls were sitting around our group and up the path. Some of the girls were still coming down from the cave and ducked under shelter wherever they could. It rained hard for a few minutes and then it started to hail. About 10 minutes after the storm started, we heard a very loud clap of thunder which sounded like it must have hit above us on the rim. We realized it was too close for comfort, and some suggested that we move. Others said, “No, we’re alright, because all the trees around us are taller than this one”. Some of the girls were frightened and we tried to reassure them and calm their fears. At this time Brother Miller came running down the hill, (he was the last one out of the cave, being certain everyone got out safely) shouting for us to move out into the open space below us. Several started moving. I remember getting up and bending over to pick up my knap sack —- then it hit!!
The next thing I knew I was down the hill about three yards from the group, all drawn up in a knot, unable to move! The thought went through my head, “I’ve had a stroke!” Then I heard girls screaming, and heard one say, “Look! That girl is on fire!”
The lightning struck the tree the girls were hiding under. Sadly three of these girls were killed by the strike. In this case, the trees were a bad idea.
You can find a clearing and hunker down by squatting low and staying off the ground except for your feet. This will give you less conduction with the ground. If you’re lucky you may find a nearby cave. Some of the canyon stretches we fish have caves near the water.
Get away from metal
Our boats are made of fiberglass and resin. This does not conduct electricity well. If you are in a metal boat, I suggest getting out until the lightning passes.
Just keep fishing
Honestly I usually just keep fishing because there isn’t much you can do. The lightning usually passes by quickly. By the time you find shelter of any kind the storm has passed. We have taken thousands and thousands of trips in nearly 100 years of outfitting on these rivers. No one has ever been struck by lightning (knock wood). I haven’t even heard of anyone being struck while out on the rivers around here. We have had some close calls. Ones where the hair on your arms stands up and you hear a little buzzing noise. Thankfully those are pretty darn rare.
Click this cool map above for a look at real-time lighting around the country.