Early Monday morning we were trolling Ice House Reservoir’s main body, heading toward the east side of the lake. The wind was blowing at a gentle clip which made the lake’s surface a little choppy and us a bit chilly — overall, a nice morning typical of the high country in autumn.
As we trolled on, I noticed what looked like smoke from a campfire rising from the eastern shoreline. We were looking right into the blinding light of the rising sun as it reflected off the water, so it was difficult to tell exactly what we were looking at. My buddy Rob thought it was morning mist coming off the lake.??We were both dead wrong.
The “mist” turned out to be sheets of sand carried by a thunderous blast of wind streaking down towards the water off the high peaks above the lake. The flying sand wall covered the mile that separated my boat and the eastern end of Ice House in seconds. Without waning, we were caught in the full force of a 50 mile-per-hour gust that turned the placid surface into a rolling cauldron of foaming whitecaps.??Before we could even get the lines up, huge wind-spawned waves began to build around us and a moment later, they were crashing over the bow.
Now here’s the wild part…we were in my 20-foot jet sled, which, just moments earlier had felt like an aircraft carrier on the small reservoir. I couldn’t believe it — walls of white water were breaking over the front of the boat and cascading off the front deck and onto the floor like a waterfall. I would have bent down and flipped on the bilge pump but I couldn’t look away for even a second.
My big rig was feeling like it would flip if I let it slip broadside into the on-coming swells, so I had to stand at the helm and keep her straight into the wind.?My dog Rudy, scared to death, was lying across my feet and trembling. Rob looked back at me with worried eyes and asked if I was going to turn around and get the heck out of there. Across the howling wind and flying spray I yelled that I couldn’t without getting rolled by the waves. He nodded in understanding but looked very eager to get back to Terra Firma. He wasn’t the only one!
Eventually, I spotted a lull in the sets and made a quick u-turn. Once turned around and going with the wind, it was no problem getting back across the lake with the following sea. Though we were soaked from head to toe and shivering, we knew we were going to make it out okay.??That’s when we encountered our next problem.
The waves, which had the entire length of the lake to build, were breaking over the dock at the boat ramp. I got in close enough for Rob to jump off, but he was unable to hold the wildly-pitching boat against the dock, which was rising three to four feet at the crest of each swell.??We tried landing several more times, but the wind and waves made it impossible. I decided to point the bow into the wind again and ride it out until the blow died down, which I figured it would have to do in the not-so-distant future. As I took the brunt of the “perfect storm” head-on, green walls of water continued to rise over my bow and I wondered how many gallons I could take before the boat got too heavy and started to flounder.
We obviously needed to ride out the weather in a calm cove, so we ducked into the dam area, which was protected from the wind. We hung out there, hoping we wouldn’t have to spend the night at the lake. Eventually, however, the weather settled down and we were able to get off the lake without incident.
And by the way, while we waited, we caught a bunch of trout on orange Sep’s Pro Scented grubs trolled behind copper dodgers fished just under the surface.??On the way home, we had a chance to reflect on the morning’s amazing events. Never would I have imagined that I could feel so small and vulnerable in a 20-foot boat on such a small piece of water. Had we been in a 12- or 14-footer — the most common size boat you see on Ice House — we’d have gone down.
The incident also reinforced how important it is to have your safety gear handy. Not worried about any sort of emergency situation that morning, I had my life jackets stowed in a hatch up in the bow — a spot where they were utterly useless to us.?It also reminded me that things can and do change very fast this time of year, particularly in the mountains.
I guess my point here folks, is be careful out there. Stay safe and always be prepared for the worst. Take some extra food and dry clothing along whenever you got out in the fall and winter months — just in case.??If a whale of a storm can pop out of nowhere on a pint-sized lake, it can happen anywhere. The whole drive home I kept thinking about how much worse our situation would have been on a big lake where you can be miles from shore. Yikes!