Lake Lauderdale and Murphy’s Law

Bill Hilts“Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”

Murphy’s Law. Sometimes it's unavoidable, a situation that lets fate take its course. Sometimes we have a choice, but more often than not we choose the wrong one.

One perfect example was a recent New York State Outdoor Writers Association Spring Safari in Washington County. Rather than utilize the expertise of a local “guide” to show off a particular body of water, I opted to sign up for a small rowboat and fish one of the local lakes myself … with my wife, Sandy. I don’t have the opportunity to take her fishing very often, so I chose to include her on this little adventure.

It didn’t start out very well. We arrived in Cambridge, Washington County, on a Thursday night in time for a meet and greet at a local hangout called “Mama’s.” That was when I realized I had not purchased my wife’s fishing license yet. Trying to get a license at 8:30 p.m. at night in a rural county like Washington isn’t easy. Fortunately, local tourism Director Christine Hoffer came to the rescue and offered to handle everything online for me, including the printing of the final document.

Before the light faded away after sunset, we motored down to our morning destination – Lake Lauderdale, a small body of water that offered a mixed species of fish. Tiger musky was one option; brook trout and panfish a few more. We located the house on the lake where our boat was situated at (we had the wrong house number, so it was good we checked early) and we even saw the boat down by the water – a 12 -foot aluminum jon boat-type of vessel.

The next morning was nearly perfect weather-wise. We had purchased breakfast materials to make on the water and arrived at the boat in fine fashion. As we started to load our gear and large cups of coffee, I immediately noticed that there were no oars in the boat – just a trolling motor with a battery. I made no mention of it but walked around the house to see if the oars were around. Nothing. While I could use the exercise, using a trolling motor to move us around the lake wasn’t a bad idea. That was when I had a premonition of being stranded on the lake with a dead battery. I should have listened to myself.

We climbed in the boat and headed out into the middle of the lake. Sandy made breakfast while I rigged the rods. I had a Lake Clear Wabbler with a fly on one rod, a small stickbait on another. When breakfast was complete, I started our journey. At the same time, the wind started to pick up a little bit.

We motored to one end of the lake and then the other. We’d been on the water for the better part of an hour when I noticed that the battery was already starting to die on me. Rather than take a chance, I made the executive decision to motor back to the dock where we had started at and just fish from shore for the remainder of the morning. That just wasn’t going to happen. Murphy had already arrived.

As we found our way back against the wind, the motor slowly started to fade away. We ended up turning the motor off and slowly started to drift back toward some other docks. I picked up the phone to look for Dan Ladd’s phone number, local chairman of the spring gig. That was when I realized I only had his email. I’m thinking a computer-savvy guy like Ladd has a Smartphone, right? He’ll get the SOS message and come to the rescue!

Within five minutes, I heard a shout along the roadway in the distance. Dan! It worked like a charm … or so I thought. I watched him take our picture as a shouted out a playful “help.” A couple of minutes later, I heard Sandy say, “Did Dan just drive away?” Sure enough, he was gone. I would come to find out that he didn’t have a Smartphone. Murphy’s Law.

As I searched my phone directory for someone at the conference, I found Chris Kenyon, who was fishing on the Battenkill River with famed artist Adriano Manocchia. After he stopped laughing, Adriano was handed the phone and he vowed to remedy the situation. He hopped in his car to locate Hoffer. As it turned out, no one had Ladd’s phone number – probably intentional on Ladd’s part.

Hoffer ended up contacting the person who owned the boat and the two of them paddled their way over in a canoe with the oars in short time. As we waited, we had maneuvered our way over to a nice dock to sit and relax on dry ground, so it wasn’t all that bad. Rather than row, though, we opted to walk back to the car with our gear – just a five-minute stroll. It could have been worse. We could have been stranded away from the homes in a section of the lake that had plenty of brush and mosquitoes. And it could have been worse. Appreciate the small things…

Categories: New York – Bill Hilts Jr

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