IT WAS DAYLIGHT on the river.
Something had gone terribly wrong.
Maybe it was just the old guide instincts kicking in, but it seemed like something strange was about to happen.
I could feel it in my bones.
It’s one of the perks of surviving.
The scar tissue alerts you to changes in the weather, as a fishing guide who fishes 500 days a year (a figure based upon an alternative accounting system that multiplies angler days with the estimated number of fishing rods, then divides or multiplies the number based upon who you are talking to in a manner consistent with the international fishing standards of weights and measures).
Sure enough, just as the last stars faded from the sky, an alien light so powerful in its brilliance that you couldn’t look directly at it crept over the horizon while making long shadows in the fog.
The light appeared to be moving slowly upward and getting brighter and brighter until you could actually feel the heat emanating from this mysterious phenomenon.
I was extremely disturbed.
I would have dialed 9-1-1, but I couldn’t remember the number.
I tried to remain calm so my fancy friends in the front of my boat wouldn’t panic.
It’s all part of being a fishing guide: When the going gets weird, the weird keep fishing.
“That sun sure feels good,” one of my fancy friends said.
I could tell they were trying to put up a brave front.
“Oh yes, the sun,” I said.
The truth was, it had been raining for so long, I’d forgotten what the sun looked like.
Every year along about this time, it seems as if the sun comes out, causing some of the more sensitive types to declare that winter is over.
This is what we call a sucker hole designed to make you think we can avoid the coming long months of interminable precipitation.
These rumors of spring are a delusional notion so infectious that even the birds seem to catch this premature spring fever.
The eagles were gathering branches for their nests.
The American dipper, or water ouzel, is a small, gray bird that lives on the river’s edge.
One day of sunshine had the water ouzels singing.
One day of sunshine had the ravens starting their mating flights.
There’s a whole lot I don’t know about ravens.
Books have been written about the marvelous intelligence of these mysterious birds.
All I know for sure about ravens is that they are generally smarter than humans.
Ravens can recognize different humans, and they’ll follow you around if they like you.
Then again, the ravens might just be following you around on the chance you could become raven bait.
It’s like I said: There’s a lot about ravens I’d just as soon not know about.
Ravens are supposed to mate for life, but how can you tell since they all seem to look pretty much the same?
All I know for sure is that when the ravens begin their courtship flights, there are invariably three of them.
I’m not sure what that means, but ravens probably have a different notion of mating for life.
One day of sunshine brings the falcons out to hunt.
Maybe their feathers work better when they are dry.
Watching a peregrine falcon hunt shorebirds is an awesome sight, but you had better be quick, or all you will see is a puff of feathers.
With all of this happening on one day of sunshine, you wonder what would happen with two, but it’s just a sucker hole.
Spring is still a long way off.
Pat Neal is a fishing guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.
He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patneal [email protected].