The Writings of LaVarr B Webb

The publication of the Utah Fishing & Outdoors Magazine takes me back to another time and another place, back more than 55 years to a Texaco Service station in Salt Lake. There at that service station, though it would be many years before I would drive a car and able to patronize the station, and though my parents were not customers because my father worked for a competing company, I begged for a Texaco Fishing Guide. In fact, I waited each spring for its publication and distribution with greater anticipation than I reserved for Christmas.

Now as I look back, I realize it wasn't a very sophisticated publication. It was pocket sized, perhaps five by seven inches, and the way I remember, it only contained 12 to 16 pages, but those pages were illustrated, and they were loaded with choice information on where, when, and how fish could be caught. It was my Bible. Like a preacher from his pulpit, I could quote from it. Even now, I remember and heed its advice to fish in front, as well as in the backwash of large rocks, because, it said, that is where trout lurk, waiting for food to be carried to them.

Under its tutelage, I learned how to make loops in my leader to attach snelled hooks, and where to place sinkers and how large those sinkers should be. In my mind's eye, I can still see the illustration, drawn in my Guide, that demonstrated how to tie a figure eight knot.  I remember it said that figure eight knots are dependable, won't slip, and yet are easy to untie, and I still attach my leader to my line with that particular knot. From it, I also learned how to thread a worm on my hook, rather than looping it and making it easy for a fish to steal.

If I remember right, it told me how much leader to use, and it said that tapered leaders were the best, especially when using dry flies for lures, but I couldn't afford tapered leaders, dry flies, and spinners. No, my pole was an eight foot piece of bamboo that I wrangled from the owner of a carpet store. (In those days carpets were rolled onto a piece of bamboo. The bamboo kept the carpet from sagging when lifted.) The line guides were safety pins, bent in a right angle and tied to my pole with thread swiped from my mothers sewing box. (The spring end of a medium sized safety pin forms a perfect circle, and will not only make fine line guides and tips for a bamboo or willow pole, but will also, in an emergency, serve on a modern pole when originals are lost.)

I had no reel, so surplus line was wrapped around the butt of my pole, and I had to keep my hand around it to keep it from unwrapping and falling off. By the time I was old enough to appreciate my Texaco Fishing Guide, by forfeiting a few Baby Ruth candy bars and Hires Root Beers, I could afford a package of Eagle Claw Hooks, but prior to that, my hooks were bent straight pins, and they were all right  for catching rock suckers or sun perch, but trout were too strong. They seemed to love turning bent straight pins into straight straight pins. If sinkers were not available, I used steel washers or small bolts pilfered from my father's tool box. I was quite often confronted with a problem, however. If the washers or small bolts were silver colored and bright, the trout struck them rather than my bait.

I slept very little the night before the opening of the fishing season, and I was always wide awake long before daylight. No one had to call me to get me out of bed. I dressed hurriedly, gulped a glass of milk and a chunk of bread, stuffed my well worn Texaco Fishing Guide into my hip pocket, grabbed my pole and my can of worms, and walked down to Mill Creek where it crossed Fifth East on about 30th South. There by the stream, in the shivering dawn, I waited for enough light to see my line and the stream, and waited for that first cast, that first strike, and the finny, streamlined thrills that dreams are made of.