The Writings of LaVarr B Webb
Some time ago, my wife and I camped on Mammoth Creek, the stream that makes its way off Cedar Mountain, crosses Highway 89, and becomes one of the main tributaries of the Sevier River. As we camped there on grassy meadows and under a canopy of Ponderosa Pines, I thought of my first fishing trip on Mammoth Creek. I was about nine, living for a short time in Cedar City, and my father wanted to "go fishing."
I don't remember anything about the trip. I think we went over Cedar Mountain, but I do remember a ground squirrel, what my dad called a "pot belly," that sat on his haunches in the middle of the road.
I remember yelling at my dad that he was going to hit that squirrel, and him laughing, "Naw, he is sitting at the side of his hole, and just before any car reaches him, he dives into his hole." On our way home, I checked, and sure 'nuff, there he was sitting, again, in the middle of the road, and I watched as the car seemed to pass over him, then I looked back, and there was no pot belly, but there was a hole.
Dad was heading for Mammoth Creek, and when we arrived, I fell in love with the place. It was a park, a paradise, a dream land of green grass, trees, white, bubbly balloon like clouds, and a deep, slow moving trout stream. And, oh, those trout. They didn't really resemble rock suckers. They were the shiniest, largest, and fatest fish I had ever seen.
I followed my dad as he fished those big Mammoth Creek holes, and I watched the fish fight, twist, and squirm as he brought them in and took them off the hook. In one hole, he hooked a large rainbow, and it fought back and forth, and up and down that hole. Finally, he brought it to the bank, but he couldn't lift it up and over. He told me to reach down and grab the fish. I tried. Every time I reached for it, the fish flipped away. I ran my hand down the line, hoping to grasp it through its gills, but again, it gave a tremendous flip, threw the hook, and the hook buried itself in my thumb.
There I stood, bleeding and miserable as my father cut the hook out of my finger and berated me for "losing his fish."
While I was feeling sorry for myself, my father moved down stream. After a short while, I followed him. As I was making my way through the wild currant and rose bushes lining the bank, I stepped on something that made a loud squawk. The squawk frightened me, and I jumped. Then I looked down, and there was a white and grey whale, the largest fish, I imagined, in the whole world. It was a rainbow, but I couldn't understand why such a monster was lying on the trail, along side the stream.
Later, Dad said that he found the fish, dead, caught on a set line, and floating on top of the water. He also told me, that trout don't generally squawk, but gasses had built up in this one, which he estimated to weigh at least ten pounds, and when I stepped on it, I forced the gasses out, and it squawked.
Then and there, I became a fisherman. I cut myself a willow, begged for a short line, hook, and sinker, borrowed a worm, and went fishing. I have dreamed, over the years, of catching a similar fresh water whale, a rainbow of such enormous proportions, and I have also hated, over the years, the man who set that line, who caught that dream fish, and left it to die, to bloat, and to float there in that beautiful hole on Mammoth Creek.