The Writings of LaVarr B Webb
Yesterday, I fished Chalk Creek with my Uncle Sterling Webb. We camped by the bridge, the little log bridge where the old dirt road crosses the stream and climbs up the canyon to the east. The grass is green there, and the conifers, (are they pines, firs, or spruce? I don't know,) stretch thick, green arms over cushions of fallen needles. After a morning's fishing it is a joy to sit or lay on a natural piney mattress, as soft as the one at home, under those great conical trees, protected from the hot afternoon sun.
It is a joy to lay there and listen to the gurgle-murmur of the stream, the chatter of a pine squirrel, and the song of a mountain thrush. It is especially good to sit or lay there and talk fish talk--the strikes, the snags, and the big one that got away.
Yesterday, though, we fished down stream. Sterling worked ahead of me, because I am a slow fisherman. I have to try every part of the creek, under the logs, behind the rocks, the shallows, as well as the holes. I caught up with Sterling down by the big hole where the stream makes a bend.
As I poked my head through the brush, I saw Sterling standing at the side of the hole, putting a worm on his hook. I asked him how he was doing, and he said, "I've got a big one here, but he won't take my hook."
With that, he cast out to the top of the hole. The line drifted down into deep water. I watched as his line started to jerk, and he set his hook. I could see that he had a big fish, but it didn't run. His pole bent and twitched, but no fish broke the surface. It was like he was dragging an old shoe through the water.
Then he landed a sixteen-inch, red and silver-sided rainbow, but it didn't flop like most trout. It flipped its tail and wobbled its head as it lay in the grass, but its body remained arched like a horseshoe. Sterling picked it up, and the fish hung on the end of the leader, stiff, and curved.
When we examined it, we found that its back had been broken, yet somehow it had healed, but it had healed bowed, a permanent curve, a real rainbow.
That was yesterday? It seems like it was yesterday, but it couldn't have been yesterday, because Sterling passed away in May, and he was in his seventies.
Yesterday, I went fishing with another Uncle, Keith Webb. Was it yesterday? Maybe it was the day before yesterday. We fished Deer Creek Reservoir. Deer Creek is a good trout fishery. The trout go up to six pounds, sometimes larger.
Was that yesterday? I heard someone say Deer Creek is just a perch pond, and even the perch are dying out. But yesterday . . .
Keith is the hardest working fisherman I have ever known. He likes to fish with black willow grubs. He cuts down big black willow trees, saws the trunks and limbs into chunks, and then patiently splits them into kindling. Somewhere in the wood, he finds meandering worm holes, and at the end of the hole, he lifts out a two-inch, red headed, black and white bodied willow grub.
Keith had some willow grubs with him, and generous soul that he is, he gave me some. He showed me how to tie one on my hook, so that the fish wouldn't pull it off.
We put on our boots, and he led me out into the water, just where the Provo River enters the lake. I flipped that willow grub out into the Provo current, and let it drift down into the lake. Wham, I had a fighting rainbow. I pulled; he resisted. He ran; I turned him. After a few minutes of a losing battle, he gave up and came to my net.
Those trout like willow grubs, and Keith and I had a glorious morning. The smallest rainbow we caught was twelve inches long, and the largest was eighteen.
That couldn't have been yesterday. Keith, too, passed away in November. He was in his eighties, but it seems like yesterday.
No, it wasn't yesterday. My Uncles, Sterling and Keith, my dad, and my buddy, Jake, went fishing together in the late thirties and early forties. Now, there is only Jake and I left, and as I look back, there wasn't enough yesterdays.
World War Two, Italy, jobs in far away places, families, and church obligations pushed us our separate ways and wiped out the family gatherings. Like a sly and covert thief, old age crept up on us. Sterling and Keith, as well as my father, had heart attacks, and died, and leukemia constantly stalks me. Some one said, "To soon old, to late wise," and I look back to a dearth of yesterdays. I guess, when you grow old, if you have harvested many, many happy yesterdays, you can feast, but if the harvest was poor, you go hungry.
The following was printed on the back of the program for Keith's funeral:
A Fisherman's Creed
I pray that I may live to fish
Until my dying day.
And when It comes to my last cast,
Then I most humbly pray!
When in the Lord's great landing Net
and peacefully asleep.
That in His mercy I be judged
Big enough to keep.
Take your family fishing. Harvest many, many yesterdays