Some stuff, you can never let go off

My apologies for not being able to post comments to John Skinners post..we are still trying to figure out what happened.

By Zeno Hromim

Grandpa and Me

It was a late summer morning in its predawn glory with a gentle breeze coming off the ocean. The sweet smell of salty air was awakening all the senses in the body of a youngster. This was a special morning for this seven-year-old kid who had been waiting for this moment for a long time…forever it seemed. You see, his grandfather was a master fisherman, an old salt with no match, some say the best in town, and today he was going to accompany him for the very first time. Now, they had made plenty of trips together locally, but this was an overnight trip; a trip he always longed to go on. The night before passed agonizingly slow; every tick of the old clock seemed to take hours.  The kid was having a hard time containing his excitement. This trip held a special meaning, a promise of places never seen before and to a kid, it seemed so exotic and exciting. His grandfather was an old-fashioned fellow, a man of few words who never seemed to say more than he had to. That morning on the dock, he just motioned to the kid to get into the boat. The craft itself was not much to look at: a small 21-footer handmade out of wood and powered by a 7 horsepower Foreman German car engine which was loud and slow. It had a couple of bunks to sleep in.


But to the youngster, as he sat on the bow for the long trip to the fishing grounds, it seemed like a magnificent fishing yacht. Imagine his excitement when his Grandpa took out a small captain’s hat bought for the kid’s first trip and gave it to him. He loved this man like no one else because he had retired and given up his career early to take care of the boy after his parents split up.  In those magical two days they fished side by side, just the two of them, removed from thoughts of everyday life that waited for them back at home.


For the kid, it was an eye-opening experience. He knew that his grandfather was a good fisherman but he did not know that he could use objects on land to establish his bearings. As soon as he found the fish he was able to return to the same location on each consecutive drift without any electronics on board, while the boats around them seem to drift aimlessly with no apparent luck. That was something the youngster wasn’t prepared for. From that day on, he promised himself he was going to try to follow in his footsteps in life and fishing. There would be many more trips over the years, school days missed and plenty of fresh fish barbecued for dinner at night.  They would often take shelter in local ports after a whole day of hand lining and pulling up long lines. They were the best of friends, joined by a love of fishing and each other, for ten years. The youngster grew up to be a teenager and left for America in search of a better life. It took him a few years to get accustomed to his new surroundings but the passion for fishing was still there with him. Living in the city and having no command of the English language made his experience in New York limited to Jones Beach trips with his family. One day he was taken by a friend on a surfcasting trip to Gilgo beach. He marveled at the trucks lining the beach and the many anglers tending to their bait. He was fascinated by the gear employed by these anglers. Big rods and reels were not something he was familiar with. In his youth he was considered a good fisherman for his age but this was all accomplished using hand lines and winding them on a piece of styrofoam. A few days later, he took a trip to a local marina and discovered that local fishermen pulled the loglines with a winch. He and his grandfather had done it by hand. Grandpa was the one doing most of the work, pulling the lines and aligning each hook as it would come within reach while the boy was the gaff man. He stood at the rail with nervous anticipation, knowing that if he missed a fish with the gaff, the ride back to port would not be a pleasant one. Missed fish meant less money when they got back home. This often meant no new shoes for school or no good jacket for the winter.


This youngster continued his trips with his friend to Gilgo over the year. These were mostly afternoon affairs where they soaked some bait after work. Then one day they decided to head to Montauk Point, more out of curiosity than anything else. Talk about an eye opening experience! Although he was familiar with sandy beach bait fishing, at Montauk Point he found hundreds of anglers perched on the rocks tossing lures in the water. He had never seen anything like this before. He walked around the lighthouse rocks and observed surfcasters catching stripers almost at will. He and Grandpa caught fish, but nothing like this! As soon as he got home he opened an Offshore Angler catalog he had previously received in the mail, and with no input from anyone, he ordered a 10 foot rod and matching reel. He had no idea how to use it but he was determined to learn. Along with this, he ordered a surf bag and a few lures from The Surfcaster catalog. A few days later the packages arrived at his Astoria apartment.


One Sunday morning he took a ride to Jones Beach and walked to the jetty at West End. After observing a few guys at the tip catching a few fish, he reasoned that the end of the jetty was the place to be. Unfortunately, there were a few big gaps in the rocks that separated him from the other anglers. With no waders or Korkers he suffered many lacerations on his legs trying to cross over. Trying to time the waves, he crouched behind rocks questioning his own sanity but he pushed on. By the time he got to the tip, the other surfcasters were walking back, giving puzzled stares at his bruised hips and bleeding shins. One of them mentioned that the current was done, but he could have said anything since the kid had no clue what tide or current were. It was all foreign to him. In fact, he did not even know how to cast. His only experience was a few feeble attempts he made with his friend’s rod and bail-less reel. On the walk back to his car he endured a lot of puzzled looks and even his girlfriend at the time (now his wife) gasped at the sight of his bruised limbs.


This nightmarish trip, as bad as it was, did not extinguish his desire to become a surfcaster. Over the years, he improved his casting ability to a point were he caught some nice fish. The many hours he put into the surf started paying off as did his better understanding of the English language. This made it possible to read articles written by local sharpies that appeared in the Fisherman. He enjoyed the quiet time to reflect on life and the simple pleasure of finding the fish without the help of fancy electronics. This always reminded him of his grandfather. One recent summer night, as he stood on the jetty casting into an ocean that seemed barren of any life, suddenly he felt the unmistakable bump of a fish. He quickly set the hook but this fish was not going to give up without a fight. He struggled to gain leverage on the fish in the strong inlet current. Finally, after a few tense moments, he slid the fish onto a rock: a ten-pound weakfish. As he admired the stunning reflection of this beautiful fish in the moonlight, he thought about his grandfather.  Surely, he would be proud of him, the grandson thought; this was his biggest weakfish ever. When he got home that night , the teary face on his loving wife said it all – no words were needed. His Grandpa had left this world quite unexpectedly a few hours ago in a land far away. Crushed, he took the first flight home. He thought how ironic to be fishing while his mentor was taking his last breath a half a world away. He remembered a year ago the excitement they both felt over the phone when his daughter was born on his Grandpa’s birthday. But most of all he remembered all the trips they took together and he was grateful for the love of fishing Grandpa had instilled in him. After the funeral, he walked into his childhood room for the first time in many years. On the dresser he found his captain’s hat – the same one that Grandpa had given to him on their first trip together. He folded it neatly and put it in his pocket, hoping that one day his own son would share his and Grandpa’s love for fishing.


19 comments on “Some stuff, you can never let go off

  1. sioca

    Some stuff you’re not supposed to let go…It’s supposed to be perennial…

    It keeps you company and guards (guides) you…

    dedication & chap 1 – D art of SC w Lures

  2. Adam

    Great Story! We are lucky to have been able to fish since childhood. I come from a large family in Athens & they marvel at the size of our MTK bass. My 7 year old loves fishing with his Grandfather on the boat, then surfcasting with me.

  3. kenny b.

    some of us dont have the gift of writing or telling a story. very personal story, simuliar to my own. thank you for sharing i will think of my grandfather today.

  4. sioca

    Zeno, I’ve just re-read the last 3 lines of paragraph # 1.

    I can conjure up some images of what this “Magnificent Fishing Yacht” might look like but I’m afraid I could be way of the mark. I know exactly the type “The Old Man and the sea” looks like.

    Your Yacht had an engine, inboard,outboard? Bunks, port, starboard? Open cockpit? Running lights? What color was it painted? etc. etc.
    As you can see, this is driving me knots and I have no idea why!!!! But very intrigued!!

    Can you provide pic.(s)? If not, can you sketch a simple drawing? You work in construction it is a prerequisite to sketch when words will not do. If not, tap the Guru: Tommy C for artistic input.

    Thanks Z for (granting) this request… Geee!!! totally obsessed with this “yacht” of yours

  5. Richard aka Woodwker99

    Z, you brought a tear to my eye. I never knew my grandfathers as they passed long before I was old enough to know them. I on the other hand have taken my sons fishing (of which only one took to it like I did). I also take my grand kids fishing as often as I get to see them. and they seem to enjoy the time as well as the fish as I do. I just hope they look upon me as fondly as you look upon yours. He lives on in you.


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