Remembering the Time I got Hooked

Remembering the Time I got Hooked

By Pat Grenier


It was in the early 80’s. My fly fishing was just beginning to take off. The only problem I had was that I did not know enough people who fly fished, so I decided to join the Greater Boston Chapter of Trout Unlimited.


When I walked into my first meeting, and looked around, I noticed that everyone was two or three times my age. I was clearly the kid. They gave me a warm welcome. About the third meeting I attended, I looked over the shoulder of Bob Ford, who had maps covering a table and was planning a trip to Montana. I heard someone mention that the plane tickets were about $300 roundtrip. At the time, I was a short order cook in a restaurant, and that price was clearly beyond my budget. After I walked away, I was approached by a gentleman, Charles Shane. He told me they needed one more person to complete their fishing trip. I immediately replied I could not afford a plane ticket, and his response was that no plane ticket was needed. It was a boat ticket that needed to be purchased. Then I said I couldn’t take a week off, his reply was that it was only for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I asked if there was fly fishing involved, and he said this trip was surfcasting for striped bass, but that some of the best fly fishermen will be there,


I thought this would be a great way to meet some fly fisherman, so agreed to go. The cost of the boat was $23 roundtrip, and with the additional costs of lodging and food, the total cost was $35. This I could afford. The only issue was that I did not have a surf rod. Charles let me know that many people brought rods and assured me someone would lend me one.


On the weekend after Labor Day, we met at the docks in New Bedford. The destination was Cuttyhunk Island. Before we even got on the boat, Dick Ivers had said he had 3 rods, was only going to use one, so I had a pick of one of the other two. The boat we boarded was the original Alert, built in 1917. It was a wooden boat and held about 65 people. It was about a 45-minute ride to the island, the weather for the weekend was not looking good with rain and wind most of the time.


Therefore, there were 9 of us sitting inside the cabin of the boat, and the conversation was about the West end of the island, also known as Sow and Pigs. This was legendary for big striped bass. At this point I was starting to get excited about the weekend.


Upon arrival to the island, several people appeared to greet us. I asked Charles Shane how many residents lived on the island. He counted the 6 greeters and replied that was about half of them. One of the greeters went by the name Hunter, who was going to bring up our bags in an old pick up truck to the house. The houses had no numbers, they were identified by family names, and we were staying at the Kidder House. It was the last house on the left of the main road. We walked a series of public walkways through the island. Got to the house, ate lunch. I noticed a few people getting ready to fish after lunch. I asked if they were going down to the West End, they said no that they were going to take a short walk to Church’s Beach . I joined them, we walked along hilly, windy roads. At the beach, the wind was up, and the rain was getting worse.


The rod I had was a 10 ft surf rod. I was given 2 plugs; both were about 9” long and weighed about 4 ounces. They seemed to cast pretty well. We fished for an hour with no luck, then headed back to the house. After dinner, I inquired if anyone was going to the West End the next morning, and their reply was that it was dependent upon the weather.


In the morning, the weather was bad. We waited around for it to clear. When the rain got lighter, we headed out and picked up where we had left off. We fished the channel to the harbor, walking from there to Kennepitset. And then along the southside to the Bass Club. Still with no luck, I had hoped to go to the West end. We headed back to the house for an early dinner. After dinner, we shared stories and I got to know these fishermen. Ed Elasky was a great fly tyer and Atlantic salmon fisherman. He would take off and go to the west branch of the Penobscot any time of day. Frank Flowers was a book salesman. He loved to fish anyway possible from drop line to bait caster to fly fishing. Dick Ivers lived in Brighton and was a mechanical engineer. He liked to build his own fishing rods. Tom Largy worked for IBM and was the current president of Greater Boston Chapter of Trout Unlimited. George Holmes was a civil engineer and had designed the exit ramps off of Rte 495. His waters to fish were the Miramichi River in Canada. David Anderson was a photographer and a custom builder in the Berkshires. His father Ken Anderson, worked construction and was from Newton. I believed he fished the entire world maybe twice. Both father and son were great outdoorsmen and great fishermen. Charles Shane was a Dean of the Fletcher School of Diplomacy at Tufts. This was not his greatest achievement. He was a WWII fighter pilot. So the stories at this table were amazing and awesome. This was a part of the trip I did not plan for, but to this point was the greatest part.


Just before we turned in, I asked one more time if anyone was going to the West end in the morning. At first, I heard excuses such as the weather was bad, the tide was not right, and the day was a short one. But when it was Ken’s turn, he said he would go, and his son agreed to go also. Dick Ivers changed his mind and agreed to join us.


So in the morning, the four of us set out early walking down the road from where the pavement turned into a dirt path that skirted the southside of the island, overlooking cliffs that looked over the ocean. As we walked along the road, we saw deer grazing in the fields. We got down to the west end, the weather was starting to clear, but the waves were still big rollers coming in at about 12 feet high. I noticed right away that Dave went off on his own down the beach. I asked Ken where he was going, and he said that Dave was walking back towards the house by way of the southside rocky beach. After about 45 minutes, Ken and Dick reeled up and said they would head back to the house and they told me to keep fishing, I had about another half hour before leaving. At this time, I was reflecting upon the weekend and wondering if I would want to come back if invited. There had been no fish caught. As I was casting out , I would try to reach the furthest wave, and hitting the front side of it so that I could watch my plug as it came in towards me.


I was starting to think about leaving when I noticed a dark shadow in the wave to the left about 10 feet away, heading towards my plug. As it got closer, it got darker and bigger, and then it happened. A mouth came out of the wave, the size of a 5-gallon bucket, it missed my plug. I saw the stripes of a large striped bass and then a tail the size of a kitchen broom, which slapped my plug hard. I kept reeling and hoped the fish would turn and eat it. As I kept reeling, I think I said out loud, “come on, eat that plug”. As I finished reeling to the shoreline, ready to cast again, I noticed my knees were weak and my hands were shaking. I made several casts, tried to duplicate the same scenario, and hoped for another hit.


It finally was time to head back to the house. As I was making my way back, I found myself grinning most of the way. Now I was hoping the guys would ask me to come back and I was excited to share the story with them. When I arrived, Dave was just leaving, and said to put my bags by the back door and Hunter will pick them up and put them on the boat. I packed my bags, ready to leave, Hunter was already loading the truck. He asked if I would like a ride down. He pointed to the tailgate and said to have a seat. When I got to the boat, the others were aboard, so I went in the boat and they all looked at me and asked “Well?”. I proceeded to share my story with great detail, after I finished, Ken asked, “Do you know what you did wrong?’. I thought to myself, I am the only one who saw a fish, how could that be wrong? He continued, “When that big fish came up and hit the plug with it’s tail, you were supposed to pause, let the fish turn around and eat the plug. Instead, you kept reeling.” Then I looked to the floor of the boat and thought he was right. Feeling pretty low, I looked up at Chuck, he was smiling and then he said the words I was hoping to hear, “ Maybe next year”. Which made me smile and I replied, “yeah, maybe next year”.


For the next 15 years I went to Cuttyhunk one weekend in the fall, brought my own rod, downsized the plugs, even transitioned to fly fishing, and caught and released many fish. But I will always remember the one fish I did not hook, the fish that hooked me for life.


Pat Grenier is a FFI certified fly casting instructor with over 45 years of fly fishing experience. His expertise is now saltwater fly fishing and he guides the upper Cap Cod region.


He can be reached at (774) 270-2870