Fishing matters to a fisherman four score and nine
The Melchiori boys: (Left to right) Rich, Steve, Galiano, Greg and Bob. Photos by Ralph Stewart
This fishing story begins more than 30 years ago at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Nearing the end of my first year at college, I decided that dormitory living was not for me. I disliked the confined party atmosphere.
It was not that I disliked the parties. I just wanted more creative space to party and less supervision. So, my sophomore year I moved into a large farmhouse with five fraternity brothers and a dog collectively owned named Yang.
My roommate in the house was a kid named Bob Melchiori, a standout high school athlete from Natick High. I was a standout wise guy from Boston English High. Despite our dissimilar backgrounds Bobby and I got along just fine.
At the end of a year marked by behavior that I would now insist should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of Islamic law should it occur anywhere near where I now live or in the vicinity of my teenage daughter, most of us went our separate ways.
Two years ago during the Derby, I was waiting for the fish to show up off Tashmoo jetty and struck up a conversation with another fisherman. He introduced himself as Steve Melchiori.
Retired Natick firefighter Galiano "Gal" Melchiori, 89, tries his luck on the North Shore.
I said I had had a roommate in college named Bob Melchiori. "That's my brother," he said.
I saw Bob again for the first time since those days spent in the town of Amherst last September. Bob, who lives in a small town south of Cleveland, was here to do some fishing with his brothers and father.
It is always interesting to meet friends we have not seen for many, many years. Seeing the aged version of someone whose youthful image is still frozen in your mind reminds you of the person you once were and the person you have become. One thing I know, I go to bed a lot earlier.
Earlier this month on Sept. 9 I received an e-mail from Bob. He said he would be visiting the Vineyard that weekend with two of his three brothers, their dad and his son Gregg to celebrate his father's 89th birthday. He said he hoped I would be around so we could catch up to each other.
Bobby, Steve, Rich, their dad Galiano and Bob's son Greg arrived in Steve's truck the day after I got the e-mail with a Harley tied down in the truck bed, and towing a Lund aluminum boat and bags of fishing tackle, chips and cookies. You have got to love people who come prepared.
Small and wiry in stature, Galiano was a large force in the lives of his sons whose respect and love for their father is obvious during any time spent with the group.
Bobby told me his father, who grew up in Natick, met his mother while stationed in Texas during the war just before he shipped out overseas. They celebrated 59 wedding anniversaries before his mother's death two years ago and raised four sons and two daughters.
Galiano still lives in the house he built himself.
The Melchioris are well established in Natick. Galiano was a Natick firefighter as was his brother. Another of Bob's uncles was a police officer.
"We couldn't get away with anything," said Bobby.
This fall the sons will accompany their father on his annual deer hunting trip to Maine. A trip he has made each year for over half a century.
Natick, now a suburb west of Boston on Route 9, is probably best known as the location of huge stores including Shopper's World. The Natick where Galiano first learned to hunt, fish and trap was woods. "Everything changes," Galiano said describing the Natick he knew as a boy.
The first evening the family arrived, while Bob and Greg watched two college football teams slug it out, I took Steve and Rich, partners in a painting business, and their dad fishing in Menemsha Pond.
I was not looking for big fish - just any fish so Galiano could enjoy catching a bass on Martha's Vineyard.
It was just getting dark and the tide was dropping fast as we waded out on the flats. Striped bass pursuing bait left wakes in the shallow water. Conditions were perfect.
Rich helped his father, who was wearing a pair of ancient-looking firefighter boots, wade out in the shallow water. His father was tentative about going out in the water in the fading light and unfamiliar surroundings.
Steve gently urged his father to walk out a little further where the fish were actively feeding. Galiano said he was fine where he was. A little more prodding brought a few more steps. No one pressed the old man.
A half moon rising glistened on the water as the light faded in the west. Small fish continued to swirl. A fish struck Galiano's lure but just as quickly broke off.
Rich stopped fishing and attended to his father's rod and retied a lure. Later he helped undo a tangle without a hint of irritation.
The tide went slack and then began to rise. The fishing dropped off. Galiano was not disappointed.
During the Derby it is easy to get swept up in the competition and the never-ending search for the biggest fish. And it is just as easy to forget why we fish.
Over the course of a few days I observed that Galiano was a man who was spare with his words and used to getting to the point. A few days after our trip to Menemsha Pond on the evening before he was due to return to his home, I talked to Gal about what it meant to be on the Vineyard with his sons and grandson and the pleasure he got from spending time outdoors.
"What do you like about fishing?" I asked.
"Fishing," he said.
What a perfectly good answer.
A Derby purple heart
Mike Poirier, an Edgartown builder, walked into The Times office Tuesday with a fishing story. That is not an unusual occurrence.
People often call or come by with all kinds of stories. I always listen with an ear cocked for the other story.
Mike, with a face tanned to a fine Derby brown, sat down and began his tale.
He said he fishes the Derby every year with his buddy Tom O'Hanlon of Edgartown. On Sunday the guys were fishing for false albacore off Edgartown Harbor.
Albies, fast mini-tuna capable of ripping of hundreds of yards of line from a reel before a fisherman has time to react, are an addictive species. Maddeningly difficult to entice to a hook, the experience of catching an albie is what keeps people casting and casting without success, that, and dreams of Derby glory.
Mike said feeding fish were erupting on the surface everywhere when he hooked up on the fly rod. It was a "typically frantic" Derby/albie moment said Mike as he played his fish.
His pal Tom, his good fishing friend, went running up to the front of the boat, I assume to cast to other breaking fish, caught his foot in an open deck hatch, and stepped on the hatch with his other foot mangling his trapped foot and ripping off a few toe nails.
Mike heard his friend fall in a heap on the deck. He said, "I could tell he was in major pain. I looked over and could just see blood everywhere."
I take a brief pause in this story in defense of Mike to say that unless you have been albie fishing during the Derby, what I am about to describe will probably be hard to understand.
With his friend on the deck in a bloody mess Mike said he mentally debated whether to keep fighting his fish or help Tom.
Kind of reminds you of those old John Wayne movies, doesn't it, where Ward Bond gets an arrow in the shoulder and tells Duke not to worry, he's fine.
Actually, I don't think Tom managed to say anything through his clenched teeth, but Mike kept on fishing.
As he brought his fish to the boat Tom got to his feet, I mean foot, picked up with the net and netted Mike's fish.
It was an act in the finest traditions of the Derby and one that Mike said he greatly admired.
The fish netted, Tom "went back to rolling around in agony," said Mike.
Mike asked his friend if he wanted to go in. "Hell no," said the Duke, I mean Tom, "I don't have a fly rod albie yet."
Listening to this story from a builder who walked in on a perfectly good day when he could be fishing or (ha, ha all you folks waiting for your builder, plumber, or electrician to show up) working, I put a direct question to Mike. "You feel guilty, don't you?"
Mike confessed, "A little bit."
Kids Mini Derby on again
The Martha's Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby committee will host kids day, a free tournament for children between the ages of 4 and 14, at the Oak Bluffs Steamship Authority wharf from 6 to 9 am this Saturday.
Kids day was originally scheduled last Saturday but was postponed due to weather conditions associated with tropical storm Ophelia.
The committee is reminding all fishermen that the recent closure of the recreational scup fishery means the kids will not be able to keep any scup and fishermen may not use scup for bait during the Derby.
Ed Jerome, derby president, said the committee plans to use a bucket brigade of sorts so that scup can be measured quickly and released. For the latest information, call your local tackle shop or check the derby web site at www.mvderby.com.
Tom Rapone of Edgartown, one of Coop's charter fishing captains, was pursuing the Derby dream of glory on too little sleep Saturday and left his Patagonia jacket on Lobsterville Beach.
Inside his jacket pocket was his date book containing fishing trip information and women's telephone numbers (just kidding about the women).
Needless to say, Tom is anxious to get his book back. Anyone with any information is asked to call Coop's at 508-627-8202.