thought i could do it… GOD SENT me a message….one hour later… it is summer again… all I can say is it was ELECTRIC !!!! – Tony Stetzko
It’s funny how connected things are. There are forces we cannot even understand going on at any given moment pushing you along a path that did not make much sense at first. One day it all does and you welcome the arrival of such knowledge.
Life and the journey.
I did not pick surf fishing, it picked me. I was getting pretty good fly-fishing sweet water and thought I could transition that to salt. But no. And it was not for lack of wanting to try. So I’ll take you back to why. I was late to FB .. reluctantly I joined. Lucky for me I happen to know a couple of people who sent a friend request and I welcomed them from a past fishing message board. And (Keith and Amy) being the wonderful people they are recommended a bunch of their friends also. So there I was, new friends. All walks of life friends, and from all over. I did not know most of them. But it was important to me to make my experience on FB a good one so I kept the door to friendship open ever so slightly.
At first I did not talk much about fishing (shocking I know), had some real heavy stuff to get through. But I kept producing art and taking pictures. On one occasion I posted up a sketch which would mark the beginning of one of the very best friendships with man I would ever come to know. He commented on the sketch and we talked a lot about art – commercial art, photography, etc… and NJ
Fast forward and here I am sometime later working on this basic how to for beginners like myself in surf fishing. Reflecting on how I got here. And it was his push… to get my hands on a surf rod. Tony Stetzko – a man bigger than life itself. I was already going to the beach everyday exploring every inch of the ocean side, the back, and the bay. I was taking it all in and slowly letting it heal me. So with his encouragement I gave it a try. With a heavy bait rod and reel in hand off I went. From the first cast I knew this was it. One on one… I walked the sand and with each step and cast I accepted everything the universe gave me. I did it wrong. Wrong set-up. no belt, no surf bag, little gear, no idea. It rained, the wind was relentless, the sun sometimes painful, I tripped and fell on slipper rocks, walked through mud and sand fleas. Behind the sunglasses I shed a few tears, some-days a lot. But I let go and I forgave…. myself. I also learned to stop giving so much power to fear. The kind of fear that someone else hands you. I let go of so much at that water. And in turn started to believe in myself again, it’s healed me… that and those striped bass and their journey.
And so my friend and I talked about everything. Sometimes everyday. We talked about the good and bad, but a lot about that good feeling…. of being on the beach alone and seeing the sun come up on the water, stars, sunsets, surf, swell, tides…. dolphins in the surf, horseshoe crabs, blue crabs, porgy, blue fish, striped bass. He said he caught a few. How humble right.. because he is a record holder. He made written stories come alive, gave people enormous credit for just being kind to him, gave life to the crazy forces that align on the beach at night, there was jaws always in the surf and seals received a whole new zip code.
Tony made people feel special – I am not in one bit unique, there are so many, many friends of his in this world who shared the same kind of friendship with him. And so the talks went on.. and it was never about fishing technique except “keep moving”. It was always conversations about life, families, friends and the way people treat each other. A real honest to goodness friend who got this passion I have for seeing the good in everything and fishing. No judgement, just genuine and encouraging.
So I was right there in life accepting this friendship. One for years prior I would not have felt worthy to accept from anyone.
When Tony fell sick in November in my heart and I think everyone else too thought, he would get better. The severity was never as real as in the last couple weeks of just how hard the battle he was still fighting was going on. In light of it he had the capacity within himself to want to let go on his terms. For that we can all be grateful. But the loss is a hard one among all of us he has touched because he sincerely is a good soul. And what more really is there to life than to live in such light and love and share that with so many people.
What a beautiful legacy.
(Photo credit – Tony Stetsko in a personal message 2013)
I am grateful to have known him. I sincerely appreciate his good friend Danya’s offer taking the task of being my first call when I get lucky enough to get my first striper from the surf. Although I know Tony will be watching.
This past late spring start and summer went along. It was a slow start, lots of mistakes. But I started paying attention and asking questions. Little by little gaining some confidence to even ask. People like Allen W, John Beers, Keith, Chris Gately, Nick Luna, Steve Adams, Fran all started saying try this and do that and I was starting to get it. Everyday I went, everyday I tried throwing everything. I started getting bluefish. Ummm that was enough to make me lose my mind knowing what was possibly under them. The miles I put on my feet the last year are immeasurable. But my realization of this community of surf fishermen – (fly people too) is overflowing with gratitude. I posted about writing this how to and I had so many great people respond on all different aspects. I am going to share all of them one by one.
As I put the finishing touches and pictures on the first chapter to the next post with the help of John Basile and Lou Caruso (Plugs and Rods – For Beginners) I stopped first to recognize this force that works without us knowing and the connections. Most of all I really just wanted to say thank you to all the people helping me. You are all a testament of what good and kind people are. And each and every one of you have been wonderful mentors. And if your name is not on list it is coming… these were the people at the get go.. along the way so many more have offered their knowledge.
A great big Thank You to Tony for being my friend and whatever beautiful beach you are fishing right now I hope your soul is at peace. I am going to miss the talks and stories, the posts, but most of all, your enthusiasm for life. What a remarkable gift.
I leave you with the most valuable lesson I have learned from this …. and this comes from inside of me to you : sometimes we hesitate to invite people into our life because we feel like our space isn’t good enough. Things are a little messy, our place settings don’t match, or our situation isn’t quite what we want it to be. Don’t let that stop you. Invite people in any way and let the friendship take off like a 50lb pound bass hooked up in the suds during a nor’easter.