BREWSTER – “Striper fishing the Brewster flats at night,” said fishing guide George Sylvestre. “There’s nothing more interesting.”
One recent evening, Sylvestre, 53, of Waltham and Brewster, was in a parking lot talking to a scrum of fisherman that he was about to guide for a night of fishing on the Brewster flats off of Paine’s Creek Landing.
The fishermen who hired Sylvestre were friends who met in business school almost 30 years ago at the University of Virginia. They have gathered once a year since graduating to fish together in a spot. This year, they chose Cape Cod.
Sylvestre’s role in all of this is “to make sure everybody catches a fish and everybody has a good time.” For a group like this that knows what they are doing, they get a guide for knowledge of local waters, he said.
“I bring the rods, plus beer plus premium cigars,” he said a few days after the group left town. “It’s just good to see these guys catch up.”
After the catching up, comes the catching of fish. “They get competitive with one another. Mine is bigger than yours. Yeah, but I caught more than you,” said Sylvestre, mimicking the conversations he heard.
All the while they were guided by Sylvestre. “I always go back there. The topography of that particular part of the Brewster flats is fascinating because it dictates the way the fish behave.”
“But it changes every day because the tide changes every day, depending on what happens with the moon,” said Sylvestre.
The tide dictates everything. “There are a bunch of spots you want to get to at different points of the tide,” said Sylvestre.
“You move with the outgoing tide,” he said. “In the middle of the tide there’s a spot to be, they just group up there. At those points of the tide the outgoing water concentrates the bait fish. The bass know where to go. Their lives depend on it.”
With experience, Sylvestre said, he has learned where to go with the tide as well. The idea is to take those he is guiding on the same journey as the bait fish and the bass.
While Sylvestre’s full-time job is as a project manager with a biotech firm near Boston, his guide business, Sylvestre Outdoors, that he started as a hobby to stay close to this three sons, has turned into a nice side business, he said.
The genesis of the idea to start a guide business came while sitting around with his three sons after a ski trip, he said.
Sylvestre, an Army veteran, had been guiding for Project Healing Waters, a group that helps disabled vets deal with disabilities by learning things like fly tying, rod building, and fishing.
Meanwhile his sons were getting older and he was looking for an activity to do together with them. His guiding became a topic of discussion after the ski trip.
His youngest, Gregory, 13, was “getting into Go-Pros and making videos. My middle boy (Ryan, 26) works for an advertising company. He made the website.” His oldest son, Jacob, 27, is currently in the military stationed on the West Coast. “He said, Dad, I’ll come back and help you guide.”
A family business was born. While he does take groups like the experienced fisherman having a college reunion that he guided that recent evening, Sylvestre said, “We’ve positioned ourselves at the entry level of fly fishing.”
Most of those he guides are learning to fish, he said. “I like to coach,” he said.
For beginners, “I get to watch them catch their first fish. You can never catch your first fish again, but I get to experience them catching their first fish,” said Sylvestre.
“When I see a person catch their first fish, it takes me back to the day I caught my first fish with my grandfather,” he said.
Sylvestre was five or six years old, he said. “My grandfather was in the construction business. Behind his gravel pits were some ponds. It was late in the fall. He said it’s time for you to catch your first fish.”
“I had a little Zebco fishing rod. It was super easy to operate with a push button reel.” His grandfather showed him how to cast the rod. “I caught this pickerel It couldn’t have been more than ten inches long, but it seemed like a whale to me.”
There is a photo that exists of that moment with his grandather, said Sylvestre. “I’m grinning and he’s standing behind me grinning.”
“When I see someone catch their first fish, it’s like me channeling my grandfather. I’m grinning,” he said.
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