Hometown Buckets

Lately I’ve been writing frequently about bucket list destinations and experiences, typically equating those desires with faraway locales. Indeed, the more you experience new environs, the more you crave wilder, more remote, more breathtaking locales, and big, new, stronger, rarer fish.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to catch arapaima on swimbaits, or char in the Arctic Circle, but the idea that to be a great trip something has to be expensive or distant is patently false. There are plenty of options for most of us that are within a day’s (or a few hours’) drive and don’t cost an arm and a leg.

Sometimes, I need to remind myself of that.

Indeed, four of the five personal bucket list destinations I provided last week, were not only outside the country, but also prohibitively expensive for all but a small portion of the one percent. I may someday go on one or more of them, but I can’t count on it. Realizing that led me to work on an additional bucket list comprised solely of trips any of us can do.

Catch a Fly Rod Trout in Virginia


I’ve spent a total of four days chasing trout with a fly rod, two in Montana and two in Alaska, which is like saying that the only places you’ve fished for largemouths are Falcon and Okeechobee. It’s holy water, special places that I didn’t fully appreciate while I was there. Just because I’ve been spoiled early on doesn’t mean that I won’t be able to value much smaller trout in fewer numbers, closer to home. Indeed, the fact that they might not be as easy to catch might be a feature rather than a bug. I still don’t know what the hell I’m doing, but I’m going to find a way to catch one (or more) in Shenandoah National Park or some other nearby streams.

Hit the Shad Run


I’ve lived in Maryland or Virginia, within a long cast of DC, for 42 of my 49 years, yet I’ve never fished for Hickory or American Shad at Fletcher’s Boathouse just outside the city. It’s the iconic area fishing experience, available to anyone who wants to stand on shore or rent a small boat on this rocky section of the Potomac. These “Poor Man’s Tarpon” grow to a few pounds, eat articles, and allegedly pull pretty damn hard. You can’t time their appearance precisely, but it’s not like it’s a long haul – I could even hit it for a few hours before or after work.

Topwater Bluefish


For most of you, your first fish was likely a bluegill or some other sort of panfish. Mine was a Chesapeake Bay bluefish. When I was six, my non-fishing dad and two of his friends chartered a boat on the bay to take their sons fishing. From the get-go, I knew it was the deal for me. When everyone else stopped to eat lunch, or lost interest, I powered through. Since then I’ve caught bluefish there and elsewhere – trolling, surfcasting, jigging, and even small ones on the Potomac while bass fishing – but I’ve never pursued them specifically with topwaters. They’re voracious, travel in schools and grow big. It seems like a prime opportunity in my backyard and I’ve never really looked into it. That needs to change.