New Year Bucket Lists by Mark Usyk

Here they come, as sure as the New Year. The resolutions. There’s the join a gym and lose weight crowd, and the eat healthier crowd, the find a new job crowd, and the reconcile with a family member types. But the one we’re probably most interested in would most likely be the fishing bucket list crowd. The I’m going to catch a musky on the fly rod, or the I’m going to fish in the Florida Keys, the I’m going to knock off at least three fish off my bucket list this year angler resolutions. We all have such good intentions, or maybe it’s delusions. Some anglers are actually going to make these things happen. They’re going to tell their buddies this New Year’s Eve at some party that their New Year’s Resolution is to take a trip to Labrador and catch a six pound brookie, or to take a trip to South America and fish for golden dorado. And they’re actually going to pull it off. Let me make one thing clear. If it’s you, if you make one of these crazy and awesome fishing bucket list resolutions and then carry it out and make it happen, I hate you. And you’re awesome.

I’ve got a bucket list for fishing like most anyone else does. And of course it’s not very realistic. What’s the point of having a list of fish you want to catch before you die if they’re completely normal and easy to find and catch? Goliath tiger fish in hippo infested waters. Taimen in Mongolian rivers that take months of planning and days of traveling just to get to. Brook trout in Labrador that weigh more than your children when they were born. Pike in remote Canadian lakes that feed on everything and anything because they can. Tarpon. Golden dorado. Arapaima. I’ll quit. You get the idea. It’s a list probably very similar to a lot of other angler’s lists. Only I’m about to get real. There’s a ninety-five percent chance that I’ll never fish for ninety-nine percent of these. It’s fun to have a bucket list full of crazy and exotic fish in faraway places, but to me that’s all it is. A fun list. It’s not realistic in the least. Unless National Geographic or some publisher knocks on my door and asks me to go on these adventures for them, which is even less realistic than the list itself, it’ll always just be a list in my head. Nothing more.

It’s time to get realistic. Come up with an angling bucket list that I have a chance of completing. Something I can see and touch in the world I live in.

There’s got to be a couple hundred different species of trees you come in contact with in the state of NY while traipsing across the landscape in search of tales and scales, and I’d assume at this point I’ve snagged a good number of them. But I think I might start keeping track. I wonder if I couldn’t snag them all before I die. It seems a much more attainable goal than traveling to other countries, and I’d think the danger factor would be a good deal less than arguing over bank space with caiman or nile crocodiles, so Holly should be a little more onboard with it. I think it’s time to make a list, and start checking them off.

I could keep a little pocket note pad in my chest pack with a list of trees and as I snag each one check them off. But to keep it interesting, and fair and sportsman like for the trees, I won’t allow myself to purposefully snag trees, no. I’ll only count the ones that I didn’t try to snag. The ones that sneak up behind me and take a fly fair and square, or the ones on the other side of the creek that I try to cast under and end up by pure mistake from lack of skill in a tug of war with.

And this has the potential to change everything. Not only will I be checking off an actual bucket list connecting to fly fishing, but it has the ability to gain me more hook ups and less snags. If it’s on a list and I’m hoping to check it off, it’s obviously a hook up, not a snag. I can see it now. Coming home after a day on the water somewhere… How was your fishing today Honey? It was pretty good. I had a lot of hook ups. Checked some species off my bucket list.

And it’ll expand my knowledge a little too. I’ll have to start carrying a small book to identify the trees I hook into. Where I’m in ignorant bliss with the bugs, I’ll become an expert with trees. I’ll become the guy everyone wants to talk to at parties because of my intimate knowledge with the forest. When I begin referring to trees in friend's back yards with their scientific names they’ll know that they’re in the presence of a truly dedicated angler who has mastered his craft. That’s a good looking Liriodendron standing at the back of your lot. I checked one of those off my bucket list just this past week. Not a very good fighter though. Soft wood, weak branches.