It is easy to find yourself in a rut when it comes to fly fishing, let alone any activity for that matter. Too often, we find ourselves fishing the same run on the same river with the same old confidence flies to find that nothing’s changed. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone! It is tendencies like this that keep us from moving forward and improving ourselves as anglers. In some cases, we’ve even found ourselves fishing less, given diminishing excitement and enthusiasm that comes with the physical and self-discovery of fly fishing. As such, it is important to find ways to continually challenge ourselves and embrace being uncomfortable. To counter the effects of, what we’re calling, fly fishing fatigue, we’ve found that keeping a fishing journal has been highly effective. While it might sound like a pain at first, it is well worth your while. If you’re not yet convinced, here are 5 reasons why keeping a fly fishing journal will improve your game as an angler and keep the spark alive!
- Benchmarking is arguably one of the most important factors when it comes to progress, regardless of whether or not you are fly fishing. Without a baseline, or benchmark, it is incredibly difficult to know how you are performing as an angler and what you can do to improve. It allows you to analyze and interpret the things that are working as well as those that are not so as to make an informed decision around your tactics the next go around.
- Understand & Interpret Fly Fishing Variables: The more information you collect around previous outings, the easier it will become to identify the various relationships between your environment, tactics and productivity. Let’s say, for example, that you’re on a Colorado freestone river at 11:00 am in mid-October. It’s about 50 deg F outside, the skies are overcast and air pressure is low. Not only that, you can feel a front moving in and some moisture in the air. The river is quiet and you’re not having much luck. What do you do? Your choices are, keep randomly cycling through flies and trying different tactics hoping that the odds will turn in your favor. Or, you can reference a similar time on the water where you tracked your results and dramatically improve your chances of dialing it in. You might even sein the water so as to sample what bugs are actually present. Either way, at this point you know the variables at hand and can begin to strategize based on precedent.
- Expand Your Knowledge of Trout Behavior: We’ve said it a thousand times and we’ll say it again. Trout are predictable creatures and it just takes a little persistence and time to understand how they behave. Thinking back to our previous example of a time on a Colorado freestone in mid-October, you might have identified that BWOs are typically present this time of year and hatch in the late morning/early afternoon or when water temps are between 40 and 45 deg F. With this in mind, you can reasonably assume that baetis are likely to emerge sub-surface and that trout are feeding in the mid to upper water columns. Or maybe you recognized that fall on a freestone, cloud cover, low air pressure and a front moving in are the recipe for aggressive streamer bites. Either way, you’ve got something to go off of. While, at times, it may seem as though trout are smarter than they look, their behavior is really only motivated by one thing, survival. If you can put the pieces together, when it comes to the various factors at play, by referencing previous benchmarks, it will become incredibly simple to predict trout behavior.
- Timing of Hatches: If it isn’t clear by now, it is imperative to understand what is in the water. Sure, you will likely land a few fish on that “Guide’s Choice Flashback Dungeon Master in Vermillion” (not a real fly, for the record) that is meant to attract curiosity or imitate a number of aquatic bug species. However, you will dramatically improve your odds if you are fishing true imitation flies and if you are tracking what’s in the water every time you go out for later reference.
- Reflection - Like traditional journaling, logging your time on the water can be incredibly therapeutic as it allows you to reflect and recall the amazing days you had chasing trout, or whatever ichthyological preference suits you. Sometimes life gets in the way and it is easy to forget about all the good times you had on the water, whether it was an afternoon alone on the creek near your house or a well thought out and planned destination trip with your fishing buddies. Either way, detailing your experience of the day is sure to bring a smile to your face at a later date.