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Do You Keep a Fishing Journal?

Over the years I’ve intermittently kept a fishing journal. It hasn’t been a great success. I’ve never been faithful. Over the past few years I’ve resorted to Facebook and Google Photos as a sort of de facto journaling system. Geotagged photos from my phone have been great to help me remember previous fishing spots and on my latest Wisconsin Driftless adventure I resorted to geotagged photos on more than one occasion to remember which stream I was thinking of from my previous trips. Memory is so fallible and those meadow streams sort of blend together after a year’s absence.

Facebook plays an interesting role too. I’ve had my Facebook Memories remind me that a certain hatch may be happening on a certain stream just now. Or maybe just remind me of a place I haven’t visited in a while that may be worth revisiting. This passive and haphazard system is far from perfect but not totally useless.

But recently, when picking up a notebook to write a shopping list I found one of my abandoned fishing journals. It was not extensive, but it did capture each day of a spectacular trip I’d had in Wisconsin a few years back. Paging through this notebook was absorbing and engaging in a way that my Google Photos/Facebook system is not. And it did remind me of some places that I needed to revisit.

However it did not give me any sense of the daily, monthly or yearly changes on any of the fisheries that it mentioned. The real wisdom and experience of a journal was not there. It was interesting but not really what a journal could be.

Recently there’s been a development in my life that and I’m hoping bring back my journaling and finally have the resolve to keep it going. I now have a second base of operations minutes from some of my favorite trout water in Pennsylvania. I can’t tell you how excited I am for that. And one big reason for that excitement is to finally be able to watch a particular piece of water over the course of the year and hopefully fill in some gaps in my fishing knowledge.

I think that’s what has always stymied my efforts in the past. Living about 3 hrs from my favorite trout streams, I’ve never been able to fish them often and consistently enough to get real sense of the flow of time. I’d get intermittent snapshots. And journaling those snapshots never formed a very complete story of the seasonality of the streams and the variability with weather, etc. I know one of the biggest gaps in my angling is that knowledge of trends in fish behavior, location, feeding habits, etc. over the course of the year.

So I got some “indestructible” field notebooks and an All-Weather pen. Now I’m ready.

Do You Keep a Fishing Journal? - Tenkara Angler - Anthony Naples

What Should I Keep Track Of?

Here’s what I’m thinking:

  1. Date
  2. Time of day
  3. Weather conditions
  4. Water Conditions, temp, general description of turbidity and flow (perhaps I can find a USGS gauge for reference…)
  5. Noticeable bug activity.
  6. Observable fish behavior; feeding behavior and holding locations, etc.
  7. Successful/unsuccessful fly patterns
  8. Successful/unsuccessful techniques and rigging

What About You?

Do you keep a fishing journal? If so what types of things do you keep track of? Is it a data driven notebook or more of an anecdotal journal?

Has your angling journal enriched your fishing and helped you grow as an angler?

Part of why I’m writing this article is to have some accountability. I figured if I wrote this and put it out into the public it might motivate me to stick with it. Another reason for this article is that I’m hoping to hear that some of you have actually been able to do it – and thus also be motivated by your success.

So please leave some comments on your journaling experiences. Thanks!

Do You Keep a Fishing Journal? - Tenkara Angler - Anthony Naples - Brown Trout

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  1. I take photos of all fish over a certain size (13 inches or larger) with my phone camera and then I log those catches in a google sheet keeping track of the date, time, size, water, species, stocked/wild, etc. I also keep a log of trips including river, time fishing, number of fish caught, time traveling, water temp, etc.

    I then create pivots on this data that show various statistics like number of fish caught per year, number of trips, time spent traveling, average fish per hour on a particular water. To be honest I’m not sure how much this affects my fishing habits but it has been interesting from an ecological perspective. For example – it appears the summer drought last year heavily effected the fishing last fall and into the spring of this year. It is also interesting for me to see how many fish I was catching in previous years compared to now as my fishing preferences have changed. I’m actually catching less fish now than in previous years as I’m more interested in smaller streams and wild fish than lots of stocked fish in larger waters (although that is still fun sometimes too).

    At this point I have pretty good data over the past 4-5 years or so. It will be interesting to see how long I will keep it up. 🙂


    1. Wow. That’s way more in depth than I’m going to attempt. But I really admire the approach. When you say “To be honest I’m not sure how much this affects my fishing habits but it has been interesting from an ecological perspective.” I can relate to that idea, that’s sort of what I hope to gain as well; a better appreciation of trout habits throughout the seasons and changing weather.

  2. I used to keep a journal. I transcribed those days into a spreadsheet. I still keep the spreadsheet. It helps me look for patterns and remember specifics.

    1. As an engineer by training – but no longer practicing, the idea of a spreadsheet is appealing (I have to admit I sort of miss them). But I suspect I’ll never be able to elevate to that level.

  3. Yes, I have been steadily keeping a fly fishing logbook since 1983. I am not sure why I did not start keeping track earlier, like back in 1970 after moving to the west coast, but, 1983 it was. My first notebook was a simple day/date pocket calendar distributed by some local real estate agency. That worked for the year. Then a series of 7½”X10” hardcover, lined notebooks comprising 192 pages with margin were utilized for several more years. These were great, as they had no stipulated end date, so could seamlessly crossover to the coming year. Every heading was hand printed in the margin and spacing remained fluid, as warranted by amount of details in that category. As fly fishing records, those books functioned quite well.
    In 1996 a proper, preprinted fly fishing journal was obtained through a local fly club fund raising auction. That was deluxe. No more hand printing headings; just fill in the blanks. It was a thick book of 300 pages of heavy-weight paper, nicely bound in light brown linen, with gold-leaf embossed cover and spine. That journal had good heft and in the hand it felt like it meant something.
    As my first formalized journal was coming to its last few pages, and no suitable heir was at hand, I decided to design my own-style fly fishing logbook. Categories of data were refined, the nuts and bolts of equipment, flies, weather, etc., all had their designated place, as did a generous lower section for comments and observations. A quick Internet search located a printing company which specialized in manufacturing bespoke logbooks. They offered several options as to physical size and page count; cover colour and embossing, and quantity to be printed, etc. My order was placed, double-checked for accuracy, then printed. In a couple of weeks my custom-made fly fishing logbooks were in hand. The final product looks and feels like it has substance.
    As with my snapshots, my logbooks help refine my memory of details from outings and helps keep me honest – or at least, that’s what I tell myself.

    1. NIce! Log books back to 1983! That must be an amazing wealth of data (and memories). Custom made log books sounds like a really nice idea.

  4. I do. I just started a couple years ago, and I can’t say I’ve had any major revelations. It is nice to look back at when returning to a piece of water that I might have only visited once before. Always leave myself notes on approach, point of entry, etc.

    1. That’s a good idea to mention approach and point of entry. I’ll have to note that in my logs.

  5. The beauty of video logging is the ability to record most of the particulars of each trip in visual and audible form. The event is captured in a way that can be shared quickly and broadly with others who might find enjoyment or value in vicariously joining in the experience. It lives in the cloud in perpetuity and is not likely to ever be lost, misplaced, or destroyed in a fire. No notebooks or pens with which to fumble, and no time lost on the water recording details. And finally, the biggest advantage for me, is never again dropping my smart phone in the creek trying to snap a photo of a memorable catch. As most of you know, Tom Davis is the ultimate best example of this approach.

    1. I have been a dedicated user of a fishing journal for the last 5 years and found it was a great aid in improving my skills and my success. However, this year after completing my third journal I found I lacked the desire to begin a fourth journal. I believe I have reached a plateau in my fishing skill that I am satisfied with and desire to move to a greater emphasis on experience over analysis. I opted to start an electronic journal that I capture a photo and create a haiku poem of each fishing experience. The photo’s are good the poetry is bad, but I’m enjoying immensely.

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