You’ve heard tell of it and likely watched anglers do it on videos or write about it in magazines, but few of us do it.  I’m talking about taking notes and recording conditions while fishing.  A few years ago during the February blah’s, I started doing some research on various components of my local fishery.  I wanted to get closer to nailing down high percentage conditions and the only way that I could have done this was by going back over 14 years of journals.

The notes don’t have to be Emersonesque, but should have relevant details that will help in formulating future decisions.  When should one start looking for steelhead?  When are smallmouth bass off their beds?   At what temperature does Hendrickson hatch?  Questions like these are easily answered if you have a journal and by writing them down and revisiting them, it galvanizes the important factors affecting your angling and helps one recognize patterns.

Important factors that should be recorded:

Where you fished.  Duuuh…

Moon cycle .  Moon cycles affect just about everything in nature, right down to humans.  Although finding hard, scientific data as to how it affects things is a challenge, there is no question that the days before and the days following a full moon, things get weird.  In my own journal, there was no denying that the period just before and just after a full moon, the fishing heated up.

Water temperature and air temperature (at least twice during the day).  Without a record of this data, it is very difficult to predict what will occur during the day.  However, with just a stream thermometer and a history, it makes it far easier to make adjustments to your presentation as the temperatures dictate.  A spike or drop in water temperature as little as 2 or 3 degrees can either turn fish on or off.  Knowing when to make adjustments is vital.  Further to that, water temperature also triggers events like hatches, movement, shedding of migratory fish like steelhead and salmon.

Wind direction and barometric pressure.  Talk to ten different experts and you may get ten different theories on why the wind affects angling, but one aspect will typically remain constant:  North winds, east winds or any combination of the two will typically bring a drop in barometric pressure and shut fishing down.  A south wind, west wind or any combination of the two will generally bring in more favourable weather or a rising barometer and turn the fishing on. The science behind it is somewhat convoluted but the idea is that game fish and the food that they eat (other fish, bugs, crustaceans etc.) sense the change before we do and react to it positively or negatively.

-Flows.  This is somewhat academic but river flows will often dictate where we find fish.  Where migratory fish like salmon and steelhead are concerned, river levels, or better still, what the levels are doing, (rising or receding) will tell us whether or not fish are holding or on the move.  Where resident species are concerned, river levels can and more often than not, do move fish around.  Low levels may find fish confined to deeper runs or pools where high water will typically disperse fish and make them less concentrated.

How was the fishing?  Of course, we need to know how all of this affected the outcome after collecting all of this data.  If you simply enter all of this information without a result, it’s moot, right?  So, after each entry, make notes like ‘The fishing was consistent during the AM but tailed off after the electrical storm.’    ‘May fly spinners were present but didn’t drop’, Or ‘Cahills began hatching at 5:45pm and peaked at 7:15pm’.   I used a Poor, good, very good and epic denotation at the end of my notes and I usually include how many fish were hooked, landed or lost.  Not that I’m a numbers guy, but if you are looking back at your notes, it helps to know exactly what that particular day yielded in the event that you are referencing a particular anomaly.  For example, I have experienced several “epic” days during my 30 plus years of  fly fishing and trying to nail down the consistencies on those days was achievable through my journals.   It’s not a slam dunk and I’ve been fooled often enough at the beginning of the day when I looked at the conditions and thought, “Wow! We are in for some good angling today”, and then ended up with much less, or conversely thought, based on the conditions, “Yeesh!  This is going to be a tough one.” But ended up hitting the ball out of the park.

Few things in nature are perfectly predicable, but with a comprehensive journal, you can take some of the guess work out of the decision making, and for anyone that has to book time off of work or a busy family schedule, this will help make better use of your time.

For an inexpensive and easy to store annual journal, a simple one or two page day timer works great.