If you are serious, or even half serious about fishing, start and keep a journal. A journal is a great way to make notes about what technique and what settings have produced success so that you can replicate them or adapt to your present or future conditions. A journal is simply a factual record of your outdoor experiences and easy to maintain. You need little more than a spiral notebook, small enough to fit in a pocket, and a pen. What information you will want to keep track of will vary with your type of activity, but here’s a good answer for fishing. (Bird hunting and big game hunting will be covered in later articles.) For fishing, record the obvious first, such as date, time, location (be as specific as possible) and tackle used. If you have a GPS receiver, take advantage, especially if you are trolling. Other electronic devices such as a depth finder can add key information. Also record your technique. If you are spin casting or bait casting, how are you retrieving? How deep? Fast or slow? Steady or jerk and drop? If you are trolling, how fast? Straight-line or S-pattern? Are you trolling near or over structure? If you are fly fishing, what retrieve speed are you using? Are you deep or shallow? Where are you casting from/to? For a dry fly or a stream, what drift technique are you using?
When you are busy fishing, when the bite is on, mentally keep track of what is working and if you change tackle or technique, how it affected your results. When the fishing is good, your memory will stick with you. Later when the action slows down, or in the evening, take a few minutes to jot some notes. You are there to fish. Take care of that first! Also be sure to write down what didn’t work.
Many factors besides location, date, time, tackle and technique affect your fishing results. So take notice of these additional factors: temperature, wind strength and direction, sunny, overcast, rain, water temperature, water level and anything else of note. Changes in conditions often lead to changes in behavior by fish. Fish are not among the mentally elite of this planets species, but they are highly instinctive and highly reactive. If you can identify similar circumstances when you had success before, your odds are better if you can reproduce your own actions. A change in air pressure or wind direction may cause the bite to begin or stop. With some species of fish, especially trout, a sudden increase in wind speed or change in direction may result in insects from shoreline trees and bushes being blown into the water and the trout will react. If this happens, make a mental note of the conditions, check the water for the type of insect, tie on a similar fly and get ready.