You should. I know, I sound like your high school English teacher. My high school English teachers told me to keep a written journal also, and I didn’t pay attention.
But then an interesting thing happened. I took up fishing as a hobby, and I soon learned that I actually liked catching fish more than casting at them. And I needed a way to remember just what I did right in order to hook up. So I started jotting down notes in a little binder—what baits or flies I was using, what the weather was like, where I was, what the water conditions were—and that became my handy reference.
I branched out and started taking notes specifically on fly fishing, including lessons I’d learned from others, the mistakes I made (and how I fixed them), and so forth. Believe it or not, when matched with notes from the late great Charlie Meyers, then the outdoors columnist for The Denver Post, those scribbles became The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing.
To tell you the truth, no matter where I go to fish, whether I’m “working” or not (I know, it’s a stretch), I always bring a small journal for recording thoughts and observations. You just never know what you’re going to see and learn on the water, and it’s always hard to remember hours later. Pretty much every story I write, online or in print, can be traced back to one of the stacks of ratty notebooks now in my basement.
Whether you plan on writing professionally or not, keeping a journal of fishing experiences for your own benefit is a good idea. It’s actually entertaining to leaf through pages and see personal thoughts evolve. Sometimes you can read your own words and say, “That’s brilliant! I wish I had thought of that. Wait… I did think of that!” Other times, you read and simply wonder, “What in the world was I thinking?”
There’s no pressure, of course. Regardless of your ultimate motive, you should focus your journals for an audience of one—yourself. And who knows, maybe years down the line, a grandchild might pick up an old notebook and read your thoughts on fishing.
Maybe they’ll even decide to give it a try—and write about it—themselves.
Kirk Deeter is the editor of TROUT, an editor-at-large for Field & Stream, and the co-author of The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing.