How do you document your favorite flies?

I’ve always been one to document my findings in whatever I’ve been doing. I suppose it comes from my need to document every step of a chemical reaction when I did my chemistry under grad. I’ve got journals about my astronomy observations and astroimaging, fishing, fly tying, etc. I even have a YouTube channel that is a video log of my fishing outings. Yes, I’m pretty type A.

For my favorite flies, I put together a book to document what I mainly use. It turned out pretty well I think. Here is a link to my write up about it:

How do you document your favorite flies?


Great idea Thomas, I take pictures and store them in Google storage (in the cloud)

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Thomas, that is amazing!!! That puts my fishing data journal to shame. You ought to publish more books for sale. Do you include a fly sample with each fly listing? Truly awesome.

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Since I don’t tie I don’t document. I figured it would be cheaper buying flies rather than getting all the thread, feathers etc for tying. Besides we have a small house and I would get in trouble if I suggested using one room as a man cave. And is it type A or obsessive/compulsive? :slight_smile:

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Maybe compulsive but not obsessive :laughing:

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I don’t. I am not a fillier. My filing system is much closer to the W.C.Fields’ method as shown on his desk in the movie [The Man on the Flying Trapeze].

I tell everyone I’m not messy and unorganized, my mind is just too complex to be limited by an organized filing system. [but no one buys that idea] It’s one of my great frustrations that I can not get my wife to understand why I get upset when she “cleans up my mess”, that when she “organizes my stuff” it destroying the physical record of my flow of interest, it’s like mucking about inside my mind. I’ll never be a disciple of De-cluttering Queen Marie Kondo,

However, I think one can gain great insight by keeping such records.

It reminds of of Edwards Demming’s statistical method for continuous improvement quality control. Wherein the idea is not to make a product with zero defects, as much as it is to determine the best product to make, and to make it well. Make the best wrong product, and you’ll still soon be out of business.

I recall reading a blog post by the Tenkara Guides guys about their trip to Japan and fishing with Fuji Hiromichi. While everyone else was expending time trying to decide what kebari to use that day. Fuji-sensei quickly picked the correct kebari that would be the most attractive to the fish feeding that day. Maybe Hiromichi-san is also a good record keeper. Or maybe it’s just decades of fishing, while paying attention.

I purchased a kindle book a few years ago. “Year of the Spider”, by Philip Storey. He keeps a detailed record of his flies. Each fly was described, with a note about the season or conditions when that fly has proven effective.

Followed by a record of : day of the week, date, time, temperature, percent humidity, wind (calm N.E), barometric pressure (rising or falling). A note about the weather the previous couple of days, and how it effected the stream conditions. How the day’s fishing went, other varying observations. Then a conclusion.

Tenkara Ajari, [aka Kazumi Saigo-san] is also a dedicated record keeper. Described by Paul Gaskell as being a human database. That other anglers in Japan will call and ask what stream to fish to target a specific species of fish that weekend.

On Dr. Ishigaki’s blog,

on the right side of the page you can find a link [西郷さん 尺ものを釣るマル秘テクニック, Saigo-san’s big fish secret fishing techniques or some similar translation]. The link is a file - saigo.pptx. It’s all in Japanese language of course. So difficult to read, but it is filled with information about streams, kebari, tackle, flow charts, etc.

Anyway, point is. People who keep such records can gain a lot of fishing insights, or just pleasure from keeping them. Maybe even earn a good reputation from what they’ve learned.

But I am too scatter-brained to take up doing that sort of thing. My method works for me. Well, it does, until my wife, organizes it for me.

Oh, I prefer paper journals too. Yours is nicely done. :smiley:

@dpnoll there is something in fly tying that is liberating as you can explore ideas that extend beyond the receipe book.

True the startup cost can be steep if you do not have a mentor or if you enjoy flies with varied materials and traditional fly patterns. but… if you fish tenkara where the techique and presentation is the primary focus and fly choice is more of minor adjustments of size and tonal value…then fly tying becomes far more economical.


@tvdavisid beautiful book.

My documentation is pretty easily maintained and sparse for me as it is what is in my flybox.

My material lists are pretty shallow…and hopefully i can continue to remember them. I only binge tie once a year. It usually takes me a half dozen flies to remember what and where.

This thread does have me considering documenting things better. Perhaps i will make a google doc for my aging mind. I have a really short list of flies i fish so it will probaly laughabily simple. I mostly focus on tonal and weight variance. It is a small matrix of attributes.

Tom, I would be interested in hearing about your thought process in fly choice on the water.

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I guess I go about this a little differently than many of you do. First off I do not have any favorite flies as such. I do keep a yearly fishing log book, denoting the water fished on each fishing day, the length of time fished compared to the driving and hiking times it took to get there and hiking in and out and to drive home.

Fishing Conditions: How high or low the water flows in streams were for that year and date, lake levels, wind conditions, clear or cloudy skies, water color and temperature, which informs me of the most likely productive fly colors and fly sizes to use in order to catch fish.

Fly Patterns Fished: I also record how the flies I fished did, including how far and fast the fish were willing to move to take each said pattern fished.

Tackle Notes: I also keep tackle notes for each fishing day, denoting the rod or rods used, the line type (Floating PVC, Level FC., Titanium, and or other floating and sinking T-lines I may use for float tube fishing. The lengths of the lines fished and their sizes, including tippet lengths and sizes - 5X for Stillwater’s and 6X for streams and how well they all did, especially in the wind.

Conclusions: I finish off each log entry with my impressions and observations on how to the day played out, unusual things noticed and learned, prospective changes to be made in the future as to the tying of flies, rod use, T-line applications, wading shoes and or hiking boot performance. In short, my impressions of anything that can be done to make for better more productive angling in the future. I find reading past fishing logs to be very enjoyable during the winters when we can’t fish, and that reviewing an entire season at one sitting often gives insights that were not apparent on a trip by trip basis…Karl

My choice of fly is influenced by the type of water that I’m fishing. And type of water is directly influenced by local geography. Since I don’t fish lakes with tenkara rods (I use western gear) I can only comment about running water. Here’s what I’ve found and seems to work for me:

  1. If the water is high to moderate gradient, I almost always go with a #10 hook fly. Very occasionally a #12 hook, but mostly a #10. I’ve noticed that I don’t catch as many fish with small flies in those types of flows. I’m a big believer in the “quick glance and grab” behavior of trout. So, I think they can see larger flies better than small flies in faster water, and so they go for it more. Also, I think a larger fly may make the fish’s caloric expenditure worth the extra effort.

  2. In slower water (slow, deep, clear runs) where the fish can get a good look at the fly a smaller fly will out fish a larger fly. So, sometimes when I’m fishing a fast flowing stream and come to a slow, deep run, I’ll change over to a sparser dressed, small fly. Then when I’m back in fast water, change back to the #10 hook. I get a lot of looks with the larger fly in slow water but fewer takes.

  3. If it’s full sun I’ll go with grey or black bodies flies. I try to hold off on any flash.

  4. If it’s cloudy or dimmer light, I’ll go with lighter colored flies or one’s that have some attraction (flash, bead, etc).

  5. If the water is off colored then dark and big (#6-8 streamer hook - Giant Oni kebari or Gartside Sparrow), or garish colors (think Squirmy Wormy in hot red with gold bead).

  6. If fish are taking dries I’ll fish smaller flies (#12 hook) just under the surface. If I decide to use a dry then it will be a #14 foam black ant or a #12-14 Iris Caddis. I carry one or two other dries, like the venerable Elk Hair Caddis or Parachute Adam’s, but I rarely use them.

  7. I like wool bodied flies. They absorb water and make the flies heavier when casting (of course, they are not heavier when in the water since wool is sort of neutral in buoyancy). I use that extra water logged weight to “splash” the fly down to get the trout’s attention. Again, this is in faster flowing water. Splash down presentation doesn’t work as well in slow moving, clear water; in those situations I go for a more finesse presentation.

  8. Hooks? I like the Fulling Mill 35065 black. It’s my preferred hook, size 10 of course. But I’ve also grown to like the FireHole Sticks 315 and 317. For my larger flies I like the FireHole Sticks 718, size #8 mostly.

Anyway, there are a few of my thoughts on why I choose the flies that I choose. I hope it makes sense.


Thanks Tom.

Very interesting. I will process this and tinker with some of it.

Thank you for so much detail.

I am curious do you mostly fish flies with soft hackle?

Yes, almost exclusively. I will fish futsū hackle kebari occasionally, such as when there is a good breeze blowing. This hackle style anchors better for me than other styles. But I mainly fish either jun style kebari (like traditional soft hackle style) or sakasa style kebari (reverse soft hackle).


Wow! I’m quite impressed with the detail and organizational prowess of you guys!

For myself however, I use a simple method. (And I’m a huge Marie Kondo tidying fan.) Just a nice, small box, with one copy of each fly I have had great success with and really like using. Yes, the flies that ‘Spark Joy’ when I tie one on my tippet. That little box is my document. They are the physical documentation of what’s in the little plastic box I carry to the water.

As I have gravitated towards a very traditional version of tenkara (since I live so near the tumbling streams of the Sierras) there are just six simple patterns, varying mostly in color ranging from very dark to very light.

That’s it. Just a little box and my memory of experiences.


Anyone here care to share photos with us of your favorite flies? I was just thinking, maybe someone else would find a new favorite.

Personally, organization is not one of my strong points in life; though I keep trying.

My documentation is simple and similar to several others here. I use photos. I store them online and on my laptop. Although, I must admit; I really like the method that @jamezu describes. That sounds like it would work great for me too.


@Peder I wish I could but I don’t want anyone to throw up in their mouth when looking at my flies.

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I’ll start posting some of my favorite flies on Teton Tenkara. Here’s the first of these posts:


Very cool thread. I do no documentation…and lots of anglers I respect seem to do so and I kind of suck so perhaps I should do that!

I do not get out a lot for full day or dedicated days of fishing…I typically squeeze in short spells close to home (not great water) or a few hours with my son (6 years old) in easy to access easy to walk along streams. I’m not sure a journal of those types of circumstances would help?? Am I wrong?

As for patterns…when I first started tying and tied just for fishing - my go to pattern I called “herl and hackle”. The recipes extend to a large variety from there… stiff or soft hackles, game birds or chicken, bead or no bead, hot spot or no hot spot, hook size or hook weight, “flash” rib or tag…

The tying bug got me though and I started to (and way more recently in quarantine) spend time learning about and trying to tie historic patterns. I now have tied enough flies that I am considering choosing when and where to fish with the goal of trying patterns! So sort of the reverse thought process talked about in this thread! This probably sounds crazy to most and I have no idea how I got down this rabbit hole…I am not sure I recommend it though :laughing:

@tvdavisid what company did you use to make your fly book? I love the idea and it looks like you were happy with the results right?

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I used Shutterfly to make the book.


Adam, there is nothing at all wrong with the way you have and are doing things. It is all your fishing and for your enjoyment. Please do whatever works for you and enjoy…Karl.

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I thought the same way for a long time. I figured it wasn’t worth my time given the cost of flies, and that is still true. A fly fishing mentor of mine finally talked me into tying my own flies. I’m glad I did and really love the hobby. It is something you can dip your toes in and only get a minimal tying kit with very few materials. It’s not for everyone though and you certainly don’t need to tie flies to be a great angler. It was a bonus knowing how to tie flies when I first started playing with Tenkara since I couldn’t go into a local store and buy Tenkara specific patterns.

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