Last season I started playing around with adding rubber tails and legs onto a bunch of my favourite nymphs and dry fly patterns. The rationale was it would add a bit of extra movement and “life” to the flies and that, at times that may make a difference. Testing went well, I caught lots of fish on those flies. The problem is, I can’t for the life of me tell you with any level of certainly whether they were any more effective than their non rubber tailed brethren. I wasn’t keeping any proper data and without data answering a question like that becomes mainly about the vibe and the feel. It becomes an exercise in angler bias.
Of course I have my suspicions and I have a few anecdotes that suggest that the wiggly tails made a difference some sessions. One particular session chasing midging trout in the middle of a big hatch where midge were carpeting the waters surface, little rubber tailed midge emergers outfished the same fly with a more conventional tail 3 to 1. On that day I actually tried to fish systematically to “test” the flies, rotating the two almost identical flies throughout the session every half hour or so. In that particular instance, I am sure the little rubber tails were converting more looks into hook up. But thats only one data point and it was hardly a normal day on the water. On the flip side, there were many other sessions where they made no discernible difference and others where they seemed to be less effective than more traditional offerings. So to be honest, the jury is still out on the effectiveness of the little rubber tails. To answer that, I need data!
Thinking about all that recently while tying up some big ugly attractor patterns for small streams, I decided the only way I was going to get more satisfactory answers to questions like the one above, to get data, was to start keeping a fishing diary. To record each and every session. Not only will it give me some data to answer questions that will help hone fly designs, I am sure meticulously recording each session, the temperature, the conditions, the insect activity, the flies used and similar information will make me a better angler in general. Part of improving as an angler is constantly testing assumptions, constantly updating techniques, constantly learning. An honest account of what actually happened will definitely help me do that in the long term. Obviously being a scientist and data minded, it will be electronic so I can make pretty graphs and the like. Its also going to be pretty data intensive so I can attempt to control for various variables. Services like google docs will mean I can update it on the water as it happens on my phone, avoiding the issue of having to double handle data. I’ll keep you updated on the results ad experiences keeping a diary over the coming years. Hopefully it provides some useful insights 🙂