I started keeping a notebook on my fly tying desk very early on. In these notebooks, I have recorded new fly recipes, made a note of needed materials and documented proven patterns. These records have made it very easy to go back and recreate that one of a kind experimental fly pattern that worked well but ended up being lost to a fish or snag.
I rely on a standard Moleskine-type notebook for this task, but over the years I have used anything from a three ring binder to scraps of paper stored in a manilla folder. My paper notebooks contain handwritten notes, photographs and actual flies taped to the pages.
Lately, I have been experimenting with a digital version using my iPad/iPhone. The iPad allows me to record photographs right along side the pattern recipe. Also having an iPad on the tying desk is useful for watching fly tying videos. Using the phone comes in handy when tying away from home as it is always with me. My greatest concern is dumping a bottle of head cement over on my favorite electronic device, a fate that has occurred more than once to one of my notebooks.
It is interesting to see how your fly tying evolves over the years. You can see your skills improving over time as well as your taste in flies changing over time. Going back through your old notes helps you rediscover forgotten patterns. Many of the older trout patterns I repurposed and gave new life to as warm water patterns came out of the pages of these old notebooks.
Do you keep a record of your fly tying? If so I would love to hear about it. Leave a comment below or send me an email through the contact page on the website.