Mike Jones - KEEPING UP

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Friday, November 23, 2018
Giving until it hurts
Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Log jam
Fishermen like myths. Or so it seems, especially when the fable makes us look thoughtful or soulful or generally full of something. Not only do we wholeheartedly embrace these lies, we encourage them. In popular terms, I guess we consider it “branding.” If it helps push forward the general public’s perception of us as fishy Zen masters, then apparently we feel absolved of all guilt associated with our complicity in the deception.

Case in point: logbooks. Don’t even try to convince me otherwise. Your weak, half-assed protests fall flat on ears who are just as guilty as yours. We don’t do this and we’ve never done this, contrary to the sales efforts of those who keep alive the market for hand-tooled leather volumes bound with organic hemp paper and ribbon bookmarks. You or your loved ones may have purchased said logbooks, but you have never filled one out for very long. If I had to guess, the Las Vegas over/under on this assumption would be about two to two-and-a-half weeks.

Yes, we try. But, filling out a logbook is like so many other things in life we know would be good for us — despite the obvious advantages in doing so, we just can’t. We are sad little men and women when it comes to scribbling down even the most basic fishing information. I am perhaps sadder than the rest because I’m the writer. I’m the kid in school who rejoiced when the homework assignment was a five-page essay. Still, I just can’t do it. After several attempts, I rationalized my failure with this pretty nifty, professional self-delusion:

“Hey, I get paid to write. Why should I do it for free?”

It was an excuse that looked good on paper and it worked right up to the next time I was on the water wondering what I had done to catch fish the year before or the year before that.

My next excuse seemed fairly obvious: If I had actually compiled a fishing logbook, I most likely would have left it at home. I’ve done it before with situational lures and all manner of tackle items geared for very specific purposes, so forgetting a logbook would hardly be a stretch.

If you’re wondering why I wouldn’t store the logbook in my boat, not so fast. The whole mythological object of the fishing logbook is to settle down in a red leather chair, fire up a fine cigar, taste the sting of a barrel-aged bourbon and wax poetic about the day. If there had ever been a logbook with my name on it, you would have found it on a side table, in a den, with Colonel Mustard.

For the current generation of anglers, such arguments may seem laughingly primitive. Who writes anything down anyway? To them, a logbook is only a mobile phone away.

All are valid arguments until you actually have to input the data. Then, it doesn’t matter how the information gets from us to a logbook. Although cell phone photos may appear to be the obvious answer to the conundrum, I think you only need to recognize how many photos ever again see the light of day. In the minutes or hours — maybe even seconds following an event, only the rarest image finds an afterlife. In most cases, the majority seem to just go away, lost in a vast cloud of storage, much the same way Polaroids ended up in long-forgotten shoeboxes.

In reality, the logbook concept doesn’t matter because we are the weak links in the system.

Unless maritime law forces you to keep a carefully annotated logbook, it ain’t happening. About the only chance for anglers to have ever kept and maintained logbooks for any appreciable amount of time is if they had all been teenage girls. Even so, the entries would most likely be wildly disjointed:

Dear logbook diary,

Bradley is dreamy.

I hate my parents.

The fish were on outside bends at 15 feet on green pumpkin Senkos.

No, the logbook is simply part of the fantasy world that has embraced other angling unicorns, like the fisherman’s workbench. Fly fishermen, in particular, seem to be fascinated with this little bit of fiction and some appear willing to pay for it. Expensive hardwood desks, complete with tiny, throwback drawers offer a quick-start promise of instant ambience. For most of us, the oiled wood of such an impressive piece of furniture would quickly be compromised by everything from paint to plastic to corrosive fluids. Factor in chips, gouges, dents and all manner of scrapes and disfigurements, such things always look better in the catalog. As much as I may have wanted one, my workbench never looked like the one I saw in my head.

Same with logbooks. They are merely an expression of our better selves. If you happen to be blessed (or perhaps, cursed) with hyperthymesia, the ability to remember nearly every moment of your life in amazing detail, then a logbook could be written off with hardly a thought, if that. For the rest of us, it is something that lingers in our collective subconscious like the desire to work out regularly or play the guitars we’ve owned for fifteen years. If Facebook doesn’t satisfy the urge to document your every waking hour, worry not. As much as writing down the details of an angling life can be a noble and just pursuit, it is also a monumental waste of time if you adhere to a time-honored, fishing maxim: You can’t fish history.

That’s right, a logbook violates what many consider to be a major stumbling block for anglers. Knowing what happened a year ago, some might say, only paints you into a deadly corner. Instead of reacting to the conditions, you are chained to them. Instead of thinking out of the box, you have taped yourself inside of one. Instead of looking at the world from the perspective of a wide-angle lens, you are seeing it through a telescope.

Be proud. Stand up straight and loudly proclaim “I don’t fish history.” Then, text your buddy and see if he can remember what they hit on last year.

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