Its purpose was to reveal trends that might allow me to catch more or bigger fish during future trips. For example, my best success occurred when water temperatures hovered between 55 and 62 degrees. That's no big surprise, because trout are at their most active in that range.
The log also showed that snowmelt seemed to turn fish off, probably because the snow, being slightly acidic, lowered the pH and put stress on the trout.
Nowadays, however, the notebook serves more as a repository for memories than as a source of angling wisdom.
Like McDaniel, I recorded every fish I landed, regardless of size. Unlike him, I also recorded the ones I hooked but failed to land. I find, as I leaf through the notebook's well-worn pages, that memories of some of the fish I lost stand out as much as recollections of the ones I landed.
For instance: One evening on Randolph County's Dry Fork, I landed eight rainbow, brook and brown trout that ranged in size from 6 to 12 inches. The logbook notes, however, that I also lost a nice brown trout.
I remember that fish. It took a Long-Tailed March Brown nymph in swift water, but broke off before I could bring it to net. When I examined the leader, I discovered that the tippet snapped just below a split shot I'd crimped on to help sink the fly.
According to the notebook, the best trout fishing I ever enjoyed was in 1983. That year I landed and released an average of 14.1 trout per outing. And no, I'm not that good a fisherman; a 55-fish day and a 46-fish day skewed the numbers way beyond what they otherwise might have been.
Last year, I averaged exactly four trout per outing. The math was ridiculously easy to calculate - one fishing trip, four fish.
Hence my desire to become Patric McDaniel. I'll never catch 200,000 fish; heck, at the rate I'm going, I might not catch 1,000 before I cash my chips.
Numbers won't matter, though. Being out there, getting sunburned, hearing the musical rush of water over stone, and feeling the throb of a trout on the end of my line will be its own reward.