Building a Fire in Wet Conditions

One of the most essential survival skills is the ability to create fire, no matter what the circumstances. Fire is the spark of life in a survival situation. Today, we will demonstrate a fool proof technique on how to build a fire in extreme wet conditions.

Essential Tools:

  • Fire starter (lighter, matches, ferro rod, etc)
  • Twigs and some larger logs/branches
  • Tinder (Manmade or natural)
  • Knife/ax/saw or some sort of sharp for collecting materials
  • Knife sharpener

20180902_190336

Step 1: Collect your Materials

Try to find as much dry wood as possible. This might not be many, so grab everything you can. Always attempt to pull off of standing trees, rather than from branches on the ground. Wood on the ground tends to be much more saturated, deadened and wet than from standing branches. These are the particular types of wood you will be looking for:

  • pencil lead and pencil width twigs
  • larger branches (thicker than your forearm) and even larger, if you can find it

Use your axe/saw/knife to chop down these tree limbs and collect them in a circle around your intended fire building area.

Natural tinder is very difficult to come across in extreme wet conditions. Collect what you can, and line the sides of your fire building area with it. It can be dried once you get the fire going, and used later. Collect any dried materials you can find and keep them dry, even if it means a strand of dead grass at a time. Attempt to carve through the bark on standing trees to access fireknot and inner bark that may be dry.

I highly suggest having Man Made Tinder as part of your kit at all times. These tinders will potentially be life saving in a survival situation in extreme wet conditions. See our post on Man Made Tinder for ideas on types of tinder to use and keep on you.

Step 2: Prepare Your Materials

20180902_193834

This is the most important step for creating the initial flame in a wet environment.

2A. Chop your branch into forearm sized logs utilizing either your axe or saw. Ensure you do this to all of your larger branches. Twigs can just be snapped to the same length.

2B. This is how you keep the flame alive. Take a stack of your logs and split them at least four times (through the middle, then through the middle of both of those pieces, long ways).

20180902_194537

An easy way to do this is by using the baton method. Line your knife along the top of the log, sharp end against the log. Using the blunt end of your axe, or a rock, or whatever blunt object you can find, whack the center of your knife until it pierces and sinks into the center of the log. At this point, continue to bludgeon your knife (careful not to destroy the tip) either on the handle side or the tip side (or both, alternating), until your knife has sliced down the log and the log splits.

At this point, take each side of the split log and repeat the process until you have four pieces. Continue to do this if the piece is thicker than your axe handle.

You must split the wood in order to reach dry material to keep the fire alive. Do not skip this step.

Remember, create a pile of wood that could sustain the fire for hours. Keep a good pile of non-split logs as well. You will be able to dry and use these later.

 

20180902_193825.jpg

20180902_190917 (1)

Step 3: Build Your Base and Light Your Tinder

Use rocks to create a fire pit, and line the middle with all the semi-dried tinder materials you have collected. Create a smaller inner pit utilizing some of the large logs you collected earlier that you did not split. These will not be lit yet, but they will be dried by the initial fire you will create, and eventually become the heart of the ongoing flame.

It might be frustrating to get this tinder lit, especially without man made. Hang in there. Once you get a small flame, blow on it to maintain and and have your thinnest twigs at the ready.

20180902_195213 (1)

Step 4: Add Materials to Flame

We will first add the thinnest possible twigs, which will dry quickly and keep the flame going. Use the “log cabin” arrangement technique and slowly add in thicker twigs. For a more detailed explanation of this method, see our Twig Fires post.

Next, add your split logs to the flame. Because these should be the driest source, they will light the most readily and create your full fire.

20180902_200736

Step 5: Keep the Flame Alive

Ensure you keep feeding the fire with these logs. Note, the wet logs are still lined outside the fire as a base. The split log fire will get hot enough to dry out these larger logs. These logs will become the long term basis for the fire. The flames will either engulf them after you continue to feed it split logs, or you can manually add them yourself after they sufficiently dry. Use various twigs and other easily lit materials to spread the fire as necessary over other drying logs.

20180902_212423

That is about all there is too it. Continue to line with logs you need dried and feed with the now dried materials you have. This method is foolproof for lighting a long lasting fire in a wet environment.

 

Want to light a fire with less maintenance? See our How-To in building an Upside Down Fire to learn how to create a slow burning fire that can last hours without touching it!

William O. Huske Lock and Dam #3

20180812_131433

 

Long story short, I got into a pretty serious car accident, totaled my ’04 Jeep Grand Cherokee, and ended up with a concussion that was worsened by being active afterwards. So Dan and I haven’t fished in a good few weeks. Well, this morning, I was feeling good (finally a day without a headache), and decided to do some research on carping in the area.

We were huge into carping (as anyone who has read any of our previous Korea posts) when we lived in Korea, but not once we moved back to the states. Sure, we gave it the ole college try a few times, cane poles in tow, but hung it up in favor of sport bass and multi species.

That is until today. Scouring the bowls of fisherman forums led me to the beautiful William O. Huske Lock and Dam #3, between Fayetteville and Tarheel, North Carolina. Off NC-87, down a well padded down gravel road, we were greeted with a slew of picnic tables and benches, and overhead cover areas. The parking was spacious and the area consisted of the large dam itself, and a very well kept boat launch. Stone breakers lined next to the dam on the left of the launch, and on the right, a slight hill of mud and rocks.

20180812_131440

Unfortunately, when we first arrived, there was a good amount of people there with poles just lined up all along the landing. We sort of awkwardly scoot ourselves just to the right of the boat launch, looking around for some real estate, when the fellow upon the small hill picked up and left. We didn’t skip a beat in grabbing his spot.

Carp angling isn’t the most popular type of fishing around (though more popular in NC than other areas in the U.S.), and especially not wild carp. There’s a bunch of pay-lakes within an hour or two of Fayetteville, but we’ve never delved. Anyways, due to this, the types of bait we used to use in Korea (The powder we’d mix into doughs) is a little tougher to come by so we did what good angler do and we improvised the shit out of it.

20180812_125845

A quick “How-to” for making effective carp bait with simple household ingredients! We took Betty Crocker insta-mashed potatoes, Wonderbread Hot dog bungs (torn into pieces), and Quaker Oats minute oatmeal, and tossed it into a bowl, mixed with water. The result was a paste of similar consistency with your run-of-the-mill carp bait.

20180812_125813

It was a little too sticky with the first few casts, so we added extra water. With this concoction, we made fist-sized dough balls to throw onto our method feeders. We also forgot napkins, so had to skip on over to the shore to rinse our hands every time.

20180812_125829

Our method feeders were tied to these pre-tied carp hair rigs from Korda that came with a size 6 wide gap hook. On the loop, we threaded fake corn.

20180812_125835

Brand was Enterprise Tackle. Slung these bad boys in a little past the … not sure what they were… stilling basins? The big structures in front of the actual sluice gates on the dam. We set our poles on our Rod Pod, which has light and sound indicators for when the drag begins to pull. Our drags are set pretty low for this, both reels with a bait runner setting.

20180812_123508

 

Then the waiting game begun. It was a beautiful, but blazing hot North Carolina day. We were lucky to have a little bit of shade from the nearby trees. We brought our lawn chairs, so sat and chatted about life. About an hour after arriving, we still didn’t have any action.

20180812_131448 (1)

I had brought a regular medium-action rod to fool around with in the mean time, just to pass some time. At this point I had sat back down with Dan and he was getting a little grumpy. After all, I’d dragged him 45 minutes away on a 100-degree day to a landing untested… and we weren’t catching shit. He cast his doubts with his usual line, “so, when do you want to leave? I’m so hot. I’m getting bit.”

20180812_123503

And I said, “Damn, I just want that thing to go off and start beeping like crazy.” And no kidding, a minute after I said that, the rod pod started going berserk on one of the lines. Dan jumped into action, reeling wildly to get that baby and and man, it felt huge. Sadly, whatever monster lurked below spat out our fake corn and carried on with his life. It was a disappointment, but it was also a signal: there are fish here, and they’re biting our weird mixture of household foods. It wasn’t too long after recasting with a fresh “dough ball” that it went off again.

20180812_125120

Dan pulled up the first golden bonefish of our outing. An absolute textbook common carp. We were a little too excited and forgot to weight him, but he was fairly good sized, I’d estimate in the 8-10lb range. This guy was hooked perfectly too. The purpose of the fake corn being on the hair rig, slightly below the hook is because carp suck in and blow out when feeding. So they suck in the fake corn, and when they blow it back out, the hook gets caught right on their lip. He pulled this beauty in better this time, angling the rod against the direction of swim. Landing was a little difficult because we forgot our landing net and were on a bit of a ledge. Nevertheless… it was on. Baited the line back up, and casted into a similar area. The zone they seemed to be swimming in was fairly shallow (I would estimate less than 8 feet) under a tree that was rooted in shallow waters.

20180812_135320

This time I had the honors. This was a brutal fight and the adrenaline was shooting through my veins. At one point, the carp began swimming toward me, and I lowered the line in disappointment, declaring, “I lost the fish!” Low and behold, when reeling back in, I realized the thing was still attached. I had to move onto the boat launch to land this bone, and when he came up, he was still fighting. He weight in at 9lb 6oz, now my personal best catch. Pretty happy about this one, and another textbook, gorgeous common carp.

Attach2701_20180812_140655

Dan brought in the last one on a line I had cast out fairly shallow right in front of the stilling basin. He didn’t want to weigh it because “it looked smaller than the last one,” but still a stunning koi. All were released to swim another day, and we packed it up because our dogs were at home waiting. Pretty incredible day of angling for a couple hours at the lock and dam, and we are absolutely back into carp fishing, with a vengeance. It’s good to be back!

 

Ice Hunting

20171225_164104

Woke up to some freezing temps, and a layer of snow in Connecticut. Being early in the winter season, not all bodies of water are locked up yet, and some are thicker than others. I decided to take measurements into my own hands, and head out to see if I could find my own “honey pot.”

20171225_105052

Of course I brought my partner with me, who was very excited to experience her first real snow. First stop, a small lake on Gulf Road, across from Soapstone Mountain access lot.

20171223_151403

To measure the ice, I dig a hole with my auger ever ten steps, then scoop out the slush. I place my tip-up spool at the bottom of the ice, and measure up. The spool begins on the 15″ mark, so I just count from there.  Unfortunately, freezing rain put about an inch of water over the ice and it was incredibly uneven. Didn’t have much luck here.

20171223_150555

So we moved onto Hurd’s Lake which was shrouded in an incredible and blinding fog. Again, it was layered in rainwater, so I stayed fairly close to the edge. If you look at the picture, it actually looks like open water, but it wasn’t. There was a good 4-inches of ice locked up beneath the slushy top. Again, though, no luck here.

20171225_164116

Finally, just by nature of wanted to catch a fish after skunking at all those different lakes, I just headed to my old favorite honey pot, Dennis Pond. The pond itself was covered in snow, without any sign of human tracks on it. Made a trail of holes 10 feet apart out toward the middle, and two rows of two holes across. Ice was easily 3.5-inches in all the spots I tested.

I began jigging with 2-lb test line and little red wigglers.

IMG_20171227_090431_977

Brook was excited by all the snow and ice and just being outside in general, so naturally, she completely went berserk, getting a huge case of the zoomies. She ran around like a wild animal all over the ice, much to my disdain, because the ice was untested. She ended up with her two hind legs in a hole and I had to put her in time out in the car to thaw out the rest of the time.

But in the mean time, I did manage to pull out a chain pickerel from one of the holes, successfully ending my skunk streak.

20171227_160758

Had to pack up the rods and reels and head home after the sun went down and my feet turned into popsicles. Hoping to find another honey pot in the future, still searching!

Figure Eight (Flemish) Knot

20171126_174411

Use: Stoppage (similar to an overhand knot), often used in sailing on the mast, the base of the climber’s knot (double figure-8 knot), anchoring, etc.

 

Step 1: Create a “Bight”

20171126_174315Simply fold the rope over itself, leaving a loop, without crossing the rope.

 

Step 2: Over, then Under

20171126_174329Using the free end, weave the end over the long end, and back under to the same side you began, creating a loop.

 

Step 3: Through the Loop

20171126_174337Using the free end again, weave the rope over and down into the loop you created

 

Step 4: Pull and Tighten

20171126_174411

Simply pull both ends of the rope to tighten into a figure eight knot. If you have done each step successfully, your knot should resemble the number 8.

Too easy! Check out our other knots in our step by step survival knots series.

Dennis Pond

20171217_151056

Ice season is here and we are up North for the holidays!

Finally, after a long year of waiting, the ground is covered in snow, and the lakes thick with a layer of ice!

Well… not that thick. Sadly, the last week was freezing cold (twenties and below), but this upcoming week the winter weather has taken a turn for the warmer. The ice is slipping away beneath our feet (all 3.5 inches of it).

At least we were able to get in some lines before the melting began. We stopped by an old favorite, Dennis Pond, to do some jigging.

20171218_114121

Passed a couple of wild turkeys on the way. Always nice to see the local wildlife.

20171217_151102Scenery was breathtaking as usual. Drilled about 6 holes (one every 10-feet, laterally and outward). Got to about 10-ft depth, but the ice was not exactly the safest. At about 3.5 inches at most going toward the center, we did not venture too far out. Water temperature was about 34-degrees F at the surface beneath the ice.

20171217_154349

We used standard jigging techniques, with little red wigglers as bait, and small spoons for lure.

Caught a few little chain pickerel which are always a fun catch. It was pretty cold out though, as you may be able to tell by Dan’s ski coat and 7 pairs of pants.

20171217_15441820171218_121101

Things were getting slushy, quick, though. Our feet were wet and frozen, but between the snowy scenery and continuous action on our ice rods, we stuck around and  sucked it up.

20171218_13063220171218_130606

Patience is a virtue, however! I was finally able to pull a decent sized large mouth.

20171218_134300

Dan was on fire with the pickerel game too.

Overall, a fun day on the ice. Excited to get back to it once temperatures go down next week. Dennis pond is a perfect ice fishing pond!

Tank Creek

20170916_141224

Instead of searching far and wide for fun new fishing spots, this time we got local.

We found a creek less than two miles away from our home, and decided to give it a go. Admittedly, it wasn’t the most aesthetic of locations and definitely did not have the upkeep of public ponds or national/state forest areas, there was something a little enchanting about a little semi-stagnant pool we found beneath a small dam.

The way the water swirled into its soft current seemed promising.

20170916_155436

And we were not disappointed. This little bass infested pool in Tank Creek provided a fun opportunity for us to experiment with different lures and techniques.

The most successful seemed to be a version of the slow pitch jig using soft plastics like the Zoom U Tail in June Bug or the Zoom Lizard in Chartreuse/Pumpkinseed (6″).

s

Unfortunately, the creek was relatively close to the road so Brook did not have the luxury to roam like at Kiest.

Through trail and error, we managed to toss our casts softly under bushes and small rock bunches which produced some of our best bass catches yet.

20170916_142235IMG_20171029_115651_780

We also utilized use of 6″ Yamamoto senkos in various colors. We always used a off-set hook, a texas rig (since the creek is full of snags), completely weightless. The creek was small enough that we did not need any additional weight for casting strength.

Who knew that such a small space held such nice fish!

20170919_151146

We came back to this area since it was so close a couple times and continued to have relatively good success. The small pool combined with it being not fished often seemed to push our luck.

20170917_165242

However, due to the nature of North Carolina’s thick woods, we did sacrifice many lures to the fishing gods in trees and even worse, to snapping turtles.

Sadly as the months grew colder, the bites came less and less, but we did discover a large gill population.

PhotoGrid_1510605911894

A fun discovery close to home that allowed us to practice a myriad of techniques and baits in a confined area. It was nice to find a “training pool” so to speak!

Upside Down Fire

The upside down fire is a self feeding fire that does not require nearly as much stoking and feeding as the traditional teepee campfire. It can burn upwards of 5 hours, uninterrupted, if you do it right. Here are the steps you need to create the upside down fire, along with Dan and I’s own attempt to build it.

Essential Tools:

  • Fire starter (lighter, matches, magnesium stick, etc)
  • Twigs
  • Tinder (Manmade or natural)
  • Knife/ax/saw or some sort of sharp for collecting materials
  • If you are cooking, a vessel or surface to hold your food in

 

20171021_221725

Step 1: Collect your Materials

Once more, we are building this fire using the “twig” method in order to represent a situation in which you may need fire without having store bought materials. Using a small ax and my khukuri knife, we cut down small tree limbs and collected three major types of twigs:

  • Thumb Size
  • Pencil Size
  • Pencil Lead Size

Remember– Try not to pull trees/sticks from the ground. Instead, look for standing deadwood that is dry, easy to break and lacks the moisture than any sticks laying on the ground would.

For tinder, we used a combination of dried grass an a featherstick.

 

20171021_19292820171021_193127

 

Step 2: Build Your Base

Start with the thickest twigs you have, and lay them flat in your pit, one after the other like you are laying down a log pile. Create a layer as large as you want your fire to be. Then use the next thickest, and cross hatch them in a new layer above your first. Continue this pattern until you get to the thinnest twigs, and finally place your tinder bundle on top.

20171021_200310

Step 3: Light The Tinder

For the sake of this attempt, we simply used a lighter, but I would recommend using whatever fire making material or method you have readily available in your EVERY DAY CARRY or at the very least, your backpacking/hiking essentials.

It might take a bit to get the tinder lit long enough that it begins to feed itself, which can be frustrating, but once the twigs light, this fire is capable of burning for hours on end.

Being down by a river on a muggy day, it took upwards of an hour to get our tinder lit long enough. We ended up adding some scraps of napkins we had brought along with us as well. The air was thick with whistles and squeals of the materials as they dried out, but once it got going, we were able to cook over it and enjoy its warmth until bed time.

This method was fairly frustrating for us due to the wet environment, however, it is often a reliable and low maintenance fire building method convenient for when you have additional tasks and chores to do, or you wish to keep your fire burning overnight while you sleep.

 

 

Gulf Stream/Scantic River Junction

Home for a few days before starting Ranger School, I managed to convince my brother to join me and my dad on a small excursion in my home town. Often we had passed by this stream on the way to work or school growing up, never having stopped it by.

20170611_144202

A lot of kayakers who mount up in Somersville Pond floated this way and under the roadway bridge. Since this area is right off the road, below the bridge, it was a little difficult to get down to. There was sort of a path, but it was largely overgrown and a wrong step could have landed you off the side and into the water. Given Connecticut’s massive tick population, bug spray was a must.

As usual within this area, we brought up quite a few yellow perch.

20170611_141424

I was using a small treble hook and a combination of either earth worms or mealworms, both which could be purchased from the local Somersville gas station.

20170611_141559

My brother managed to snag his first largemouth bass! Albeit, a dink, but a bass nonetheless. My mom wanted to come along, but having the two dogs with her, she was not in a position to bushwack down to the stream. So after only a little while of fishing here, my family was already urging me to head back to Somersville Pond. I had at least six or seven “last casts” or “one more casts” but not without a prize!

20170611_150715

On my very last cast, with a small treble hook and a mealworm, I managed to snag this trophy sized White Sucker fish. The hook fell off its fleshy lips as I was finessing it in, so I actually ended up with one foot in the stream, and hand wrangled the fatty ashore.

Screenshot_20170611-164617

Never seen a sucker this size, and I wish I had called DEEP to get the trophy certificate, but oh well. I let him go to swim another day.

After that, we headed back up to Somersville Pond and relaxed with the dogs there for the rest of the day.

Caught a few more perch, including my little brother’s first. Was really glad to be able to take him out fishing and show him the ropes.

You can just make it out on the photo on the right, but over the dam, we saw an absolutely massive alligator snapping turtle floating around. It was at least 4 feet long.

Love the multispecies fishing that the great North East offers, and can’t wait for my next trip up there.

Frenchman Bay with Island Charter Fishing

20170818_152013

Research on where to surf fish on the Mount Desert Island, Maine coast lead us to the conclusion that it was not worth it. Though you can catch some Atlantic Mackerel from the shore, the seasonal Stripers had skipped the area this year.

So instead, we decided to go out with the experts at Island Fishing Charters and take to Frenchman Bay via charter boat. It was highly affordable at only around 45$ per adult, with everything included– lines, poles, reels, rigs, the whole nine. The only part I found odd was that we did not use any bait. Instead, our hooks looked tied up similar to a fly.

20170818_131843

It was a cold, misty morning, so we were sure to pack a couple of ponchos and our warmest clothing. Sadly, Brook couldn’t come with us on this adventure. The boat took us out to various spots along the bay for us to drop our lines into. Some were active, some weren’t.

20170818_132608

First catch was a Pollock, which is a Cod family fish. We had a bucket to keep our catches in and so long as the fish was longer than the mouth of the bucket, they were keepers.

20170818_135346

The one exception to that was the Atlantic Cod. These fish around these waters remained protected, and had to be released upon catch.

20170818_155736

The scenery was absolutely beautiful on this trip. Above, those are a bunch of seals and their pups lounging around on Egg Rock Island. We saw some swimming around in the water as well. We were also lucky enough to have a group of porpoise decide to swim and dive along with our boat. If that wasn’t enough of a nature trip, a bald eagle sat atop an evergreen tree, took flight and swooped down to snatch a fish from the water with its talons. That’s not something you get to see every day!

20170818_134935

The last type of fish we caught was the Atlantic Mackerel. Really neat looking creatures, with their elaborate pattern on their back. They did not chirp like the mackerel we had caught in Korea with Chagui-do Bay Charter Fishing though!

20170818_133836

The views and the nature were amazing, and the staff was extremely helpful. Since the sea floor in this area is incredibly rocky and rugged, we did experience quite a few catastrophic snags that tore the entire rig away. The staff had ready made rigs to tie onto your pole in a few seconds, which was really convenient, that way we could continue fishing as much as possible. When this pleasant experience was at its end, we headed home with dinner.

IMG_20170818_192348_038We decided to keep only two Pollock and two Mackerel. The staff on the charter boat offered to clean the fish for us, and they used the same simple methods as seen in our How to Clean a Fish in Three Steps guide.

At that point, Dan the camp-chef took over and using simply butter, salt, pepper, and a pan, created a delicious flaky dish of both fish. We paired it with a classic Korean dish known as “budaejiggae” or “Army Stew” that includes salt, garlic, pepper paste, soy sauce, sugar, water, kimchi, beans, onions, and an array of different ingredients such as spam, vienna sausage, tofu,  noodles, rice and whatever veggies you want.

20170818_190700

The fishing trip was a lot of fun, and we got to see some beautiful parts of nature. I would certainly recommend this charter to anyone looking to go coastal fishing in Mount Desert Island or Bar Harbor. It put dinner on the table, that’s for sure.

Texas Pond

We hadn’t taken out the raft in a while so headed to Texas Pond right outside Fort Bragg. The water was surprisingly low, seeming to average no more than two feet in any location.

 As usual, little B was ready to go in her outward Hound life vest and boat shoes. Dan had been researching and experimenting with different types of hard plastic minnows and spinners/buzz baits. I really never got into using these so it was a bit of a learning curve for me.

One lure he used was a white Mistsuo popper. The method was to toss out, then twitch the bait causing it to splash back and fort, and pause while reeling to retrieve the slack line.

Dan seemed to have pretty good success with this. He used the same method with a black lucky craft topwater bass lure. In the mean time I am not catching anything and getting fairly frustrated. Dans been watching a lot of videos and doing a lot of research, so really its no surprise he has gotten a lot better. Nevertheless, I am butthurt at this point.

Poor poo dog still hasn’t gotten used to being in a boat. She continues to cling to my leg and get in the way of rowing. Not sure how to get her used to it outside of continuing to bring her though. It’s sort of cute how she will conquer her fears to be with us though!

Dan also hooked a decent sized chain Pickerel! This one was snagged utilizing a jerk bait. The method here involves holding the rod at a 90 degree angle from where you tossed the lure, then jerking the lure toward you and reeling in between as you go. There are a many ways to retrieve: aggressive, twitches, long pauses, continuous… you simply have to try different speeds and levels of aggression until one attracts the bite.
Of course when I tried this, I seemed to attract nothing. Finally, I got a big hit on the jerk bait and I was hoping to see a Pickerel or a bass!

Thanks to Dans extensive research, we are breaking into the world of hard plastic lures and there’s so much to try. Though often harder than live bait, it’s a fun challenge to work and finesse the lures to get that bite. We will continue to update with different lures and methods.