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

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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

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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).

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Inline Bowline Knot

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Use: Makes a fixed loop that can be used for a multitude of tiedowns; attaching one rope to another, securing equipment to fixed points, sailing knots. Tension will not move the knot. However it is not often used in mountaineering due to the fact that you can indeed untie the knot with ease.

Step 1: Create a Loop

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Fold the “loose” end of the rope over itself, as to create a loop with the free end remaining on top. Dig the hole.

Step 2: Through the Loop

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Next, create a larger loop by moving the loose end under and up through the previous loop.  The rabbit comes out of the hole.

Note: This larger loop you have just created is what you will use to secure the inline bowline around an object. If you wish to tie it TO something, thread the loose end through the object you wish to secure it to, before bringing it back through the previous loop.

 

Step 3: Around the Running End

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Take the free end, and thread it behind the running end. The Rabbit goes around the Tree

 

Step 4: Weave Back Through The Loop

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Come back over the running end with the free end, and push the free end through the initial loop. The Rabbit goes back into the hole. 

 

Step 5: Pull Tight

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Pull it tight to finish off your inline bowline! If done successfully, the knot should not become larger or smaller with tension on the loop (unlike a slipknot).

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

 

Figure Eight (Flemish) Knot

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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

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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.

Tank Creek

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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.

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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″).

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

Georges Pond

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We had a week of leave to spare, and went up to “Down East” Maine in order to visit and fish near Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor. We struck gold and ended up staying at a Lakefront House in Franklin, Maine which had the beautiful Georges Pond right in its backyard. The pond was known for its Smallmouth Bass, which we had never fished before, but we were excited to delve into something new.

Dan and I have been experimenting in hard plastic lures as of late, and with the overcast we faced in the first few days, we gave topwaters a try.  As soon as we arrived that night, we hopped on a canoe and threw some lures in.

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As usual, Dan had some luck from the get-go and caught both a smallie and a LMB using his favorite tiger striped top water. I was trying to jig, and ended up with nothing. Part of it was technique, part of is was that we didn’t have an anchor and I was busy rowing us around all over the place while Dan fished. I called it quits for the night and went to bed. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Dan was determined to grab that late night lunker, inspired by tall tales of monster fish and straw-ber-ritas.

The next morning, I saw something strange. Dan’s entire outfit from the night before as you see above — the shirt, pants, socks, hate and even his underwear, were all strewn across the outdoor deck. Upon confrontation, Dan, cheeks glowing with chagrin, offered a harrowing confession. Apparently, in a partially drunk stupor, he tried to take out the canoe himself, in the dark, after I’d retired. Instead of a big fish, he got a big black bruise. When he stepped into the canoe, his footing was off, throwing the boat off balance, and he completely fell in the water near the dock, the canoe flipping upside down beside him.  Gave me a good laugh but also I was like WHAT THE HELL DUDE because that was a really dangerous thing to do.

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The next morning, back at it and again, Dan’s hauling in some great fish using a spinner bait. This time, we attached the 3# anchor from our rubber raft to the canoe so we could stay in one place. The wind was no joke. After coming up flat again, I give in to his advice and try a top water myself.  And this time I forced Dan to row while I trolled off the back.

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At long last, I brought in my first Smallie and it was a beautiful one at that. I was using a Heddon Tiny Torpedo in Fluorescent Green Crawdaddy.

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A couple other greedy little fish seemed to want a bite of the lure as well.

That’s a gill and a baby small mouth.

Brook was terrified of the canoe because of the way the slighted move shook the boat side to side. She was standing most of the time, frozen in place, but finally laid down.

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The prop bait started to slow down so I moved onto an Original Rat-L-Trap crank bait in Lake Fork Special color. This thing vibrates so hard you can hear it no matter how far you cast it away. I ended up only pulling a little baby yellow perch on it, however.

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Dan continued to catch some little smallies, and I switched it up to a popper. We were both utilizing a similar technique for the top waters. Basically, you cast out, then holding your rod parallel to where you cast, twitch the rod away, causing the lure to pop and bubble toward you. Then you reel in, to tighten the line and let it sit for a little bit. By varying the twitch strength and the length of the pause, you can draw in the attack. The fun of it, especially for smallies, is seeing them jump out of the water to grab the lure.

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BAM! My record smallie! Dan and I JUST got a scale before we went on the water this day, so I was able to measure it in at 2.5lb. This fish fought HARD. Didn’t help I was using an ultralite rod, hoping to catch some lake trout. We fought for a good 3 minutes, and she jumped straight out of the water. I couldn’t help but let out a loud “WHOAAAA!” when that happened. It was really exciting!

Sadly, that was the last hog Dan or I brought in on the lake, but we did scoop up a couple of smaller fish.

All the while we were out in the canoe, searching for flats and weed beds, my Dad, who I brought an interest in fishing to, was on the dock, casting out into no more than 2-3 feet of water tops, using his classic shallow bobber-night crawler combo. As usual, he was hauling in tons of little bluegills and green sunfish, and a lot of juvenile white perch.

He did this into the night, and while I was sitting at the table, conversing with my mom, suddenly my Dad comes running to the door, frantically. I run out, thinking he’s stuck with a hook or something, and he holds up this:

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A FAT small mouth. Weighing in at 3.4#, my dad, who I always make fun of for never bringing in a big fish, has snagged the biggest catch of the entire trip. But there’s a reason! He was using the secret technique, and not his bobber. The secret technique is how Dan and I first learned to fish in America: a weightless treble hook with a nightcrawler, slow pitch jigged across the bottom. I had been trying to get my dad to use this technique for ages, and finally, it seems he conceded– and it paid off, big!

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It was incredible staying at a house with this beautiful pond right in its back yard, and we were floored by the top tier smallie fishing available at our fingertips! I would highly recommend Georges Pond for any Smallie fishermen or those looking to get into catching them. And with the fight these fish put up, you will get addicted in a heart beat.

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.

Topsail Inlet

Happy Independence Day Weekend to my American Readers! #Brexit1776.

Given the long weekend, Dan and I decided to head down near Wilmington Beach and try our hand at surf fishing. We had previously attempted saltwater fishing off a pier/structure over at Wangpal’s Restaurant  on Jeju island, but this would be our first try on good ole American soil. First order of business, of course, was to find a dog friendly beach with fishing. It actually sounds harder to find than it was!

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Cannot go anywhere without that goofy face.

Topsail Island is about 30 minutes to the Northeast of Wilmington Beach in North Carolina, and consists of a few miles of both ocean front and inlet front. The entire island is inhabited with what looks like summer homes, and a few stores/bars/restaurants. The whole thing is only about three streets wide! You can see water on both sides while driving down. We headed toward Topsail Beach– it was advertised as dog friendly as well as a “lesser travelled” beach location, both of which appealed to us. Stunningly beautiful! During the off season, apparently you can drive your car right onto the beach.

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We did have a little bit of trouble finding a bait shop, however. It would have been wise to pick up bait in Surf City, which is the neighboring town, but after asking around we managed to find a place: Jolly Roger’s Inn and Pier. It’s about halfway to the end of the island,on the left side travelling toward the end, and the only large fishing pier. You can get some food, limited fishing supplies, beer, and your choice of shrimp, sand fleas, squid, and an assortment of minnows/mullets. We picked up a pound of shrimp, a half pound of squid, and a quarter pound of sand fleas. Not knowing much about the local fish, the shopkeepers let us know that drum were pounding the fleas, and squid/shrimp generally are an all around good bet. For a price, Jolly Roger’s lets you use their pier to fish, but no animals allowed, so that was a no-go for us. Instead, we made our way to the right-most road, all the way to the end of the island where there was a small parking lot. We ditched the truck, loaded up our gear and trekked down the beach on the inlet side. Side note, we also picked up some sandwiches and meat (for Brook) at a small Deli toward the town center.

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No kidding, as soon as we got our umbrella stood up, and Brook tied down (dogs must be leashed during the on-season), we heard thunder. Planted down our rod stand, got the first rod set up… cue enormous downpour. Not talking about a light rain. Talking about flash flood, crashing thunder, lightning and high winds. All three of us huddled under our umbrella (it was basically a half-dome tent style umbrella– protected us surprisingly well) and just prayed that it would pass. No way we spent all this time and money getting down here for nothing. We were going to fish, damnit! People at this point were legitimately fleeing the beach– coolers and towels in tow, running back to their cars. After maybe 20 minutes, it started to clear up, so we quickly rigged up our rods.

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We used our Korean carp rods which double as saltwater rods. Rigged up was 20lb braided line, with 6-inch 50lb test wire leaders. Attached to that were two size 8 baitholder hooks, with a 2.5oz weight at the bottom. To be honest, the weight was probably too light for the current we were fighting. We ended up losing quite a few rigs that got stuck on a wooden structure about 50 yards out. We experimented with the bait usage. Dan was definitely favoring the squid, and for good reason.

His first cast got a huge hit!

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That’s an Atlantic Croaker, a member of the Drum family. Apparently, it was a common food source for Native Americans. This one was about 18 inches long.

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Not bad at all for a first cast! It was fun to watch the rods twitch on the stand with each bite. I had trouble setting the hook, for sure, but Dan was having a lot better luck.

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His next catch was a tiny Black Sea bass. They’re recognizable by the coloring, and large scales on the body, while naked on the head. Sea bass are a highly sought after recreational fish, though this fella was a little juvenile. Back to the sea he went! And finally, it was my turn.

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After losing what seemed like countless potential catches, at last, I pulled up this little beauty. Hilariously enough, this turned out to be a Surf Bream. Basically, the saltwater equivalent of a sunfish or bluegill. It had these creepy little teeth though.

Darkness crept up on us pretty quick, and before we knew it, the crabbers were moving in, and it was time for us to head back. For a first experience surf fishing, I’m very glad we were able to pull up a few fish and I am excited for next time. Something about having your feet in the ocean, waves lapping up onto shore, and casting out, not knowing what sort of interesting fish you’re going to pull up… it’s just amazing. The view was worth it alone!

Broken Arrow Creek

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Equipped with a new pole, and some newly gained American catfishing experience from NC, I set out to try the Chattahoochee River again, this time at a landing near Broken Arrow Creek. This was behind the “Pet Cemetery” at Fort Benning and I had heard good things about it from others. To get there, you have to navigate through a maze of unimproved dirt roads, often flooded over with water, so a off road capable vehicle is a must. The lift on my ’04 Jeep Grand Cherokee was good enough, but I could see it being impossible in a rainier time.  When you reach the end, there’s a couple of different landings to fish, some on the creek itself, and some on the river. I decided to set up on the river.

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Naturally, using a worm as bait for my first rod, I come up with a gill. I was trying to set up my other rod, but kept getting tags on the first one. Next was this little guy:

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That’s a baby channel! Cute little guy. I was using a medium action rod, and the issue was that I didn’t have enough weight attached to it to cast it as far as I wanted. So basically, I was catching the little guys. This next one was a bit of a surprise though since usually they only go for live baitfish!

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Yup, that’s a schoolie! My very first striped. These guys fight like hell though; it was hard to get him to stop flopping to even take the picture.

Unfortunately, after I got my second rod set up, I really didn’t come up with anything so I packed it in after a few hours and called it a day. Definitely will check this spot out again and see if I can catch a true striper!

Failure

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Failure sucks. I want to say I have probably failed at more things than I have succeeded at in life.

Fishing always strikes me as the perfect anecdote for failure and practical exercise for persistence. They say if you want to be a great fisherman, all you have to do is come back after skunking time and time again. Not give up.

In life and in fishing, this is always easier said than done. Failure hurts. Beats you up real good, then spits you back out a little more vulnerable and disappointed than you came in. But instead of wondering if we will do better next time, what if we just assume that we will always do better next time? What if just getting back out there is truly all it takes?

I just failed monumentally at something in life I had been training up for years for. US Army Ranger School. During the first week, of all things. Made it through every event until the very last one. Came up completely flat. Left me questioning my capabilities as a human being, my mental capacity to stay the course, and my deserving of even setting food in the gate.

I was counseled by my chain of command this morning for being sent and coming back empty handed. I was asked if I wanted to try again.

There is no other answer than yes. Always try again. Always get back out there.

It’s no longer a story of luck, or even skill. It’s pure, relentless grit, and an iron will. Drive on. You will always be a better person for getting up, dusting yourself off, and getting after it, no matter  what. Never give up.

Johnsen Lake

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On the way home from Nimblewill Creek, we decided we wanted to get some bass fishing in, and took to Fishbrain to scout out a good lake. Right off SR-19 near the town of Cumming, there was Johnsen Lake. Though it appears to be right off the road, there’s actually no access to it from there. You have to swing around, go down Northgate Pkwy, and park at the roundabout at the end of the road near Cladding and Compound Solutions. From there, there is a dirt path that is fairly easy to follow.

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It’s only a couple minutes walk, just take caution in there’s a lot of wood and metal scraps on the ground in the beginning. Once you cross a small stream bed, you’ll run right into the southern tip of the lake. Right away, there’s all these downed trees and logs that just look perfect for bass to  be lurking under.

20170618_120115Today, Dan went with a light green senko on a 6/0 offset hook, wacky rigged. I decided to get rid of our remaining live bait, and toss some worms and crickets out there on a 14 treble hook. Both of us were slow pitch jigging. No shit, on the first cast Dan comes up with a bass!

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Little fella, but a bass nonetheless. It took me a couple more ins and outs to finally get one. myself.

20170618_121552Pretty skinny.  Couple reasons a bass could come up real skinny in an otherwise healthy lake. Too much algae/vegetation, not enough food/insects/small fish, harvest slot fish, an old timer on his last legs of life, or even swallowing too many soft plastics that clogs up the fish’s digestive system. Regardless, he got a worm today, and we were playing C/R.

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Dan ended up catching a total of four, alternating between a wacky and a texas rig.

 

As usual, I caught a ton of gills.

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But at last, a second bass. And a pretty healthy one at that. Caught on crickets.

Johnsen Lake was a hidden gem by the expressway that had a lot to offer. Definitely a great bass population in that lake that are eager to eat up!