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!

Dad’s First Ice Fish!

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For my last day in New England before the journey back the South, I decided to go back to the ole’ honey hole, Dennis Pond, to ensure at least a few fish. My father had been coming with me for the past couple trips, and had yet to pull anything.

We drilled 7 holes, two rows of three and one in the middle. I decided to try my luck at the tip-up dad had given me for Christmakkah and fitted it with about 12ft of monofil 4lb test line, a small spoon/treble and a dead minnow. The plan was to set the tip-up in the middle hole, and jig with our small 1.5″ spoons and some mousses in the surrounding holes to attract fish.

Within ten minutes we had a flag up!

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It was a little chain pickerel.

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Back he went. Felt pretty successful to have my first tip-up catch! So Dad was enthused by this and insisted I set him up his own, which I went ahead and did. In the meantime, I picked a hole adjacent to the one I had the tip up in and jigged the bottom with a couple of mousses. Decided to pound the bottom and see what would come along.

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Plucked up this fat little perch! Did not even realize they had perch in this lake– it’s truly a great multispecies destination. So far we have turned up pickerel, perch, bass, and crappie all from the ice.

In the mean time, Dad was still struggling to turn up a catch. I drilled a new hole adjacent to the one I jigged up the perch in  and we moved his tip-up there.

In the midst of all this, we were freezing. The weather took a plummet this week in CT, and was about 5-degrees, -12 with wind chill. Long underwear, based layers, insulation layers, down jackets, multiple socks — still the cold was piercing through us. We made a smart decision today that I suggest anyone hitting the ice do: we put warmers on the tops and bottoms of our feet between the two sock layers. It just keeps your toes from getting to the falling off point.

Dad was jigging a few holes away when suddenly his tip-up’s flag sprung up and was spinning wildly!

“Fish on!” I shouted toward Dad who gave me a blank stare in return, “Fish on! Fish on!”

He finally seemed to come to his senses when I up and ran to the flag, pointing at it, hoping the fish didn’t tear through the 4lb test line barely holding it on.

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Dad makes his way to the hole and starts reeling on the spool.

“Hand over hand!” I was doing some serious back seat fishing by this point. But, it’s really easy for the fish to get away without proper finesse when you’re using such thin line. He finally drops the tip up, and begins to bring it in, hand over hand, letting the line slide with tension through his fingers when the fish swam.

The fish was tiring out, and it felt pretty good sized. Finally it surfaced!

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Out came a beautiful large mouth bass. Didn’t have the scale on us, but I would eye it at a little over 1lb.

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Released for another day, but not before a bunch of pictures, hugs and high fives. Dad finally caught a fish through the ice!

With that, concluded our last ice fishing trip, and my vacation in the North. Back to the South tomorrow, got a long drive ahead. Gonna miss hitting the ice!

Dennis Pond

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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!

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.

How to Clean a Fish in Three Steps

 

A few months ago when I went camping and fishing at Dick’s Creek with my friends, a friend of mine showed me this extremely simple way to clean a fish (in this case, a trout) without fileting. It’s great for a serving the fish in a way you can eat the meat off the bone. You can’t quite make a sandwich with this method, but it’s a very simple, very tidy way to do it. Here are the step by step instructions with pictures from my trip to Nimblewill Creek. It takes no more than 2-5 minutes per trout depending how good you are with your knife.

Tools You Need: A sharp knife, a source of water for rinsing, something to contain the cleaned fish, and a place to dispose or discard the parts you will not use.

Personally, I used my Khukuri knife and Dan his Rogue Survival Knife.

 

We just did this all by the creek for washing and discarding, and had a pan for the usable parts.

Step 1: Remove the Head

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Find a hard surface like a rock, and simply cut the fish through right behind the gills. Be careful of your fingers because a fish like a trout can be very slippery. You can keep the head if you wish to use it, or cook it that way, but I just discard it.

Update: It has been pointed out to me by RawSkillsBushcraft that a rock is not the ideal surface due to the potential for damaging your knife. Instead, find something like a piece of wood that will not dull your blade. Additionally, as I have done previously at Bongam Lake, you can absolutely keep the head to eat the meat from the cheeks or use in a soup. In a survival situation where every bit of protein matters, you need to do this.

 

Step 2: Cut Lengthwise from the Anus and Peel Open

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Make the cut beginning at the anus, and ending at the severed head deep enough that you can get your thumbs inside to peel the fish open cleanly, revealing two filets on the side, and a bunch of organs. Careful not to pop the gall or anything.

Update: For clarification, as a reader suggested, there are specific ways that eases this process. As tomcatHoly  explains, position the knife nearly parallel to the fish, angling it so the top quarter inch or so of the blade is pressing against the skin. Push forward to split open the thin membrane on the belly, which will split open as you go.

Now, alternatively, you can insert the knife point perpendicular to the fish at the anus, blade toward the “head” just enough so the knife penetrates through the  membrane: a quarter inch or so depending on the size of the fish. You need a sharp knife to do this method. At this point, just angle the knife with blade bent slightly toward the fish, and carefully cut the membrane in the direction of the “head.”

Step 3: Remove the Organs, Push out the Blood

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Pull the organs out carefully and discard. Last, press your thumb hard at the base of the spine and push out all the blood built up. Then just dunk the fish in water to wash it off, remove any extra blood or goo, and you’re done!

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Voila! Trout cleaned and ready to cook!

Thank you to the readers who provided suggestions to make this guide more detailed and easier to follow. I am open to any and all suggestions, critiques or anything else you wish to say either by comment or using the contact button at the top.