Kiest Lake

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Wanting to branch out our North Carolina expeditions, we set off for Kiest Lake, near Fort Bragg Military Reservation.  It was a hot ass day, upwards of 90 degrees F with at least 80% humidity. We settled on the South side of the lake, where there was a  fairly large clearing we could pull the truck into. Little Brook was suffering though. No shade. SO hot. We left the car door open for her just in case, but she improvised on the shade;

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Yup, she hung out under the truck! We stuck her water bowl down there too. And don’t worry– every hour or so, we turned on the truck, pumped the air and cooled off our little daughter. Gotta be careful this time of year in the Southern United States. There are countless cases of pet dogs dying of heat exhaustion,  but at the same time we love our dog and want her to have fun and be included. We take every measure possible to ensure she is comfortable and well taken care of.

Anyways, Dan set up his massive carp rig because supposedly there’s huge common carp in this lake. I don’t have any pictures of the set up but I will take some next time it is used. It’s similar to a catfish set up, only the poles are lying parallel to the surface of the lake instead of perpendicular. There is also this motion detector device that beeps when the line is pulled. Unlike a catfish rod, you do not want “tight lines” on this rig. The drag is almost completely loose, allowing carps to suck the bait in and run with it before hooking themselves. We experienced a few beeps here and there but nothing seeemed to stick. Turns out, there were an astronomical amount of turtles in there!

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Here’s a little one I managed to pull up with our landing net. They’re some sort of box turtle, and love to nibble fishing bait. Since they have those little beaks, they don’t get hooked and just steal the bait! While Dan worked on his carp set-up and tossed in a few senkos for bass, I set up some catfish lines and threw in a few casts of my own. The bottom of this lake is incredibly weedy, so the “secret technique” was an absolute no-go. Instead, I used a foam stick bobber and set it up about 2 feet above my bait (nightcrawlers).

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I managed to catch a gill on this bobber set up that I turned into cutbait. In the mean time, neither the carp rods nor the catfish rods were getting much action. It was such a hot day, that I assume the fish were very slow moving and avoiding the heated up shallower ends. Likely in the middle of the lake, just treading water down below. After I while, I did get a pull on one of the cat rods, though! Reeled t his one in, pretty excited. With it came an enormous hunk of weeds, but hidden beneath the weeds there was indeed a fish!

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This skinny guy was trying to eat himself some gill. Definitely did not expect to pull up an LMB on the cat rods, but lo and behold there she was! I let her go, recasted the rod and then continued to throw out the bobber set up. Dan was preoccupied with some mysterious beeping on his carp rods,  but nothing seemed to set. Somehow, I managed to pull up another small bass on the bobber.

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No action following this for quite a while. We decided to call it, and head back. After all, poor little B was probably burning up in her little yellow fur coat. Not a terrible fishing day, but the heat was tough to bare– for us, and apparently for the fish. Supposedly this lake is filled with bass, so we certainly just scraped the surface on this one. We will return to see what we can garner next time.

Dick’s Creek

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In the past few days, Dan moved up to North Carolina with Brook, and I am still in Georgia. My friends and I decided to plan a camping/fishing trip for the gang and our resident North Georgia native chose the beautiful, mountainous region of Dahlonega. The campsite we picked was located in an area called Dick’s Creek. This was a stunning creek bed, tumbling over a few waterfalls and stretching as far as the eye could see. We drove about 3 hours to get there, and nestled into a site in the corner. The trout was stocked seasonally with both browns and rainbows. Since we had never trout fished before, my friend advised us on a few different types of bait to try: canned corn, and salmon eggs. Similar to when we’re freelining for bass, you want to use as small a hook as possible with little to no weight.

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Of course little Brooky had to come with us. That’s basically my negotiation piece for anyone that asks me to hang out… its either both of us or none of us! Anyways, we head down to the river, and Dan and I decide to throw a couple lines in right at the base of that magnificent waterfall picture above. Brook didn’t like when we got more than an arms reach away from here, so she was yipping a little bit… It didn’t take us too long to start bringing ’em in! I started up on a piece of corn and reeled in a really nice Brown trout.

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Dan caught a few shortly after. We were able to walk up and down the creek to try different spots, and kept all our catches on a trout line in the water so they would stay fresh for the open fire cookout to take place later.  Honestly, we would have stayed in the same spot, but as usual once folks caught onto that we were bringing em in, they all congregated to adjacent locations and casted directly in front of us. Being Georgia, these people also had on overalls without any shirts underneath, etc…

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Here’s a picture of one of the rainbows I caught as well. We ended up with a total of 5 trout. We and my friend (after he fell into the creek, gave up, and went out again) brought in 6. He taught as a very simple way to clean the trout. Just make a clean cut behind the gills, then slit the bottom from cut to anus. After that, simply pull out the guts, toss them away and squeeze out the blood pooling near the spine. The camping trip was a huge success, lots of games, drinking, cooking, and fun. We had burgers and buttered trout cooked open the fire. Truly a good ole fashioned American time. Brook was having a great time, too, running 100mph around our camp site.

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Really fun first time trout fishing. Sadly since then, a wildfire burned most of Dick’s Creek area down to the ground. I am happy we were able to experience it before that disaster.

Twig Fires

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So we’ve decided to expand the blog to amateur bushcraft as well! We will be sharing as we learn new survival skills. The first skill we worked on today is building successful fires using twigs instead of split wood. It’s a quicker and easier method to get a fire going, and if done right, can be a sustained source of warmth, purification of water sources, and cooking. The smoke, as most know, also can keep away skeeters and chiggers and other annoyances. Here are the tools we used:

On the left, we have my gear. Sheffield Rogue survival knife, and “Light My Fire” Swedish fire steel. On the right are Dan’s tools– magnesium fire stick with compass, and bushcraft knife. Pink shoes optional. We decided to have a little competition as to who could get the quicker or better fire going.

There’s a couple things you need to accomplish this aside from those pictured above: materials for fuel, kindling, a foundation, and a brace.

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The key here is to gather a large amount of twigs in the beginning that could sustain the fire for hours or even days. So I set ahead to collect my resources, while Dan decided to go ahead and shave feathers off twigs to create kindling.

As far as the material for fuel go, you want three different sizes (as I learned on Bushcraft USA): thumb width, pencil widith, and pencil lead width. We organized our twigs in generous handful sized piles.

Another important note is do NOT gather twigs from the ground. Often dew, and rainwater can collect in the ground, saturating materials and making them difficult to light. Instead, we opted for dead hanging branches from the surrounding trees. You can tell its dead when the inside has no green, and it easily snaps off. I was slapped in the face, poked in the eye, wrapped in webs and chased by a couple spiders, but eventually gained some good sized piles.

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As you can see above, Dan eventually got his little piles together. For the foundation, as pictured above, Dan chose a small bed of stones which he will put his kindling on top of. This helps keep any coals that form inside your twig fire instead of falling to the ground which if wet or snowy will put them out.

For a brace, Dan put two larger paralleled logs against his foundation. This helps keep the materials together and will help build that conical shape that allows oxygen to flow freely through the fire and prevents your twigs from smothering the coals.  Dan’s setup was very cute and tiny. If it was in Korea, it would have had little googly eyes on it.

Here is my setup:

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I mean, we know who’s the true grisled woodsman here (or so I thought…). I chose two logs for a foundation, and two logs (one not pictured) for a brace. So for kindling, we shaved down twigs to create thin, curly shavings also known as feather sticks. Once we got about a fist full of that, it was time to begin attempting to light with our fire starters. We aimed the fire steel end down into the kindling, and flicked to create sparks which eventually will catch. Once it catches, we shield with our hands and blow until a small flame blooms. Then we grabbed a bunch of the pencil lead sized twigs and leaned them across the braces, following by pencil sized in a perpendicular pattern, then thumb sized, then repeat as needed.

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Dan was able to get his going really quick and definitely won out in terms of speed. His fire made it to waste high! The only issue was he definitely skimped on materials for fuel, and in a survival situation, more is better.

I on the other hand had some major issues getting my kindling to light. I assume the issue was my feather pile just wasn’t big enough, or the stick I used was slightly saturated. I must have knocked over my pile thirty times. Note to self, make sure the ground below your foundation is stable and not wobbly. What I ended up doing, after a lot of frustration, getting butthurt and proclaiming how annoying fire starting is, was grabbing a handful of dry grass from a nearby clearing and using that instead. The grass caught a lot easier, and I piled my fuels in the same pattern as mentioned before. Finally… the red flower came to me.

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I had gathered quite a bit of materials thought so was able to get it raging while i relished in success before putting it out. Word of advice, have some water to douse when you try this. Also make sure to move your equipment out of the way of the fire after its lit. Definitely melted the plastic handle of my fire steel…

This was overall a really easy and gratifying method for creating fire with only a few survival tools, and the natural materials around you. Definitely pocketing this one for future camping trips. Brook seemed to have fun with it, as well!

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I look forward to documenting more of our exploration of bushcraft in the future and honing these useful survival skills. Hopefully these posts can help others learn as well. One more piece on equipment– it doesn’t take the most expensive or brand names to be successful. The trick is to get a knife whose weight and size you can get comfortable with whether you be bushwhacking, shaving or cutting. As for the fire steel, longer ones are easier to use but its still about mastery of what you have.

I’m a big knife, little stick type of person. Dan’s a little knife, big stick type of person. Do what works for you. Or what you can withstand frustrating yourself over until you finally learn to use it right. I wonder if this says something about our personalities…