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.

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

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

 

Boundary Line Lake

After a very relaxing night in on the 3rd of July, Dan and I suddenly got an itch, and went and purchased our first boat on a whim. .

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(Photo Source: Rubberboats.com)

It was an Intex Mariner 3 inflatable three-man raft. Having never owned or operated a boat before, we decided to start small, cheap and portable. The nice thing is, we can easily transport this deflated back and forth. It also did not take very long to inflate nor put away. Armed with this game changing piece of equipment, we headed to Boundary Line Lake, home to largemouth bass, sunfish, warmouth, pickerel and bullhead.

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It felt absolutely amazing to no longer be bounded by trees/terrain/shoreline. Suddenly, we were fast and furious, free roaming the entire body of water. No longer were we fishing for bass — we were straight up hunting bass.

20170704_110452Dan’s first cast brought up this nice one. He was using a 6-in watermelon seed senko on a size 5/0 offset hook. Excited that we were so mobile in the boat, I was trying all sorts of different baits and rigs.

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Unfortunately, sticking to what I knew would have been a better plan because this is all I was able to come up with. Big for a gill, but still!

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Meanwhile, Dan caught the two largest bass we have pulled up in North Carolina yet. Too bad our scale was out of batteries, but they were at least 2-3 pounders.

We only stayed out for a few hours, and there were a couple reasons why.

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For starters, like usual, our little daughter was with us. Poor thing was scared to death at first, and was literally clinging to me with her paws. Even though she seemed to get used to it, and had water available, with the temperatures soaring above 90F, and absolutely no shade out in the middle of the lake, we could not keep her out there for too long. Canine heat injury is a real and very scary thing when living in the South.

Second, I must have lost 60ft of line to snags on logs at the bottom. I was jigging using cut baits and treble hooks, and there was just too much debris. The texas rigged soft plastic was absolutely a better bet at this lake. I was to the point where I couldn’t even cast out three feet away due to the shear lack of line. And of course, we forgot to bring a spool onto the boat.

20170704_130033Really cool experience on our first boating trip (well, more of rafting, but still). Next time we will bring an anchor, so we don’t drift as much, as well as visit a lake with less logs and debris. Boundary line has swamp-like stumps, jaggedly protruding in all directions, some beneath the surface of the water. We actually got stuck on one for a minute, so there’s an ode to the durability of this rubber raft.

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Til next time!

Nimblewill Creek

Get ready, this is going to be a long post! It was easily one of my favorite trips so far. Dan and I decided we wanted to try our hand at trout fishing in Georgia again. We did extensive research using the Fishbrain App (A great app for finding where folks have caught certain fish, as well as more or less the angler’s instagram– my user is shipyard if you want to follow me there!) as well as other online resources. Our first stop was the Chattahoochee just South of Lake Lanier since it was about 2.5 hours from Columbus, where I live. Well, as it turns out it’s solely Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area down there which does not allow primitive camping… or DOGS! They had campgrounds such as Sawnee on the Southern portion of Lake Lanier, but they were all booked up anyways. Besides, the no dogs is a deal breaker. Seriously? It’s the 21st century! Dogs are people, too!

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I mean look at that face. Side note, since moving in with Dan she’s gotten a little chubby (Or as the vet put it, she’s on the “upper end of where she should be”) so she is on a diet.

Anyways, we scrambled around all over the place to try and find a new location that wasn’t too far away from where we were. Dan honed in on Nimblewill Creek– a creek that advertised primitive camping areas all along a trout creek only about an hour north into the Chattahoochee National Forest near Dahlonega. Just what we were looking for!

A note on the advertised directions– know that google maps will NOT lead you to the creek and will instead take you down toward Bull Mountain parking area. You can use the directions off Dahlonega.org  however, FS 28-2 is not indicated on maps other than local maps. Instead, if you’re using a google map or something similar, FS 28-2 will be listed as “Nimblewill Gap Road.” There ARE signs on the road that say FS 28-2 once you reach it, though, and it’s no the same as FS 28-1…It took us a good 45 minutes to an hour of driving around aimlessly to figure this one out. It’s also a no service area, which is great for being unplugged, not so great for navigation without a local map. Feel free to contact me if you want more info about getting there.

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Finally, around 3p we arrived. The creek parallels a long dirt road with multiple pull offs on either side that serve as primitive camping sites. There were a few other folks there, so we just drove until we found a free site.

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Here’s what it looked like; A sectioned off area for the tent, and a rock fire pit. Ignore that bottle, that’s avocado oil that I brought along. The tent we use is a Coleman 4-man pop-up tent that I got off Amazon. It’s weathered through massive rainstorms before, even with just the small fly it comes with. Also it pops up which is really neat and sets up in 3 seconds. We went for the 4-man because Brook sleeps in there with us and she really likes to sprawl out.

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We could head in maybe 50 feet from our campground and the creek bed was right there. We grabbed our fishing supplies, which today consisted of my Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Spinning Combo Light and Dan’s Shakespeare Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Rod Ultralite. We used 4# test line, and size 14 treble hooks with 1/16th inch split shots. I prefer to use a split shot, but you do not have to use any weight when trout fishing. For bait, we had dead crickets, Berkeley Powerbait Trout Nibblers (In neon green, yellow, pink and orange) as well as general canned corn. This is all valuable stuff we learned from my friend when we went to Dick’s Creek the last time we went trout fishing.

Directly in from our campsite, the creek was shallow and clear enough to see directly to the bottom and not see any fish. So we headed downstream through a small goat path. The whole area was empty enough that we could let Brook loose. We were actually the only people we saw fishing out there. It didn’t take too long to start getting nibbles and catch the first rainbow, even though we were skeptical that there was even trout in the creek!

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Key was throwing the bait into pools beneath small waterfalls, as well as near overhanging rocks. I didn’t even see this guy; he was hiding in a small cave. One thing we realized quickly was that we forgot a trout line. Easy solution here– tie a bowline using paracord, thread the free (long) end through the gill, and then back through the loop.

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We continued moving downstream and throwing into these pools. Brook was so well behaved, sticking by us the entire time. The score was 2-1 Dan at this point (we always end up competing…) Eventually, we came to an area where there was a family camping nearby. A woman told us that yesterday, anglers were having luck in this particular spot so we decided to cast our lines. From the side I was working with, I had to cast through branches which was a little tricky… not to mention I’ve lost countless lures and rigs to the trees. But from here I could actually see dozens of trout resting in a pool. 20170617_165748

Quickly caught two more, but the family took notice and then the little kids started wading into the area I was fishing, wanted to toss their lines in. I would have stayed longer, but of course I wanted to respect their space…and not hook a small child, so we moved on. After approximately 2 hours, we called it a day and returned to our site to clean the fish. Victory poses:

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We ended up with a total of six trout, which wasn’t bad at all, especially for starting so late in the day. We went to the creek bed by our site to clean the fish and prepare it for cooking.  Here is our guide on How to Clean a Fish in Three Steps which is the method we utilized. Here is the end result:

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It was then that we realized I completely forgot some of our supplies at home… namely, butter, salt, pepper and tin foil. We threw some ice on the pan, tossed it in the cooler, and had to make an almost hour round trip into town to the gas station to get the supplies.

Once we returned, we were ready to go. Dan is the primitive cooking guy, so he seasoned and primed the trout with simply butter, salt and pepper, wrapped them up in tin foil and tossed them onto our camp grill.

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We lit up a fire as well, consisting of one tee-pee fire and a second long fire. We had local logs, and ignited it using the twig method, along with toilet paper as our manmade tinder (it was pretty wet everywhere, since it had been raining the past few days).

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While the trout was cooking, we sliced up some potatoes, threw them in a pan with avocado oil and tossed it in the long fire to cook. A quick explanation of the long fire– basically an extension of your main flame, only you make it horizontal instead of vertical. We used two logs and braces, with kindling and twigs in between (on a lower plane) which we lit. The fire is kept contained by the braces, that way you can place a pan atop the braces, directly over the twig fire.

We covered the top of the pan with tin foil because potatoes tend to take a while to soften. When the trout was done, we just placed the foil packets aside, added fresh diced onions, cheese and mushrooms (STORE BOUGHT! In general, even in a survival situation,  if you can prevent it, it is not wise to consume wild mushrooms. Often, highly poisonous mushrooms can look strikingly similar to edible mushrooms and cause a host of ailments, including but not limited to death– both from consumption, or the inhalation of smoke produced from attempted cooking).

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Once it all cooled down, the meal was complete and ready to eat.

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Nothing is more satisfying than a catch and eat meal. If only we had grown the potatoes in our own vegetable garden as well! The trout was cooked absolutely perfectly, though. It was falling off the bone. Trout does have a lot of pin bones to avoid, though.

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Yes, we did bring out plastic cutlery, but rest assured we brought in and hauled out a contractor bag with all of our trash.

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No feeling quite like the peace and calm of a night out in the woods, no cell phones, no internet, and nothing but us and our dog. The stars were stunningly beautiful above, and the silence breathtaking.

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Had to bust out the marshmallows to complete the good ole American camping experience. Good thing I also brought napkins because as you can see, Dan got it all over his face.

Now, what was Brook doing during all this time? We fed her the same time we ate; we brought her special food from home. She was off leash, and is smart enough not to go near the grill or fire, luckily. For the most part, she spent her time right behind us. Brook is a great dog to have in the woods at night. She goes into full guard dog mode, and literally stands at her post all night until bed.

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There’s her guarding right behind Dan.

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Here’s her guarding next to our tent. She looks/listen/smells what we can’t and always alerts us of human or animal movement at night. Knowing that we have no phones, and are fairly isolated in this area, it’s a reassuring habit.

At around midnight, after chatting, talking, laughing and enjoying the wilderness all night, we bunked down in our tent. Equipment wise, we brought thin inflatable sleeping pads and thin blankets. I brought sleeping clothes, though Dan didn’t. I’d recommend it if not just for feeling cleaner and more refreshed in the morning. Brook sleeps in the tent with us because she is our daughter.

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She stole my blanket… she also absolutely loves that spot right behind my knees when I sleep on my side.  But in this picture, you can also see the sleeping pad and blanket I brought.

For protection, we had our knives and bear spray. Probably all you need. Georgia’s population of bears is only about 2000 total, and stick to distinct portions of the state (including the mountainous region of North Georgia), so the spray is reserved for any unwelcome visitors… bear or not. Personally, I believe in preparedness without paranoia. Do I think being isolated and without signal in the woods could be dangerous? Potentially, but not in how folks that don’t do a lot of camping or backpacking would think. I will always argue that you are far more likely to be hurt or approached by unwelcome human contact in the populated city center than the middle of the woods. Sorry, that a bit of a rant!

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Fast forward to the morning. We woke up as the sun rose at around 7a. Dan was still asleep, so I poked out of the tent and went for a walk down by the creek. There were a few fly fishermen down there. The soft bubbling and morning view was so tranquil. Funny thing, Brook managed to get the tent unzipped after I left, and came running toward me 100mph to my surprise while I was down there. She found me!

By the time we made our way back, Dan, the camp-chef, had breakfast in the making. Breakfast was things we brought with us– eggs, steak, and cheesy potatoes o’brien. Eggs and potatoes cooked over our portable charcoal grill in a pan, while the steaks were sizzled over an open fire atop a steel camp grill.

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Talk about a feast. It was a little much for me so early in the morning, so Brook got the remains, little spoiled dog. We took a bit of a food coma nap after that. When we woke up, we packed everything up into the truck, made sure the site was left a little better than we found it and began the 3 hour, 40 minute trip back (to which I was the driver, ugh).

I highly recommend this area for trout fishing and camping. It was absolutely perfect in terms of the experience we were looking for. The sites are all right along the creek, so you hardly even have to walk (definitely don’t have to drive) to fish the creek. Most of the area was very clean, though we did spot some scattered beer cans, etc in the woods. Best of all, it was unplugged, and not crowded at all. Truly one of my favorite fishing trips thus far.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

McKellar’s Pond

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In eastern/central North Carolina there are a few common types of American catfish: Channels, Blues, bullheads and flatheads. Since we often had success catching Amur catfish we decided to go after their supposedly delicious American cousins. McKellar’s pond is located in Fayetteville, NC tucked into a few backroads. The pond overall isn’t very well kept. It was littered with trash and remains of slobby fishing parties. Sad– they do not have any staff or conservationists to clean up; It’s the fisherman’s responsibility and it looks like people just don’t care around here.

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Anyways, we set up three catfish rods (two ugly sticks, and one telescopic) with different baits ranging from chicken liver flavored dough baits, to “Little Stinker” dip bait, and even some night crawlers. We casted out the rods as far as possible, then tightened the line up and placed the rods into individual rod holders. Finished it off with a little clip on bell that way when a fish bites, we are alerted. We used treble hooks for the dip/dough and circle hooks for other baits. In the mean time, we used our short rods to do a little spin fishing for bass or panfish. We went the first few hours without too much luck until I ended up catching this little guy:

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Channel catfish are known to like to eat bluegill, so we cut him up into small 1-1.5in sections, discarding the fins and spines and slipped it onto circle hooks. It’s important to note that the way a circle hook works is that it twists and punctures the side of the fish’s mouth. So when baiting a circle hook you want to ensure you keep the gap between the point and the hook fairly clear. Bigger bait isn’t always better on a circle hook, especially a smaller one like the 5/0 we were using.

 

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Once the bluegill was on the hook and the sun began to set, the bites started coming. It’s a whole lot of fun when the bells start ringing on all the rods!

We ended up with a good amount of channel cats after the sun went down. Catfishing is a lot like carp fishing in Korea, where it’s pretty stationary and passive, but man it’s fun to bring ’em in once the bell jingles. In the mean time, we just hung out, drank, and played with Brook the entire time. We kept 3 cats to take home with us, and released the rest.

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We cleaned up our catches the next day, using a fairly simple technique of a diagonal cut behind the gills, a cut down the spine to the tail, and just slice the meat off the skin. We got four good filets out of it, which we pan fried up with some seasoned breadcrumbs, seasoned with salt and pepper and created some delicious cat fish po’boys.

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Always a great experienced to catch, clean, and cook. We have finally figured out how to catfish in America!

Twilight Pond (Again)

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Now this was a great day of fishing. A bit after our initial success at Twilight Pond, Dan, Brook and I decided to make our return. We used nightcrawlers again and a similar method to the first time– a sort of modified slow-pitch jigging. Almost off the bat we were getting bites left and right.  I was fighting a bass for a while, when I finally hooked him. I reeled him in in a frenzy and DISASTER STRUCK. The fish got away, and it felt like a big one, too. When I brought my line out, the hook was nowhere to be found. Was it big enough to have broken the line? Well, it happened AGAIN! And as it turned out, my knot was coming undone. Let me admit that I’d been really lazy with my spin reel knot tying because I never expected to get anything huge. Like I said before, my luck had been pretty poor in Georgia. So instead of a figure eight with a bight, I’d been doing like 5 square knots in a row. I know, I know… really idiotic. So I go over to fix this problem, and in the mean time Dan steps in my spot.

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And comes out with a HOG! We didn’t have a scale, but it was around 18 inches long, so assuming 3-4lb. A great catch! I have to say though I was a little butthurt that I moved away for a second and he snagged my nemesis. I definitely get a little competitive with catching! Anyways, we were fishing for food today, so we knocked this bad boy out and put him in the cooler. I retook my spot and got another bite.

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To my surprise I pulled out this flathead! Had no idea there were even catfish in this pond since it had recently been drained. Threw him in with the LMB to add some catfish nuggets to our future meal. Our luck kept going at this point.

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Pulled out 3 more pigs! Really great day of fishing since we were only there a few hours! Here’s one in comparison to Brooky:

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She always likes to give the fish a little sniff and a lick. Anyways, we threw a couple back and kept 3 largemouths and the flathead to go. Cleaned all four fish, and got some nice filets out of them. We seasoned with salt and pepper, washed with egg, and bathed in a combination of breadcrumbs, salt/pepper/garlic and other fry seasonings. We pan fried the bass in filets and the flathead in nuggets.

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Came out amazing. There’s always something extremely satisfying about catching, cleaning and cooking your own protein. Overall, a really successful day for fishing.

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…