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!

William O. Huske Lock and Dam #3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ice Hunting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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.

 

 

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.

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!

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!

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!

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.