Lubricating Knots

I see a lot of fishers, be it fly or bait fishers, use saliva to lubricate their leader or tippet material to cinch a knot. After doing this for a several years I found that depending on what you eat, your saliva becomes more or less acidic. Adding knots to your leader, to reduce to a smaller tippet size or just adding a longer tippet section reduces the strength of your overall leader as much as 20 – 30%. Why reduce your chances by using saliva to lubricate your knot?

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The last couple of years I found that people were asking me why I keep dipping my hands in the water I fished, when tying a new fly. “This is to keep my hands cool when I fish” I replied.

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Meanwhile, I see them eating their lunch and heaven forbid ORANGES (yuck) adding to the acid in their saliva. Then they go ahead with tying new flies to their leaders, which they lubricate with their saliva. The result would be a weak knot. In the summer when you are fishing, the weather is beautiful and you become very thirsty, your mouth becomes very dry. This is the worst time to use your saliva to lubricate a knot, I found that my knot used to fail 6 out of 10 times. You can actually see the leader near the knot kinked or stretched, due to heat when you pull the 2 sections apart. By dipping your knot (at the stage that you would be adding saliva) in to the water you are fishing, it cools and lubricates the leader so you can tighten your knot. I found that my percentage of successful knots went up to 95%. This has worked for me for the last 2 years. I still see people using saliva, but I keep telling them “I’m keeping my hands cool”.

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Tight lines and strong knots – Frank

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Staying clean in the outdoors

Camping is one of our favorite pass-time, especially in the summer months. It is no surprise that kids and teens will get dirty. Either it is gathering firewood or playing along a lakeshore, they will need someway to clean up.

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A few items I’ve come across in the surplus / outdoor stores, are:

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SHOWER ENCLOSURE

SUN SHOWER

You can hang the enclosure between two trees and add a rubber floor mat from the vehicle as a way to keep your feet free from dirt. The upper and lower part of the enclosure has a bladder which you inflate to keep its shape.

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The shower is a thick black plastic pouch with a cord for hanging above the enclosure. At the bottom end there is a short plastic tube with a nozzle you can twist to close or open, to conserve water. By leaving the solar shower full of water and in the sun it will heat the water in a few hours. If you need it right away, or need it for the next person, have a big pot of water warming on the fire, then add it to the pouch.

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Steelhead Heaven on the Dean River

This trip started out like every other trip, with a sleepless night anticipating big fish and landing my first one on a fly. I was after the beautiful steelhead of the Dean River.

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The morning was not how I imagined in my sleep. It was foggy with light clouds, which made me nervous, due to the small plane I was about to fly on. When I arrived at the South Terminal I saw the rest of my party already waiting. I was traveling to Bella Coola with two other people, Neville Gosling and Wayne Phillips. The other person in our party was Arthur J. Lingren. He was already at the camp, being there the week before.
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After checking in our bags and gear, we had a short breakfast followed by a chat session. We could feel the excitement of our week together, fishing for chrome bright summer steelhead.

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As I peered out the terminal window to what was our means of transportation, I started to get a little uneasy. I dislike flying with the big airplanes and you could imagine the feeling I had when I saw the small twin propeller aircraft. The flight was reasonably smooth once we got to cruising altitude and the view was spectacular. I saw high mountain peaks still covered with snow, glaciers in the valley between mountains leading to lakes, and low laying clouds with just the tops of the highest mountains peaking. However, before I knew it, we were descending into Bella Coola. Looking down at the terrain I could see the Bella Coola River in its glacier colors.
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At the airport we gathered our gear and food and trucked it next door where our helicopter was refueling. After a short orientation on the safety features of the helicopter, the pilot started loading our gear. Two people would go with the helicopter; the other would take the rest of the gear in a small Cessna 206 to the Kimsquit airfield. I guess it was my lucky day, because I got the Cessna.

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The flight to the Kimsquit airfield took 30 minutes, and we traveled north up the Dean channel. I was leaving civilization behind and entering wild untouched territory. As we approached Kimsquit, I could see what looked like a clearing in the trees. This was to be our landing strip. I was already tense about going to a smaller plane, but landing on a gravel runway was not my idea of fun. The pilot made it look easy. Before long we had the gear and food unloaded. In the distance I could hear the helicopter approach. From the Kimsquit runway to the Totems camp was about 4 km. I helped the helicopter pilot with the gear and we took off for camp.
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I had a wonderful view from the front seat of the helicopter, just skimming the trees as we traveled along the river. At about the half way point from camp, the river goes through a canyon with a small cascade. The strength those fish have is surprising, to make it through that kind of obstacle! As we approached camp I noticed that there were not many places to set down the helicopter. The first guess was a place 50 yards behind camp, which did not seem possible, since I had to cross a small creek and thick bush. The second guess was a gravel bar across the river, which was not a good idea, as I had to take the rest of the gear and food. The pilot set the helicopter down on shore, 75 feet from camp on a bank that had about ten feet of clearance from the rotor blades to the trees. We unloaded the helicopter quickly, so we could settle in and start our week of fishing.

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The water was flowing fast and high with a tan colour, probably from a slide up river. We got our gear on, put our rods together and tied on our flies before the mosquitoes and horseflies ate us alive. We split into two groups, with Art and myself in one and Neville and Wayne in the other. A short walk to the pontoon boats and the zodiac and across the river we went. I got to use one of the pontoon boats, which was exciting, since I never used one before. It was a bit tricky at first, but after you pointed in the right direction and let the current take you across, it was the easiest way to move.
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After a few fishless hours, the water level got higher and coloured up some more. I decided to go back to camp and get my gear in order. Wayne and Neville got in a few hours later and Wayne started on dinner. The menu was remarkable, with every day having something from a different ethnic group. We started with Greek, followed by Chinese stir fry, prime rib on Wednesday when the river guardians showed up for dinner, succulent ham on Thursday, and Italian pasta on Friday. I think someone must have told them about my eating habits. After dinner there were cocktails by the fire, with a few stories by Wayne and Art. Wayne was the comedian of the group, telling amusing stories and jokes to make our stay a pleasant one. That night I slept great, due to lack of sleep the night before and with a little help from my ear plugs.

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The next day Art was up and making coffee, before I even knew it was morning. With a little cleaning to rid the tables of mouse feces and inspect our storage box for intruders, we took a couple of snacks and a juice box for our day on the river. A quick huddle to discuss the game plan and across the river I went in one of the pontoon boats. Art and I worked the top end of the Cottonwood Run to the beginning of the Island Run, where Wayne and Neville started their morning. Art being the gentleman that he is, would let you start on a part of the run not covered. When you reached the tail out, you would go up to the head and work it down to the tail again. Covering water like that, was the best method for our success. Art explained that being in the lower part of the Dean river; fish were bright, clean and moving constantly. Working the run a couple of times would give you another chance at a bright summer steelhead.
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As the week went by, the water dropped steadily and cleared considerably. Runs that we overlooked, were now starting to show their bottom structure, because they were flowing high and hard to read a couple of days earlier. Water we that we had covered with shooting heads, was now fished with sink tips or long leaders and a floating line. By Tuesday the river was clear enough to use just a floating line and long leader, with a fly just under the surface. My first steelhead came to a fly at the left bank of the camp run. The run is a deep, slow-moving water close to shore, which produced a few fish during the week, for some of us.

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Every day we alternated runs to fish, starting at the head and working to the tail-out. We rotated turns after each one got a fish. One morning Neville and I went for a fifteen minute hike to the Victoria Run, which was where one of the area lodges set up camp. The trail leading to the run is an ATV trail used by the river guardians and a few people who owned ATV’s. That morning the helicopter came and collected the occupants of the camp, which left the run to us use along with one other fisher. I hooked a beautiful steelhead at the tail of the run, which jumped and pulled the hook loose, sending the flyline and hook back at me. After checking the hook to see if it needed sharpening, I cast it right back and let it swing in the same spot. To my amazement another steelhead hit, taking line off my reel at an alarming rate. It headed right down to the end of the run. After what seemed like an eternity, the fish came to her senses and slid on to the beach. After a quick picture, I gently released her back to the river to continue her journey.
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Tuesday evening turned to heavy clouds with a light sprinkle, which eventually turned to a light rain overnight. In the morning you could see the effects of the rain, as the river was starting to colour. We had a quick coffee, grabbed our snack bars and juice and hit the river. The morning fishing produced a fish each for my partner and myself, before the river turned a light tan colour. As I made my way back to the pontoon boat, I stopped to talk to Art. From the opposite bank I could see an intruder in our camp, it was a medium-sized black bear, heading for our camp. After a short attempt to get his attention, he kept on going into camp. We all headed back across the river to our camp to see what kind of damage the bear caused, expecting the worst. Hearing our yells, the bear retreated into the thick bush with minimal rewards from our camp. We cleaned up the mess and started on brunch. The bear did not go very far. He smelt something appetizing, that turned out to be the bacon sizzling on the skillet. On the trail behind camp; after brunch, one of the guys came face to face with the same bear. A quick shout and a blast from a bear banger and the bear disappeared, later seen crossing the river above the Cottonwood Run. Since the river stayed coloured, for the rest of the day, we prepared for our guests. Two river guardians and a fishery head biologist from Williams Lake, came for dinner that evening. We supplied the prime rib roast with potatoes and vegetables, and they supplied the wine. I think the only thing missing was the candles and bow ties.

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The week was ending quickly and being focused on catching steelhead; I hardly noticed the view. I sat on a log waiting for my turn at the run; meanwhile absorbing the landscape. This is one of the last places lacking any logging, and I hope it stays that way for a long time. You look around and realize that this is a pristine place, maybe one of a few remaining places in the province. This was a trip come true and one that I will remember for a long time.

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Tips for Ultralight Backpacking

Here are some tips for your next backpacking trip, that I have used and found some friends use as well.

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  • To have warm hiking shoes in the morning, put them under your sleeping bag by your legs, or even in your sleeping bag if you have a plastic bag to put them in.  .

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  • Use less stove fuel by cooking out of the wind. Block the wind with an improvised windscreen. Cooking time can double, in a slight breeze.

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  • Heat loss results from evaporation of moisture (this is why your body sweats to cool off). To cut this form of heat loss, you need to stay as dry as you can. Wear your rain gear when walking through wet bushes, and don’t sit directly on snow.

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  •  Transfer heat loss results from heat being moved away from your body by direct contact with colder things. Don’t sit directly on cold rocks or snow – use your sleeping pad, or sit on a log (wood transfers less cold than rocks).

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  • A lightweight pan. You probably won’t find it in backpacking catalogs. Every titanium pan I’ve seen weighs more than the cheap aluminum pan I see in a local dollar-store. They make backpacking pans too thick. I use a stainless steel canteen cup for everything and it weighs about two ounces.

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  • A light seat cushion can be made from a sleeping bag pad. Use an old basic blue foam pad. Cut it about 12 X 12 square out of it. This will weigh about one ounce (3/8″ pad). It makes a nice waterproof seat when you want to sit on a wet rock, log or on the ground. Pack it against your back inside your pack and it will also pad you from any sharp or bulky items.

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  • The cold wind chills the front of your body, even though your back is hot and sweaty. To help, put your jacket on backwards with the zipper along your back, and leave it opened. This will keep your back cooler while protecting the front of your body.

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  • When it is hot, soak your hat in every stream or water source you pass. A wet hat is like a little air conditioner on your head. Try a wet bandana around your neck too. This trick works best in dry climates.

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  • Attach alligator clips to the top of your pack, and you’ll always have an easy way to hang clothing to dry while you hike.

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  • If your damp clothes haven’t dried by morning, put them on – unless it is too cold. They’ll dry quickly once you start hiking. Drying them this way is generally safer than allowing damp clothes to accumulate in your pack.

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  • One way you can lighten your load is to carry high-calorie foods. Suppose you need 12,000 calories for a weekend trip. This could weigh from fifteen pounds down to four pounds, depending on the foods you select. Mixed nuts have twice as many calories per pound as bread. Plan for some variety, and balance the weight savings with decent nutritional choices.

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  • Use gaiters while tracking in tall bush. It keeps moisture away from your clothes as well as nasty insects from attaching themselves on you. They are also lightweight.

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Ultralight backpacking can still be healthy and fun.

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Beef Ribs: aka Dino Ribs

In my area they are not easy to find unless you know the local butcher. I check supermarkets weekly and ask the butcher there if they have any in full or half rack. Luckily, my areas supermarket does put them out once in a while, and when they do, I buy a few. My freezer has a good supply, for when the weather is nice.

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Here is what they look like vacuum packed in the local stores.

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Vacuum packed

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I look for ribs that are one inch thick with a good amount of fat, because fat is flavor. Cooking them is the same as brisket except for the shorter cook time. It takes the same spice rub and cooking temperature. The use of a simple 50% salt and pepper blend is all that I use, with a liberal dusting. I wrap in plastic film, then place in the fridge for a few hours, while I start the BBQ.

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When the BBQ smoker reaches a temperature of 250 degrees, I place the ribs on one side with a pan underneath to catch the grease. You can add water in the pan if you want, to act as a steamer, but I don’t. It’s like boiling your ribs, frowned upon by the BBQ community.
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Here is a picture of the ribs in the Weber.

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Ribs in the smoker

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After about 3-4 hours you should see the meat shrink from the bones. I then check the internal temperature with my thermopen. When it reaches an internal temperature of 185 degrees, I add a thin layer of BBQ sauce and let it rest in foil off the BBQ.

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After 30 minutes of rest I slice the ribs and plate. You should see a good smoke ring and the taste is like brisket. I use the spice rub and BBQ sauce liberally. The beef flavor should be the first thing you taste, and not hidden by a spice rub or BBQ sauce.

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Plated Ribs

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Spring is almost here, and it’s time to get the BBQ smoker cleaned and ready for a full year of BBQ goodness.

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How to Build a Survival Fire

The average back-country explorer today has fewer occasions to practice the art of fire-making than in years past. Our modern focus on “Green living” wilderness experience and the light efficient backpacking stoves has helped to make the campfire a thing of the past. But knowing how to start a fire in a survival situation is a skill that could save your life.

Successfully building a fire in wet, windy conditions is not easy, and requires a bit of knowledge, practice, and experience – as well as a few critical tools and hints.

Understanding the properties of fire will help you be a better fire-maker. The Fire has four elements that must be present for any fire to start or continue to burn.

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Fuel

Without a continuous supply of fuel (wood, alcohol, gasoline, coal, paper, etc.) a fire will go out.

Heat

Without enough heat a fire cannot start. Remove the heat from a fire and it cannot continue.

Oxygen

A fire requires a constant supply of oxygen to keep up the chemical reaction.

combustion

The combustion process feeds more heat to the fire allowing the chemical reaction to continue. Remove any one of these four key elements and the fire will not start or – if already burning – it will go out.

The Fire-building process to build a wood-fueled fire you need an ignition source and three types of fuel. From smallest to largest, they are tinder, kindling, and fuel wood.
The Ignition Source can be anything that will supply enough heat to ignite the tinder.

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Possible ignition sources include:

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  • even  two sticks rubbed together

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Survival experts recommend carrying at least three different ignition sources. Tinder is used to catch the first spark or flame generated by the ignition source and transfer it to the kindling.

Tinder should be dry so that it catches fire easily, and burn long enough to dry wet kindling and allow it to catch fire.

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Some good sources of tinder are dry tree bark, wood shavings, dry grasses and plant material, paper, pitch, dry pine needles, or char cloth. You can make tinder at home by dipping rolled cardboard “Fire Sticks” in melted wax, or coating cotton balls with petroleum jelly. These homemade fire starting aids burn hot and long, perfect for igniting wet kindling. There are also many versions of commercial fire starter tinder products available.

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The Kindling is added to the burning tinder. Good kindling is small and very dry, so that it catches the flame from the tinder and burns hot. Use dry twigs, cardboard, or small wood pieces. Make a “fuzz stick” by shaving a dry stick with a sharp knife to leave curls of thin dry shavings clustered at the end of the stick.

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Fuel wood, larger sticks, branches and small logs, are added over the hot flame of the burning kindling. The fuel wood burns more slowly and creates a bed of coals that continually release heat, igniting added fuel as it is placed on the fire. Once the fire is established, simply add fuel to keep the fire. Besides wood, you can use peat, dried animal dung, twisted grasses, or coal as fuel for your fire.

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Although dry fuel is best, even wet or green wood will burn once the fire is well established. Before you start building your fire you should gather a generous supply of materials. Your fire will consume a lot of fuel, so gather 3 – 4 time what you think you will need, and more if you will be spending the night.

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Choose a place for your fire that is near a good source of fuel, but keep safety in mind to prevent wildfire. Clear the area around your fire site of all combustibles to a radius of 4 – 6 feet. Contain the fire in a ring of stones or in a pit dug several inches into the ground. Try to find a place protected from the wind to avoid spreading sparks or embers – starting a wildfire could endanger lives and cause damage that you may be liable for. In bad weather, seek a sheltered site as heavy rain will put out even the best built fire.

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Getting your fire started is a three-step process:

  1. Arrange your tinder in a generous pile of loosely spaced kindling.

  2. The kindling needs to allow airflow to the fire, but be close enough to catch fire from the burning tinder. Use your ignition source to light the tinder so that the flame rises up through the kindling. Add more kindling to the flame, making sure to keep plenty of air space. Continue to strengthen the fire with more kindling, then start adding pieces of larger fuel wood until the fire is well established.

  3. As you feed the fire, arrange the wood in a way that maintains the airflow:

  • In the Teepee method the fuel wood is arranged like a teepee with the tinder and kindling inside. As you add extra fuel it is leaned up against the side of the burning teepee structure.

  • In the Log Cabin method the fuel wood is stacked in layers that alternate direction over the burning kindling, creating a sturdy structure that is less susceptible to premature collapse. Unfortunately, this method allows the least amount of air to enter the fire.

  • In the Cross-ditch method the fire is built at a small x-shaped trench dug 3-4 inches into the ground. The intersecting trenches allow air to flow underneath the fire, feeding the fire’s center with essential oxygen. Practice Makes Perfect

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Be sure to practice your fire-making skills before you actually need them. Learn how to use a fire-steel by practicing in your backyard fireplace or at the campsite. Learn how to make a fuzz stick, experiment with some easy to make fuzz sticks and challenge yourself to build a fire with wet materials in bad conditions.

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Practice provides a valuable experience that could save your life in an emergency. These two essentials – matches and fire starter are the most important. I always carry an extra lighter and fire starter (a film canister full of lint from the dryer) in my first aid kit.

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Where to begin on a new lake

Not many things beat the excitement of launching your boat or float-tube on a new lake. Everything looks the same as you row out to the middle, you think to yourself where should I start? No matter what lake you are fishing, by being ready and following some simple rules, you can find fish fast and easily.

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Before you go out on the Lake

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Once you decide the lake you would like to fish, the first step is to download a bathymetric map from Fish Wizard (http://www.fishwizard.com) if you live in BC.

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What is a  bathymetric map?

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It is the submerged equivalent of an above-water topographic map. Print and laminate the map to use on the water. By targeting sudden depth changes or islands and points, you will be on the feeding zones of fish. If you take a waterproof pen and circle any areas on the map that has a good possibility of holding fish, you have a starting point. These can be things such as underwater humps, weedy back bays or islands. This map will become your eyes while out on your new body of water, and will ultimately lead to your success.

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Another tactic I use is researching any information on my chosen lake that I can get my hands on. This can take the form of the Internet, magazines, and tackle stores. There is a ton of information out there, and it can increase your odds greatly.

Out on the Water

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Once you have finished your homework, it is now time to apply it to the real thing. One technique I use when starting out from the dock is to run my depth finder while traveling the lake. This will help in locating weed lines, bottom structure, and will be used in combined with your topographic map. Many times I run the boat for an hour or two while searching the lake with the map, before even throwing a cast. Once it is time to make that first cast, I want to be sure that it will be to a productive spot.

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Shore obstacles used as a reference marker is my favourite trick when it comes to a new lake as they can help you pinpoint and stay on productive structure. Although they will not necessarily mark the fish, they will enable you to stay on cover or structure that will be holding fish. A floating buoy is also a great tool to mark a productive spot. A great use for these buoys is to mark a long weed line so that you can fish its edge, or keep your casts in the strike zone longer. This trick has helped some days for me when fishing new water.

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What to Throw?

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When fishing a new body of water your main goal is to find fish fast. One of the main goal is to cover water quickly and efficiently. By using a “fast-moving” lure, you can cover that fish-less water, while also hooking the most aggressive fish you come across. By keying-in on productive water you have already found, with this high-percentage technique, you will find yourself in the middle of aggressive fish.

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Regardless of the species of fish that you are after, throwing a fast and efficient lure will increase your odds for success. Once you have caught a number of fish with this technique, it is then time to slow things down and carefully go over the area with a slower presentation. This would also be a great time to toss a marker buoy so you can stay on this productive spot that you have found. If the fishing starts to slow or the conditions begin to change, simply move to another productive area you had found earlier in the day.

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When To Go?

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In order to increase your odds fully on your trip to a new lake, you should consider when is the best time to go. Several days of calm, stable weather is a good sign that the fish will be active. It may also be better to fish earlier in the day or towards the evening if the conditions have been unusually hot.

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I also like to time my trips to a new lake to coincide with the best period of the year for the fish I am after. Fishing a new lake can be a fun and rewarding experience for the angler. Try these tips and tactics out when you try your luck at a different spot, and reap the rewards that your new-found lake may hold.

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Tips on buying a boat

With the boat show coming up next month, I decided to research buying a new or used boat on the internet for a friend. The best time to buy a boat is during the winter since boat dealers will be offering discounted deals to clear out the old inventory for new boat models in the spring. Also boat owners will upgrade their present boat to a bigger, fancier model for their family or business.

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What’s the best type of boat to buy? Well, boats usually fall into five categories: Fishing Boats, Power Boats, Sailboats, Personal Watercraft and Self powered boats. I will be searching for a fishing boat, preferably a jet-boat. Approximately 75% or 80% of boats on the market today are neglected. The average person assumes a coat of paint or polish will restore it, not true! Most first time buyers, first boat is in the $20,000 to $50,000 range. Buying the wrong powerboat can cost you big time later.

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 BUY QUALITY-NOT QUANTITY!

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Your best bet is to start smaller than you planed to, and work your way up, after enjoying your first boat for a few years. It is miserable when you first come to realize that you might have to buy a smaller or less fancier boat than you had planned on buying. Will you be using the boat primarily for a fishing boat or just plan on cruising.

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Additional benefits include:

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    •    You’ll save money on gas with a newer/smaller boat.

    •    A smaller boat will be easier to learn how to navigate.

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Should You Buy a New or Used Boat?

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If you are looking for a used boat, take a look at how it has been maintained. Signs of careless on the outside could mean the previous owner didn’t take care of it at all. Did they change the oil regularly, wash the salt off after each use, keep it covered over the winter?

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The boat should be inspected by a dealer or a licensed marine mechanic. An inspection can also affect the boat’s value. I have a plaque in my boat that says: “a boat is a holes in the water into which you throw money.” This could be true if you do not do an inspection. Test drive the boat to get the feel for how the boat will fit you. See how it handles, check the bilges for water, test the pumps, and look it over for any flaws that you did not notice initially. Here is a checklist you can use for your own inspection.

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There’s nothing worse than a boat that’s two small for you or your family needs and not used enough because your family can’t fit on it. Be sure your boat has a hull designed for rough water. Boats that do not have deep V hulls will tend to ride rough on these waters.

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Make sure you do a lien check. Most insurance company will do this for a fee before you can purchase insurance or register.

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Things to Consider Before a Camping Trip

Make and Maintain a Camping Checklist

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Using a camping checklist means you have done a bit of planning. By using the list you will be less to forget something critical to your trip. Take the list along with you and add to it as you think of something that you wished you had brought. This way your list gets updated on each trip, and it makes it that much easier on the next one.

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Familiarize Yourself with Camping Gear

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If you have bought a new tent, lantern, cook stove, or some other gear its a good idea to try these out in your backyard prior to your camping trip. There is nothing worse than trying to set up a new tent for the first time when its starting to get dark or worse raining. This is also true for trailers or tent trailers. Become familiar with their set up before to your trip, and practice backing them up, so that you do not have a tough time when you get to the campground.

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Set Up Camp Before Dark

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Arrive at your campsite early enough the first day so that you have plenty of daylight to get your tent and other equipment set up. This will get you off to a good start so that you can relax and enjoy the outdoors. Be aware that it gets dark earlier when you are deep in the forest.

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Plan Your Meals Before the Trip

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Plan your meals before you leave on the trip. This way you will know what food to buy, and what you will need to prepare it. Try to avoid getting stuck stopping at a grocery store, far from the city, where items are limited and often very expensive. Consider making a few vacuum packed food for those rainy days, sort of like a MRE (meal ready to eat) the military use.

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Bring the Right Clothing

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When packing your clothes make sure that you have enough clothing if someone falls into the lake and gets all wet. Be sure and bring a swimsuit and towels if swimming is in your plans. Make sure to have some sweatshirts, light coats, and rain gear for when it gets cold and wet. Pack enough, but do not overdo it. Remember you are probably limited on what you can fit in your vehicle, and to an extent you are roughing it, so you really do not need near as much stuff as normal.

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Did You Bring a  Big Enough Tent?

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There is nothing worse than having your family all packed into your tent. Even though you are roughing it, you can still enjoy a bit of comfort. If your tent is large enough and you even bring some air mattresses you can be sleeping nice and comfortable. A 10 ft x 18 ft dome tent that accommodates a family very comfortably is all you need. What I like best about having a bigger tent is that it gives you room to walk around the mattresses, and still have space to put a clothes bag or luggage. Even though this is a pretty large tent it folds down small and hardly takes up any space, so unless you are backpacking, I would recommend going with a larger tent just to be on the safe side.

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Make Your First Trip Close to Home

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I would recommend going to a campsite pretty close to home (within 1-2 hours) for your first trip. That way if anything too terribly wrong happens, then you can just drive home. It’s always good to get some recommendations on places to go from some of your friends that are experienced campers. They will probably know some good places to go for your first camping trip.
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Take Flashlights and lots of batteries

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Make sure and take flashlights and check their batteries prior to the trip to make sure that they are good and strong. Flashlights will be helpful if you are changing in a dark tent or if you have to get up in the middle of the night and go to the bathroom. You do not want you stumbling around the woods in the dark. Lanterns are also very handy, especially if you want to light up your campsite and play some games around the picnic table. These now come with a crank handle that are inexpensive and very easy to use.
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Check for Fire Restrictions or Burn Bans

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Check ahead of time and make sure that there are not any fire restrictions or burn bans at your campground. If you are looking forward to a good old campfire, than you could be greatly disappointed if a burn ban is in effect. However, if a campfire is a go, then make sure that you bring some firewood, and some kindling or newspaper to get your fire going, along with some type of lighter. Some parks have firewood available for sale, but not all do, and most parks will not allow you to pick up twigs and branches off the ground to burn.
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Check Weather Conditions before Your Trip

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If severe weather is predicted for your camping area, and you can schedule your trip another time, then do it. There is nothing worse than being confined to your tent or slopping around in the mud for a few days.
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Obey All Park Rules

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Remember to obey all park rules and be courteous to other campers. Sound carries much further in the forest, so keep your voice down, especially at night. At the end of your stay, leave your campsite clean and ready for the next camper.
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Note Your Favorite Campsites at the Campground

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Once you have been to a campground that you like and scouted around some, make note of the campsites that you like the best. This way you will remember them for future trips, and if you can reserve a particular site, you will know which ones you are most interested in.

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Outdoor Equipment Basics

The highest quality outdoor equipment for backpacking uses advanced space age materials to offer the lightest and smallest possible package for easy carrying.
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Sleeping bags are the most important piece of equipment any backpacker can own. They keep the camper warm in the coldest conditions but they are also the largest and bulkier piece of gear.

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The lightest and warmest bags use synthetic materials for the casing and the interior as well, though down is still widely popular because of its superior insulation properties and ability to compress to incredibly small sizes. If you are not allergic to down, these are the best bags money can buy but just be sure to not get the material wet. Wet down feathers become heavy and lose their insulating properties making the bag useless. Synthetic filling is often much cheaper and can keep its insulation characteristic in wet weather and is hypoallergenic, but often does not pack as small as a down bag.
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A tent is the next most important piece of outdoor equipment used for backpacking. The outer tent fabric, called the rain fly, is almost always a synthetic nylon material that is treated with a waterproof coating to keep the interior of the tent dry in rainy and snowy weather. This covers the tent which is often of a synthetic material and mosquito netting for adequate air flow in warmer conditions.
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Cold weather tents lack the netting to keep interior heat and prevent any wind from entering. There are four season tents which are suitable for a variety of conditions from summer nights to winter adventures. A three season tent is suitable for all but the coldest conditions and a wall tent is used for extreme mountaineering.
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Wall tents integrate the rain-fly into the walls of the tent instead of keeping them as separate pieces. The poles are often made of aircraft aluminum for strength and low weight, though some tents use composite materials such as carbon fiber for the lowest weight and highest strength.
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Other important pieces of outdoor equipment used for backpacking include the pack itself which can be made of anything from canvas to synthetic material and often include an aluminum metal frame for more support of heavy loads. These packs contain straps and attachments for everything from water bottles to tents, sleeping pads, and other camping accessories. A high quality pack will last for years and hundreds of miles with little or no maintenance.

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Make Toothpaste Dots for Lightweight Backpacking

Originally posted on The Zombie Squad Elite:

Making your toothpaste lighter? Yep, today I’ll be showing you how you can even trim weight on your toothpaste. I’ll admit this technique sounded silly to me when I first heard about it, but if you’re serious about trimming ounces for lightweight backpacking,  then toothpaste dots might be for you.

Toothpaste2

In my ongoing quest to make my backpacking dopp kit even lighter, I decided to test out a technique that a buddy of mine used on a camping trip. Between Seth’s experience and reading about toothpaste dots in Ultralight Backpackin’ Tips by Mike Clelland, I set out to make my own.

Toothpaste Dots

The gist of creating toothpaste dots is to first select a toothpaste that isn’t a gel. If you try to use a gel, you’ll get globs not dots. Plus, gel toothpaste never fully cures like the paste will. For my experiments, I used Sensodyne Pronamel (Paste) and…

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Outdoor/Cold Weather Survival: Mitigate the Risks

Originally posted on SwittersB & Exploring:

At Traditional Mountaineering (an excellent resource to search through) they note that mountaineering is inherently risky/dangerous and one can only mitigate the risks. I think much of the outdoor pursuits have risks and we muddle along in those pursuits with some vague sense of ‘survival’ plan because we are close to the rig or we are with someone.

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With the extreme cold temps gripping the NE U.S. and elsewhere, a stranded vehicle scenario should give rise to a bunch of what if’s. Do you really have a plan for a long term, stuck in the car event? The space blanket piece at Traditional Mountaineering got me to thinking about such a plan. It doesn’t take being stuck in sub zero temps to need such a plan. 

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Truly give some thought to an in-vehicle survival/comfort kit and also think of what you should carry on your back when trudging off into…

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Reading Maps and Using A Compass

Maps are flat for a variety of reasons. They fold, they copy well, and often very inexpensive. Reusable with proper folding techniques and waterproofing.  You very seldom use the entire map all at once. You break it down into bits and pieces just to get to one lake, or feature as an example..
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Some basic map terms.

  • Relief map – a map drawn or manufactured in such a way as to illustrate intricate topography or terrain of an area.
  • Topography – the nature or condition of the surface contour of land.
  • Terrain – Land or ground seen in terms of its features or general physical character.

Some notes with respect to maps.

  • Topo Maps are in most cases drawn with a north arrow. It helps to know where north is. When you get the north map arrow pointing as the compass needle, you have the ground under your feet aligned with the map..
  • Practice with a map in a familiar area in daylight and darkness. Walking where your going to see each feature if you want. If you increasing the speed at which you cross terrain you learn to watch for more significant features like a stream crossing. Practice with someone.

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  • First orientate the map and compass to north. Your compass will show magnetic north and the map is grid north. By adjusting for the declination angle you will have the north you need.

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In regards to the map and compass world there are three Norths.

  • TRUE north.
  • MAGNETIC north
  • GRID north

True north -  is If you ran a direct line through the exact center of the earth on a north-south axis you would have true north.

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Magnetic north -  Magnetic north is where your compass needle hopefully is pointing to. I lay them flat on the map surface, float the needle to the north and along with the printed north arrow on the map, I have the map and compass oriented to face north.

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.Grid north – is the lines of longitude merging on the earth’s surface (north and south poles) as drawn by cartographers. Most base-plate style compasses also have a distance scale typically on the right hand side. In a PLOT you can orientate to north (map and compass) and scale a planned distance to walk or travel.

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The declination angle – it’s the difference between the magnetic north of your compass and the grid north of your map and is more often than not shown in the maps legend. .

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The importance of wearing a life jacket

If you’re on the water, whether you’re boating or not, it’s always a good idea to be cautious and wear one. Most (72%) boating deaths that occurred during 2010 were caused by drowning, with 88% of victims not wearing life jackets. Not all drowning occur while falling unexpectedly off a boat, some occur while wading rivers or slipping from shore into a deep hole.

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Three kinds of life saving devices while on the water are:

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Life jackets

Life jackets are made to upright your body, incase you fall in head first. They are bulky, but very reliable and my choice when just out boating.

I was in a situation where I needed a life jacket during a fishing trip, where the tide changed and we were in 12 foot swells. The boat was too small for the waves and we were taking on water. Lucky for us we had our life jackets on and made our way back to the boat launch.

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PFD
For other water activities, I prefer a lighter collar like device. Usually inflated by an air cartridge, orally or like the newer models, inflate automatically when under water. They are lighter, comfortable but less buoyant than a jacket.

I always wear my PFD when wading a fast river. It is easier to cast with it on, comfortable, and lighter. Another must use, is when you are in a belly boat (a rubber inner tube craft with a seat). If you have a mishap and puncture the craft with a hook, the PFD is the only thing that protects you from drowning.

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A few years ago my brother and I were fishing a small lake on the outskirts of town. We packed light and brought our belly boats to this hike in lake. I made my way out, while my brother was still on shore. As he entered the water, he did not notice the boulder at his feet, and tumbled forward into the water. Right away I noticed he was in trouble, being face down under water. He tried to dog paddle to stay above the water line, while I furiously tried to reach him. Luckily a couple of hikers seen what happened and made their way to help. This would have been a great time for a PFD.

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Inflatable Belt Pack
My least favorite of all PFD because when you fall in to the water, the last thing you are looking for is a PFD around your waist to pull the inflation cord.

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Stay safe
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Making a stove out of aluminum cans to purify water

Water is a necessity, you cannot survive long without it, so purifying water is a must when it is taken from an unknown source. A simple and effective way to get water to boil and it costs only a dime, with the use of 2 aluminum cans. This is an easy way to get water to boil with a makeshift stove.

When you finish making the aluminum can stove, just add alcohol, light and place a tin of water to purify for drinking.

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Things you need:

  • 2 recycled aluminum cans ( cost 10¢ for not recycling)
  • A ruler
  • A sharpie
  • Scissors
  • Alcohol or White gas (also called naphtha or camp fuel)

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Here is a test on how it works.

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When I was lost on the trail.

I remember a few years ago, when a few friends and I decided to take a trip to a remote river. The logging road was well-marked, but the trail leading to the river access was overgrown.

Excited to get started, one of my friends began down the trail. I brought up the rear, with my backpack full of fishing gear, a first aid kit, headlamp, bear spray, and miscellaneous items. After a few yards the trail got steep and the rest of my friends slowed to let me catch up. I noticed the path they were on got narrow and darker, even though it was mid afternoon. I removed my backpack and looked for something that I could use to mark the trail. Fortune for me I had fluorescent marking tape that I carry from other trips I have done. A tied a piece of tape at a distance that I could see the last piece.

Some things to carry in a backpack:

We reached the end of the trail and it opened up to a small river along a canyon. Excited to be the first fisherman to get my gear together and start fishing, I cast my fly and a small trout came up to the fly. The next few hours we caught and released a dozen fish each. This river with remote access and overgrown path had not seen much pressure from others. I think the trout were confused with the amount of food (flies) that floated by and attacked everything they saw.

I noticed that it was getting dark and it was time to go. A quick shout and we packed up for the trip back to the vehicle. Good thing we hung the marker tape, it made it easy to see our way back, even in a fading light. Whether finding a remote place to fish, trekking through the woods looking for a game trail, or cross-country skiing in snow, I always carry some fluorescent marker tape in my pack.

Stay safe.
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Lighting a fire with a water bottle.

If you’re on a camping trip, or just stranded outdoors without any way to get a fire started, here is an easy way to light a fire.

Here’s what you need:

  • Dark Paper or paper with dark spot on it.
  • Tinder or small strips of paper.

Using a clear plastic bottle is key to creating a clear lens so it functions like a magnifying glass. Use the curved part of the bottom or top of the bottle to focus a light beam from the sun to a dark spot on a piece of paper.

Once the paper starts to smoke, add dry tinder or more paper, until you get a flame. Here is a video to show you how to make it.

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Birkenhead River Trip

It started real ugly on one Saturday morning, with heavy rain and fog on the way to Whistler. I left Port Coquitlam at 6:00 a.m. and headed for Whistler, with a stop at Squamish for breakfast. I met my guide at Whistler village in front of the fly shop. The guide’s name was Kevin, and he guides for Whistler Backcountry Adventures.

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When he asked if I was still interested in fishing due to the weather I said yes, not knowing what a die-hard fisherman I was. Kevin was not aware that the 8-hour guided trip that I picked at an auction for a reasonable price was about to expire. The options he gave me were to fish for coho or chum in the bigger rivers (which were all chocolate color, with less than a foot of visibility) or fish for rainbows in the Birkenhead River. I jumped at the chance for fat rainbows after the stories I heard of my gillie catching 16-20 in. rainbows the day before.

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The rainbows that are in the Birkenhead are after the eggs of the spawned out sockeye, dislodging them from the gravel. We made a quick stop for sandwiches and pop for our lunch break, and then proceeded to where the fly shop has their gear. After picking my waders and flyrod we headed for the first stop of the trip. I have never fished the Birkenhead so I was real excited to get under way.
The pull out for the first stop was a small trail near the road close to the railway tracks, which is hard to find. I was real spoiled with the guide doing all the work assembling the rods and rigging it up for nymphing. The set up consisted of a 6 ft leader with a corkie for an indicator, twist on lead strips for weight to get down fast and a fluorescent orange plastic bead melted to the hook for the egg imitation.

We had no luck in the first run and my nymphing technique needed work, with a few snagged branches on the roll cast. Lucky for me the guide does all the work, which is real nice when the weather is miserable. He handed me his other rod that was already rigged and ready to go. I worked every pocket of water and behind every boulder 100-200 yards upstream and downstream of where we parked his truck. I told my guide that he should be fishing as well. That way we can cover more water and find fish. He was happy to do so, telling me that he does not fish unless the guest tell him to.

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On the next stop we did a bit of wading (in waist-high water) to get to the other side of the river so we can cover a lot more water. I managed to hook a cutthroat in the 12-in. range that put up a good fight on a 6-wt. rod in fast-moving water. My gillie was very surprised to see a cutthroat, due to where we were located which was half way between Birkenhead lake and Lillooet lake.

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A few more yards down river I hooked another fish which snapped me clean off. We packed up and headed for another place, which was the hatchery run. Once there we decide to stop for lunch and talk about the type of fishing the gillie guides for. Seems that we have a bit in common, both coming from back east when we were young, fishing fanatics, all year round, all types of flyfishing – basically eat, sleep, read and fishing.

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After lunch we decided to go see his friend that runs the hatchery. I had a small chat with him and then decided to go fish upstream from the hatchery, which was one of the prettiest pieces of water that I have ever seen. The other parts of Birkenhead had the usual slide, fallen trees and unfortunately not very pretty. The run above the hatchery was very close to a scene from the movie” A River Runs Through It”, very nice and pristine. I guess my guide saved the last 4-5 hours for this run, and the weather started to let up, which was nice to see since we were fishing in rain since 9:00 a.m.

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The run just above the hatchery produced a nice rainbow of about 15-in. that was fat and feisty. As my guide netted the fish, the fish regurgitated eggs into the net. The fish had a 12 -15 in. girth and was as chrome as a small steelhead.

Up river a few yards we came upon some nice pocket water where we could see some sockeye still milling about and rainbows close behind waiting for the salmon to deposit eggs. We decided not to fish this part, just in case, we hooked a sockeye. Just then, in behind the bushes we heard something heading our way which was crackling the branches and twigs, so my gillie decided to give a few loud greetings if it was a bear, which he has seen on the river looking for salmon.

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We waded across stream and ventured up river a few more yards and found a nice white water chute which tailed into a deep slow run. Just as we were ready to cast the weather turned to clear skies and sun. Wouldn’t you know it I forgot my sunglasses!

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I made my first cast into the white water and let it drift to the slow water. This produced a nice rainbow!

However, after a short battle the fly just pulled out. Next cast had the same result and I lost it after about a minute. The gillie decided to retie a new hook, while he handed me the other rod to fish with. He suggested going up river a little more to give that run a rest, and that we would hit it on the way back. At the next pool we saw some coho in the tailout, which was way too big for our gear, so we worked the head of the run, just off the main current where the water formed a back eddy. I saw some fish moving in and out of the eddy, but they were not interested or my presentation was not perfect.

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We went back down to the run where I had hooked and lost 2 fish and made another run through it. We were surprised when I hooked another fish in that same water after only 1 hour of rest. The fish was a bit bigger than the 2 earlier ones, due to the hook straightening out and the roll the fish did as it came off. I cast another couple of times with no luck and we decided to leave and try another spot, but I said one more cast. As I cast my gillie was slowly heading for shore, the next thing I knew all hell broke loose and I was totally taken by surprise. I was looking away and a fish hit hard and made a screaming run down stream, we were very surprised that I hooked a fish after hooking 2 before and then coming back and hitting 2 more.

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It was 4:45 p.m. and we had a long walk back so we decided to call it a day. All in all it wasn’t a bad day. The scenery was beautiful with fresh snow on the mountains, fish willing to hit a fly, and the thought of a guide supplying all the gear, ride, lunch and knowledge of a river that I never fished before, seemed to make it all worth while. Not bad for a guided trip that I picked up at the auction for a steal.

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Tight lines

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Fish of a lifetime

This is the classic story of…The one that got away. Reflections of the past.

I got up in the morning to go for breakfast, but the kitchen was closed until 7:00 a.m. so I decided to get my gear on and head out in front of the hotel (Hotel Run). I decided to take the nearest Exit door out to the river. When I hit the bar latch, the door swung open and I saw a dark room with plywood floors, 3 cots with 3 people sleeping in them. One of the guys opened his eyes and said, “Who are you?” which I replied, “I thought this was the exit”. I talked to the guy at the local refreshment facility later on in the day, he said that management said it was a recent remodeled room.

I got to the Thompson on Friday at about 1:00 p.m. and noticed Brian Niska’s (from Whisterflyfishing ) pathfinder at the graveyard run. I quickly raced to the hotel to get checked in, and then hit the river before any of the other guys in our group showed up. The desk clerk said the manager will not be back for at least 2 hours, so off I go to meet up with Brian. When I got there he was already heading for his truck. He had been there 2 days earlier and was thinking of fishing one more day before heading home. He managed to land one and lose one in 2 days fishing.

As we were talking, Fisheries Officer came up to take any info we had. I asked him how was the report in the last couple of days. He said that of 20 fisherman surveyed, 4 fish were landed. I asked Brian if it was worth fishing the graveyard run, and he said that it looked like the Vedder river with about 15-20 guys on it. We decided to fish in front of the hotel since it had no one fishing there. We worked it for a while till we came up on some campers farther down close to the bridge. Then the fishing turned to story telling to drinking beer, till it got dark.

The next day the group I was with, decided to fish the run across from the graveyard run and closer to the bridge. We worked the run for about 4 hours all the way past Murray Creek to the head of the Graveyard. We headed back for our breakfast, which was part of the price of the rooms – being a B&B I guess that was included. After breakfast we decided to work the hotel run again and finish up at the graveyard. I managed to land a 16-in. rainbow, which was real scrappy but no match for my Spey rod. Another guy in our group fished under the bridge and managed to land a nice steelhead of about 15-lb. We worked all the way to the graveyard and it started to rain hard, but just for an hour. Then the sun came out, and we had a beautiful sunset.

On Sunday we all headed for the graveyard run 1/2 hour before sunrise. To our surprise there was already one guy there. We worked it above the guy and followed him down. At 9:30 a.m. we decided to go for breakfast in town, then head for another run. After breakfast, we decided to fish the “Y” run which is the spot the rafters use as a base camp or a launch site and lunch stop. I decided to go with the 2 guides from Alberta and fish the head of the “Y” run. They gave me the first run, which was nice of them. I hooked a big fish after about a dozen casts through the seam that broke the rapids with the calm water closer in. It did one long run and while I was concentrating on getting to shore without falling on the slippery rocks, the fly snapped off.

What a disappointment after almost 3 days of fishing, 1 lost steelhead and 1 landed rainbow. That would have been my first steelhead on a fly ever, and the first on the Thompson River. We worked the rest of the run down to and across from Grease Hole. As we were making our way down to the Grease Hole, while being spaced apart, 80-100 feet or so, 2 guys with bait gear showed up and walked right in. It started to get real ugly, with name calling and threats after explaining good river ethics to them. They said that we should go to where it is flyfishing only, above Martel Island. That run produced 5 fish that day and the guys I was with did not want 2 guys with bait gear to just walk right in the middle of us and cast to the other side. After about 5 minutes of explaining to them why they should work above us, I decide to call it quits for the day and head home. I guess I worked a lot of the river and was rewarded with one take of a life time. This is better than my friend who had been up there 5 weekends in a row without landing a single fish, but hooking one the last hour.

Tight lines, check your hooks & knots

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Which Fishing Technique is right for you?

There are a variety of techniques for trout fishing, and the one that you choose will depend on the situation and preference. Trout differ from other spices of fish because they can be finicky on what they eat. Some like certain colour of bait or food item, then change from hour to hour or day. But, being ready with other types of baits and lures could help solving this problem especially if you encounter finicky fish.

Some of the usual techniques are as follows:

• Float fishing

Drift fishing

Lure fishing

Fly fishing

Float fishing is a technique that involves the use of a float, being a bobber, Styrofoam, or a torpedo style float. It could be used with variety of baits, lures, jigs, or flies. This allows your offering to be suspended at a determined depth.

Drift fishing, as its name implies, involves dropping your hook and line with bait upstream of the water where the trout is holding and allowing it to drift naturally past, all the while waiting for the trout to bite.

Lure fishing is where an angler uses a spinning or level wind outfit with jigs, spinners, and spoons. There are several kinds of lures that could be chosen in variety of sizes and shapes that you could experiment with.

Fly fishing is my favourite technique. It won’t take you long to learn the skills, but it can take a lifetime to master them. The best way to find out what kind of flies to use is to look at what is going on in the water and on the banks. Turn rocks over and look at the insects clinging underneath. Try to match the size and colour of the insects with the flies you have in your flybox. Most of a fishes staple is eaten under water not on top of it, so using wet flies are more effective than dry flies. Of course nothing beats a dry fly strike for excitement.

Learning to tie your own flies will help you match the insect you are imitating. You learn a lot about bugs by tying imitations of them for yourself. If you buy a good quality fly tying kit with a decent vise as a starting point. Then sign up for a class at your local fly shop. You can read about the techniques in books but the best teaching comes from seeing it done in person and then trying it for yourself.

Tight lines
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