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I realized the other day that most of my blog entries (when I remember that I have a blog) in the last year have been heavy on cooking and gardening, and light on bushcraft. So lets do some bushcraft…

I had the day off, and decided to make it a bush day. I had not been fly fishing since early July and ventured out to my favorite bass stream (and no, I will not tell you where it is; find your own). In addition, I had bought some new boots for grouse hunting (Irish Setter’s for 80 bucks on Amazon.com; how could I refuse?) that needed some breaking in, so I laced up the boots, grabbed the rod, and off I went.

A long story short, I didn’t get any fish. I had a northern check out my fly, but it took off before striking. I wasn’t surprised; I have never had much luck at this spot past July. The water gets to low, and today there were several hawks cruising the river (I don’t know if they were fish eating hawks, but I imagine to a fish a hawk is a hawk).

Fishing being a bust, I decided to check out the area right around the river to see what kind of useful stuff I could find. While still on the subject of fishing, there were some nice bait sources available:

Galls like this form on plants from insects laying their eggs

If you split them open, you can often find a grub to use for bait

I believe this is a green frog. If you are slow and quiet you can often catch them by hand. This guy let me touch his back without jumping away (I didn't pick him up; no point stressing him out). Frogs can make good fish bait too.

There was plenty of animal sign. Some beaver appear to live on the river. No dams, but a few old houses and plenty of chewed wood on the river bank(although that could have come from anywhere upstream). I found the wire and weight for a trapper’s drowning trap set, and it was heavy enough that I assume that beaver is the target. I found a lot of other stuff too:

There were lots of game trails like this leading to the river. (note: it is really hard to get a good photo of a game trail)

I think this is a mink track, but I am no expert. It definitely appears to be the track of some member of the weasel family. It was about an inch wide.

I think the scat also came from a mink. Note the green frog to the left; they were everywhere.

A burrow perhaps? There was a lot of squirrel sign around the hole. Would it be a good spot for a trap? Maybe.

Plenty of pine cone parts and hazel nut shells around the burrow

A whole bunch of scat on a rock. Probably either cottontail rabbit or snowshoe hare; they both frequent this neck of the woods. I took a few pieces for making pitch glue (more on that later). However...

... Right next to the rabbit/hare scat were some pellets from a raptor. Predatory birds often eat small creatures whole and cough up the hair and bones later.

If you are looking for shelter there were plenty of raw materials, but if you are lucky you can find it ready made:

Deer hunting is practically a religion in Minnesota and there are stands scattered all over public land. They can be a ready made shelter, but it is best to leave them alone unless you are in dire need. (you wouldn't like someone going in your tent while you are on a day trip, would you?)

There were plenty of edible plants around too. I am sure that for every species I saw that I missed three more, but here are the ones I photographed:

Thistle. Get past the spines and they are quite edible. This one might be a bit old for eating, but the down can be used for fire starting, and the Cherokee used it to fletch their blowgun darts.

Rose Hips. The outer pulp can be sucked off the seeds, and you can make a drink out of them too.

Raspberries. There were not any fruit left on them, but the leaves were used by the Ojibwe (and many other peoples) to make tea.

I think this is a pin cherry. I find wild cherries to be too bitter to eat straight, but they are supposed to be great for jelly.

Highbush Cranberries. Often bitter, these ones were tart but still pretty good to eat.

I am not positive, but I think that these are Jerusalem artichokes (the leaves looked too elongated to be common sunflower, but I don't really know). I pulled one up and the roots were only a couple inches long, but they are probably not done setting tubers yet.

Beaked hazelnut. I didn't see any nuts on this one, but the squirrels can make short work of them. These are a major score if you need calories. The nuts are a pain to get to (green outer hulls covered with nettle-like hairs and a hard shell underneath), but they are packed with 60% fat and 25% protein.

Not a great shot, but beaked hazelnut bark. The leaves look like those of alder or birch, but the lighter colored lines in the smooth grey bark run vertically, while lines in alder and birch bark run horizontally.

I also found a lot of things useful for their utility purposes:

Wood nettle. The leaves make a good broth (it serves as either tea or bouillon, depending on your needs), and can be cooked and eaten as a leaf vegetable when young. It also makes great cordage, which is what I used it for today.

A nettle stalk stripped and ready to process. You will get stung handling nettles, but if you use only your finger tips it is not so bad. I had a picture of the next step, which is beating the stalk to remove the stingers and crush up the pith, but I seem to have deleted it by accident. You can also see that I have added a Mora knife to my rig. (note: the moss the knife is on could be used as a wound compress or sponge)

After beating and scraping out the pith, you use the basic reverse wrap to make a cord. The Ojibwe used to nettle cordage to make fishing nets, among other things (I can only imagine how long that must have taken). IA Woodsman has a good video on preparing nettle cordage (the link is below). I took some stalks home to clean and dry; I have heard the cordage is better if you dry and re-soak the fibers.

 IA Woodman’s Video

Slender Nettle (similar to stinging nettle but with more slender leaves). Different subspecies, same uses.

An old fallen spruce can be a good source for pitch wood (also called fatwood), which is full of resin and will burn in all conditions.

Here is a knot from the old spruce which has been cut open. the reddish areas at the top are full of resin. Old conifer stumps are also a good source of pitch wood.

Spruce root, also called watap; the mending wire of the woods. By digging gently around the base of conifers you can find plenty of small roots which pull up quite easily.

A blurry picture, but running the root through the split end of a stick will help remove the bark.

The peeled roots coiled and ready for use. If they dry out be sure to soak them to make them pliable again. The most famous use of watap is in the making of birch bark canoes as the split roots were used to sew the birch bark together. I tried to use this as a bow drill cord, but it was too short and I ended up breaking it because it was too tight; live and learn.

Healed wounds on conifers are great sources of pitch. I have burned pitch before, but I had never made pitch glue so I gathered a bunch of hardened sap to take home. (note: if you use your knife to pry pitch off of trees, you will spend a long time cleaning the blade later).

Back at home I ground up 5 parts hardened sap, 1 part charcoal, and 1 part rabbit scat (remember the scat? rabbit and hare scat is more like compressed sawdust than anything else).

My pitch making rig. It is just a flat stone angled to drip down and melt the sap. It was too windy for a fire in my yard so I used a five wick survival candle.

My not-so-pretty pitch stick. I don't think I got enough heat from the candle, and the sap didn't drip down as planned. I ended up mixing everything on the sap end of the rock with the charcoal and fiber, and so it is full of impurities. It hardened up well and it might still be functunional; if nothing else it will burn like a volcano.

My not-so-pretty pitch stick. I don't think I got enough heat from the candle, and the sap didn't drip down as planned. I ended up mixing everything on the sap end of the rock with the charcoal and fiber, and so it is full of impurities. It hardened up well and it might still be functional; if nothing else it will burn like a volcano.

Here is a good resource for learning to make pitch glue.

A feather I found on a game trail. Useful as fletching for an arrow (for people skilled enough to make bows and arrows), making field expedient fishing flies, and writing the Declaration of Independence. You are limited only by your imagination.

Human garbage. It's hard to go anywhere and not find it. However, it can be a life saver in a pinch. The plastic bottle would make a great canteen, and the foam could make a bobber for fishing.

An old beer bottle. Can hold (and potentially boil) water or could be broken or knapped for a sharp edge.

What all of this is meant to demonstrate is that the wild places of the earth are full of opportunities for the resourceful. If push came to shove I am not saying that you or I could live off only what we could hunt, fish, gather, and build. But if I die lost in the wilderness it won’t be for lack of trying.

And as a final note, I highly recommend Irish Setter 9″ Wingshooter boots. They are nice and soft now from my day of walkabout, and I walked through plenty of mud and standing water without a drop seeping in the boots.

“I’m going out with my boots on…”

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I am a horrible blogger; it has been so long since I have blogged, that I had almost forgotten that I had a blog. <sigh> Oh well, there still seems to have been a lot of activity while I am gone. Specifically, the posts on hard cider and Polaris have been hopping – I guess that there are a lot of people who want to drink on the cheap and entire classes of sixth graders who are doing reports on constellations. Anyway, I digress…

I have been focusing my fishing ambitions this summer on improving my skills at tenkara, i.e. actually catching fish with it. Well, I have been quite successful in that endeavor, catching smallmouth bass, brook trout, and more suckers than you can shake a stick at.

My first brook trout caught with a tenkara rod. Only 9 inches, but that is big for the stream I was fishing.

It has been a fun rod to play with. It weighs next to nothing, so it is great to just throw into a pack for those outings that are not about fishing, but are close enough to water that having a rod close at hand could be useful. You might think that using a 12 foot rod in tight cover would be a hindrance, but I have actually found that it is easier to thread my flies through tough areas with the extra rod length; much easier than my 4’6″ spinning rod I had been using before I bought the tenkara rod. (That said, you still have to be aware of your surroundings whether using a Cuban yo-yo or a spey rod)

When you do hook a fish, it is a pretty awesome sensation as you can feel every move that the fish makes. In one way it is more simple to play a fish on a tenkara rod in that you don’t have to fumble with the line or reel, but it is more complex in that you have no backing in case the fish wants to run.

Playing a fish on a tenkara rod reminds me of when I studied aikido in college. I never was very good (only made blue belt), but I did learn a few tricks; I did throw a former Green Beret in the class a couple of times, but I think that is because he let me. He also gave me second favorite quote: “Pain is just fear leaving your body.” (My favorite quote is by Archilochus: “The fox knows many tricks; the hedgehog knows just one – one good one”)

Anyway, aikido is about redirecting your opponent’s energy rather than trying to go force-on-force with him or her. It is the same with tenkara – you use the fish’s energy against it; it will tire itself out quickly, you just need to control how that energy is expended by directing the fish toward the surface and side to side. If nothing else it makes fighting a small fish as much fun a fighting a big fish on sterner tackle.

Tenkara is also ideal for that most necessary of woodland fly casts, the bow and arrow cast. The bow and arrow cast, for those who do not know, is where you keep a short line and pull the fly end of the line back like shooting a slingshot to put a bend in the rod. When you let go the fly will (hopefully) shoot out towards where you were aiming the rod. Not making any sense? Check out my fancy diagram:

The springiness and length of the tenkara rod makes for some accurate bow and arrow casts. It won’t get you on a magazine cover, but it gets the job done.

Also important is that the telescoping nature of the rod and the lack of a reel mean that when you have to crawl through a tangle of alder to get to the next hole, you can turn a twelve foot rod into an 18″ rod in about 2 seconds. Try doing that with a two piece rod.

However, one of major issues with a stock tenkara rod is that the line is just loose when you collapse the rod. Without a reel there is nowhere to coil the line. Enterprising tenkara enthusiasts have a found way to overcome this issue by building line winders onto their rods. Here is mine:

All I did was cut the pieces out of closed cell foam and attach them to the rod with cable ties. The center foam plug is used to hook the fly to and it’s cable tie is kept loose enough that you can adjust it. Simple but effective.

To sum it all up, I think I am a permanent tenkara convert. It is not a style for everyone, but it is catching on. It was almost unknown in this country until Tenkara USA started up just over two years ago, and now it is has become common enough that I am even finding tenkara tackle in a few brick-and-mortar shops now. It is a peaceful and poetic method of fishing. But, just to make sure that I don’t start getting arrogant in my ultralight fly fishing, I do keep a couple small bobbers, sinkers, and bait hooks in my fly box; it does make a dandy cane pole when you are to lazy to cast.

All work and no play makes Seth a dull boy.

I am in my third week of excavating the garden, and I am beginning to feel like I am digging my own grave. I am a little over 2/3rds done with the digging, and could probably build a fence around the garden capable of withstanding a nuclear attack with the rock I have pulled out of the ground.

Time to go fishing!

I finally bought a real tenkara rod – a 12′ Yamame 7:3. Since I hope to also pursue river smallmouth on the fly I opted for the stiffer rod to give me a bit more leverage if I hook a bigger fish. As I always attempt to be the Spartan minimalist, I have tried to keep my gear down to the bare essentials.

I have the rod, furled line, fly box with flies, two tippet spools (both about 4# test; fluorocarbon for subsurface and mono for dry flies), tungsten putty (for use as sinker material; it's way cheaper on eBay), floatant, line clippers, trout dough (I ain't proud), and polarized sunglasses; I am trying to avoid bulging vests. I don't have waders, but I wear waterproof sealskin socks with my canoeing boots since the only time I have been entering the water is to ford streams. And, of course, I carry the standard knife, compass, lighter, etc that I always carry when I am bushwhacking.

Before anyone thinks that I know what I am talking about I should point out that I have never caught a fish on a fly before. For me attempting to learn fly fishing is (as it probably is for most fly fishers) about trying to live a somewhat romantic ideal. While chucking chicken livers to catfish and Panther Martins to bass and pike is loads of fun (and does fulfill a Tom Sawyer sort of romantic ideal), the archetypal fisherman of lore is the crafty, experienced fly fisherman who stalks and presents his fly (most likely a dry-fly, and one he tied himself, of course) to wary trout in park-like spring creeks. After all, if it was only about getting fish, gill nets and m80s can do the job faster and easier.

Now don’t think that I am trying to become a tweed shrouded gentleman sipping single malt scotch while smoking a meerschaum pipe (I prefer bourbon to scotch when it comes to grain alcohol; I do have a meerschaum pipe, however). I love reading books by John Gierach; he is much more my ideal of The Fisherman. He seems just as happy catching bass on poppers as when he is catching trout on dry-flies. He believes in catch-and-release, but does not shy away from making an occasional meal of the fish he catches. In other words, he takes it all seriously, but not so seriously that he cannot have fun at the same time.

My first attempt at fly fishing happened abortively about three years ago. I liked the idea of fly fishing, and had received a 5 weight rod for my birthday, but I knew nothing about the mechanics of fly fishing. I practiced casting in the backyard and headed to a local stream that was supposed to have trout in it. After flailing away for a morning and not catching any fish I became discouraged and put the rod in the closet and forgot about it. I still liked the idea of fly fishing, but was overwhelmed by the complexity of everything – dries, nymphs, streamers, hatches, tippet sizes, line drag, roll casting, waders, reels, sinking line, an so on.

Last year I began trying to understand it all in earnest. I started by exploring a nearby stream without a rod. Slowly and carefully working my way down the stream, I was able to see a few trout in isolated pools (just because a pool looks like it should have fish does not mean that it does). Brook trout have amazing camouflage; you can stare at a pool that looks empty and suddenly as you focus they will come into view almost ethereally. I also began reading a lot. There is no substitute for experience, but at least through reading I have some idea of what I am trying to make my fly look like when I cast it (if nothing else I know more about the life cycle of a mayfly than I did before).

I became interested in the idea of tenkara after trying to lug my regular fly rod through the brush. The streams I have been scouting are small and brushy. There is little use for a 50′ cast on these streams, and trying to negotiate a strung up fly rod through the brush can lead to moments of insanity. With the tenkara rod I can reach out to around 20′ or so (if the wind isn’t against me) and can collapse the rod down to 20″ in a few seconds without having to unstring the rod. I did find that simply coiling the line in my hand while moving through the brush caused some nasty tangles so I took some advice from the Tenkara USA forum.

I was fishing a prince nymph as a dropper under an elk hare caddis, if you can see the two flies on the rod. My cousin swears by that fly arrangement.

If you can tell from the picture, I have put wire hooks that I can wrap the line around to keep from developing tangles. I just made mine from heavy wire; they work and don’t look half bad either.

I had some of my flies left over from my first attempt at fly fishing, got some more from Orvis (they periodically have a deal where you can get their 20 top flies for $9.95 with free shipping), but the rest came from the Great Lakes Fly Company here in Duluth. The owner, John, was extremely friendly and helpful, and I would highly recommend them. If I ever get into fly tying, I will definitely take their class (John’s flies are beautiful).

Despite all of my studying, I have not found the fish yet this year. I cruised some streams west of Duluth with my cousin last weekend, but they looked pretty silty for trout and had little cover besides. I went to the stream by my parent’s house this morning, but other than a few small fry I did not see any fish. It has been exceptionally dry here for the last few months (We had one large storm on Christmas last year, but have had very little precipitation since then) and spring came much earlier than normal. Last week was the stream opener, but as the snow has been melted for almost two months the water levels are very low and the water temperature is surprisingly warm for April. Hopefully the trout were just hiding from me, but we had a massive cold snap with little snow cover this winter which could have frozen some of the small pools all the way through.

I think next time I go fishing I will try the streams down closer to Lake Superior where the water should be higher (in theory). Plus in another month it will be bass season, and I know some good spots to find them. I would like to find some spawning beds for panfish that I can cast from shore for as well. I wonder how small pike would be on a tenkara rod? I doubt there are too many tenkara anglers looking for pike; I could start a trend (if I don’t break my rod first). I try to work under the mantra that my favorite fish is whatever one is currently biting my hook.

I am also thinking of making a short line for dapping small pools in heavy cover. I found this neat video of how to make furled leaders without tools, and I figure a five foot furled line with a couple of feet of tippet would be ideal for dapping. The 12′ rod should allow me to stand well back from the water and fish without the trout seeing me. Plus with the rod’s small diameter and the fact that I fish in forested terrain, they should be less apt to spook by seeing the rod. It is worth a shot anyway (especially in the thickest terrain where you cannot even bow-and-arrow cast).

Well, enough fun for now. I still have 12 more feet of garden to dig.

I love to fish.

Fishing is a philosophical and often metaphysical activity; it could have come straight from the Tao Te Ching. It is the meeting of life and death; of harmony and chaos. It can be the greatest, most peaceful activity imaginable and the most frustrating, bang-your-head-against-a-cinder-block-wall experience possible, all in the same afternoon.

Most importantly, it is the ability to do nothing, while doing something.

Here is my short list of why fishing is awesome:

  1. Fish are yummy
  2. It is an important ability for the self-reliant to posses
  3. Your mind can wander from pre-Socratic philosophy to Lynyrd Skynyrd without missing a beat
  4. You can crack a beer at 6:30 AM and no one will think less for you for it.

I have talked about my regular fishing gear before, but I had always wanted to build a mini pocket fishing kit that I could always have with me in case I should stumble upon a nice pocket of fishy water in my travels. I also have been trying to get into fly fishing, so I wanted my kit to give me the ability to fly fish without too much difficulty. Here is what I came up with:

Fishing Kit Parts

It ain’t fancy, but it is portable.

Contents:

  1. A tiny Altoids tin (2.5 x 1.5 x 0.5″) with a match striker and block of foam (to hold flies) glued to the inside of the lid
  2. 50′ of 4# fluorocarbon line on a sewing machine bobbin
  3. A 7.5′ furled leader (wrapped around plastic tube)
  4. Hooks, sinkers, and swivels (kept inside plastic tube)
  5. A 1/32 oz Panther Martin Fly lure (gold/orange, kept inside plastic tube)
  6. Fishing flies – an olive woolly bugger, a parachute Adams, an elk hair caddis, 2 gold ribbed hare’s ears, and a prince nymph
  7. A small bobber
  8. A small vial of fancy Himalayan salt (nothing is too good for my fish)
  9. 6 wax dipped strike-anywhere matches and a razor blade (under the premise that one can never have too many fire starters and sharp edges)
  10. An inner tube band to hold it all together

With these components I can build a casting stick to bait and lure fish with, clean and cook my catch, and build a makeshift tenkara rod.

What is a tenkara? It is a Japanese method of small stream fly fishing that is centuries old. Unlike modern western fly fishing which uses a rod and reel, it consists of a long rod with a fixed line (about foot longer than the rod); as simple as can be. It is becoming popular in the US with the start up of Tenkara USA (check it out, you will be intrigued), and seems to be the hot topic on all the forums with people either loving it or hating it. Although it may seem too simple to the western mind to be effective, western angling was fixed line for most of its existence (check out the Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle, it is the best of 15th century fishing technology).

I should point out that I am relatively new to fishing. I have only been fishing for about five years since I decided that it might be something fun to do while canoeing. I had to pretty much teach myself the tricks of the trade, and I can now hold my own in most situations. While this means that I am no expert, I do have two advantages in being a relative novice: I am as happy catching a 3″ sucker as a 3 pound northern, and I am always open to new ideas.

I have always been fascinated by Japan since I read Shogun in high school. I studied aikido in college (I am not all that good, but I can take a fall like no one’s business), and my original NES from 1989 is still functioning. While I don’t believe that just because something is Japanese it is superior to its western equivalent (you can keep saké, I’ll have a Guinness), there is something about clean simplicity bedded with deep tradition that is universally appealing.

I like the concept of tenkara; fishing has become too complex for me in a lot of ways. Much like engineers say that you lose 15% of mechanical efficiency every time that you add a set of gears to a machine (or something like that), every complex add-on seems to make the fishing more about the gear than the fish.

I figure I will buy a Tenkara rod before next spring’s trout opener (I am thinking the Yamame; it should have enough backbone to land the little smallmouth I catch in the Cloquet River), but for now I thought it might be fun to improvise for the purposes of the pocket kit.

My basic set up is to cut a sapling around 6′-7′ long (not really tenkara length, but I don’t have the luxury of bamboo or river cane in northern Minnesota and even willow or aspen gets cumbersome quickly if it is too long). I fasten the furled leader (which is pretty similar to a tenkara line I figure) with some of the 4# line as a tippet. It back casts pretty well, and roll casts beautifully, although at 15 feet of total reach is not going to win any casting competitions.

Trout Hole
I have been scouting a small stream near my house and had found this little pool where the brook trout all stack up to stay cool in the afternoon. This was thrilling to me as I have never caught a brook trout but have always wanted to. In northern Minnesota, we do not have open streams in the middle of wide meadows; we have thick forest walling in the streams, making an easy approach often difficult. And with only 15′ of reach with my rig, I have to be stealthy like a ninja to stalk the trout. It is relatively easy to stay hidden as the sun is directly upstream at around 2 PM and so the fish cannot see upstream very well (as long as you don’t let your shadow fall near them), and of course approaching from downstream is always good as the fish will be facing the other way. Unfortunately, as I was approaching the hole I slipped on the rocks, spooking all of the bigger trout (bigger means 5″-9″ in this stream). I stuck around anyway and had the little fry trout playing with my hare’s ear nymphs and Adams dry fly. Their mouths were too small to take the hook (which I didn’t really want them to do anyway), but I do have fun playing with the little guys; since I am not actually hooking them it is a game to me and to the fish.

But that is what fishing is about anyway – a moment of Zen. Standing there playing with the fish on a beautiful September day was what it was all about.

Although loosing three flies to the overhanging tree wasn’t very Zen.

fishing-stick

Every once in a while you will just be tooling along, minding your own business, and you will come upon something so simple and brilliant that you think, “why didn’t I think of that?” I was just running searches online the other day and came upon this site. The idea of using a smoothed stick to cast and reel fishing line has probably been explored in depth by many other people, but I have not been able to find any other sites that talk about fishing in this manner.

Anyone who has ever bought or assembled a survival kit has most likely included a length of fishing line, several hooks, and maybe a few sinkers as they are small, light, and take up little space. Many experts recommend fishing as perhaps the easiest source of animal protein (although any of us who have been skunked on a fishing trip might debate that), and its therapeutic nature could help to calm someone suffering from the shock of being lost and alone.

However, once you are out there with your hooks and line, how do you use them effectively? Hand lining would be an obvious choice. How much more primitive can you get than sitting beside a stream with a line in your hand. But how do you cast? Simply attempting to throw coiled line out of your hand will likely result in a tangled monofilament nightmare.

How about tying the end to a stick? Many millions of fish have been caught by people using nothing more than a length of bamboo, a string, a hook, and a worm. The down side is that you only will have a reach of a few feet unless you can rig some king of casting system.

I once had the trying experience of breaking my fishing rod on the first day of a canoe trip; a plight that I am sure many can relate. Here was my solution:

improvised-fishing-rod

I took the handle from my broken rod and inserted a length peeled maple. At the tip end I used fishing line to lash on a three way swivel for use as a ferrule.  The 550 cord is there as a backing to strengthen the rod, similar to the way that the Inuit would back their bows with sinew cord. It worked, but I had the advantage of a reel and full tackle box a my disposal. I am sure that you could whip up a nifty rod using safety pins as ferrules and perhaps creating a reel of sorts out of scavenged materials, but I wanted something a little more foolproof for my needs.

Another method, and one that I learned back in my Boy Scout days, was “hobo fishing.” Ray Mears has a nice video for those of you not familiar with the concept. Basically, you wrap fishing line around something smooth like a soda can (I think I am the only Minnesotan who says “soda”), toss the weighted end to the fish, and reel the line in by wrapping it around the can. For a long time I had line wrapped around my survival kit tin for that purpose (I will post my survival kit at a later date), but the line eventually began to fall off of the tin and would wear against other things in my pocket, so I now I carry about 50′ of 8# fluorocarbon line on a sewing machine bobbin.

The hobo method is great, but it can be difficult to cast long distances with accuracy. Enter the casting stick. The casting stick applies the same principle as hobo fishing, but uses a length of stick to give you the leverage to cast more effectively. It is about the most simple device you could make, but if you are like me, you want pictures. So here we go…

fishing-stick-materials

All you need is a dry stick (a wet one might make the line coils stick), a knife or abrasive stone, some fishing line, a hook, and maybe a bobber (although a wooden one can be fashioned on site). For mine I am using a bobbin to hold extra line and a couple rings from an old inner tube (makes great rubber bands) to help keep things neat.

From there, just taper the end that you want to wrap the line on and smooth out the stick as much as possible. Any slivers or burrs might catch the line and mess up your cast. Here is the finished product:

fishing-stick

fishing-stick-notchI also carved a bit of a notch in the end to facilitate casting. Just set the hook end of the line in the notch (the notch should be oriented up-and-down), leaving a foot or two to dangle, and it will keep the line from falling of the stick as you bring it up to cast.

I didn’t want to cut my fishing line so I used one of the rubber bands to hold the bobbin firmly on the pole. I pulled about 30 feet of line out and wrapped it around the stick, securing the hook with another rubber band. That’s it. Pretty simple.

I will admit that I have not actually fished with it yet, but I tried a couple of practice casts in my backyard and the line shot off perfectly. Hunting season is still wrapping up here (I don’t really feel like being shot) and it is way too early for ice fishing (and most successful ice fishermen find casting unnecessary anyway). Come spring I intend to give it a whirl, and I will let you know how it works.

Remember: if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach him to make a casting stick, his friends will think he is a dork… But a dork with fish!