A hobo (hand-line) fishing kit

First, a little news. Due to the rush and craziness involved in getting from the cabin to our old house (to clean it before moving) to our new home last holiday weekend, we left our camera behind at the cabin. This is why I haven’t made a post about Juhannus weekend. Luckily, my wife’s parents will drive down in about a week to stay for a few days and they will bring the camera. Once I have those pics, I’ll be sure to show and tell you about the fun we had!

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As the old saying goes, “When life gives you lemons, make a hobo fishing kit”…or something like that. During the holiday weekend, I got a lot of good use out of my telescoping pole rig. Unfortunately, a section of the pole ended up cracking, rendering it unusable. I guess I will spend a little more money next time to get a better-quality pole. Anyway, I wanted to continue fishing, so this gear failure presented a good opportunity to make an improvised hobo or hand-line fishing rig. I ended up easily catching three small perch using just a short, fat stick wound with fishing line, a hook, a sinker and a worm. It was very rough, but it did the trick.

Fast-forward to this weekend. Having finally gotten far enough along in settling in to our new home that I could spend a few hours on “non-essential” stuff, I decided it was time to christen my new office/workshop with its first project. Over the course of the week, I had been contemplating how I wanted to make my new hobo fishing kit, as there are a number of different styles. Then it dawned on me: I could use parts from my telescoping rod to make a hand-line fishing kit! This not only solved my problem of deciding what type of spool to make, but also reduced waste by reusing existing materials.

Here’s what the (collapsed) rod originally looked like:

To make the new kit, I removed the telescoping sections from inside the handle section and then cut down the handle section to about 20 cm/8 inches with a multitool saw. This was followed by filing the cut edge smooth and even with a metal file. The next step was to reduce the size of the rubber plug in the front end to prevent the line from hanging up on it while casting. I used my BushProwler knife and a multitool file for this job. Then I roughly measured about 20 meters/yards of 10 lb. test mono-filament fishing line, attached it to the tube, and then attached a hook and sinker to the other end of the line. The line was wound around the front end of the tube, and the hook is hooked over the end of the tube and held nicely in place by the rubber plug. Here’s the completed rig:

The inside of the tube is a perfect place for extra line, hooks, sinkers and bobbers.

This package is very compact and is protected nicely by the rod cover I had been using for the telescoping pole. The whole thing easily fits inside my shoulder bag, whereas the telescoping pole setup did not.

To make sure that this rig would function properly, I test-cast it about 10 times in the hallway, and it worked flawlessly. Now all that’s left to do is to catch some fish with it!

Special thanks go out to the Woodswife for the use of her phone to take these pictures. :)

EDIT: Although I could use this setup with lures as well, I will probably only use it for fishing with live bait etc. so as to comply with Finland’s “Everyman’s Right” regarding free-of-charge angling.

A quick update

The Woodsfamily has moved! Well, I guess we are still in the process of moving, because our new place is full of boxes and such, but we are a big step closer now.

Last weekend, we went to the cabin to celebrate Juhannus, a major holiday in Finland which takes place at the time when the sun doesn’t go below the horizon for several days and when summer officially begins. There was boating, fishing, grilling, earth-oven cooking, sauna-going, mosquitoes, a little primitive skill practice, mosquitoes, beer, great food and mosquitoes. There were also black flies…and mosquitoes….

This week I’ll give you a full report with plenty of pictures and a few surprises as well. Stay tuned!

What’s the point of practicing primitive skills?

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I don’t focus on primitive skills, but I do like to share the bits that I learn as I go along. By “primitive skills” I mean the use of materials found in the natural environment for the purpose of making life in that environment possible and/or enjoyable. Examples might include the making of natural cordage from willow bark, fire by friction, lean-to shelters made of sapling poles thatched with branches, birch bark containers, the knowledge of edible plants, lichens etc. In other words, ancient survival skills (in fact, there are still groups of people living today who use these skills on a day-to-day basis, so they are not strictly “ancient”). The focus of this blog post will be my personal reasons for learning about and practicing primitive skills, some tending to be more romantic and some more practical.

Primitive skills are useful. The more things you know how to make or utilize, the less critical a forgotten item becomes. Of course, only “primitive” items can be created in this way (you’re not going to build a radio out of a coconut), but the necessities can be had.

Primitive skills are valuable. Should a person with primitive skills become stranded or lost in the wilderness, they will have much better chances of surviving the situation because they will know how to use the products of nature to protect against her perils. Granted, your average ordinary person will most likely not end up being stranded in the wilderness within their lifetime, so primitive skills might be less important to them. It’s a different story for those of us who do go there on a regular basis, though.

Primitive skills are meaningful. I can’t explain why, but I feel a certain sense of connection to the earth, my ancient ancestors and primitive peoples of every age when I make something out of bark or wood, eat wild plants, berries and lichens or use some other primitive knowledge or skill. If only temporarily, it helps me to escape the hectic modern world full of digital this and plastic that and to exist out of time.

Primitive skills make me feel more accomplished and independent. Each time I learn a new edible plant, a new aspect of a lichen or a new way to utilize this wood or that stone, I feel like I am boosting my personal self-sufficiency. Each and every time it gives me a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment, sometimes large and sometimes small. As I learn, I feel less like a child who is dependent on the modern world for my wants and needs.

I’ll admit that primitive skills are not always compatible with modern outdoor pursuits. It can be ridiculously time-consuming (and often unfeasible) to build a natural shelter every day or to boil water with hot rocks in birch bark containers etc. while on a two-week backpacking trip where you are trying to cover a lot of ground. The same kinds of examples can be given for other activities. This is why, like a few other contemporary bloggers, I see primitive skills as “tools in a toolbox”. I collect them as I go along and enjoy using them from time to time when needed or desired. I personally find them to be a fantastic supplement to modern gear, materials and methods, rather than a replacement.

A boat for “city folk”

In about 2 weeks time, the Woodsfamily will complete our move to southern Finland. As our new residence will be an apartment, there will be no room to keep a solid-hulled water craft where we live. I really wanted to find a solution to this dilemma, because the Woodsboy is now old enough to go on longer boating and fishing trips. Several years back, I had a lot of success with higher-quality inflatable boats, so I decided this was the way to go.

Now you might be thinking, “OK, so you bought a raft, Weekend Woodsman”. Au contraire. I’m not talking about pool toys here. I’m talking about larger, thick-PVC boats with multiple air chambers capable of holding several people. These things can be very stable and rugged, yet they don’t weigh a ton. The model I bought, the Sevylor Fish Hunter HF250 (from Adventra.fi in Tuusula, Finland) weighs only about 8.3 kg/18.3 lbs and folds up compactly, which means it can easily be carried in a larger pack. This boat can hold a total of 220 kg/485 lbs of people and gear. The total inflated length is 232 cm/7 feet 7 inches.

You’re not exactly going to be crossing oceans or going white-water rafting with a small boat like this, but for calmer lakes and rivers, especially ones which are not accessible to most boats (fishing, anyone?), an inflatable will do the trick. You have to be a bit more mindful of hitting sharp objects in the water, but to me the advantages of light weight and portability make up for any of the disadvantages.

I received our boat just a few days after ordering, so the Woodsboy and I were able to take it out for its “maiden voyage” this past weekend.

Here it is, deflated and folded up.

Here’s the boat unfolded.

I filled the five air chambers in the marked order with a manual pump.

It took 10 – 15 minutes to fill the boat completely. I attached some collapsible oars I had bought years earlier. They worked fine with this boat (I think they are also from Sevylor).

The Woodsboy and I brought the boat down to the water, and I helped him in.

It was easy enough getting out into the water. We rowed around for a while and took some pictures. The weather wasn’t great, but it made for “dramatic” shots. ;)

The Woodsboy insisted on helping Daddy with the rowing multiple times. :)

All in all, this boat performed exactly as I had hoped. As a matter of fact, it turned out being much more stable in the water than I had expected. We didn’t get wet at all while out on the water (except for a little bit of rain), and were able to move surprisingly quickly with the little oars. My manual pump can be used for deflation as well, which meant that I could easily deflate and fold up the boat again before putting it in the car. The Woodsboy really enjoyed the trip and wants to fish next time as well.

I’m really glad I bought this boat, because it opens up a lot of opportunities and enables us to go to places we couldn’t access before (like the little pond in the forest). Highly recommended for city folk or anyone else!

One more thing. I don’t want to sound like I’m advertising, but the company I bought this from is offering a 10% discount to any customer who likes them on Facebook, so I thought I’d pass this info on to you.

A selection of north-woods YouTube channels

Since moving to Finland several years ago, I have been most interested in the north-woods environment. The plants, the trees, the animals, the wild foods, the resources, the climate etc. Since I am an aspiring woodsman and have a Monday-through-Friday, nine-to-five desk job, I can’t be out in the field every day, unfortunately. Thankfully, there are resources like YouTube which help me to get my outdoor fix and satisfy my craving for knowledge. The following YouTube channels focus on the northern woods and are based in several different areas. If you haven’t visited them before and are interested in the boreal forest/taiga/northern woods, check them out!

From west to east:

United States:

Canada:

Sweden:

Finland:

I hope you enjoy these videos as much as I do. By the way, if YOU have such a YouTube channel (or know of others) and I have not listed it here, let me know, and I’ll take a look!

My wool-blanket bivy – A “blast from the past” post

After an overnight trip to the woods last year, I found a hole in my synthetic bivy bag caused by a spark from a fire. I knew that if I kept sleeping next to a fire with that bag, it would end up looking like Swiss cheese! In addition to this problem, I didn’t like how this synthetic bivy retains moisture. I had to come up with a better solution for sleeping close to a fire during the cold part of the year.

After some head scratching, I came up with the wool-blanket bivy. I sewed a lightweight wool blanket (1.2 kg/2.6 lbs.) into a bag and then added three buttons and button holes. This wool-blanket bivy bag has a few advantages:

- Allows moisture to escape from the sleeping bag inside.
– Protects synthetic sleeping bag from sparks.
– Adds some warmth to the sleeping bag.

And here it is with my sleeping bag inside:

The synthetic bivy I had been using weighs about 0.6 kg/1.25 lbs., so by swapping it out for the wool bivy, I’m really only adding about 0.6 kg/1.25 lbs. to my overall setup, but getting a lot of functionality in return. By the way, I tested the material for fire-retardant-ness with a ferrocerium rod before starting on this project and was happy to see that the sparks barely had an effect.

Here’s a pic from a different angle showing how it looks on my ground sheet, which prevents the wool bivy bag from absorbing moisture from the ground.

For warm-weather trips, I still use my synthetic bag (with the zipper unzipped) because I don’t need the extra warmth and fire protection, but for chilly nights next to a fire, this wool-blanket bag does the trick!

P.S. – The Woodswife suggested that this wool bivy could be used by itself (without a sleeping bag) if only minimal warmth is needed, e.g. on warmer summer nights. Good thinking! EDIT: Ron from The Trying Woodsman pointed out that this arrangement wouldn’t be very mosquito-proof. If an outer bivy isn’t used with the wool-blanket bivy, I’d have to agree!

P.P.S. – Obviously, this bivy is not meant to keep out water, either from above or below, but since it is not usually used in wet weather, this isn’t an issue.