By John Schips, Primary Contributor for www.flannelfishermen.com
In a survival situation being able to consume calories may mean the difference between life and death. The vast majority of survival situations end with a self-rescue, so the most crucial person involved is you.
Being able to gather food from the wild is a skill that needs many years to perfect. Hunting and trapping, identifying edible plants and fungus, knowing what to do in a variety of situations; this all makes up the constitution of a good survivalist. However, fishing is one of the most efficient and easiest ways to gather food from the wild. Depending on your location, this skill can provide you with enough calories to hike back to civilization, keep warm through the night, and eventually rescue yourself!
ASSEMBLING THE BASICS
As you may have guessed, the start to your DIY fishing kit will be hooks, line, and sinkers, but allow me to make a few important points.
1. The line should be 25-50’ of heavier test, 8-10lbs+. In a survival situation the last thing you want to do is give the fish a fighting chance! Using a hand-line or young sapling pole means you will not have as much room to play the fish, which in turn means that there is a greater chance a larger fish will snap your line. In a survival situation, this can be devastating!
2. Carry an assortment of smaller hooks. A large hook will catch a large fish, but might be too large for a smaller fish to fit inside it’s mouth. A smaller hook will catch a large fish and a small fish! The idea behind this DIY survival fishing kit is to make this as adaptable as possible to be useful in as many situations as possible. This is the root of any survival practice or preparation.
3. Include re-usable weights than can be tightened and loosened easily on the line with your teeth. While you can fish without weights, this can help present your bait in a far more attractive manner and allow you to land the fish that saves your life!
THE MUST-HAVE ADDITIONS
OK, we have the basics, but what else do we need to include in our DIY survival fishing kit?
1. Artificial Flies and Lures. Contrary to popular belief, you will not always be able to find live or natural baits. Some simple dry or wet flies, or a spinner or two, are items that can make a difference in you catching a fish or not! Be sure to include a couple general-use lures!
2. Salmon Eggs. Everything in the water loves to eat salmon eggs, these little round balls are generally great at bringing something into shore. I like to store these in an airtight bag or container; a used TicTac box with some plastic wrap around the top can keep your salmon eggs moist, round, and ready for your survival situation!
3. Floats or Bobbers. In murky water, without a modern fishing pole, it can be difficult to see when your bait is being attacked. A few simple floats will allow you to track your bait! I like to use the foam floats, if a plastic float cracks it will be useless, but a foam float can take a beating and still function!
4. Survival Items. Where better to store some simple survival items than in your survival fishing kit?
Imagine you are out in the backcountry with only this fishing kit to survive. Of course, you most likely have a knife of some sort, but what else would you want to have with you? In my survival fishing kit, I like to include 3 waterproof, strike-anywhere matches and a mini-cigarette lighter; a small waterproof bag (less than an ounce) of salt, a short length of thin cord (think 550 para-cord) and an emergency blanket constructed from mylar. These items cost very little and can round out your survival fishing kit quite nicely!
LETS PUT IT ALL TOGETHER!
So now that we have assembled the basics how does this come together? I find the best way to carry the items I include in my DIY survival fishing kit is to use a bag, as it molds to the shape of my pocket easier than a box. Many times I simply use a freezer-weight Ziploc® Bag, but if you want something a bit more durable, try one of these sil-nylon stuff sacks.
INSIDER TIP: Line management is everything, and a bit of forethought can save you a lot of time untangling a mess of knots in your DIY survival fishing kit. Try to find something to wrap the line around, an empty spool of thread, an old bottle; these can help you manage the line far better than simply coiling it up. Also, loose hooks can cause more trouble than the fish they catch are worth! Be sure to stick the hooks into something like a foam packing peanut or scrap of cardboard.
I was hiking across Chilean Patagonia one summer and had run short of food; unfortunately, I had not planned a survival fishing kit well and was not prepared to actually catch a fish! I did have a few hooks, a dry fly, and (of course) my multi-tool and camping gear. While this might not sound like a lot to work with, I did have the crucial ingredient for the rig in my inventory – dental floss! I ended up using a length of dental floss with a smooth, straight stick for a rod and a bit of stone for a weight. I tied the hook inline about 6” up from the stone at the bottom of my jig, and when I dropped the bait in the water, it hung in the current perfectly!
I was lucky enough to find worms for bait, but if I had my standard DIY survival fishing kit, I would have fared much better and caught more fish. Before you forget the salt, let me say, brown trout in Chilean Patagonia cooked over an open fire might taste incredible, but with a pinch of salt, you can take them to the next level!
Good luck and happy fishing!