10 Things No Camper Should Be Without

Monday, July 29, 2013 , 5 Comments

This list is by no means exhaustive, rather it is intended as a list of things I have found very useful in my camping trips and have often seen others without. Hopefully you too will see the utility in these tools as well and will incorporate them into your camping gear. 

1.) Paracord

Thin, strong, and versatile are the three words I would use to describe paracord. A nylon kernmantle rope originally used as parachute cord during World War II, this rope is composed of a nylon sheath with seven inner two ply strands. Type III is the most popular variety and has a minimum breaking strength of 550 lbs. The small size makes it convenient to pack and you have the added assurance of a something that can hold a lot of weight if the situation were to arise. In the campsite use it to repair guy lines, hang wet clothes, use with a bear bag, repair shoelaces, or create shelters. The possibilities are endless. If needed you can disassemble and use the individual strands or sheath separately. 

2.) Hatchet

I only started carrying a hatchet with me camping within the past year and honestly don't know why it took my so long. Great for the obvious: cutting small branches, splitting firewood, and making kindling. Plus the added bonus of using the blunt end to hammer in ground stakes. Two tools in one.

3.) First Aid Kit

This shouldn't even have to be on this list, unfortunately all to often I find that I am the only one on my trips to have brought a first aid kit. It should be a no brainer. I have spent enough time in the woods and water to know that accidents will and do occur. Buy a pre-made kit or make your own; either way make sure its complete. Some of the basics: bandages, gauze pads, antibacterial ointment, medical tape, ibuprofen,  an antihistamine, anti-diarrhea meds, triangular bandage, trauma pack, safety pins, tweezers, and heat reflective blanket. 

4.) Headlamp

Oh the joys of navigating at night and having both hands free: whether to set up camp or cook dinner. A headlamp really makes your life much easier and more convenient. Be sure to look for one with Red/Green light options to keep the bugs away and preserve night sight while operating lamp. 

5.) Tent Seam Sealant

A leak in your tent can ruin a trip. Seal your tent once you buy it, reapply every other season, and have some with you just in case. Time consuming but it will help you ensure a great time outside.

6.) Bug Spray

I will admit I try and rarely use bug spray. I fish often and don't want the scent on me. That being said I always have some with me. This year the ticks have been horrible and I have had to, at minimum, cover my legs with bug spray almost every outing. Pests can ruin a trip fast, be prepared. 

7.) Knife

Camping without a knife is like trying to crap without toilet paper. You can do it, but its not very enjoyable. Invest in a decent straight edge folding knife. If you can open and close it with one hand, even better.

8.) Rain Gear

If you camp, you will get rained on. Bring at minimum a pancho or rain coat. It takes up little room and will turn a miserable time into a bearable moment.

9.) Spare Clothes

Be prepared. If you get soaked, fall in mud, spill coffee on yourself or are just plain stinky you are going to want a few extra pairs of clothes. At minimum I bring one full extra set, more for longer trips, and even more if I am camping with inexperienced campers whom I can bet will not have brought their own. 

10.) Hard Copy Map

GPS and Cell Phones are great, but they fail or lose service sometimes. Have a backup to get where you are going with a hard copy map. Print before hand or buy one. But have something tangible to prevent you from getting lost when your electronics fail. 


Lake Vermillion 2013

My father and I returned to Lake Vermillion in northern Minnesota last week for some great father son time on the water. It was our second time to Vermillion, last time we focused primarily on the east end of the lake and this time we focused more on the west end. The lake has a width of 24 miles and a surface area of almost 40 thousand acres, so needless to say, despite now having traveled to entire length of the lake, we still feel like relative newcomers to this impressive body of water. You can find a link to our first Lake Vermillion trip here.

Day 1 

We pulled into our campsite just after 8 AM, set up our tent for the weekend and headed out on the water immediately. We only had a few hours before we were to meet up with a guide so we stayed close and looked for Smallmouth. Ironically, all we caught that morning were Largemouth, a species we never caught the previous trip.

Largemouth on a Meal Ticket Fly. 

My father with a nice 3 1/2 lb Largemouth. Caught on a Squarebill Crankbait. 

Following our brief bass fishing trip of the day we loaded ourselves into the car and drove to Tower, MN where we met up with longtime guide Cliff for Walleye fishing. We fished lindy rigs over humps in about 20 ft of water using night crawlers. The Mayfly hatch was in full force so fishing was tough but we still caught a few fish. Unfortunately, the guide didn't fully appreciate that I had a fishing blog and needed pictures of my Dad's fish. Alas, despite my best efforts I didn't get a picture with my father and his favorite species of fish. 

Nice Starter Walleye. First of the year. 

Oh did I forget to mention, I also caught a 26" 7 lb Walleye. The biggest of my life. 

Day 2 

The second day centered on one family of fish, Esox. We started the day throwing flies for Northern Pike and as the temps cooled a bit we moved to chasing Muskie. Unfortunately, no Muskie were caught that day, nor the entire trip. Not even a follow. Disappointing yes, but thats part of what makes Muskie such an alluring fish: their elusiveness. 

This guy had a chunk taken out of him by a pike on the way in. 3 lb Largemouth. 

No trip to Vermillion would be complete without stopping at the Wolf Bay Lodge for a drink.. or two. 

This Yellow Perch was a bit over ambitious. 

Pike on a fly. Always a great time. 

Day 3

The theme of the third day was exploring the rest of the lake while also throwing for Smallies and Muskie. Again no muskie were caught and no football Smallmouth but we did catch fish and had a nice time seeing the quieter end of the lake. 

Our fearless captain through the rain. 

Decent Smallie on a Clouser. 

Gorgeous lake. 

Whether you call these little pike hammerheads or slime rockets they are still a lot of fun on a 6 wt, especially when they hunker in the weeds. Taken on Lefty's Deceiver. 

I couldn't resist. I had to put down the fly rod and catch a few smallies on my favorite technique, the wacky rig. 

It started to rain and with a tent to tear down we headed in to end our trip. I am sure you can all appreciate the joys of tearing down camp in the rain. All in all it was a good trip. Much different than last year: no Muskie, but then again last year we didn't catch any Largemouth or Walleye. I think it speaks to the diversity and immense opportunity this lake provides. We will definitely be back next year. Can anyone say Lake Trout.... 


Tying for Minnesota

Saturday, July 20, 2013 2 Comments

Tied some patterns prior to heading to Minnesota. Most are nameless streamers aimed for catching Pike.     I always enjoy the creativity that is permissible when tying streamers for pike. The key seems to be big, colorful, and lots of flash. 


Elk River

Wednesday, July 03, 2013 , , , 4 Comments

Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of creating this blog for me, has been the opportunity to meet new people, fellow anglers, and share in the camaraderie and passion for the outdoors with people I would have otherwise never met. When distance permits, those contacts can create new fishing buddies and evolve into new adventures. Yesterday I had one of those opportunities as I met up with Jeff of High Plains Fly Fisher and Kevin from Fly Waters Edge. I have been able to fish with Jeff once before, had a blast, and it was great to meet Kevin and he shared some flies with me that made my day very successful.  We fished the Elk River in the Ozarks searching for Smallies. We caught a lot of fish but no footballs and I caught my first, well my first three Longear Sunfish of my life. I couldn't believe how pretty these fish were. Besides lots of Smallmouth Bass we also caught quite a few Largemouth and Bluegill as well. By far the most productive pattern for me was the Diablo Hopper tied by Kevin. I easily caught well over 20 fish if not 30 and owe most of that to the hopper pattern. Quantity we did very well but just weren't able to produce the quality of fish we knew the fishery was capable of affording. In part this may have been due to the excess boat traffic due the the upcoming holiday. Overall, it was a great time and I can not wait to throw line again with these guys soon.