Onamonawoc isn’t a real thing, it’s a fictional town in Wisconsin where the town looks like the Andy Griffith Show, there is no pollution, no crime which can’t be solved in a 1/2 hour and the fishing is the best in the world where the fish jump on to your hook. I’m not going to talk about my fictional town, I want to write a quick post about fishing in a survival situation and my experience at NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) when I was 17. Most people have heard of Outward Bound, well lets just say that NOLS is a very similar type of organization. The final four days were perhaps the darkest most difficult time I have experienced.
When I was on my course in the Wind River range in Wyoming we were out for 31 days and it rained – and I mean hard for 21 of the 31. Everything we had was at it’s best damp the whole time. When the sun would pop out and if we were lucky enough to be at our destination we’d lay our sleeping bags out to get them to dry in what ever remaining sun was left in the day. I learned most of the valuable skills I know today from this experience on this course. Including how to deal with hunger.
During the final four days of the course we were broken up into three or four man teams and all sat down to show where the rendezvous point was on the map. That point was up and over the continental divide and approximately 80 miles from our current location. Oh yeah, and by the way if you hadn’t been paying attention, the stuff sack with all your food is now empty, so I hope you were paying attention to the lectures on edibles… which by the way, I wasn’t.
For the next four days we hiked 20 miles a day from sun up to sun down without anything other than water and the two plants I could remember from those edibles classes: Bluebells and Shooting Stars.
After three days of eating only these two tasty plants I needed to get something else in my belly. That third night we were at a small lake at the top of a saddle where we were making our way over the divide and there were hundreds of fish rising making rings on top of rings. It was getting late in the day and I was a little light headed and sat for a moment while my hiking buddies were laying in their sleeping bags with their bug nets over their heads because there were so many mosquitoes. I knew I had to get something into my stomach. I up ended my pack and began to take inventory of anything I had in the pack which could be made into a fishing kit. I found a safety pin and some dental floss. Quickly I fashioned a hook and line. I scrounged for about 5 minutes and tried to come up with something which could be bait. I found nothing. No worms, no bugs, nothing. At the bottom of my pack along a seam I found some fuzz which had worn away – it was blue but I thought I’d give it a shot. I kept throwing the hook with the fuzz on it trying to simulate a fly but time after time the hundreds of fish ignored my hook and while mocking me ate the mosquitoes. I tried to use my head net to trap the fish while getting eaten alive by mosquitoes but it too failed. With the sun setting my posture slumped in defeat and I sat there during magic hour looking at the bountiful lake while my stomach growled. I was so frustrated and hungry I went back through my food back and found four things, a jar of margarine, salt, pepper, and a bottle of Mrs Dash. I took a huge spoonful of the margarine and used the spices to make it palatable and downed it. Other than the Shooting Stars, and Blue Bells that spoonful of Margarine was the only thing I ate for the four day trek out to the rally point. It was one of the lowest points I had been at emotionally and physically in my life, but it taught me to endure hunger in a survival situation and to keep going even when you think you are at the end of your rope.
The problem with fishing in a survival situation is that it takes time. You have to have patience and you must be stealthy. After many years from that time in the Wind River Range I’ve learned some other techniques which may have helped me in that time of need, but I’m not sure I could have implemented any of them or if I had the energy to have pulled them off. What is needed is some device which you can keep in your pack allowing you to fish while you are doing the work needed to set up your camp or tend to the emergency needs which present themselves. You can’t dedicate the time to sitting there watching a bobber for an hour. Your time is just too valuable. So here’s the ticket. It’s a device which allows you to set it and continue doing the work you need to do, when a fish snags the bait the YoYo retracts and reels the fish in. It can be used over and over again. I’ve seen them on line for as little as $3.99 at Willow Haven Outdoors and you can even rig a little bell on the YoYo to let you know when a fish has been caught. These rigs are illegal in some places so they aren’t recommended for recreational use but in an emergency situation I always say it’s better to survive and then ask for forgiveness. So when you aren’t in Onamonawoc and the reality has hit that the fish won’t just jump on your hook you might want to get one of these for your 72 Hour Bag. Was that a long road to go to talk about the fishing YoYo?