Wilderness Fishing

Wilderness Fishing .pdf  58 page document, just under 4mb, covers all articles I currently post on my survival fishing page.


There are a lot of pictures on this page, let them download. Open to Full Screen.

WILDERNESS SURVIVAL HANDBOOK by Alan Fry. ISBN 0-312-14763-5   is no longer in print.  If you can find a copy, buy one.  I have two, and am not selling mine.  Paul.

See also : Alan Fry Links

Pages 202 to 212.

In many ways fishing presents far fewer problems than trying to obtain land game. First, if you come on fish in waters seldom touched by the sports fishery, the odds are good that these fish will be easily taken. Second, when you are unrestricted by regulations, you may find yourself faced with an eye-popping abundance.

When traveling extensively by bush-line aircraft over the sparsely settled stretches of northern British Columbia and the Yukon Territory in the nineteen-sixties, I had always in my pack  some fishing line, some leader material, a few hooks and commercially tied flies, and, finally, a generous length of gill-net in a mesh size suitable to trout and smaller char, whitefish, and the occasional large grayling. You might also want to check with the local fish-and-game" administration to see what species and size of fish you can expect.

You could include, if you wish, a light sectional rod, but for survival-fishing a satisfactory rod can be improvised from a willow stem.


Ferrules are not essential, but it is worth having a good eye at the tip of the rod through which the line will pass with ease. Either a safety pin or some snare wire can be made to do the job. With the butt of the rod in one hand, the fishing line in the other, and the reserve length of line loosely coiled on the ground, one soon develops techniques for rudimentary shore and stream fishing. At its simplest, your fishing can begin with rod and line with six feet of leader, on the end of which you have a baited hook suspended in the water of a pond or stream.

In unfished water you might do remarkably well at this, using virtually anything at hand for bait: worms, grubs, grasshoppers, or any scrap of food from your kit.

A float is often very useful in bait-fishing. When you have determined the depth at which you are likely to get the best result, you can keep your baited hook at that depth by adjusting the length of leader below the float.

If you are bait-fishing in a stream, you will usually have the best result if the bait can be moved along the stream bed by the current.  If you adjust the leader length to just short of the stream depth and
at the same time attach a few pieces of split lead shot to the leader  to hold it straight down from the float, you can drift your bait along a stretch of stream bed by letting the float drift with the current on the surface. I have had splendid results in steelhead fishing with this technique.

Fly-fishing can be particularly productive in unfished water, and. a crudely improvised fly may do just as well as the outrageously priced creation from the store. Grayling are often voracious about any likely speck that hits the surface, and for this reason are easily fished out in accessible water. Whenever I have traveled to
remote grayling water, I have found that even an old fly reduced to little more than a few threads on the shank will fetch a panful of fish in a few minutes.

Figure 7:29 shows some basic equipment.  If you are down in an aircraft and the outlook for an early
pick-up is doubtful, don't hesitate to put your net in the water.



Figures 7:30 through 7:32 give some ideas for an effective set. Use sound, dry pieces of wood for the float line and stones for the lead line. Find stones of an irregular shape so that they may be tied securely. Also, it is important to use many moderately sized stones rather than a few very heavy ones.



For open-water sets, the lead line should exert enough force to set the floats firmly into the water, but not below the surface. When you see the floats bobbing a good deal and a few of them being
drawn under you know that fish have hit the net.

Pull the net as often as your success rate requires, but never less than once a day. Setting a net below the ice is demanding, but in early winter before the ice is too thick this is often the surest way to get a food

The sketches in Figures 7:33 and 7:34 will give you the idea.   As long as you can manage the ice, you can manage the fishing.  The net requires a float and lead line like any other set, except that the balance between the two must ensure that the float line does not rise to settle against the ice. If it does it will be frozen in as the ice thickens, and you will have a tedious and wasteful job getting it free afterwards.


In the sketch, the drawing lines have been left attached to the net and simply brought up through the hole in the ice along the stake. In very cold weather it is best to remove these lines after the net has been secured to the stakes. The freezing-up of your access holes means that you must chop them out every day when the net is drawn, and there is real danger of cutting the line in the process. The drawing lines can be attached as required each time the net is  lifted.

In very cold weather you may also have difficulty with the net freezing into a heap on the ice as you draw it out the hole to clear  it. I have known Indians in the north to make a practice of lighting afire near by when lifting the net, and of boiling a container of water to pour over the net immediately prior to drawing it back
under the ice.

Where ice is not a consideration, fish can be taken in quantity by constructing traps. You must choose a location where the stream is shallow enough in which to work safely and wide enough that the current is dispersed and manageable.

A simple trap can be made with stakes driven into the stream bed, as illustrated in Figure 7:35,
or a more complex trap can be constructed, as shown in Figure 7:36.







In either case a good deal of work is involved which will only be warranted where plenty of fish are in evidence and you think you will be stranded for some time. There is also a size limitation with a trap. You cannot close off the current, and the trap is of no use for fish smaller than the spaces which must be left in the trap fence for the water to flow through.

The simple stake trap is used in conjunction with a drive, and again the stream must be of a size and gradient which makes this possible. All hands go upstream a considerable distance, then wade down, beating the water with sticks as they go. When the beaters converge at the trap, the entrance should be blocked and the fish taken out with a dip net or gaff.

The trap in Figure 7:36 is more complex and is highly successful in a stream in which migratory fish travel in runs. This was the trap used by Indians in the Yukon Territory to catch salmon in the Alsek river system which reaches the northern Pacific directly through the mountains of the southwest part of the Territory. The
relentless upstream surge to the spawning grounds brought the salmon into the trap and no drive was required.

The sketches will give you some ideas to work with, and once more your own study and familiarity with the terrain you travel in is essential. Know the habitat, know the fish, and know the proven fishing techniques, particularly those used by Indian people who now or in the past may have lived on the land around you.
You should now have a good idea about what types of food to carry, how to hunt efficiently with a rifle, how to capture game with snares and deadfalls, and how to take fish.

If you have reasonably good fortune as well, you will be supplied with an abundance of protein, a good measure of fat, and, apart from what you may have carried with you, not much carbohydrate. If the time out stretches over a number of weeks you could be many days on a carbohydrate-free diet. At worst, a carbohydrate-free diet is a sight better than no diet at all; I personally believe it to be a positively good one. The experience of northern Indians and Inuit and of the many non-native people who have lived
on the native diet for extended periods suggests that a healthy  individual can maintain vigour on a meat-and-fish diet over a considerable period of time, some would say indefinitely.  If you go in the bush and you succeed in the hunt, you will go well in the bush indeed.



More Pictures


Above is is how I was first taught to use an egg sinker, swivel , leader and hook when I came to North Carolina.   Paul.  Other pictures follow.




































What is a Gill Net?

In reading:

Wilderness Survival Handbook, by Alan Fry: ISBN 0312147635; LCCN 96-024863

I found a reference to something called a ?gill net.? He recommended that you keep one in your- readily- available- survival- kit.

A gill net? was also included in a list of what must be kept in survival kits on planes over-flying wilderness areas, according to Canadian Law. (Reference the same book, at the back.) A little while ago I found this on page 233:

John " Lofty" Wiseman; The SAS Survival Handbook; ISBN 0 00 26531407




Gill net

Make a net with a mesh size of about 4cm (1 ? in) between knots (see Netting in Camp Craft), set floats at the top and weight the bottom, then stretch it across a river.

Fish swimming into it get caught by the gills. It is lethal and will soon empty a stretch of water so should not be used for long in an area where you intend to stay (or in a non-survival situation). If the ends of the net are tied to the banks at both top and bottom, weights and floats will not be needed.

A gill net can be anchored on, each bank, (supported by weights and floats (a), or tied to fixed posts. If it is angled across the line of the current (b) there is less likelihood of driftwood building up against it.