Camp Cooking

During the summer — the hottest, humidest, nastiest part of the summer — I get the jones to go camping. The Boy and I camp quite a bit with Scouts during the school year part of the year, usually about once every 4-6 weeks. But, during the hot part of the year, we don’t camp much (or at all). I hate camping in hot weather. I can’t sleep, I sweat too much. It’s not fun. BUT, I get the urge every year in August.

Instead of actually going camping though (which would usually be miserable this time of year), I tend to sort through all my gear, cleaning and repairing what needs work (and what doesn’t). I also tend to acquire more gear this time of year than any other, too, which isn’t always a good thing.

This year, my plan is to channel some of that energy into working up some camp recipes using my dehydrator (which I didn’t have this time last year and which is mostly just a fruit leather and jerky-making machine at our house). I also need to work on my cooking gear, which is pretty oddball at the moment. I can boil water and just-add-water one pot dishes, but that’s about it. I’d like to get a little more creative and branch out some. I’m thinking of adding a Banks Fry-Bake, which is used by NOLS, Outward Bound, and countless other outfitters.

I’d also like to do some more dutch oven cooking, though that will be restricted mainly to car camping (and cooking at home).

I’m going to start trying some recipes from great places I’ve found online, especially trailcooking.com, which is an amazing resource. In addition to her book, which is available there, Sarah has all sorts of recipes and advice on cooking outdoors. Her blog on that site is fun and informative, too.

Anyway, I’m going to do some practicing for when camping kicks in this fall in September. I have two or three Cub Scout pack campouts, at least one campout with a Boy Scout troop (since The Boy is a Webelos Scout and is currently looking at troops), and I’m doing Wood Badge this fall, which includes two weekends of camping (though food will be provided for us on those weekends).

I’ll report back here on what was successful and what wasn’t.

The Boy’s first white bass

Despite the weird weather of late (it snowed this morning, the first time it has ever snowed in Arkansas in May), the White Bass fishing has been really good this year.

Daniel playing his first white bass on the fly.
Daniel playing his first white bass on the fly.
In between Cub Scouts, camping, and now baseball, we’ve gotten out a few times to chase whities. Daniel caught his first white bass which was also his first fish on the fly. He’s caught a few now, and he seems hooked on flyfishing. He definitely needs to work on his casting (I’m going to get him some casting lessons from someone other than me), but he’s coming along.

He caught that one on a chartrueuse over yellow clouser. He was using his Ross 7’11” 6 weight FlyStik that he got for his birthday this year. It has a Ross FlyStart reel, and the line is a Rio Smallmouth Bass taper WF6F. That line is similar to Rio’s Clouser taper line (which is the floating line I fish on my Scott A3 906), with maybe a slightly less agressive taper. It’s definitely a WARMwater line, though, because it stays coiled pretty hard in the cold spring water. Should perform better as the water warms. I’m looking forward to trying it on my Scott A3 906.

Hangin’ Out

Prime camping season is upon us, and I thought I’d talk a little about my hammock camping rig, as hammock camping has revitalized camping for me. Once I realized that with the right type of hammock, you can lie diagonally and very flat – and comfy! – a good night’s sleep in the woods was soon forthcoming.

imagesIt started just over a year ago, when The Boy decided he wanted to try hammock camping. As I am wont to do, I did a lot of research, including buying the Kindle version of Derek Hansen’s The Ultimate Hang during a bout of insomnia one night and reading the whole thing in one sitting), and reading a lot of posts on HammockForums.net. Derek’s book is a great place to start, and Hammock Forums is easily the friendliest and most welcoming forum on the Intertubes.

I got The Boy a nice camping hammock (Warbonnet Blackbird) and tarp (Warbonnet Superfly) for his birthday last year. Yes, I don’t believe in half measures. He loved sleeping in it in the back yard and also at Cub Scout campouts. After a few nice naps in his hammock, I eventually got one for myself (a Dream Hammock Dangerbird 60) and a Warbonnet Edge (the Superfly’s little brother).

I did 6 nights in a hammock over a month or so last fall at various campouts, and I really enjoyed sleeping in it. At one Cub Scout campout, I awoke late to find people eating breakfast and Scouts running around all around me. I had slept soundly (and well!) through at least an hour of not-so-quiet camp activity.

The hammock has also led to reduced bearanoia, which I tend to suffer from, especially on the first night of any campout. In a tent, especially one with a rainfly on it, if there’s an unidentifiable noise outside the tent, I have to get out of the sleeping bag, unzip the tent, unzip the fly and look out. Kind of a pain in the rear. I’d usually just lie there and speculate about what it could be (BEAR!). Now with the hammock, I just look over the edge (I usually have my tarp pitched pretty high (or rolled up, if the weather’s nice) and I look around a bit, easily identifying the noise as a branch rubbing, or a squirrel, or (once) a surprisingly heavy-footed 8-year-old Cub Scout looking for the latrine that was nowhere near my hammock.

Also, as I get older, I find sleeping on the ground (even on my nice thick Luxury Camp Thermarest pad) not so comfy. I can get a pretty good night’s sleep in the hammock, though I have had to figure out the best way to side sleep in one.

I’ve also spent tons of time playing with different suspensions (biners, whoopie slings, UCRs, Dutchware, etc.) for both the hammocks and the tarps.

At the moment, my rig is fairly simple.

Hammock

Dream Hammock Dangerbird 60

This is a heavy-duty hammock made from 2.6 oz. crinkle taffeta nylon. Includes a zip down bugnet and a “weather shield” that can replace the bugnet (can’t deploy both at once) and protect against light drizzle, light snow, or windy conditions and can raise the temp by 10* or so. Very comfy.

My hammock has continuous loops of Amsteel in the ends. I have Amsteel whoopie slings with Dutchware Whoopie Hooks in the adjustable loops that hook onto the continuous loops and act as drip rings, too. The whoopies are loop-to-loop connected to the end of 1″ tree straps that are attached around the tree with titanium Dutch Clips. I can put this hammock up in about 2-3 minutes.

Tarp

Warbonnet Outdoors Edge

This is a hex-shaped cat-cut silnylon tarp. It’s smallish at 126″ by 98″ but it weighs only 10 oz. and packs small.

Instead of using anything fancy as a ridgeline for the tarp, I’ve been using braided (NOT twisted) mason’s line (another tip from Derek Hansen) and doing separate ridgelines on each end. I don’t typically need a continuous ridgeline for my tarp, as I don’t hang anything from it. I attach a 12 foot length of line to the ridge tieout with two half hitches (could also use a bowline, I suppose, but the 2HH is easier to undo) go around the tree, through the ridge loop, then tie a tautline hitch. That hitch is adjustable, and I use it to center and then tighten my tarp. Quick and easy.

I have four tieouts on the bottom, and each of those has a self-tensioning guyline on it made from braided mason’s line and 3/32″ shockcord. Those help keep the tarp taught during the night if it sags due to moisture, as nylon has a tendency to do. They are attached to the tieouts with a bowline (though 2 half hitches might work), down through a loop on the stake (I use MSR Groundhog y-stakes), and then I tie a tautline hitch to tighten them up.

I often pitch the tarp in “porch mode” using a couple of branches (since I don’t use trekking poles) unless it’s raining.

I’ll have more on here about hammock camping in the future, I’m sure.

White Bass delayed — still time to tie flies

Usually by the end of March we have White Bass starting their spawning run up out of Beaver Lake into the tributaries. However, this year we’ve had unseasonably cold weather (including some non-accumulating snow twice in the last week!), and the water temps have stayed below the 56F magical point that sends them upstream. But, that delay gives me time to work on stocking the white bass box, something that’s been delayed by illness this year.

The White Bass box is a pretty simple affair. It contains some Whitlock’s NearNuff Crayfish for early in the run, then mostly Clousers after that. I usually tie in them in chartreuse/white, olive/white, olive/yellow, and all white. I tie them on Size 4 Mustad 3366 hooks, which really gives me more like a size 6 fly. I use the small or xtra small lead eyes, mostly in red and yellow.

This year, I’ve added a sort of turquoise/white recommended by Brock at McLellan’s Fly Shop. I’m also using some whitish eyes with them. Can’t remembe what brand/style the eyes are. We’ll see how those work this year. I’ve got at least a week before things warm up even close to enough. Will be tying every evening, I imagine.

This year will be the first time The Boy has been flyfishing, and he’s been working on his Chuck ‘n’ Duck casting with Clousers. I really hope I can get him into some White Bass this Spring.

Harry Murray’s “Fly Fishing for Smallmouth Bass”

When I first started chasing smallmouth with my flyrod, my bible was Harry Murray’s Fly Fishing for Smallmouth Bass, which sadly seems to be out of print (though easily available used through Amazon.com). Murray has a more recent condensed and updated book about flyfishing for smallmouth, but it’s not the same book. It has more recent fly patterns and color photos, but lacks the depth and cool Dave Whitlock illustrations of the first book.

Harry Murray's Fly Fishing for Smallmouth BassThe book is really chock full of advice on fishing for smallmouth in streams and rivers while wading. He breaks down the parts of a stream, and walks you through fishing the different parts.

It’s also full of great fly patterns that I first found here: Murray’s Strymph, James Wood Bucktail, Silver Outcast (my go-to shallow minnow pattern), Murray’s Hellgrammite, and more. I’ll be tying and writing about some of these patterns in the coming weeks.