Lighter Side

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December 30th, 2002

How To Build A Steelhead Fort - Part 2

In this section, part II, we will discuss the value of building a steelhead fort and its applications:


    1. Such a fort can provide shelter from the elements, the raw wind and numbing cold, the slashing ice-rains, the terrible sleet and hail storms, the violent downpours associated ordinarily with this sport.

    2. It can provide protection from unruly mobs and hooligans often seen roaming the banks of rivers.

    3. It can establish a certain "ownership" to places along the river, giving the builder certain rights and privileges, e.g. excluding others from fishing in your spot.

    4. A nice place to sleep at night.

    5. A congenial meeting place where the owner and friends can enjoy a libation or two and compare notes of the day.

    6. A second home tax deduction.

The building of such a fort is rather easy, materials are free and readily available, and sites are numerous. But let's take this one thing at a time:

Site selection: Find a famous or highly productive holding area on the river. Ignore any crowds that might be there and begin building your fort. Always have the door to the fort facing the river and be sure that approximately one-half of the floor of the fort is actually in the river. More about this later. Avoid sites where there might be adjacent pits or holes within rock throwing distance. There should be no snags, uprooted stumps or piles of debris which might give shelter to the enemy (the enemy is defined as anyone who is not a member of your party or a personal friend).

Should you insist on locating your fort near any of the previously described objections, you must take care to remedy the situation. Fill in all holes or pits, burn snags and debris, etc.

Leave no shelter for the enemy to hide in or a place to take refuge.

Basic construction: Use only rocks of good quality (no sandstone) and choose those that are flat on both sides so as to make for easy stacking. Build first an outline of the perimeter. Don't get carried away here. We want a fort not a fishing lodge. Bedrooms are nice but are optional. The author simply builds a multi-purpose room, using it for entertaining, sleeping, dining and, of course, fishing. Stack one course upon another using standard masonry techniques. Build to armpit height. When this is accomplished, place a second wall about a foot or so inside the first wall. When complete, fill the area between the walls with stones; any sort will do here. Leave the entrance large enough to get in and out of and also so that a fish can be lead into the living area when the fight is over. I employ a steel spike grate that can be slammed shut over the doorway, keeping the fish in and the unwanted masses out. Do not construct a roof.

How to use: Fly fish as normal. When you get a fish, hold your ground; stay within the fort.

Don't let the fish pull you out of there. Use the thick walls to your advantage! When the fish is ready for capture, simply pull him through the door and slam the gate shut.

When darkness comes, I inflate my air mattress and sleep in the living room on the rock floor, the dry side.

Once, while using this technique, the water rose during the night when a big front jammed its way up the river, flooding everything. I was too tired or too sleepy or too lazy or too drunk to give a care and I just went on sleeping. Fortunately the air mattress lifted me up over the walls (remember: never add a roof) and I was washed downstream for about 1/2 mile where I got caught up in this big back eddy. The night passed OK enough but I did get jabbed every now and again by broken limbs from the downed trees that were swirling about me. In the morning, by the dawn's early light, the fort was still there!

For fighting: Remember there will be lots of fighting over this fort idea so be prepared. Keep nice, baseball size rocks stacked in pyramids in the corners of your rooms. These are for throwing, of course. It is best if you gather your rocks from the immediate area of the fort so as to leave none for the enemy. But if no rocks of suitable size are available, then you must import them. But you must have good rocks. They are the key to everything, your survival, your comfort, your walls, etc.

When the enemy comes, and they surely will, throw a large barrage of stones as fast as you can.

Stay down! Try to make the enemy think that there is more than just you in the fort. Keep throwing until all evidence of the enemy is gone. Then go out and get your rocks back. You may need them again. If there should be return fire, and there surely will be, take a peek to determine the direction of fire; now huddle up tight against the wall from whence the stones are coming. Protect your eyes as direct hits, while they will not harm you, could shatter and spray you with fragments. Between volleys, sneak in a cast or two. You never know when you might get something.

Happy forting, ~ BOBLAWLESS

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