Today’s bivvies and day shelters are high tech and lightweight, but mobile shelters are certainly nothing new.
Next time you pack your bivvy ready for a fishing trip, spare a thought for these nomadic hunter gatherers past and present, whose shelters took a little more effort.
Temperatures on the Mongolian Steppe can range from 40 C during the daytime to below zero at night. In the winter, the thermometer can dip below -30 C. The traditional way of life for people who live on these harsh, windy plains, is as nomadic or semi nomadic herdsman. In a land of extremes, accommodation has to be warm yet portable.
The yurt is perfectly adapted to the geography and climate of the region in which it evolved. Round and with a conical roof, the finished structure has no flat or concave surfaces to trap the wind, making the tent all but impossible to blow over.
It is also incredibly strong. The downforce generated by the weight of the roof is counteracted by the tension band that runs around the lattice of wood that forms the yurt’s outer rim.
The Mongolian yurt covering is thick felt, warm yet relatively light weight. Here in the West, yurts are increasingly popular alternative dwellings – when constructed from waterproof canvas, they make a surprisingly sturdy and cosy shelter.
A properly constructed igloo can bear the weight of a full grown man standing on the roof. In a land where there are no trees, building materials are in short supply. But there is no lack of snow in the frozen North. And as a building material, it has a lot going for it.
Snow contains a lot of trapped air, making it a superb insulator. It can be -45 C outside, but inside an igloo, body heat and a small oil lamp can raise the temperature to as much as 16 or even 20 C.
We’re used to representations of tiny one or two man igloos, but these were temporary structures erected by hunters on the move. Snow homes can house as many as 20 people sleeping on raised beds of ice covered with caribou skins. Light comes from a single polished block of ice in the wall.
The gypsies first wandered out of India over 1000 years ago. They travelled in extended family groups throughout Europe, with populations in the Middle East and the Americas.
Most people think of Gypsies as living in caravans or ‘vardos’, but this was a relatively modern invention. For far longer, gypsies meandered along traditional routes sleeping under their wagons or in benders.
Take some supple hazel rods, plant in the ground and bend to the middle. Cover with blankets or waterproof cloth and you have a basic bender. For centuries, travelling people lived like this, moving from place to place, practising country crafts like besom broom making, weaving, metal and leatherwork.
No collection of native shelters would be complete without mention of that most famous of bivvies, the teepee or tipi. Until white settlers drove them off the land, the North American plains were peopled by natives whose lives were intimately tied to those of the buffalo they hunted. And as the herds moved, so did the people.
Their teepees are iconic – symbolic of ultimate freedom. Long poles clad with hides made for warm, waterproof accommodation.
Because there were few trees on the prairies of America, poles were in short supply. Whenever camp was struck – tribes could be on the move in under an hour – poles had to be transported.
When the conquistadors brought the horse to the continent, the men of the plains developed a horse culture second to none – and because their tents were now easier than ever to move, so their size grew. Some of the tent poles were as long as 25 ft.
In 1991 after the first Gulf war, Saddam Hussein began a ruthless campaign to drain the marshlands of Southern Iraq. This was retribution for a failed Shia uprising and ultimately led to the displacement of all but a few thousand of people.
But with the fall of Saddam and the reflooding of the waterways, this ancient culture survives – just – and along with the last of the marsh arabs, the last of the Mudhifs.
It’s incredible what you can build using nothing but reeds. A Mudhif is a reed house built with bundles of the stuff lashed together with yet more reeds. Walls, ceiling, floor, beds, baskets, fences, boats – all are fashioned from reeds.
Day shelters and bivvies may not seem all that rock and roll, but just like Mick Jagger, you’ll be crying out ‘Gimme Shelter’ if you don’t have one this summer – and not just for those lazy days on the river bank.
Here’s why a day shelter is for life, and not just for fishing.
Whether you’re heading off to Glastonbury this year, taking the family to Womad or just kicking back at your local outdoor music event, one thing you’ll definitely need is a tent.
Why not make use of your bivvy or day shelter? For overnight stays a tent is essential, but even if you’re just out for the day – a shelter will keep you dry if the weather turns. On a sunny day, a bivvy is great for keeping young children protected from the burning rays.
When the party is over, many thousands of festival goers simply leave their tent behind – the large majority of which end up in landfill. When a two man tent costs as little as £15, there’s little incentive to take it home, particularly if the festival season is wet and muddy. And charities can’t make use of flimsy supermarket tents either. A decent fishing bivvy is worth looking after, so sponge it off and reuse. That way your party in the park will be a green one.
Kids fishing trip
What better way to bond with your children than to take them for a summer fishing trip? Pack the fishing rods, a bivvy and some supplies and head off into the great outdoors. Kids love to fish but soon get bored if the trout don’t bite.
Youngsters get a real thrill out of being under canvas – your day shelter will be an excellent distraction for them, so you can carry on fishing. Best of all, you’ll be giving them ‘quality time’ and happy memories to pass on to their own children.
From the highlands of Scotland to the beaches of Cornwall, there are literally thousands of campsites to choose from, and many fisheries also offer camping. The UK Campsite directory has listings for campsites with angling. Whether you’re looking for a family site with a pool, bar and entertainment, or a quiet spot in the hills to revel in nature – with some fly fishing thrown in, you’re sure to find something to suit your needs and budget.
We live in a tricky financial climate and for many it simply won’t be possible to go away on a camping holiday this year. But that doesn’t mean kids can’t enjoy the excitement of camp life. Simply pitch your fishing bivvy in the garden and let your kids sleep out. Just make sure you remember to leave the door unlocked at night so they can come inside when they get scared!
You could encourage your kids to join the scouts or guides. Modern scouting is a far cry from the days of knot tying and ‘bob a job’. There are over 400,000 scouts in the UK and 60,000 of them are girls, with a mixture of male and female leaders.
Perhaps you can help your son or daughter to take their ‘Angler Activity Badge’, passing on your knowledge and love of fishing. And what better way to give children a taste for adventure than by introducing them to a wonderful organisation – now headed by Chief Scout, Bear Grylls and with none other than David Beckham as a former member.
Do your bit
Even if you’re not thinking of taking up camping – you can still do your bit to help families in disaster areas around the world – donate a tent.
Shelterbox UK is a charity that provides a unique service to people suffering the after effects of earthquakes, landslides, and forest fires, as well as war and conflict. The contents of each green, plastic ShelterBox is tailored to a disaster but typically contains a disaster relief tent for an extended family, blankets, groundsheets, water storage and filtration equipment, cooking utensils, a basic tool kit, a children’s activity pack and other vital items.
Shelterbox aim to help 50,000 families every year by providing them the shelter and the basics of survival they so desperately need. In the 12 years since the charity was set up, Shelterbox has operated in over 90 countries and has helped an estimated one million people. Now that’s one good use for a bivvy.
Who knew that just having a brew could tell you all you need to know about the forthcoming weather? Did you ever think a warm milky coffee could have saved you a soaking on the bank or a day stuck on a boat in the middle of a flat calm lake?
Whether you’re looking for that perfect opportunity to break out your fishing tackle or any old excuse to get on the bank, try this nifty little tip to predict the weather for your next fishing trip.
Make a cup of coffee or tea, mixing it with cream or milk seems to make picking out the bubbles easier but a black coffee, tea or hot chocolate will also work fine.
Pour your coffee or tea into the cup and watch which way the bubbles head, if they move to the edge of the cup rather quickly make sure to take your sun tan lotion, peaked caps and cool bags! The theory behind this method is that high pressure will push the bubbles to the edge of the cup, which indicates a period of calm weather and clear skies.
On the opposite end of the scales, if the bubbles cling to the centre of the cup, low pressure is expected which typically brings unsettled weather, the type where you need to don your wet weather gear and hide in the bivvy!
Well it’s all back to normal again, the tinsel is keeping the mice warm in the loft and the tree is all folded up in its box again. I had a bit of a lay off from fishing over the holiday period but I was breaking my neck to get back out there at the beginning of this week, especially with the mild weather we have been having.
I set off on the Monday morning for Northampton and a return to the Estate Lake, arriving just as it was getting light. Apparently nobody had even thought about carp fishing the place for two weeks and I wondered if the carp would still be holed up where I caught my last three fish from?
Obviously this was going to be my starting point and it didn’t take long to get three rigs out there on the spots.
I was sticking to my successful method of a standard hair rig with a bottom bait and the addition of a small PVA bag of 10mm baits, just to give the carp something to home in on through the thick silt.
With the fishing rods out I quickly set up the Hard-core Bivvy and then stuck the kettle on for a brew but something seemed different, quieter than usual, and then I realised there were no sheep. Usually there are woolly Ovines wandering around everywhere, sneaking up behind your bivvy and startling the hell out of you with a sudden loud bleat but, for some reason, they had all disappeared today; maybe Lamb had been on the menu at a big New Year’s Eve dinner at the manor house!
I didn’t have to wait long to find out if I was in the right spot, sheep or no sheep, the carp were definitely still there as I had my first take about ten o’clock in the morning. After a bit of a tussle in the silt where the fish sent up huge sheets of bubbles as he tried to bury himself under the mud, I managed to steer him into the margins where he just plodded up and down for a few minutes before waving the white flag and rolling up into the net.
This was a nice welcome back present and a great way to start the New Year but I couldn’t help but wonder what I might have missed out on over the previous few weeks. On the scales he registered twenty eight and a half pounds and, after a couple of pictures, I slipped him back into the cloudy water.
With such a quick result I had high hopes for the rest of the session; especially when the next rod ripped off at three in the afternoon. This fish fought far harder than the previous one and I really did think I had hooked one of the really big commons for a while but, as he eventually came over the net cord, I could see he was another mirror. Incredibly pale in colour, probably due to the lack of light getting through the muddy water, he weighed in at just over thirty and a half pounds.
Now I really was confident and I could see a session to remember stretching out ahead of me but, as is the way with carp fishing, the lake had other ideas. It was as if that last fish had pressed a panic button and all the carp retreated to the bunker for the next two days as, apart from two bream, the alarms remained silent.
The weather just got better and better and I still find it hard to believe that nothing else fed although I certainly am not complaining at two big fish in the first week of January.
I hope the rest of the month goes as well, although they are forecasting some horribly cold conditions over the next few days so let’s just hope the lake doesn’t freeze over as that’s about the only thing that will stop me being out there again next week!
Well it looks like winter has finally arrived, the flooding and wild winds have been replaced by freezing temperatures and half the lakes in the country have a lid on them already.
I have managed to find myself a water at last having spent a couple of months in the wastelands, so to speak, a nice little Estate lake in Northampton. The setting is about as stereotypical for an English estate as you can get, like a film location for a period drama. There is a huge manor house atop a small hill and rolling lawns meandering down into a six acre lake, dammed at one end with a small stone bridge and inlet stream at the other. Sheep wander freely over the entire area and often straight up to the bivvy door at first light, their sudden Bleating can almost send you through the bivvy roof in shock!
I have even had a take from one when he decided, out of curiosity, to turn my reel handle with his nose to see what would happen, what happened was me and the dog came flying out the bivvy and fifty sheep went charging off up the hill in panic.
Over the years the lake has seen the passing of millions of gallons of water fed from the stream and the fields and then pushed over the outlet onto the lower ground of the valley below but what it has left in its passing is silt, I wouldn’t like to even guess how deep but I know for a fact it has gone from 14 feet deep to 5 over the last couple of decades, and that’s the deep end!
Most of the six acres are between three and four feet deep and hold around sixty fish including one very big common of around forty six pounds, so how after nine nights spread over five weeks have I not even seen one single fish roll or jump?
It always amazes me on these little shallow lakes, just how elusive the carp can actually be, although I am not sure that the middle of winter is the best time to start looking really.
I have managed to catch one though and it’s always nice to open your account on a new water; I had a lovely fish of twenty two pounds one oz mirror on my second trip, fooling me into thinking that I had sussed the place and I would have a hat-full by now!
My last two visits have coincided with the arrival of a new ice age and I am actually now at home writing this when I would normally still be fishing but yesterday half the lake froze over and by midday I still had ice coated lines and freezing fog masked the far bank. The forecast last night was for minus four degrees and, looking out of the window, I can see they were right and there is no way the lake could survive that.
One thing I will say though, having just fished in such bitter conditions, is how warm and comfortable I managed to stay while I was there, I was genuinely amazed when I woke up to find the lake, my bivvy and everything all around encased in ice. The lid was frozen onto my water bottle and yet I was snug as a bug in my sleeping bag and oblivious to it all.
Thermal carp fishing gear has come on in leaps and bound over the last few years and I look back in horror at just how unprepared we all used to be, in Argos sleeping bags with an old blanket over the top. I now use the Hard-core sleeping bag with the Comfort Zone Peach-skin cover and, to be totally honest, I wouldn’t actually like to be any warmer for that would mean stripping off layers of clothing which is all well and good until you get a run in the night dressed in just a T-shirt and your Sponge Bob Square pants, pants!
The beauty of this system, for me, is that it still crushes down into the bed-chair when I pack up and, as long as you un-clip the cover and tuck it inside the frame, you can fold the bed totally flat so that it goes back on the barrow nicely.
As for actual winter clothing I am now spoilt for choice, being in the fantastic position of having to test the new ranges of kit I have so much warm gear to choose from that I couldn’t catch a chill in the Arctic.
My personal choice at the moment though is the big Force Ten jacket for in the daytime when I am out and about in the elements and the Thermo-Tex survivor for dossing about in the bivvy in the long hours of freezing darkness, this thing is like a portable sleeping bag and so comfortable and warm it’s incredible.
Anyway, I gotta be off now, I have a load of cold wet gear in the back of the truck to dry out and I’ve just spotted a low pressure system moving across the XC-Weather site, apparently it’s going to be eight degrees by the weekend so get your warm jackets on and get out there while you can.
With still no winter tickets on the horizon I decided to continue my tour of various waters, I even tried a few hours on the river at one stage but to no avail.
At one stage I had burnt about fifty quid in diesel and not even wet a line, looking at, and then rejecting, three waters in one day. I’m not sure exactly what it is I am looking for but I am fairly sure I’ll know when I find it. After having such a nice time all summer and a water practically to myself it’s hard to drop straight back into the hustle and bustle of busy lakes so, in some respects, I suppose I have been spoilt a bit lately with my carp fishing.
With a lot of time wasted and one night left to fish I decided to pop over to a lake nearby to home, owned by another mate of mine affectionately known as ‘Delboy’ for all the normal reasons!
The lake is situated on the edge of Thetford Forest and I suppose that an ‘Estate Lake’ is probably the best description although lacking the actual estate.
It’s only a few acres in size and is long and narrow with an island running half its length. The bottom is varied, mainly silt due to the forest and years of falling leaves decaying on the lake bed but there are strips of hard ground and even a bit of gravel here and there.
I love fishing these intimate little venues where everything is up close and personal and you can actually see the carp bubbling up from the bottom and track their progress by the little ‘chufa trains’ as they break on the surface.
It didn’t take long to find a few fish, just in the open water at the end of the island, I saw four or five fish roll in quite quick succession and was soon scrabbling for a rod in the back of the truck.
Rather than fish over any bait I decided to start with just two rods on single pop-up’s and see what happened for a while.
Even though I only made three casts in total the difference in the ‘feel’ as each one landed was amazing, one was so soft that I re-cast, the second seemed like firmer silt while the third went down with a resounding thump that could only be exposed gravel.
There was only one other angler on the lake and he seemed a bit surprised when, ten minutes later, I appeared in his swim to ask if he could take a photo for me!
I acted all nonchalantly, as if happened all the time, but no-one had more surprised than me when the rod cast onto the firm ground had ripped off within about two minutes of casting out.
It was a lovely little mirror of around seventeen pounds or so and a great start.
After re-casting both rods onto the hardest ground I could find I set up the tea making equipment and a low chair and sat back to watch the water, still not sure if I might need to re-locate before nightfall but a second fish an hour later convinced me I was definitely in the right spot so up went the bivvy as well.
As darkness fell and my new neighbour cooked us both a fantastic chilli we sat and listened to the lake come alive, it seemed as if fish were jumping everywhere but the small channel at the back of the island seemed the noisiest spot by far.
I had every intention of moving there in the morning but two more fish in quick succession just after it got light kept me grounded and I ended the session with four nice carp for my efforts, not bad for a single night session and the best of was that I only had a fifteen minute drive back home for a change.
It’s nice to be out at this time of year as well, there is nothing quite like the colours of Autumn as the leaves turn to red’s and gold’s and yellow’s but I was glad of my ‘Force Ten Jacket’ as we sat out eating that chilli I can tell you, it won’t be long now until the full thermal outfit is pulled out of the bottom of the drawer and dusted down for the long winter ahead.
It’s been a bit of strange few weeks for me since catching that big leather over at Northants. I suddenly found myself without anywhere to fish, a situation I was neither familiar nor particularly happy with.
It would have been the ideal time to start on a winter water, getting a bait established and learning a bit about the fish movements etc while they were still active but as I had nowhere in mind or no tickets in hand I decided to visit a few of the places I have been meaning to try some carp fishing for ages.
The first one of these was my old mate Alan Taylors place over at Ecton, also in Northants.
The Ecton complex is an extremely pretty chain of lakes comprising of three syndicate and one private lake all of which are well established and have many islands and peninsula splitting them up and making them seem smaller than they actually are. As a result of this my first walk around the complex on the Monday morning ended up taking me five hours, mind you I was looking for signs of fish feeding and somewhere to actually angle so I was taking my time.
Eventually though I spotted a couple of fish rolling on the biggest of the lakes, in a channel between a shallow bar and long island, and I decided to load up the carp barrow and make my around to there.
The swim looked hardly fished, probably due to the fact that it was the opposite side of the lake to the track and the swims on the track side could be fished practically from the car.
The bar in front of the swim almost reached the bank and it ran parallel to the bank, a bit like a road going through the swim, the water on top was very shallow so anything hooked would probably have to be netted by wading out to the drop off.
I set up all three rods with yellow pop-ups and fanned them out over the thirty yard gulley between the end of the bar and the long island that made a backdrop to the swim, scattering a fair spread of boilies over the entire area.
Any fish moving through would come across bait and hopefully stay around long enough to find a hook-bait as well.
I waded the landing net out and propped it up on a long bankstick, just on the drop off where the gully started as I was sure this was where I would end up netting the fish but, just to be sure, I set up a second net on the bank as a fail-safe. I always carry at least two nets with me and quite often three, I think they are such an inexpensive item compared to a lot of the kit we carry and having the option to split your rods up in adjacent swims or either side of some bushes etc, improves your chances of multiple catches no end. I love to have one rod on its own waded along the margins with its own net and fishing far more effectively with a short line between the rod tip and the bait.
Anglers who don’t use bivvys or any kind of shelter, regardless of how short the session could be caught out with this temperamental British weather… Kit and clothing will take the brunt if not kept safe and dry. With everything set and the bivvy erected I sat back to wait but as soon as I did the first rod was away. A lively scarp, a bit of well-planned wading and I was soon waddling back with a common of around eighteen pounds in the net, perfect!
Later that evening I had to repeat the whole affair again, only this time it was a mirror of similar size. I was glad I’d had the little bit of practise in the daylight though because I could have easily come unstuck as I stepped off the bar into the slightly deeper margins close to the bank.
The swim died a death after this second fish but I suppose all the paddling about couldn’t have helped much still, two fish from a new water in a one night session wasn’t a bad result and I drove home a happy man.
Here’s your chance to take a sneak peak at some of our exclusive 2013 TF Gear carp fishing babes.
It’s not often you see anglers like these under the fishing bivvy, male anglers are often ‘put off’ or embarrassed by the attendance of a female in their swim… This usually leads to the lady angler taking the most or the best carp!
Anyone who has followed the teachings of the renowned wilderness expert, Ray Mears will know that if you get lost in the wilds, the first thing to do is – make a spoon. But what do you do next?
Read on to discover our bivvy survival tips for the intrepid angler – just incase you lose your way.
It’s not just prospective second home owners that need to consider the position of their bolt hole in the countryside. As a wilderness survivor, you need to give careful thought to where you site your shelter.
Steer well clear of dry river beds, gorges, low water marks and cliff edges. The prevalence of deadly snakes, sharp fanged predators and stinging insects should also be factored into the equation before making any final decision.
If your map reading skills are best described as, ‘inept’, don’t attempt to go ‘wilderness fishing’ without planning ahead for getting lost. At the very least, remember your knife, some parachute cord and a tarpaulin. You’ll probably want to take along some emergency rations and water too – and don’t forget to pack a paper and pencil.
You never know when you’ll come across a bottle in which to place your message or failing that – write your survival diary – and make millions when you return to civilisation.
Build your bivvy early
Don’t leave it until the last minute to erect your shelter. It gets quite scary in the woods after dark. Every shadow will make you jump and each and every time you hear a twig snap you’ll remember the Blair Witch Project.
Make sure that before night falls, you are safely tucked up in bed with a roof over your head. Tie your parachute cord tightly between two trees, drape the tarp over the top and then use your knife to make some tent pegs. Hey presto, a makeshift fisherman’s bivvy.
Insulate your bivvy
Experts estimate that four fifths of the heat loss suffered by bivvy dwellers, occurs through contact with the cold ground. Cut boughs of springy spruce for a mattress and then hunt around for something soft to lay over the top. Fresh broadleaf boughs might be nice, or grass, or maybe moss.
Use leaf litter only as a last resort – it’ll be full of bugs – but do find something because lying on pine needles is fun only for people with unusual tastes. Next, seal off one end of your bivvy using saplings, branches or maybe your fishing tackle box. That way you won’t need to worry about waking up to find a wolf gnawing at your head.
Light a fire
Fire; it’s what separates us from the other primates, so if you want to be the true king of the jungle, remember to pack some matches or a lighter. When deciding where to build your fire, bear in mind the prevailing wind direction. Herrings benefit from a few hours in the smoker but you won’t like it.
The bigger the fire, the more fuel you’ll need and the greater the likelihood of your being discovered by cannibals. Small is beautiful and much easier to control – plus you won’t burn all the lovely fish you caught before you got lost.
In an emergency
If the worst comes to the worst, use the GPS on your Smartphone to locate yourself, then follow its directions to the nearest chippy.