Let there be light
Story by: Zane Mirfin - Photo by: Zane Mirfin
With Winter having been officially ushered in on 1st June, it’s time to start anticipating those shorter days where there is more night than day.
Fishing and hunting activities don’t have to end with shorter days and many of us are out there making the most of the opportunities, positioning ourselves in the dark for the best times at dawn and dusk.
But to do so, outdoor people need decent lighting systems to make fishing and hunting safe, comfortable and possible.
Lighting systems have come a long way in my time in the outdoors and some of the torches or flashlights I used to own are now almost laughable when compared to modern, energy efficient LED lights.
Nowadays you can get headlamps that fit on your head and handheld lights that have in excess of 200-metre beams and will last for 13 hours’ burn time on a single set of AA batteries. A friend owns a massive LED torch run on eight D-cell batteries that is described in its marketing literature as ‘‘a torch that will single-handedly light canyons’’.
Modern technology is great but you still need to look after your lighting gear. Most of it doesn’t like water, especially salt water, and in heavy rain and windswept coastal lagoons lighting can let you down, right when you need it most. From a safety perspective, I always try to carry two lights, both equipped with fresh batteries. Then if for any reason I lose, drop, drown, break or inadvertently run one flat, I’ll have a useable light or spare batteries.
One time many years ago, my mate Cam and I ran out of battery power and couldn’t find an old hut marked on a map. We spent a cold night in the rain huddling together in sodden sleeping bags before waking up at dawn to see the hut 50 metres away on a bank above the river.
I also like my personal lighting systems to use common batteries like AA or AAA that are readily available and can be swapped between other outdoor equipment like GPS, depth sounder and camera flash. Then when you get caught short somewhere, you can always cannibalise batteries from somewhere else.
Years ago most of us were fans of the mini-Maglite torches that were a product of the time. They still work well and you can now get LED bulbs for them on the internet to make them more energy efficient.
What made Maglites great was that the headpiece had to be screwed undone for them to work and meant that it was impossible to accidentally flatten batteries.
A cunning trick with modern lights is to reverse the batteries in your torch to avoid accidentally switching it on – you can always change batteries around when you really need the light later.
One of my favourite lights was a Petzl headlight I bought in 1993 in Aspen, Colorado. The price of US$70 was a princely sum at the time but I still have the light, and although it’s heavy and clunky next to new-generation lights, it served me well on those dark Colorado rivers.
Back in those days, Taylor Creek Flyshop was the largest and busiest year-round guide service in the United States, and I used to do what the boss termed the longest day, where I would guide three different groups of anglers per day.
Doing the night shift at the end always meant finishing in the dark, and I have great memories of mule deer, coyotes and even a black bear in my beam as we headed for the vehicle.
Flounder spearing and spotlighting for small game and deer are fun pursuits in the dark. In earlier years we used carbide lamps for flounder spearing but modern sealed beam lights on poles for under water, using closed-cell motorbike batteries, makes this activity so much easier and more efficient. Old-style batteries used for spotlighting deer were shockers too, as leaking battery acid was an occupational hazard, burning holes in clothing and equipment.
Modern spotlights are so much better with brighter bulbs, rifle attachment systems and colour filter options to hold game in the beam longer.
When spotlighting, always obey proper firearm safety by identifying the target beyond all doubt and always considering your firing zone behind the deer to make sure farm houses or stock are safe. My rule has always been that if you can’t see the whole animal, don’t shoot.
Other essential lighting systems for night-time use are boat navigation lights. Nav lights make sure you are seen by other boat users when travelling and help keep everyone safe between sunset and sunrise or in other times of reduced visibility.
Lights aren’t always practical on small boats but having a flashlight on board can help to signal your position to other water users as required.
On my aluminium dinghy I made up a simple system using a board that is bolted through the rear rowlocks and has red/green sidelights and a white stern light attached.
reprinted courtesy of Strike Adventure - CLICK HERE to go to Strike Adventure's website