How to Fish Without Fishing Gear

Shane Mahoney

It has been said that the ability to make a fishing rod in the wild is the mark of a true outdoorsman.  So, whether you find yourself in an actual survival situation or just want to test your skills, here’s how to handcraft a fishing pole in less than 30 minutes using just a pocketknife. 


  1. > Find a living tree branch 6 to 7 ft. long and about the diameter of your thumb at the widest end.
  2. > Break off the branch from the tree, then break it again to the desired length either by leaning the branch against the tree trunk and cracking it with your boot, or by pushing the wide end into the ground and snapping the branch at the point where it is buried in the dirt.
  3. > Cut away shoots, side branches and leaves with your pocketknife so you are left with a tapering pole.
  4. > Test the tip of your fishing rod by bending with your hand. If the end snaps off, it’s ok because you’ll then have a stronger tip with what’s left.
  5. > If you have no line, look for green vines in the undergrowth around bushes and tangled in ground cover. Vines must be green to be strong enough to be used as fishing line.
  6. > Strip away any tendrils or offshoots from the vine by pulling it slowly through your closed fist. You’ll want a line between 10 to 15 ft.
  7. > Tie together two green lines for greater length by using a surgeon’s knot. The surgeon’s knot is formed by holding the two vines together at the ends and forming a loop. Push the ends of the two vines through the loop and pull tight, then cut off the excess with your knife.
  8. > Tie the line about midway down your pole and wrap it 3 to 4 times along the length of the pole toward the tip. If the pole breaks while you are fighting a fish, the line will immediately fall into your hands and you’ll still have a chance at landing a meal.
  9. > Tie the end of the line around the tip of your fishing pole with a simple overhand knot to hold it securely for casting.
  10. > Tie a barbed hook to the vine if you have one. Otherwise, you can carve a hook from a V-shaped piece of green stick with your pocketknife.
  11. > Carve a groove into the end of your makeshift hook where the eye would normally be located. This groove will give you something to tie the vine onto and make it hold fast.
  12. > Find some bait and get fishing!