The ultimate multi-fuel stove

“I think it is some kind of a bean can,” said Jemima finally, with all the wisdom of her nine years. “You know those very big ones, they have for cafes and things.” “Hm,” said the gf, her lips pursed together thoughtfully, as they tend to do at times when she is set on causing me maximum discomfort, “It certainly looks like it has been made from one, doesn’t it? In to some kind of home made rocket, perhaps?” I clicked my tongue as we all examined the strange metal contraption I had just unwrapped and placed on the kitchen table. “It is a kelly kettle.” I said sharply – and, I hope, a little patronisingly.
The gf’s eyes and her daughter’s met, rolled around and right on cue they chorused: “Oh of course! A kelly kettle!” Then they collapsed laughing. This is the sort of thing I have to put up with all the time these days. It seems to have started since I took up fly fishing. These two just don’t understand the outdoor life.

Rookie3_2_924688657.jpgFor those of you who don’t know, a kelly kettle is a kind of stove, a device for boiling water. The idea is that one places combustible material in the centre and the water is contained in a thin sleeve around its outside. This way, as the fuel burns the heat is transferred to the water extremely efficiently. To look at, well – it looks like it has been made out of an old bean tin actually, and fashioned into – erm – a little home made rocket. But the point is, one can use just about anything that burns for fuel, and one can very soon have a steaming cuppa even in the foulest of conditions. It is the ultimate multi-fuel stove and it is the real outdoor man’s stove of choice. I knew this as I had read all about it in their publicity material on the internet, just before I entered my credit card details and bought one. There would be no expense spared in my quest for a simple life.

“It was invented by ghillies on the shores of the Irish Loughs,” My audience of two had by now fallen into a respectful silence. “It is a harsh environment for a fisherman out there.” I tapped the kettle so it rang. “The whole point is, you can put any old scrap in this little baby that burns.” “Anything?” Jemima asked with some incredulity, as she took the kettle in her hands. “Absolutely anything at all.” I assured her confidently. “Old fish scales I shouldn’t wonder.” “Old fish scales?!” she echoed, aghast. There were clearly still things she did not know. “They make cups of tea with old fish scales?” I nodded quickly. “Shouldn’t wonder,” I said. “It is a harsh life for the Irish ghillie – and they are only ever as good as their last trout.” I left Jemima making a mental note to put “irish”, “ghillie” and “fish scales” into google. That will teach her for laughing at my kettle.

Rookie3_3_342622217.jpgThe next morning I was to fish the river and the gf was to bring Jemima down later on and we would all have a cup of tea together, which I would make using the Kelly kettle, of course. The fishing was fast and furious – small grayling making lightening attacks on my little dries. You need super-fast reflexes to connect with these fish and I missed at least as many as I hit. I love this kind of fishing though – you get one on, slacken the line, and as often as not with a wide-gaped barbless hook they jump off, without ever needing to handle the fish. When they finally did arrive, the lighting of the stove did not go entirely to plan. I confidently strode around with Jemima, foraging for likely looking tinder, teaching her the ways of the great outdoors. But by the time the tenth match was met with no more than a mere wisp of smoke and a damp squib of a spark, I was beginning to lose patience. “I thought you said it would burn anything?” said Jemima. “I did.” I replied through thin lips. Then there was a pause while match number eleven met its all too predictable end. “I thought you said it would even burn fish scales?” she went on, with a little too much innocence in her voice for my liking. “I did,” I said, my teeth well and truly gritted. I was really beginning to lose patience now. “I think there must be something wrong with this. I think it should have another hole here, for the air vent. I wonder if something went wrong in the manufacturing process?” “Have you tried blowing it?” asked the gf “Getting down and giving it a draught?” I looked at her despairingly and feigned patience. “Can you honestly see some weatherbeaten old Irish ghillie down on his hands and knees with his backside up in the air, burning his lips on a kelly kettle?” The very notion was too ridiculous for words. “I think the grasses and twigs may be too damp,” I pronounced, looking for an excuse to get away. “I’ll go find some more.”

Five minutes later, as I was off scratting about for sticks, Jemima ran up, her happy voice trilling: “It’s ok! Mum’s done it!” I returned to find flames leaping out of the top of the Kelly kettle like genies, and the gf beside it with a beaming smile on her face. “Milk and sugar?” she asked. That evening, the gf was on the doorstep with Jemima, about to leave for their own flat. “Thank you for a lovely day,” she said. “Thank you,” I said. “But I still don’t know how you lit that kettle.” The gf has a fledgling acting career, and is never one to miss an opportunity. “Oh that’s easy,” she said, in her best Lauren Bacall impersonation: “You just put your lips together and blow.” The car drove off. I closed the door, lent back on to it and smiled to myself, for that moment there cast as Bogart, the hero, her hunter within.

You can visit author Andrew Griffiths at his website –