TENKARA ANGLER

An Angler’s Guide To Insect Repellants & Other Ways To Prevent Insect Bites

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Editor’s Note: It’s atypical to take articles from Tenkara Angler magazine and re-post them here on the blog. That said, this article is so informative (and topical in these summer months), it probably deserves to be caught up in things like Google search for all to find. It was written by Rob Worthing for the Summer 2017 issue of Tenkara Angler. I hope you find it helpful, I know I did. 

AN ANGLER’S GUIDE TO INSECT REPELLANTS AND OTHER WAYS TO PREVENT INSECT BITES
By Rob Worthing, MD FAWM

The author displays a classic rash of tick borne illnesses like Lyme

I’ve always wanted to write something about biting insects for anglers. But, the inevitable distractions – like actually fishing – always got in the way. Today, I find myself in a position where I have no excuse. Instead, I appear to have a tick borne illness. I got lazy, didn’t protect myself, and I got bit. As I sit at home, using up my sick days from work, enjoying a screaming fever, fatigue, malaise, headache, and one crazy bull’s eye rash, it only seems fitting that I write this article. So read up and arm yourself with some knowledge, because you don’t want what I got!

Each summer across fly fishing rags, forums, blogs, and social media outlets the debate over the best line of defense from mosquitoes, ticks, and other biting insects erupts. Why? Two reasons. First, these little blood suckers are annoying. Second, they carry diseases that we really don’t want. Diseases like Lyme, West Nile, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Tick Borne Paralysis to name a few. Throw in Zika and a few news reports on Powassan virus this summer, and things get bonkers.

Matt Sment fishes a buggy lie in the Driftless region of Wisconsin

The difficult part for most of us fisherpersons is trying to figure out the good information from the bad. What really works, and what doesn’t work so well? What’s safe, and what’s not so safe to use? Many of us have a particular product that works well for us around our home waters. Such experience can be very helpful. To further help us make an educated choice, this article will summarize the best evidence on the subject of insect bite prevention that science has provided us to date. Only here the info is geared for real-world use by anglers, not so much the scientists.

A fly fisherperson can control biting insects in two ways. First, using physical barriers. Second, using chemical barriers like insect repellants. There’s also the not-so-effective, sometimes dangerous stuff out there that we ought to address. That gives this article a total of three parts – physical barriers, chemical barriers, and not-so-effective/dangerous stuff. And since the chemicals are what seem to be debated the most, we’ll subdivide a few to try and provide everyone with an evidence-based plan to prevent bites they can feel good about.

Physical Barriers
Physical barriers are your primary protection from biting insects. A physical barrier is anything that minimizes access of biting insects to your body, whether limiting exposed skin to flying insects, or entry points for crawling insects.

Chemical Barriers
Choosing and using chemical insecticides and repellants can be intimidating, even scary. But if you want the most effective prevention strategies, you need chemical barriers. Here are the important facts about three different effective chemical strategies.

1. Permethrin + DEET
This is the most effective combo known, and it has the longest track record of safe use. Permethrin is a clothing treatment. DEET goes on the exposed skin. These products should be used in combination. Together, they can prevent 99.9% of mosquito bites (1 vs. 1888 bites/hour in one Alaskan study).

Permethrin:

Sawyer Permethrin for treating clothing & gear

DEET:

3M Ultrathon, a sustained release DEET product

2. Permethrin + Picaridin
A great alternative for anglers. We already covered Permethrin. Picaridin is a skin repellant like DEET, only with some bonus features.

Picaridin

Nutrapel, an effective alternative for anglers that won’t melt your gear

3. Oil of Citronella
For those who want an effective all-natural option.

Not So Effective/Dangerous Stuff

Big fish and blood suckers abound in the author’s home water
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