Summer Angling: How to deal with insect pests

mosquito biting flesh

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Mosquitos are just one of the creatures that make anglers’ lives uncomfortable…

Summer angling is a joy, but spending time on or near the water puts you in the firing line as far as insect pests are concerned. But while you can’t avoid them, you can prepare to take them on. Here’s our guide to protecting yourself from the insect onslaught.

Insect repellents

insect repellents

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The choice is endless

The old saying goes that ‘prevention is better than the cure’, and anyone who’s ever been bitten by a horsefly will know just how true that is.

There are countless insect repellents on the market, but what you have to decide is whether to go down the chemical or natural route, or some combination of the two.


As far as the petrochemical industry’s offering goes, DEET is a highly effective bug repellent. Developed by the Americans following their experience of jungle warfare during WW2, it’s great for warding off mozzies. But DEET is also a neurotoxin, and some health professionals have raised safety concerns over its use.

Over 200 million people use DEET each year and if you’re fishing in Malaria infested regions it’s pretty much essential kit, but to be on the safe side, only apply it to exposed skin and never to cuts or scratches.

Nature’s way

For those of you who’d rather not lather yourselves in N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide, mother nature provides some really excellent alternatives in the form of essential oils.

As a rule of thumb, take a sniff of an oil –  if it stinks it’ll probably help ward off insects. Examples include citronella, tea tree, eucalyptus and lavender oils. Simply chose one you can tolerate the smell of, or for even more of an insect impact, go for a combination.

Because essential oils are potent, they can burn the skin so never apply before first diluting with another liquid like distilled witch hazel or distilled water. Natural remedies store, G. Baldwin and Co. who’ve been trading since 1844, recommend a recipe containing no less than five different oils – surely enough to send mosquitos packing.

The commercial alternative

While we were researching the best bug deterrents, our antennae detected a buzz from Mark at North West Carp Blog, who writes:

“Having fished for such a long time now I’ve got to the stage where I’ve tried so many insect repellents I’ve actually lost count, the reason for me trying so many is that midges seem to like me….a lot!, and I suffer quite badly in the height of summer”

Mark swears by Avon Skin So Soft dry which he says is “so good as an insect repellent they actually dish it out to the armed forces”. Perhaps it’s the citronella it contains that does the trick. We love Avon Skin so Soft at the Fishtec HQ as well; it has proved it’s worth against Brecon Beacons hill midges many times over, which are a horrible pest in the summer evenings on local reservoirs.

Whatever repellent you use, do remember to wash your hands after applying it, or perhaps better still, apply it using latex gloves that you can remove before handling your fishing tackle. You don’t want to attach any unhelpful smells to your bait or fly.

Insects make a beeline for you?

swarms of mosquitos

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Swarms of mosquitos – are they heading for your swim?

It could be that to mosquitos, you simply taste great – according to research, your attractiveness to the flying pests is 85% down to your genes – but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything to put them off.

The best way to avoid mosquitos is to hold your breath. Crazy as it might seem, the bugs home in on the CO2 you exhale, sniffing you out from an impressive if slightly depressing 50 metres away.

But if asphyxiating on the river bank isn’t for you, try that old favourite, Marmite. High in Thiamin, you may love or loath the sticky, yeasty goo but Mosquitos detest the smell of it. And don’t worry, there’s no smearing involved – you just need to eat it.


midge swarm

Image source: Sam Bradshaw
Many midges make anglers angry

If you think a few mosquitos are a pain in the proverbial, spare a thought for our angling brethren north of the border. During the early summer, plagues of midges stalk the highlands, swarming around hapless fly fishermen and turning their pleasure into a torment. Our best advice is make use of the Scottish midge forecast and steer well clear.

If you’re one of those anglers who’s happy to put their best foot forward whatever insect plagues infest the swim, then it pays to invest in some protective clothing like a mosquito head net and perhaps even invest in some insect repellent impregnated fishing clothing.

In particular, ticks are best avoided because although mostly harmless, they can sometimes carry Lyme disease, a very unpleasant infection that can prove tricky to treat if not quickly diagnosed.

Your best bet is not to wade through long grass wearing shorts and to tuck your trousers into your socks or wear your waders. A good fishing chair will also help by keeping your nether regions clear of the ground.

I’ve already been bitten

insect bites on neck

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Buggers that bite

No bug spray or cream is 100% effective. But if you do get bitten, there’s no need to stand or sit there scratching.  Apply hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion direct to the affected area and if you suffer a mild allergic reaction, antihistamines should do the trick but it’s always best to check with a doctor or pharmacist before taking anything.

Natural remedies like aloe vera, calendula organic cider apple vinegar and can also be effective at relieving the pain and itching of insect bites.

Insect pests are an unfortunate fact of summer fishing, but that won’t stop us grabbing our tackle boxes and heading to the nearest quiet spot next weekend. Have you had any close encounters with the UK’s biting insects? Know of any good remedies to keep the bugs at bay? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter!