Fishing lines: Just call me the vampire slayer

The first mosquito of the season has just left her (the biters invariably being female) tattoo on my leg. From now until November, we re-enact a Lilliputian version of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". The breeding colonies that have been lurking in my pond and the nearby river Ouse will sneak out under cover of darkness to feed on human flesh – which means me.

The first mosquito of the season has just left her (the biters invariably being female) tattoo on my leg. From now until November, we re-enact a Lilliputian version of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". The breeding colonies that have been lurking in my pond and the nearby river Ouse will sneak out under cover of darkness to feed on human flesh – which means me.

Those who share this affliction will understand the unfairness of it all. My wife Riva awakes fragrant and unscarred. I look like God has remembered his plague-of-boils curse. And how do the little buggers burrow under the sheets to sip my blood?

If you fish, especially around dusk, this is a serious issue. It's hard to concentrate on float or fly when that high-pitched whine of a hovering mosquito starts (and even harder when it stops).

It's probably not coincidence that two tubes of goo arrived in the post this week, extolling their virtues as bug repellents. The problem is that there is only one way to test these things: going somewhere with a zillion biting insects and seeing how many come to the dinner party. There is clearly a valuable comparative test to be done here, but I'd rather be the air traffic controller than the landing strip.

I like the sound of "Bitefree", largely because it comes from Scotland, where midges can make summer fishing a misery. But the best deterrent, I've learnt, is to fish with those whose skin proves even more appetising than yours. One man stands head and shoulders above all others here: Danny, a carp fisher who joined my fruitless quest to catch arapaima in Ecuador.

Danny had fair, freckly skin. Bugs loved him. Now, a mosquito bite in the UK is irritating. In Ecuador it can mean malaria. And mosquitoes were only one problem. The jungle also boasted two-inch ants, aggressive wasps, blackfly, tapir fly, sandflies, assassin bugs, chiggers, ticks, botfly and something called tunga penetrans. (The botfly sounded particularly interesting. Its larvae bore into your skin, eat bits of you for 40 days or so, and pop out as inch-long maggots.)

One night, Danny failed to secure his mosquito net tightly. The next morning, we counted (fishing was pretty slow) 169 bites on one of his legs. Though we walked in the valley of the bugs, we feared no evil. I collected about 40 bites during the trip. Danny could notch up that by climbing out of his sleeping bag.

He may well be dead from any one of the appalling diseases that romp through the jungle, like leishmaniasis, Chaga's disease, onchocerciasis, dengue fever, cholera or rabies. He certainly returned with enough bites and scars to keep the Hospital for Tropical Diseases happy for years. It is true that he wasn't much of a companion: dour, selfish, gloomy. But you can forgive anyone who is willing to get bitten on your behalf.

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