Fishing stories, Top End Adventures

Chemical bromance

A great spot during the day can turn into nightmare stuff when the hordes of blood sucking insects search out potential victims with little regard to the toxic cocktail of ‘repellents’ we apply.

I have a theory that the biteys get a buzz from licking toxic, plastic melting insect repellent off your body (kinda like an entrĂ©e) before they tuck into the main course!

N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide (or Deet) is the active ingredient in most repellents that work. Up here in the north we get serious numbers of mozzies and sandflies so anything less than 50% Deet is generally a waste of time. Deet is nasty stuff. It was developed by the US Army for jungle warfare and has also been used as a pesticide on farms. Interestingly, it can produce the same symptoms that fishing addicts suffer including insomnia, mood disturbances and impaired cognitive function. Lovely!

A mate in Darwin had a shocking time with Deet recently. He’d trekked a couple of k’s up a beach only to realise that his 80% Deet cocktail had leaked through his bag and was melting his favourite lures. Rather than ‘waste’ what remained, he emptied the tube all over himself, including through his hair etc. Half an hour later the impaired cognitive function symptom kicked in. 15mins after that and he was vomiting from both ends and had to drag himself back to his car. He thought he was going to die. There has got to be a better alternative!

Thankfully there is. It’s called a ‘Thermacell’. These little beauties  gently heat a pad containing spectacularly toxic chemicals. The pad produces a constant waft of smoke that will cause insects to fall from the sky. It sounds nasty, and it is, but then so are mozzies and it beats coating yourself in repellent! I’m not sponsored by Thermacell but I’m putting this up here because I wish I knew about them earlier. 

There are a couple of options with these Thermocells. You can get a lantern style one that uses a tea candle to heat the pad. These are good for creating atmosphere of bromance (if that’s your thing) and they put out some useful light. I generally steer clear of these though as i’ll often have an extra 100l of unleaded in jerry cans on board and a naked flame makes me nervous!

The one I go for is an enclosed unit that uses a small gas cartridge and pilot light to heat the toxic pad. You can bash this unit around and it’s not affected by wind. 

The only drawback with both of these chemical shields is the cost to run them. Each pad lasts around 3-4hrs and you get three pads plus gas for $10. It seems a bit pricey but a full night fishing in mozzie free bliss really is priceless. 

I would have sold a kidney for aThermacell on a trip to corroboree Billabong a few years back. To cut a long story (or future blog post?) short, Mitch and I spent a hellish night lost on this waterway in an open 3.2m tinny. We had no repellent and paid the price. The mozzies feasted on us and my attempts to curl up in my fishing bag were futile. We both had hundreds of bites and i’ll never forget the look on Mitch’s swollen face in the morning. On the upside, at least the mozzies distracted us from the bigger issue of how vulnerable we were in a billabong that is home to a 6m snapping handbag! 

Anyway, the point is that with the insect problem dealt with we can get on with the fishing!


May 2011

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