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Ronan's report


Sunday 22nd July, 2012

After about 6 weeks of constant showers it stopped raining this evening, which was nice.

Then the midgies started, which wasn't.

An absent minded brush at your cheek with the back of your hand. What was that? A gentle wave in front of your face, then a slightly irritated rub of earlobe and scratch at side-burn. What was that?

A high-pitched whining eeeezzzzzzzttt past your ear. Uh oh.

Scottish midgies are tiny. If it wasn't for the fact that they're eating your face you probably wouldn't notice them. Maybe you'd just see a faint mist rising from the bankside grasses. Once, up in Sutherland there were so many midgies they looked like fog rolling across the roads. When you start breathing them in, you know things are getting bad.

I'm not a major sufferer from insect bites and don't react badly to them. I get little red dots where they bite which means I look like a measles case at the end of the evening and usually stop itching after half an hour or so back at the house. But that doesn't mean I don't have a breaking point.

Everyone has his or her breaking point, that split second when you realise they've beaten you. Right up to that point you think you can take it. Initially it's just a few itchy bites that's all, nothing to worry about and you're certainly not stopping fishing.

Then you're forced to put the rod down for a couple of seconds to vigorously rub your face, squinting at your palms to see how many you squashed. I'm OK. It's only a few tiny midgies, and the fish will start rising soon.

Halfway through the next retrieve you have to stop to do more face-rubbing, now extending this to include the backs of hands, and then taking the hat off and rattling through your hair. The little bastards have now made it under the rim of your hat and are drilling into your scalp.

Another ten minutes, and I'll have had enough you think.

The next cast goes awry as a midgie gets stuck in your eye. Then you cough as a couple of them get stuck in the back of your throat.

It's OK. I can make it. I'll give it another ten... nope that's it. My skin is crawling. They're up my nose, in my ears, and down my neck. I've had enough. Time to go.

I actually think that once you give in it gets worse. You can't pack in quickly enough: ripping flies off leaders, jamming lines on reels as you manically wind in; just stuff it in the bag, you can sort it all out at home.

Once, on a high country reservoir, my brother and I found ourselves sprinting through tussock and heather, splashing and stumbling through feeder streams, and tumbling down steep slopes in our effort to outrun the midgies on the way back to the car. We just chucked everything on to the back seat and sped off at high speed, opening the windows to clear the car of the hoards that had made it back with us.

I once asked an experienced highland ghillie how he coped with the onslaught. He's given up on all sprays, creams and unguents, DEET or otherwise. He wears a full midge jacket under his tweed. At the first sign of midgies up goes the hood complete with zipped mesh visor, and on go the latex gloves. The gloves keep the midgies out but are thin enough to allow him to tie knots, undo tangles, and sort out the jammed reels his clients have left behind as they run, screaming and waving their hands in the air, back to the hut.


Will


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