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Lyme: Avoid Getting Ticked While Fly Fishing

Three years ago I was at work, sitting at my desk, when I realized something was off. I had gone for a run that morning, but it wasn’t a route that was particularly long or rugged.  Nevertheless, my ankles, knees, and hips felt like they’d been through a rough game of football.

By no means am I a hypochondriac. This, however, was not normal for an active man of around 30 years old. I did have a previously  scheduled doctor’s appointment that I was able to move to that afternoon.

“Have you found any ticks?” was her first question. I hadn’t.

“Well, we’ll run the test,” she said, “And take a few doses of doxycyclene, just in case.”

Again, I hadn’t found any ticks on myself. There was no bulls-eye rash. I was just exhausted and sore.

I went home that afternoon and slept until evening. Waking up, I felt a little better and decided to take a shower. Sure enough, there was a clear bulls-eye rash that had developed on my thigh. Within an hour, I got a call from the lab saying I had tested positive for Lyme disease.

On a positive note, I felt great the next day. I went back to work, did some chores in the yard, and even  was back to running. That was a blessing. Many people aren’t that fortunate, either due to a late diagnosis, a misdiagnosis, or simply their reaction to the bacteria.

Looking back,  the craziest thing is that I’d never had  Lyme disease before. Fly fishing, hiking, and working in the woods, I’d come home with ticks all over. Big ticks, little ticks; ticks crawling, ticks in various stages of being embedded;  ticks that came off easily, ticks that took a lot of work to remove. But I’d never gotten sick.

I’m not a doctor, nor am I an outdoor skills expert. I’ll direct you to your  CDC for information on Lyme Disease. Symptoms, signs, treatment, etc. are all good things to know as the weather warms across the country and we venture outdoors. This is all very important as we venture outdoors with our children.

These days I treat boots with Permethrin. DEET doesn’t keep bugs away, and it degrades your synthetic gear incredibly quickly (like waders and fly line). I stay on paths as much as possible. It isn’t that fun can’t be had in the thick brush. Conversely, being on a trail is not a guarantee that you’ll avoid ticks. Reducing the amount of contact with high weeds reduces the chances that these little suckers will hop on for a ride. Washing your clothes  is vital, too. It is nonsensical to avoid a tick bite in the woods just to come home and put a bug in your closet.

Most importantly, I check. I check myself, I check my kids. I check as soon as we leave the woods, then I check as soon as we get home and shower. Although there are anecdotal accounts of tick bites leading to infection immediately, the majority of medical professionals do hold to a 36-hour period between a bite and contraction.  Regardless of this timetable, checking early and often is your safest play.

Don’t let ticks scare you away from fly fishing or from being outdoors this spring and summer. Just be safe and smart. And, although much less important, make sure you pronounce it right by calling it “Lyme” not “Lymes.”