116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Some years exhibit defining characteristics that make them stand out in memory.
Flood (1993 and 2008) and drought (1988-89 and 2012) years are easy examples, as are cold winters (1978-79 and 2013-14) and hot summers (2012 and 1988).
For most of this hot, dry year, it looked like 2021 might be remembered as the year of the morel-free spring, my first in nearly 60 years as a mushroom hunter.
Other candidates, until recently, included the year of the mosquito-free summer and the year the Wapsi never flooded — both dashed by a late-August downpour in the Wapsipinicon watershed.
In less than two days that storm — highlighted by a 24-hour total of 11.25 inches in the Chickasaw County town of Ionia, just two miles west of the Wapsi’s main stem — turned a placid stream into a raging torrent.
The river’s rapid 9-foot rise at the Independence gauge interrupted what had been an idyllic summer for wading anglers like me. It also flooded lowlands, igniting a mosquito hatch contending, for me at least, to be 2021’s dominant brand.
Female mosquitoes need blood to nourish their eggs, the laying of which is the sole point of their misery-inflicting existence. Those tormenting me this month seem extraordinarily desperate. Undeterred by swatting, they are determined to drink your blood or die trying.
The late hatch of bloodthirsty mosquitoes has been the buzz around town for most of this month. It kept me more or less imprisoned in my own house until earlier this week, when the Wapsi finally receded to a fishable level.
With the symptoms of angling withdrawal growing more acute by the hour, I finally busted out Monday afternoon. Before wading into the Wapsi, however, I had to come to grips with my serious reservations about DEET.
Berkley, renowned for its successful use of scents in impregnated plastic baits and spray attractants, noted its extensive laboratory research shows “fish really, really do not like DEET” and that bass instantly reject objects contaminated with the chemical.
My own less exacting research, conducted shortly after the initial West Nile scare nearly two decades ago, confirmed Berkley’s findings, convincing me in the intervening years to eschew bug spray in the belief fish repellent defeats the purpose of fishing.
But despite my reservations, the kamikaze nature of the recent ravening horde persuaded me to spray myself with a formula containing 98.11 percent DEET, providing protection “for up to 10 hours,” according to the label.
The stuff worked. For the three hours I stood Monday in the Wapsi, mosquitoes orbited my head like the many moons of Jupiter. They buzzed in my ears, walked across the lenses of my spectacles and otherwise detracted from my enjoyment of the outing.
But they didn’t bite me, and the chemical keeping them at bay did not keep the fish from biting my lures.