Mullet anglers are enjoyed some great sport in the estuaries with both thick and thin lipped mullet. These fish are at time present in large numbers seeing them is easy tempting them not always so!
Over the past couple of years, I have been trying to catch grey mullet on the fly without success. On my latest excursion I joined fellow Combe Martin SAC member and mullet enthusiast John Shapland.
John took me to a mark in the Taw estuary where he has enjoyed some success recently using traditional mullet tactics. John had noted that the mullet were feasting on small sand shrimps and had corresponded with the fly fishing for mullet maestro Colin McCloud whose excellent book “Mullet On The Fly” has inspired many fluff chucker’s to target the wily mullet. With a bright blue sky and not a breath of wind it was a joy to be at the waters edge.
John and I arrived just as the tide started to push. We set up our tackles and watched the water for signs of mullet. As the tide gained momentum swirls on the surface showed the presence of good sized fish. I put out a line with two shrimp imitations and allowed it to drift with the current giving the occasional twitch to impart life.
The numbers of fish increased and my optimism grew as these fish were undoubtedly feeding. I missed a couple of pulls that raised expectation further. Suddenly the line zipped tight and I connected. The rod hooped over and I glimpsed a silver flank. Disappointingly It was a bass of around 1lb that saved a blank and was added to later in the session with a second bass slightly smaller.
The mullet were undoubtedly feeding on the sand shrimps and could be seen slurping them off the surface like nymphing trout. I feel I had a few near misses with the frustrating grey ghosts. I will be back again. It was good to fish with John as he fished traditional bread bait tactics and also blanked on the mullet. If I had fished alone with the fly I would probably have though I would catch if I had been using bait.
Catching fish on the fly can be seen as an elitist tactic it can also be an extremely effective method in its own right adding another string to the angler’s repertoire.
Sea anglers faced a stormy weekend that impacted heavily upon local shore competitions. Bideford Angling Club and Appledore Shipbuilders both had fixtures on Sunday where members braved the strong winds and heavy rain to no avail with nil fish registered in either competition.
Combe Martin SAC members fished a weekend long competition that enabled members to embrace Saturdays more favourable conditions. Kevin Legge took the top two places in the match with bull huss of 9lb 12oz and 8lb 10oz. I took third place with a winter mullet of 2lb 12oz.
It is clear that thick lipped grey mullet are present in waters around the South-West throughout the year. When I first started fishing for mullet over forty years ago these fish were considered to be a fish of the warmer months. It is now apparent that they can be caught in every month of the year throughout the South-West.
A gentle surf pushed into the beach as I strolled in the shallow water enjoying the coolness in the late afternoon heat. I searched the water for the fish I had been told would be there amongst the bathers. Amongst a slightly foamy coloured band of water, I found what I was looking for hundreds of mullet darting to and fro apparently feasting up on an algal feast.
I cast expectantly with a team of flies designed to attract the wily mullet. As the waves turned mullet could be seen in the small waves some of them a decent size. I suspected that many were golden greys though the size of some indicated that thick lips were amongst them.
A couple of times the line zipped tight but contact could not be made. As the tide started to flood the activity increased with swirling mullet all around. I cast repeatedly trying slow retrieves, quicker retrieves and static drifts. Frustration grew, the tide flooded and all of sudden they were gone.
The following night I stood upon a boulder strewn shoreline armed with a lure rod. A surface lure was cast out and worked back across the still water. The sun was descending as the day faded a golden glow of fiery light. A large swirl behind the lure gave hope. Hundreds of fish could be seen dimpling the surface. Mullet again! The fly rod was in the van but I was too lazy or too focussed on the bass to switch tactics. Another night I will return with a few bread flies and some floating crust to get them feeding. Some would say that’s cheating; but perhaps we sometimes make things too difficult for ourselves.
As the light faded expectation grew as the tide gently pushed in. An hour after dark I heard a swirl in the calm water. Next cast my soft plastic was seized, a welcome jolt of life through the line. A bass of a couple of pounds saved a blank.
The moon slowly rose above the hill, lights reflected in the mirror calm sea. The cool night air, the aroma of seaweed and fresh sea air. These summer nights are to be cherished for all too soon autumn and winter will descend bringing different challenges.