Updated: May 18
Why the Mullet Madness? Well without sounding sexist, mullet are very much like women; just when you think you have got them all figured out they present you with a new problem, driving you mad, leaving you frustrated and baffled once again. They get under your skin and you have to keep going back for more because they are a mystery that needs to be solved! I mean this in the most affectionate way. It is this complex, elusive nature that gets our brains working and feeds our passion.
Having once again been bitten by the mullet fishing bug, I needed to get my fix. There were various reasons for my return, probably the main reason being, jumping around the rocks at my age was starting to take its toll on the old knees. I had no intention of giving this up, I simply needed to give my ageing body a rest in between rock hopping trips. I am fortunate enough to have some excellent mullet fishing close by and could picture myself sat on a chair, whiling away a summers days, catching mullet. During my formative years I was constantly on the river bank chasing the "Grey Ghosts".
I'm not saying I am an expert, as we all know those anglers who devote their very existence to chasing these mysterious creatures, but I am quietly confident that I can regularly catch mullet and have a personal best Thick Lipped Grey Mullet of 6lb 2oz. I thought I had a good idea of what i was doing and it was only a matter of time before i caught every fish in the river. Who am i kidding, experienced or not, mullet do not always play by the rules. This for me is part of their charm. It must be a challenge. I want to catch, but not too easily as it can then become boring.
Armed with my previously honed skills, I decided to target a local river, which had a beautiful eddy just below a bridge. The fish would hold up here waiting for the flooding tide to give them access to the river above. I had many spots, where as an adolescent I had followed the tide, picking off fish here and there, as they made their way up river. If you could keep ahead of them and get some ground bait in before they arrived you could usually stop them in their tracks, just long enough to catch a couple of fish. I would be float fishing bread flake and introducing mashed bread ground bait to hopefully do exactly that.
So how did it go? Well rather well at first. I managed to catch a couple of reasonable fish from the pool, fishing at range. I was using a Cadence 16ft match rod and Avon float tactics, which enabled me to control the float in the turbulent water and pick up line quickly to set the hook. I thought to myself "this mullet fishing is easy"; little did I know how much they were to frustrate me later that very same day. I was even congratulating myself on how I had hit the shyest of bites at long range and how quick the old reflexes still were!
Fig1 A nice fish of around 2.5lb
Now the tide had started to flood through the bridge I knew it was time to press on up river. My next swim was a different kettle of fish all together. I would be fishing under the rod tip, into slow moving water, between 5 and10 foot deep. I quickly applied some ground bait, before swapping my 4BB Avon float to a Dave Harrell 6 No4, Alloy Stem, Insert Stick. This gave me a bit more finesse for these shy biting fish. I was staying with the 16ft Rod as I anticipated moving on to another spot, where it would be essential once again. On went a piece of bread flake and it wasn't long before the float buried under and i was briefly connected to a fish. It shook its head from side to side and was off! I didn't quite have the drag set loose enough to compensate for its initial run. This i find essential as they do like to go on several strong runs before plodding around. My mistake, no biggie, I would catch another. In went some more ground bait and it wasn't long before the float shot under again, a quick strike resulted in no hook up! This pretty much set the tone for the next hour or so!
So here I was, an angler at his wits end, slowly going mullet mad! Time for a bite to eat and drink, whilst pondering what to do next.
Thinking back to all those years I had previously spent chasing mullet, I recalled how I had adjusted the distance from my hook of the nearest shot to make my float more sensitive. I had picked this trick up from the wonderful book "Billy Lanes's Encyclopaedia of Float Fishing". I think I must have permanently had it out on loan at the local library; it was here I had learned the importance of this so called tell tail/indicator shot. The basic thinking is that by moving the shot closer to the hook it will indicate a bite quicker, whilst moving the shot further away would have the opposite effect. The closer the shot to the hook ,the quicker a fish biting has an effect on the shot and thus the quicker you know something is going on at the float end. There is of course much more to it than that, but let's stick with this thinking for now. Therefore I decided I needed to strike quicker. Instead of 6 inches from the hook I would place it three inches from the hook. Some mullet anglers would bulk at the idea of this, thinking a shot so close to the hook will scare fish off, but i have never found this to be the case. In fact I have found that if anything bites are more positive. I may be wrong and they may be proved right, but isn't that the wonder of fishing? What works for one doesn't for another? It had worked for me in the past, but would it work again? Well bites were more positive and I was striking quicker, but still not connecting! It had worked in one respect I suppose, but i was still not hooking fish! No more fish were caught that session even though I had more bites. My mind was buzzing. On reflection, I think I hadn't done much wrong and maybe it was just the timing of the strike that was out. Of course it could just be one of those days we all get, when try as you might you cannot hit a bite.
A couple of weeks later I had the opportunity to briefly go to the same spot again. Upon arrival another angler was there. It turned out to be a lovely chap, who had fish alongside my late father and was a mullet angler of some note. He had a list of specimens to his name that would shame many a so called expert. I had heard of him through my father, but our paths had never crossed. What a gentleman he is and great company. I shall not mention his name at this point to protect his modesty, but it was lovely to fish alongside such a knowledgable mullet angler. I set up as before and it wasn't long before I was getting bites again, but still not connecting with them. We bounced ideas off each other and he suggested I might be striking too early. Could this be the key? Funnily enough another great angler Alan Evans, who I respect enormously and know through social media had suggested the same thing. My keenness to hit a bite quickly and quite frankly inability to stop myself from doing so, may not be allowing the fish to get the bait in their mouths far enough. They do have small mouths to be fair. What was helping me connect with fish at range, was impeding me at close range, or so it seemed. That combined with the fast actioned, long rod, was speeding everything up and compounding the problem. Time had run out, but I would return.
Maybe i need to reverse my thinking completely allowing the bite to develop more and fish with no indicator shot? I think somewhere in between will prove to be the winning formula. That combined with a smaller bait to enable the fish to get it in their mouths easier may solve my conundrum.
So here I am. Still no wiser, still frustrated and still mullet mad! Don't you just love it?
Fig2 Another fish about the same size as the first.