Why Mullet memories? Is it an article about years of chasing these mythical creatures? Well in some ways it is but not quite how you might imagine. Please indulge me a little and let me explain. Back in August 2018, after a battle of 6 months or more, my father passed away, having struggled with Pancreatic Cancer. I say more as I think dad kept it from us for a while, such was his way. It was he who developed my passion for fishing as we spent many a summers day chasing mullet in our local river. As I grew older and entered my teens, thus becoming more of a handful, occasionally we would fall out. Our solution to any disagreement was to go fishing and suddenly what had seemed important, faded away into insignificance. So I guess you could say fishing was our glue, our common passion, the thing that always made everything ok.
Dad knew that he didn't have long and was determined to catch one last mullet, I knew it was only a matter of weeks. Luckily a few days later everything combined to give us perfect conditions. Well through shear bloody mindedness Dad somehow managed to catch that mullet, it was only a couple of pounds, but it's size didn't matter; he had been desperate to catch one last fish. I will never forget his smile as he held his prize aloft, so pleased that he had caught it. He was so tired, he had even forgotten to put his false teeth in, that big broad, gap filled smile will stay with me forever.
He had taught me that fishing was not just about catching, but appreciating your surroundings. He was a real country man, able to live off the land, truly appreciating nature and its bounty, he eagerly passed this on to me. Sadly this proved to be our last trip and dad passed away on the trip home. Earlier Dad had managed to speak to both my brother and his sister, mum and I were by his side and he had enjoyed a good days fishing. Really the only thing missing was a pint of beer. He did like a pint or two. Not a bad way to spend your final hours. Now I promise I won't lament on for too long so bear with me.
Dad was never one for moping around and had a simple philosophy to life. He would often tell me "Enjoy it, don't mope around, just get on with it". I guess I took him at his word, but somehow couldn't bring myself to go back to the spot we had shared our last trip. I will admit I was scared how I might react.
Two years later having not returned to that fateful spot, I was talking to a new fishing buddy Mike Weathersbee, explaining how hard mullet fought on light tackle. Now it wouldn't have been right not to have taken him, I could see he was more than keen to give it a go. I just knew he would understand if it was a bit of a tall order for me on the day. The thing is I had not really grieved since Dads passing; I guess I was just getting on with it. Since I was now a YouTuber I decided I would film the day. Dad would have loved being on camera and with his colourful language i'm sure there would have been a lot of editing involved, anyway it would give me something else to think about.
The day arrived, it was a typical summers day; the sun shone brightly, swifts danced in the skies above, bumble bees bumbled and dandelion seeds drifted about on the warm breeze. Walking over the bridge and peering below it looked perfect. The water was a milky brown/green colour, punctuated with swirls and creases, as it tumbled and sparkled in the golden sunlight. There was a beautiful back eddy on the near bank, it was here that the mullet would feed, holding out of the current, lips pouting, eager for any morsels dislodged by the current and hopefully our baits. As the tide flooded there was a window of opportunity, possibly only a couple of hours long where they would be likely to slip up and take our baits.
Mike had a traditional float rod and I was trying my new Drennan Specialist Avon Quiver; either would do the job well. A 3000/4000 sized spinning reel loaded with Drennan 4.4lb Float Fish Mono, would enable us to present our baits naturally, but be strong enough to catch any mullet we were likely to hook. I decided that we needed Avon style floats as the wind was slightly against the flow and I could position the bulk of the shot 2/3rds of the way down, thus enabling it to catch what current there was and not allow the wind to impede it's flow. I placed a tell tail shot about 3 inches from the bait. In places the current was quite turbulent and an Avon style float remains stable in such conditions. Drennan Eyed Barbless Carp Match hooks in size 8 would be just right to pinch a nice lump of bread flake around. If there is one thing I remember from all those years chasing mullet is that it is critical to ensure your bait is just off bottom, a couple of inches out is as good as a mile and bites will dry up. Plumbing the depth as the tide comes in is therefore essential. To be honest we could have caught more if I had plumbed the depth more regularly, but memories of dad played heavy on my mind. I didn't show this to Mike, instead choosing to concentrate on my floats progression through the swim, whilst also explaining to the camera what we were doing. Mullet can be tricky to hook as bites can be quite fast at times; the float popping back up before you've had time to strike. On another day the float can sail away, never stopping, giving you plenty of time to set the hook. Whatever the case you must always mend your line by rolling your rod tip, thus removing any bow in it and thereby remaining in direct contact with the float.
Float rig for the day. Courtesesy of Emma Parrock
Groundbait wise it was mashed bread, squeezed through my hands to give a consistency that would attract the fish, but small enough to keep them hunting around for more without filling their bellies. Feed this little and often and their interest will be maintained long enough to stop them heading upstream on the flooding tide. Gauging how much on the day is key to how many you will catch. In flowing water, on a specific venue, it will take several trips to gauge this, as you will find several shoals passing through at specific times with the inevitable lulls in between. There are several additives you can incorporate into your groundbait; my favourites being: a tin of tuna in sunflower oil, Mainlines Foss Oil, Richworths Blue Cheese and Brasem Grounbait Mix or Flavour. Experiment as there are plenty of other alternatives. I used to add boiled rice, bran etc, but always with a bread base. I usually add some on arrival, a little before I start and then as and when I am fishing. If you are lucky enough to hook a fish and have a free hand, try to get some more in as it can distract the rest of the shoal, thereby preventing them from spooking.
I was just thinking we should have had a bite by now when my float shot under. Striking into the fish it took me by surprise and shot off heading for the middle of the river. I had forgotten how powerful their first run could be! God I had missed this. Why hadn't I fished for them more? Good job I had set the drag! They are like compact little torpedoes with big tail fins, which enable them to generate great speed and power. In my mind they are our equivalent of a bonefish on a fly. After several more spirited runs and shakes of the head, it finally allowed me to get my heart out of my mouth and guide it into the folds of my waiting net. Yes!!! As I held it in the net and walked up the same steps I had done to give dad his last fish I remembered that big broad smile and surprisingly found myself grinning from ear to ear. Was it the thought of him with that unforgettable smile or just the joy of catching these majestic fish? I don't know. I would like to think he had a hand in its capture, possibly looking down from above and saying "well done son, you will be alright now". Instead of being upset by feelings that were still raw, I felt at ease and happy to be thinking of him. Silly I know but these are possibly some of the purest emotions I have ever felt. Elation at the capture of a good fish, happy in the knowledge that the old man would have approved.
First mullet for a while. Around 3lb's
Mike having seen the fight from my fish was eager to catch one himself. He didn't have to wait long. It wasn't a big fish, but some say the smaller ones are harder to hook as they just nibble at the edges of the bait. Never the less, he was no longer a mullet virgin and I am sure he will catch a good one this coming season.
Mike playing his first ever mullet!
I went on to land another fish of around 3lb's, but it proved to be the last as the fish had moved on. It didn't matter, as I was happy, lost in a world of treasured memories. Once again when I needed it most, fishing and the company of a trusted friend had served to ease my mind and calm my soul. I'm sure over the coming years myself and Mike will share many more fishing adventures, all the while forming that special bond that only two angling buddies can appreciate. Although he may not have realised it on the day, the fact that he was there and I was able to distract myself by passing on the skills my father had taught me, helped me enormously. Cheers Mike I owe you one.
Another Mullet around 3lb
My father was not only my fishing guru but a good mate. Over the years our love of fishing gave us a common goal and so many great memories, all the while strengthening the bond between us. Fishing is not only enjoyable, but good for the mind and soul. Why not share your passion for fishing and pass on this precious gift to others, so as they might also benefit. The bonds anglers share are a thing only they can appreciate. The planning of a new trip, the tactics discussed, the anticipation of the coming trip, the disappointment of a trip cancelled, the anticipation of the day ahead and the joy of catching. Whether this is with a family member or a good friend, it's the sharing of common goals that bonds us together and helps us celebrate each others achievements.
Now when I return to places my Dad and I had fished before; I just smile as I am no longer filled with sorrow but happy at the cherished memories I have of him. I will always miss Dad, but as he said " we must enjoy life and get on with it ". Cheers Dad. R.I.P.
Two old warriors. We didn't just fish for Mullet. Here's dad with his PB lure caught Wrasse.