Mega Mullet on the fly
by Damon Sherriff
You might have read an article I wrote last year on monster sea mullet of the Tamar...well, this is the sequel to that story.This season, Steve Robinson and I put away the light spinning outfits and dusted the cobwebs off the fly-rods! We had both caught some impressive mullet of up to 4.5 kg last season on conventional tackle but this season was a race to who could catch the first supercharged mullet on the fly, maybe in the State!
Steve and I had tried before but to no avail; this season, Steve found, on the internet, the secret weapon that might change all that - a small fly he had not seen before. He gave me a print-out from the web page. It was a small fly designed on the mainland exclusively for sea mullet. I gave the print-out to fly tying wizard, and workmate, Fred Lunstroo and asked Fred if he could tie some mullet flies up for Steve and me. I was pretty keen to have a go so the following week, after work, I timed the tide for a quick session.
I had been revving Fred up at work all week so he came along for a taste of the action. We had been fishing for around an hour and had only seen one nice searun trout, about 3 lbs, and some small yellow-eyed mullet. We started walking back to the car when out of the corner of my eye, I saw some large cigar shaped shadows crusing slowly along the bank. They were all big fish, between 2 and 5 kg, real heart-starters. We both ran down the muddy Tamar bank ready to start casting. I had one of the special mullet flies on and Fred had one of his own shrimp patterns on. I loaded up my 5 wt Loomis, and did a short cast upstream of the pod of fish; the fly floated down over the fish with no response. I had three more casts and then, the line came tight...all of a sudden, 3 kgs of Mega Mullet exploded out of the water and threw the hook. I blew two more fish before it got too dark to polaroid the pod. Fred and I were convinced the reason I was getting strike after strike was because of Steve's new found "mega mullet fly". Although we did not score, it gave me hope that an almost uncatchable fish was, after all, catchable on the long wand.
After this exciting session, I was busting to mix it with the mullet as soon as possible. I asked Fred to tie some more mega mullet flies but on smaller hooks, the theory being that they might engulf the fly down a bit better. (They have very small soft mouths and hooks pull out very easily when only lightly hooked.)
Three days later, I headed out again, this time with my two sons, Benjamin and Jack. We walked several hundred metres of shoreline searching for any signs. Muddy water is the biggest give-away with feeding sea mullet. They bury their noses in the mud, searching for small planktonic species and oyster eggs.
We had started heading back to the car because of fading light, when, once again, I spotted some large cruising fish down deep. I told my crew to sit down and spot for me. Both boys could see the big fish and were cheering me on - occasionally a fish out of the pod would perform a massive free jump, which really caught their attention. I climbed down the steep bank and waded shin deep into the grey Tamar mud, ready to make my first cast but unfortunately, the pod were near two large submerged trees which would make it very difficult if I did hook a fish. One thing I learned last mega mullet season is that they don't come easy. Sea mullet, mud, sticks, rocks, oysters and lost shoes??
I had had four or five casts at the pod when eventually, my line came tight and I struck...whammo!! Before I knew what was happening, my line was wrapped around one of the submerged trees. I backed off the pressure to try to free the line from the limb with was out of view under the surface. I was badly snagged, so I only had one choice, that was - to swim and try to free my line. By this stage, the mullet had nearly 50 metres of fly line and backing in the water. I found myself up to my neck in water with my rod completely submerged, trying to unsnag it from the tree and to my amazement, I did manage to free my line and I came tight to the fish again! Some local anglers, 50 metres down the bank, started running my way when they saw what was going on. The fish had stopped running so I started retrieving line. It seemed like forever until I got the fly line back on the reel. I fought the rest of the fight in the drink, I was determined not to get snagged again.
I finally got colour on my mullet, the big metallic silver flank suggested the fish was good size. I weaved the fish between the two sunken trees; after a few short runs, I managed to pick the fish up and bring him to shore. As I approached the bank, I received a big cheer from my boys and also from about five local fishos who had seen the action from along the bank. The fish weighed in at 4.1 kg and, as far as I know, is the first sea mullet to be caught on the fly in the state. I quickly took some photos and took the fish home. One of my hobbies is fish taxidermy and casting so I prepared the mullet for a fibreglass cast.
About one month later, I cracked it again with my youngest son, Jack. We landed a lovely sea mullet of 1 kg on the fly. Jack was as proud as punch.
Tackle - I basically use trout tackle on the mullet, a 5-6-7 weight is quite adequate. I used to use a 5 weight Loomis IMX but I snapped the tip off it. Sea mullet fishing is hard core so don't take the risk of snapping your $500 plus rod; I learned the hard way. Rods I would recommend are Jarvis Walker Black Ridge, Surecatch, Tica and Diawa Lochmore. Reels are not overly important - as long as the reel has a drag and is smooth, it will do fine. I recommend System II, BFR Dragon Flies, Abu Garcia Diplomat and Shimano Ultegra fly reels. Line, once again, is not overly important either - as long as you can cast it alright and it floats, it's OK. I prefer Cortland 444 WF 5F or Ultra III WF 5F. My favourite brand of leader is Akron 8 lb. Fred put me on to this brand and it is by far the best I have used.
Signs - Keep your eyes open as thought you are looking for tailers in the Western Lakes - Muddy water, bow waves and tailing fish are the three keys to watch out for.
Don't expect to see sea mullet on your first trip. Like fishing for other hard core species, be prepared to put in some time. High or low tides are both productive. Steve Robinson prefers low tide so he can polaroid the pods easily. I prefer high tide - I think the schools are more active on the high tide.
Places I recommend to seek sea mullet are Stony Brook, Faheys Creek, Muddy Creek, Supply Bay, Spring Bay, Ruffins Bay, East Arm, York Town Rivulet, Kelso Bay and York Cove. A boat is not compulsory but can be used effectively, especially in shallow areas.
Keep your flies as small as possible and make sure they are tied on heavy duty Black Magic or Diachi fly hooks. Sea mullet really do pull so be prepared for a howling first run and watch your fingers. Most of all, be prepared to get wet and muddy - I have lost two pair of shoes in the mud this season, so don't wear your good leather boat shoes!!