Over the years, I have been lucky enough to fool, and indeed land many Grey Mullet from one end of Ireland to the other. They are one of the wariest of UK and Irish fish, but as with many species found in our waters, place the pieces of the jig- saw in the right order and they can, at times, be as easy to catch as mackerel!
Most succumb to bread flake or floating crust fished below a bubble float or carp controller, but this is only part of the story. For the angler prepared to experiment, Mullet will take fly patterns just as readily, and believe me, if you think they fight well and hit hard on match tackle, just wait until you feel their power on fly gear!
Despite the old wives tales, Mullet will not grow to specimen size on a strict algae diet. Yes, they will graze around fresh-water outlets and pier walls, stanchions etc but the real protein is in their ability to target shrimps, marine worms and shoals of herring fry, to name but a few. They are total opportunists!
With this in mind on a recent Mullet adventure, and wishing to try something a little different, I left the float rod and loaves of bread behind and opted for the Shakespeare Trion, 8 wt and a handful of fly patterns, some shop bought and some home tied efforts but mostly consisting of shrimp or fry imitations. Standard shrimp patterns are a useful start, along with nymphs, corixa, stoneflies, small salmon shrimp patterns tied on doubles or trebles, maggot imitations, and my favourite, the Dunkeld which represents both shrimp and, or fry.
The full Trion set-up including rod, reel and line are a perfect combination. I realise this is trout kit but its versatility allows for a little diversity on this occasion! The rod offers plenty of back-bone to bring our Irish “bone fish” under control, with the reel allowing ample backing should a larger Mullet make an appearance and rip line from the reel, as they are known to do. It should be noted that on average, it is the larger specimens that tend to hit the fly rather than bread flake! Eight -ten pound fluorocarbon leader may seem a little excessive, but believe me, Mullet will head for any obstructions in the area such as mooring ropes, bladder wrack, pier stanchions etc and some bullying will usually be required to keep a feisty fish in check. For this reason, it is also wise not to fish with a dropper.
On arrival at my local venue, the light winds had dropped away further leaving perfect conditions, although on this occasion, mullet were difficult to locate. Finding them is half the battle, but calm conditions are preferable as this allows the angler to sight shoals or individual fish before they spot the angler! Clear water conditions are also vital as our tactics are mainly visual.
Quietly covering any shoals within casting distance is the name of the game, the greater the number, the better chance of a “hook-up”. Many casts later, with a few “follow-ins” that led to nothing and a serious amount of general sneaking about on my behalf, line wrenched from my hand as a torpedo “nailed” the fly with all the delicacy of a Rottweiler! Ripping line through my fingers eventually allowed the Trion’s drag system to come into play, bringing the feisty fellow under control and within reach of the landing net. These guys really know how to pull your string and refuse to give up until they are safely in the net.
With the lengthy battle causing so much disturbance, my previously located shoals were well-dispersed. A quick photograph and release and it was now time to go searching again, from scratch. This type of angling knows how to bring out the hunting instinct and taps into the adrenaline supply with ease!
A few missed opportunities were to follow, but just as the sun began to sink below the horizon, and with a final change of fly, another dramatic take, as powerful as the last woke me out of my day dream and into the immediate task of trying to curtail the power these fish are able to un-leash. Safely again in the net and tipping the scales over the five pound barrier, I had managed my first fly-caught specimen mullet, taken on my old favourite, the Dunkeld, and my new favourite, the Shakespeare Trion combination.