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MulletFly
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Joined: Nov 04, 2008
Posts: 743
Location: Stubbington, Hants

PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 7:19 pm Reply with quote Back to top

Following the frustratingly late start to the 2012 salt water season, fly fishers prayed for a mild winter, and perhaps more importantly a warm spring, to commence the 2013 season on an early and positive note. Unfortunately our prayers remained unanswered as the coldest winter for 50 years sent the mercury heading for Australia and the insipid spring which followed did little to aid recovery. Water temperatures in the Solent area measured 9c at the end of April. Compare this to values of 15c recorded in late April 2011(which offered some fantastic sport with bass, mullet and sea trout during the final week of the month) and the detrimental effects of exceptionally cold conditions are obvious. Late May saw water temperatures struggle towards 12c, still insufficient to tempt the fish to shore. By the end of June water values were beginning to prod 16c and surely the shoals would surf in on the next set of spring tides? If so, it would be in my absence, for I was about to spend the first half of July on Spain's Costa Blanca, whose endless beaches offer much more than the opportunity to wield a bucket and spade.

JULY 1st - 15th......My main quarry was to be the fabulous Pardette which inhabit Spain's Mediterranean coast, but Spain too had suffered its coolest June for 21 years and these leviathan mullet remained well off shore. The first few mornings were abnormally cool and uneventful, with a powerful storm in the Med hurling large waves to shore, reducing the beaches and estuaries to a chaotic, weed strewn mass. News of the developing heat-wave back in the UK did not help matters! By the 3rd normal service had resumed, with temperatures reaching the mid-thirties and winds falling light. Sunrise on the 4th saw me surrounded by legions of mullet, more than willing to snatch a Ghost Buster or red-headed Diawl bach and the holiday was underway.

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On the morning of the 6th I undertook an hour long stroll along the local beach to reach the mouth of a small lagoon. My arrival was welcomed by the most glorious of sunrises.

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The falling tide sucked a steady stream of warm, green water from the lagoon and I sent a clouser with a diawl bach on a dropper to search the current. Previous visits to this mark produced swarms of bass and palometa (permit relative) but today they proved frustratingly absent. The morning was saved by the timely arrival of a shoal of highly energetic fish which slashed through the current in search of prey. An extremely fast retrieve was required to grab their attention but in each case it was the Diawl bach they favoured to the clouser. The fish were fairly small but highly game and grunted their displeasure upon meeting terra firma, suggesting membership of the jack family.

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A mistimed return to the same mark on the 9th found high tide and a lack of flow from the lagoon. While waiting for the tide to fall I noticed a thin, dark shape moving slowly through the Bacardi clear water in the half light and my senses told me barracuda! A quick dash along the beach put me in advance of the fish and I flicked the clouser onto the sandy bottom in readiness. As the fish approached I gave the fly a couple of fast strips and the line tightened in a flash of silver. But once more the Diawl bach was favoured, for the assailant was a Mugil cephalus (flat head mullet) rather than a cuda. The fish put up an incredible fight with some searing runs in the shallow water.

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Within minutes of its release a second flat head came into view and the Diawl bach again proved irresistible.

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By Thursday the 11th the heat was on with temperatures in the upper thirties and early starts were a must. Morning tides were now ideal at a nearby estuary mark, with eye watering numbers of mullet present. My enthusiasm brought me to the water well before dawn and the mullet I target steadfastly ignore a fly until the first fingers of light stroke the morning sky. Bass, however, have proved very partial to a black dry fly twitched across the surface and provide heart stopping sport as they thump into the fly in the pitch dark.

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Daylight revealed a massed shoal of blue spot mullet feeding voraciously where the current washed over a small sand bar. Many lightning fast takes were missed but good numbers of fish in the 1 to 2lb range fell to the Ghost buster and Diawl bach combination. Best fish of the morning was a 2.5lb golden grey which chased the flies at speed.

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The final few mornings of the holiday provided sport of similar quality but the magnificent Pardette were sadly missed.

Back in Blighty, the first full blown heat wave for many a year had taken up residence and the prognosis for the season was good. Sea temperatures were now in excess of 22c but I was forced to bide my time until the evening of the 23rd to catch a suitable mullet tide. A strong, hot wind churned up the shallows but my patience was eventually rewarded with the appearance of a small shoal which fed vigorously amongst the waves. Within a few casts, the Ghost Buster was claimed by a silvery 4.5lb thick lipped mullet which fought like fury.

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AUGUST - Despite near perfect conditions, the mullet shoals failed to show any consistency in feeding behavior or movement with the tides and locating feeding fish became a hit or miss affair. Morning tides especially proved disappointing for some reason. Sadly, school bass were completely absent from their normal marks although I made brief contact with a few VERY large bass which claimed nymphs intended for mullet. Evening tides were the way to go but the fishing was far from easy. Patiently following the tide for several hours on the evening of the 7th paid dividends with the short lived emergence of a hungry shoal in ankle deep water and the Ghost Buster claimed another victim. The mullet ran like a bonefish through 50 meters of shallow water to reach the perceived safety of a deep channel.

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The next fortnight produced a succession of lost fish before a morale boosting mullet fell for a goose biot Diawl bach on the evening of the 21st.

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Finally the mullet began to show consistency in their movements as the month drew to a close but instead of feeding as normal on the flats, they chose to inhabit very fast moving water and a change of fly was called for. I based the pattern on a flexi-worm, a proven catcher of mullet, bass and especially sea trout. With the addition of wire to the body and a gold head, the fly (now known as the 'Flexible Fiend') was ready for a swim on the evening tide of the 24th. Yet another large bass and a sea trout of 6lb+ were lost after intense struggles before the weighted worm produced a mint silver thick lip and a lightning fast golden grey.

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The month ended on a real mullet high, while fishing with Polite, Portcullis and Welshtoffo in South Wales, surely the mullet capital of the world. Wild winds prevented us from chasing golden greys on the open coast and the alternative was to hunt thick lips which run a local river with each flooding tide. The setting leaned more towards industry rather than urbanity but the fishing was nothing short of superb! Not easy by any means but continuously sight casting to highly animated, feeding fish is about as good as it gets in this sceptered isle. Two cracking mullet were landed on the 30th with several more lost.

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The 31st followed in similar vein. At times we stood mouths agog as incredible numbers of mullet pushed upstream on the back of the tide. The developing theme for our session was one of near misses until a tremendously powerful fish smashed a goose biot Diawl bach just as my thoughts were turning to the 175 mile drive home. The fish fought like a demon and for long periods refused to yield to the net. After thirty arm aching minutes the brute finally slid into the net and I could admire more than 5lbs of rippling, silvery muscle attached to a goose biot bach.

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SEPTEMBER - The weather continued in benign mood as the month began, with water temperatures holding at 21c. Thursday the 5th saw air temperatures in the thirties and it was with some relief that I entered the cool waters off the Sussex coast, immediately after a long, hot day on a construction site. The mission was to christen my new Greys Stream flex 9ft 5wt rod. I have long fished estuaries and relatively sheltered marks with a 6wt outfit and see no reason why even lighter outfits cannot be employed under such conditions. Playing a typical school bass on a 5wt allows the fish sporting expression, whereas the same fish will be completely outgunned by a 9wt.The rod was soon put to the test as a plump 5.5lb mullet fell for a goose biot Diawl bach and passed with flying colours.

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A sudden cold snap saw water temperatures fall to 17c by early morning on the 10th, when a chilly north west wind brought a chill to the fingers. Such temperature reductions at this stage of the season will often persuade the main shoals to depart the flats for deep water to begin preparations for their winter migration. Larger mullet are more tolerant of environmental change and continue to feed in shallow water until values approach 12c. Falling water temperatures act as a signal for these leviathan fish to feed in earnest for the approaching winter and the large mullet which ignored your flies in July will now give determined chase. Almost to cue the flats were deserted that morning, until the gin clear waters revealed a dark grey bulk travelling just subsurface through the waves which rolled onto a small bar. Two short, slow strips saw the line tighten and a prolonged battle get underway The 5wt was fully tested by a fast running and scarily strong fish which simply would not yield. The scales came to rest just beyond the 7lb mark, another victim to the Diawl bach and a PB thick lipped mullet.

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During the next ten days the heat and dust of summer became a diluted memory as the heavens opened and temperatures tumbled. Settled conditions on the 20th enticed me out for a night session. Fishing in darkness is a strange but often rewarding experience and is to be highly recommended. Bass and mullet feed at the same locations and times of the tide in the dark as they do by day. Choose a mark you know intimately in the interests of safety. For several dark and frustrating hours the flies drifted on an ocean of ink without response. The tide crept silently over the flats until challenged by a small gravel bar and the ensuing tussle shone like a beacon in the night. The flies were cast towards the sound of gently hissing waves and met instant resistance. The buzz of a reel seems much louder in the coal tar of night and the run of a fish endless. After several near misses and heart stopping moments the fish fell safely into the net. By the light of my mobile phone I could see that the mullet weighed roughly 4lb and sported a goose biot bach in the center of its upper lip.

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Tide tables are worth their weight in gold. Costing less than a cup of designer coffee, these invaluable booklets provide the data which enables anglers to choose the precise tides and times suited to their target species. It is with genuine excitement that I open the new seasons tide tables for the first time and scour the pages for the perfect mullet tide. I then select a handful of the more attractive dates and request them as holidays from work, trusting that conditions will be fine on the day. Monday 23rd September was one such day, with statistics to rival any super model.
Monday dawned warm and muggy and I was in the water for day break at 6.30am. A low ceiling of grey mist hovered above the glassy water and I found myself immersed in complete silence. A narrow band of current where the riverís flow spilled over the shallow sand flats was the only form of movement in an otherwise static world. I made my way towards the current, salty 6wt in hand........ The next few hours were to provide the most dramatic and extraordinary fishing of the season. A Ghost Buster was grabbed on the very first drift by an extremely athletic mullet which seemed to spend more time out of the water than in.

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The flats drained quickly in the direction of a group of sand bars, accelerating the current as it coursed the confines of a deep trench. The Flexible Fiend now occupied the point position and wriggled off to explore the trench. Response was immediate as the second thick lip of the morning snatched the fly and ran for France.

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The tide had barely turned and I was chasing my first hat trick of the season. But when the line tightened for the third time that morning there was a sting in the tale. When the long, slashing tail first broke surface, I thought that I was dealing with a Stingray. Upon beaching the fish I was glad to realize that it was in fact a Thornback.

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OCTOBER - Mild and settled conditions persisted through the first week of October and an evening session on the 5th produced a small thick lip from the shallow waters of a lagoon. Despite its size, the first blistering run through puddle deep water demonstrated precisely why the humble mullet is recognized as the British Bonefish.

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By the 6th, the BBC weatherman announced that the long, hot summer was about to be extinguished in a deluge of rain and further predicted a 10c fall in air temperatures by the 10th. A hastily arranged holiday on Wednesday the 9th saw me in the water for day break. A chilly north wind created an 'end of season' feel to proceedings, further supported by the complete absence of fish on the flats. Persistent searching oF nooks, crannies and rips eventually led the Flexible Fiend to connect with a large and thuggish bass which broke free following a short lived and brutal encounter. A nearby marina represented my last chance saloon and I was pleased to see a group of mullet feeding intently amongst a group of yachts perched on a mud bank. The fish were feeding on the very edge of the flood, darting and flashing through the shallows in pursuit of shrimp. Frustration turned to elation on the very first cast as a mullet claimed the dropper fly. Mullet normally take a few seconds to realize their predicament and this affords opportunity to guide the fish away from boats, ropes and anchors before they waken up. Playing a ridiculously powerful fish in a confined and snag ridden environment certainly gets the heart beating! Following 5 minutes of absorbing battle, a sparkling thin lip of 2.5lb nestled in the net, another victim of the goose biot bach.

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As predicted, the weather gods turned spiteful in mood, unleashing rain of biblical proportions on the parched land, culminating in a spectacular thunder and lightning storm on October 22nd. The rain clouds were finally dismissed on the 28th as Saint Jude storm's 99mph winds rattled through the Solent, blowing away any lingering doubts that the season which began so late had reached a premature end.
 
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nthendpompey
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Joined: Jan 01, 2009
Posts: 2278
Location: portsmouth

PostPosted: Wed Jan 01, 2014 11:04 am Reply with quote Back to top

excellant yearly report as always colin.lets hope the season starts a bit earlier this year and the weather and fish gods combine togeather to give a fruitful season on the fly.
 
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MulletFly
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Joined: Nov 04, 2008
Posts: 743
Location: Stubbington, Hants

PostPosted: Wed Jan 01, 2014 7:04 pm Reply with quote Back to top

nthendpompey wrote:
excellant yearly report as always colin.lets hope the season starts a bit earlier this year and the weather and fish gods combine togeather to give a fruitful season on the fly.


Couldn't agree more Mick. Happy new year mate.
 
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