Fly Fishing in Europe - When the Mullet Takes the Fly
Mullet are very common along our shores in France but unknown to fly anglers. This fantastic fighter is only rarely caught with nymphs despite a massive presence of good-sized specimens. It is on the coastline of Charente-Maritime renowned for its abundant sunlight, that I propose to make my attempt. Patience will be required!
I discovered mullet fly-fishing just by chance as I was looking for big sea bass as do many fishermen. Several times when casting a good sand eel imitation I have noticed some big fish lurking close to my feet. Mullet came often just before the sea bass with the tide. I first ignored these fish but eventually I decided to cast them a hare's ear nymph found on my fishing vest.
Gradually over time, I have developed a technique for sight fishing. A two pound mullet can be compared to a bonefish! The ones that arrive with the tide are by far the most exciting to fish because they patrol in beautiful places. In Charente-Maritime, mullet are everywhere, in the ports, estuaries, and in the various channels which feed the marshes, which facilitates their fishing. It is also remarkable that this fish can live simultaneously in muddy water and heavily polluted water as well as a more healthy and transparent watery environment.
There are many species of mullet that are not always easy to identify but helpfully in the Charente archipelago, the most common are the thick-lipped mullet which have an elongated body and are slender. Its back is dark on the sides and several longitudinal dark bands are visible. The pork mullet, which has a black spot at the base of the pectoral fins and finally the golden grey mullet with a yellow spot which is clearly visible and recognizable on the gill cover. This is by far the easiest to identify!
In this beautiful morning on the island of Oléron the flow is slowly coming to the slides of rock facing the flagship of Antioche. Kelp undulates like eels in the crystal clear water and I scan the surface in search of shoals of mullet who in turn are in search of food coming close to the coast with the tide. According to my experience, all over the world, this fish is probably one of the most difficult and temperamental. Fortunately, for us fish arrive in large numbers with the rising tide and it is common to cast a fly to dozens of fish, which is increasingly rare with other species.
Some good rocks form small pools where water does not exceed 30 cm deep, these places are perfect for catching mullet. A small "school" arrives on my right, there are fish of all sizes and a specimen over 50 cm! A small unweighted shrimp size 12 slowly sinks in the water, but the mullet quickly turns away from the artificial. I told you this fish is a tough one on fly! After a dozen shots in different directions, a big black fish takes my nymph in a massive rush. With a bit of chance and patience I manage to net it and my 21/100 tippet did not break! Just returned to the water, the mullet spins like a bullet train already out to sea.
I'm lucky this morning, there is little wind and the fish that now patrol all around me are clearly visible. Sea fishing has this advantage over the river: the availability of fish is fabulous. I decide to move because the water is now coming in quickly and I quickly cast my nymph to a nice school of fish that appears to play in the seaweed in search of something edible. Bingo, a fish grabbed the fly and took me out again all the line, but the tippet breaks. Probably in contact with a mussel shell as sharp as a razor. As I walk to a long point of rocks I cast my fly to another school of fish. A white glow, a good strike and this time the mullet remains in the large pool where there is little water and twists and rubs my leader through the algae. The poor fish is ensnared by its own actions. Good for me because it is not certain that with his size I would have had a chance.
I admit I have tried a large number of nymphs before starting to succeed with mullet. The best flies must be dressed on hooks 12 or 10, rather dark in tone and clearly visible in disturbed water. Chironomid larvae, hare's ears, shrimp with dubbing, but also some traditional pheasant tails nymphs are good choices. Better focus on dubbing or wool for your dressing if you don’t want the mullet to spit it at lightning speed! For serious fighting, I personally dress my nymphs on strong hooks and even carp models in the smaller sizes.
My fishing tackle for mullet:
Airflo Airtec Nano rod 9’ line 6/7, Orvis Frequent Flyer 9’line 6 or 7.
Airflo Airtec Reel 7/9 and Orvis Hydros 4 or Mirage.
Airflo Ridge Stripper lines in different sizes.
Tippet: Sightfree Extreme 6lbs and 8lbs.
Laurent Guillermin is a French reporter and photographer. Laurent’s images and articles have appeared in a great number of fishing magazines in France and Europe. He’s also well-known in the small fly tying “world” and has commercial patterns tied by Easy Fly. He has traveled all over the world as a reporter and is considered as an expert fly fisher for trout, grayling, pike, carp, sea bass, bonefish and permit. “Every time you go out fishing you can have a different experience. That’s what it’s all about!”
You can contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org
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