Fly Fishing for Mullet

Morbihan is a coastal region that offers some interesting conditions for sea fishing.

The coast is not very rocky, much less than in western and northern Britanny : here they have many beaches, estuaries and mudflats.

These are interesting places to fish for mullet, particularly fresh water / salt water mixing zones. In French Atlantic waters, it is possible to encounter five different mullet species:

1. The thick-lipped grey mullet (Chelon labrosus) ; max length 65 cm.

2. The thin-lipped grey mullet (Liza ramada) ; max length 70 cm, which dates back some rivers over large distances, such as the Loire.

3. The flathead grey mullet (Mugil cephalus) ; max length 100 cm.

4. The golden mullet (Liza aurata) ; max length 55 cm.

5. The leaping mullet (Liza Saliens) ; max length 40 cm.

It is mainly the first two species the fly fisherman can catch. The flathead mullet, which can reach impressive sizes, is unfortunately more rare and less coastal.

Mullets are present at the coast from April to November.

With the approach of the spawning period, which happens in winter, mullets gather in shoals to leave lagoons, estuaries or bays, and to reach the sea.

Obviously, it is not easy to fly fish a mainly planktivorous fish, especially as a mullets mouth is very sensitive and quickly detects any abnormality in what they swallow.

Fishing for mullet requires fine fishing techniques and needs small flies: nymphs imitating micro-crustaceans, green flies more or less floating (imitating weeds) and other flies, such as "all-marabou nymphs" for instance. Although mullets are powerful fighters (they are our "bone-fish from Brittany"), fishermen do not seek for them, just because they are not good to eat, as is often the case in France... That's good for them and good for fishermen who do not only seek to fill their freezers.

Fishing when the tide is coming in, invading this small river, some green flies moving just below the surface have been effective.

More and more anglers in the UK are taking to saltwater fly fishing.

Bass is often the target species, as often mullet just seem too hard to tempt with a fly.

Mullet are ostensibly vegetarian by nature, dining on micro-organisms and algae found in the sediment and weed of harbours, sandy bays and estuaries. However, localized populations of mullet are conditioned to feed on small invertebrates where an abundance of these organisms exists and this creates an opening for the fly fisher, especially in those parts of the country where spring tides introduce maggots from rotting seaweed to the water. A 6 or 7wt outfit with floating line and a 12 foot leader of 9lb fluorocarbon is perfectly suited to the task at hand, achieving the desired balance of delicacy in presentation and sufficient backbone to tame immensely powerful fish.

A robust reel with efficient drag-system and at least 100m of backing-line is required to cope with the mullet’s searing runs. Consider use of a landing net and unhooking mat to facilitate the capture, handling and release of these majestic fish and provide the opportunity to photograph your hard earned prize.

The tactical approach to thick-lipped mullet fishing is remarkably simple. Thick-lips betray their presence through surface activity……splashing, jumping and forming conspicuous ‘v’ shapes in the water as they cruise the upper layers.

Fishing a flooding tide from low often offers the best advantage, with Mullet visibly exploring the shallows in search of food, especially around estuary mouths.

Wade slowly and gently to take up a position ahead of an advancing shoal. Make use of the current to dead drift your flies across their path, with the emphasis on ‘dead’.

Monitor the end of the fly line closely for any indication of interest as mullet takes can be very gentle and lightning fast. Strike gently to set the hook. The ensuing fish fight may well leave you trembling as they do fight very strongly and can strip your line right onto the backing.

Thin Lipped mullet (Liza ramada) also feed around estuaries and can be caught with the same tactics. Thin lips are smaller in stature than thick lipped mullet but compensate for this with a more developed predatory instinct and the desire to chase after a retrieved fly. The UK rod caught record for this species stands at 7.5 lb. thin lips also feed over areas of mud flat on mud shrimps, where they swim on the edge of the flooding tide with their backs out of the water, trying to catch the shrimps before they escape to the safety of their burrows.

Here are some great flies for catching mullet on: - Flexi shrimp, red headed daiwl bach, Bann special, czech nymph, olive buzzer Place a size 12 shrimp in front of a moving shoal and twitch the fly as they arrive to enjoy explosive sport.

Another great fly to use is the Slow Sink Bread Fly, if fished right it can produce some fantastic sport on the day

Cast the flies to land on the beach, right on the edge of the breaking waves and then slowly trickle the flies into the water. Takes are lightning fast and surprisingly hard and even a 1lb fish will run far and fast stripping you down to the backing and beyond.

If fishing with nymphs this can be very efficient in deep water and strong current,

I prefer fishing in calmer areas and shallow water, just for the pleasure of sight fishing the shoals that are coming in and can accurately cast where I need to for a better chance of catching one or two

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