Fly Fishing for Mullet – River Exe

Now mullet as most fishermen will tell you are next to impossible to catch. My experience at casting flies to mullet in my local river, the River Exe have certainly always been hugely frustrating with the fish just ignoring all attempts to entice them. So frustrating when you can see large shoals of big fish almost under your rod tip, so close you can almost scoop them out with a landing net….. If you have a landing net that is.

Today, Isobel and myself took a stroll down the Exe Estuary on the way back from town, not really expecting to catch anything and really only going along to see if we could see any mullet for future expeditions, I travelled light. I took a rod and small bag of tackle whilst Izzy brought a packet of biscuits. There’s a lesson there somewhere about priorities! We left the landing net in the car.

We found shoals of mullet with no difficulty and could even approach right up practically on top of them without them seeming to be bothered in the slightest. Whilst there were the occasional big fish, the majority were small. What they lacked in size they made up for in numbers however. The fish seemed to be actively feeding with tails out of the water at times. Too good to be true it seemed so out when a fly…. and again and again. each time all the fish just ignored the offering.

Mullet fly - red tag diawl bach
Mullet Fly – “Red tagged diawl bach”

Rather than grow frustrated I decided to stick it out and persevere. I switched around between only three different fly patterns, all ones that I’d read were known mullet catchers. Isobel seemed quite content to stand on the bank watching my antics as long as the biscuit supply lasted. So I’d best keep at it I thought.

A brown “Flexi shrimp” pattern drifted downstream through the shoal led to a sudden twitch of the line which I was fairly sure had been a fish taking and rejecting the fly. I didn’t connect with anything.  After fishing on for a while longer I switched to a “red tagged dial bach”. Again, there seemed to be no interest from the fish until again the line twitched and I lifted into my first mullet. I’m not sure which of us was more surprised. An interesting battle ensued – but as long as the hook held I felt confident the fish wasn’t going to be getting away, as given it’s modest size; the mullet was a little out-gunned by the #7 rod and 10lb tippet I was using.. Once the fish seemed docile enough I slide it in close and lifted it out of the water by hand.

Whilst the fish may not be that impressive size wise, it definitely rates as one of my most prized fly caught fish and goes to prove they really are catchable. Inspired now, I’ll be re-visiting the Exe to try for more mullet in the near future. Next time I’ll bring my landing net and a bucket load more confidence.

As for today – the biscuits ran out and we went home.

2017-05-20 River Exe Mullet
Only a small mullet, but a mullet all the same and my first!