The frustration of fishing for mullet

Following my recent success with catching mullet on the fly rod I was bringing to feel a certain confidence that, as it turned out wasn’t justified as my two most recent trips proved. For the first, I took advantage of the calm and warm conditions to chase the mullet again with my fly rod. I ended up walking along the river Exe and fishing every dozen yards or so for the mullet that were plentiful along the whole stretch of water. All to no success it has to be said. Nothing I tried made the mullet show even the slightest interest. After an couple of fruitless hours in the heat I made my way dejectedly back to the car and on the way got chatting to a group of coarse anglers. They were all float fishing – generally trotting baits down the far bankside. It turned out that they had been fishing this stretch for a couple of days now with some success; generally chub, dace & roach, although they had caught several mullet. This piece of information coupled with my complete failure spurred me to try coarse fishing tactics for the next trip. A light float rod with a pint of maggots and half pint of pinkies seemed a sensible approach. Again, the weather was fantastic and the mullet were visible & feeding everywhere. Bites on the other hand were far from plentiful. A couple of dace and chub fell to the float fished maggot but other than that I remained fishless. The mullet could be seen feeding in the clear shallow water, and were clearly ignoring maggots and pinkies. Loose feed remained on the bottom with the mullet seemingly feeding on the weed / algae around the maggots. It only took a couple of hours of frustration to lead me to conclude that today wasn’t going to be the day I nailed the mullet on maggot. For a second time in the space of a couple of days I found myself heading home, mulletless….


Thin-Lipped Mullet from River Exe

Chasing mullet on River Exe with Isobel. The water level lower than of late but this could possibly just be a result of the tidal affect on this part of the river rather than low rainfall; I didn’t check the tide times. We were treated to blue cloudless skies and scorching hot sunshine even by 8am in the morning.

Mullet were feeding everywhere along the river in small groups but would scatter as soon as I got near. By sitting quietly on the bank and waiting patiently, the fish would return and continue grubbing around feeding on the river bed allowing me to sneak a cast or two before they would spook again at which point the waiting would have to resume.

As ever, the mullet were frustratingly difficult to tempt with a fly, with fish after fish simply ignoring the flies. I did eventually catch a thin lip mullet on a red tagged dial bach. I cast slightly upstream of the feeding fish and watched the end of the line as the flies drifted down through the feeding fish – a swift 6inch or so movement on the line signalled that one of the fish had grabbed the fly and I lifted the rod to set the hook. The fish put up a very spirited fight on the #5 rod in the shallow water. It was a slightly better fish than my previous one, so I was more than satisfied.. Flushed with success and starting to wilt a bit under the sun, we only fished for about 2 hours before calling it a day. Still – 2 mullet on a fly now proves it isn’t a fluke.

River Brue – Summer Roving

I met up with Jason at the river Brue; after yesterday’s solo fishing I was looking forward to having a fishing companion. Much like the previous day, the weather was quite spectacular. The wind had died to a slight breeze and with cloudless skies and blazing sun, temperatures were scorching hot. We started off fly fishing; searching out shoals of chub visible amongst the lilies & reeds. We caught a steady stream of chub, mainly on bead headed flies but some fell to dry fly. Nothing big graced the net but we did see some very large bream basking near the surface obviously enjoying the sunshine too. The larger chub were all very skittish and would inevitably melt away before we could get within casting distance despite our best efforts at stealth and the help of the verdant bankside vegetation.

A few hours of stalking chub in the sunshine was enough for us, and we moved along to the West Lydford stretch of the river Brue to try some more sedentary fishing. The glorious weather had brought people out bridge jumping & swimming, so we put as much distance between us and them as possible. We settled into a couple of swims and tried float fished maggot and bread baits but after an hour or two had little to show for our efforts. Some good chub were visible on the surface lurking under the far bank vegetation so with a lack of action on the float rod, I switched to fly fishing with a large wasp dry fly. Almost the first cast one of the larger chub idled over to the fly and slurped it down – somehow in my eagerness or possibly surprise I mis-timed the strike and pulled the fly out of it’s mouth..! Cursing my stupidity I recast only for one of the smaller fish to intercept the fly, which after playing and landing meant that every other fish in the vicinity had become instantly more wary. No more fish followed after that.

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With evening approaching we jumped in the cars and headed to another section of the river hoping for some of the large perch we had encountered there several times previously. We arrived to find a section of the bank and a large tree had fallen into the river right at one of our favourite and most productive spots, but set up anyway on the basis that the tree would only provide the fish a nice bit of cover. I found I’d left my rod rest in the car and could face the trudge back to the car in the heat, so had to improvise with a conveniently shaped and proportioned stick. Who says you need to spend a fortune on fishing tackle?

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Jason built up a swim opposite the new feature and had a steady procession of bites and fish; numerous chub, roach and gudgeon – & even a cheeky little brown trout not to mention a decent sized eel. In the meantime I float fished maggots at various spots and really struggled to get bites, eventually concluding with a small chub, roach and a solitary gudgeon. The days exploits were nicely finished off with a fantastic Chub that Jason tempted on a ledgered lobworm from beside the new submerged tree feature.

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For me the evening ended with a half chewed gudgeon that was savaged by something with teeth on pretty much the last cast. Whilst not the spectacular end to the day I might of wished for, we could at least face the drive home with memories of a varied and fun days fishing.

Start of the Coarse Fishing Season 2017

The magical 16th of June arrived bringing excellent weather with it for once – the fishing gods must be smiling on me I thought. Seemed only fair to have a day off work to make the most of this unusually auspicious start to the coarse fishing season.

This year I decided to invest in an annual license for the Glaston Manor waters and had purchased my license from Thyers tackle shop in Highbridge before hand which meant I didn’t need to chase around trying to get a day ticket and could instead just crack on and go fishing from the off. I dropped the kids off at school and hit the road taking care to set my alarm to ensure I didn’t get carried away fishing and forget to pick up the kids.

Arriving at the River Brue I discovered that despite the cloudless skies and tropical temperatures, there was a pretty serious wind to contend with. Having only brought a couple of fly rods with me, I would just have to do my best in the windy conditions. The aim of the day was to travel super light and work my way along the river sight fishing for chub as I went. As it was the fishing wasn’t easy and there wasn’t masses of chub visible with those that were generally on the small size and easily spooked. Each sighting of fish would invariably give me 1 or 2 casts before they would make themselves scarce leaving me to continue my wanderings.

I caught a good few chub in the course of the afternoon, struggled with the wind and suffered in the heat, and generally despite the adversities thoroughly enjoyed myself. I guess thats what comes from being able to fish the eagerly awaiting start of the season whilst others are working..

The fishing was difficult but that just made the capture of each fish all the more special. I found that the most successful fly today was a scruffy gold bead headed fly which would invariably be grabbed as soon as it hit the water. If an immediate response wasn’t received it generally meant no fish. A couple of chub were tempted on the dry fly, with a wasp pattern being their downfall. I only used the wasp pattern because it was big and bright and easy to see rather than for any other reason. The chub didn’t seem to mind no matter how small they were.

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Whilst not spectacularly successful in terms of numbers of fish caught or their size, the day was hugely enjoyable and also proved a good opportunity to scout the river in anticipation of the following days planned trip.

Harpers Lakes

I popped up to Harpers Lakes, one of Exeter Angling Associations waters for an exploratory session today. Situated adjacent to the Tiverton Parkway railway station and Junction 27 of the M5 these two lakes offer tench, bream and carp fishing all in relatively tranquil surroundings considering their proximity to the railway and road.

On arrival I chatted to the only other angler on the lake who was feeder fishing and it turned out was a regular here. I learnt that the first lake was 5-6 foot deep at the shallower end and sloped down to around 12 foot. It held a good head of bream and small tench as well as crucians and carp into double figures. The Second lake on the other side of the railway line and much more secluded mainly featured carp. Both lakes had large shoals of rudd cruising the upper layers.

I had only made the call to go fishing the night before and hence only came armed with a can of sweetcorn and a can of spam. chose to set up the pole in the shallower corner near the weeds and went for a size 12 hook and 5lb hooklength to give me some chance should I hook one of the carp. A few nibbles on sweetcorn didn’t develop into anything, but after rooting around under a pile of weed on the bank that someone had obviously raked out of the swim recently, I collected a few juicy worms. These turned out a better option as I swiftly landed a small tench and a nice skimmer on worm.

A switch to luncheon meat resulted in me connecting with a bigger fish which I assume was a carp that I just couldn’t bully away from the weed, where it promptly transferred the hook leaving me with nothing but a big bundle of weed to drag back in.

Another fish followed, which I assume was either a crucian or a hybrid before I then connected with two more carp – one on sweetcorn and the other on meat – both of which were unstoppable with the pole. After this the bites dried up as it approached midday, so I packed up and took a stroll with the fly rod around to the second lake; mainly to have a look more than anything else.

The second lake is reached via the path the runs behind the first lake, up to the North Devon link road, where you walk alongside the link road over the bridge, across the railway before hopping over the crash barrier and heading down a flight of steps to the lake..

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The second lake was very secluded with only a handful of swims and much of the bank inaccessible. Large numbers of very skittish rudd were evident along with the occasional carp that could be seen cruising the surface further out from the bank. Space for a back cast with the fly rod was not that generous so I was limited to fishing quite close in. A small red grub type fly tempted the rudd whilst a squirmy worm slowly retrieved was the downfall of a greedy little perch. I only really had a few casts before deciding that lunch beckoned and that it was time to head home.

2017-05-28 Harpers Lakes - Rudd

All in all, Harpers Lakes were a pleasant diversion for the morning with plenty of potential for the future. Next time an early morning or evening session would be more sensible I think.





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!

Fly Fishing Chew Reservoir

It isn’t often enough that my fishing comrade, Jason and myself can both coordinate our diaries and grab a day’s fishing together. This weekend was one of those times that the stars aligned and we managed to meet up. We had decided to try our luck out in the boats at Chew Reservoir and had got lucky enough in the preceding week to book the last free boat. Chew Reservoir is rightly famous for it’s trout but also it’s pike, and this is what really grabbed my attention. The opportunity to fish in a water that is known to hold a good population of very big fish! You only need to get lucky once after all…

Traditional pike fishing is only allowed at Chew on a limited number of days through out the year, and getting hold of a boat on those days is not easy to say the least. Bristol Water who run Chew, do however allow fly fishing for pike outside of those specific days. This seemed ideal to us, as Jason intended to target trout whilst I would target the pike on the fly. Having never fished Chew, myself I had no idea what to expect, but my hopes were high all the same.

We met at Woodford Lodge to collect our boat and were greeted by the sight of waves on the reservoir. A fresh wind was going to make things difficult for us but with the hope of being able to find some shelter around the lakeshore somewhere or other we weren’t too dispirited. Following the safety briefing and the opportunity to pick the staff’s brains on best location and flies to try we headed out into the wind.

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We found some shelter in Vellice Bay before trying Herons Green Bay. Both locations offered some shelter from the wind and seemed to be where most of the other boats had decided to head to as well. We did see the occasional sunny interval, but overall the day stayed pretty grey and miserable. Jason and I, tried everything we could think of but to no success. I have to say I saw no-one else catch anything either which offered some conciliation and proved that it wasn’t just us being complete failures..

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Later in the evening the wind did die down a little and we tried around off of Moreton Bank but again to no avail. By this time my efforts at casting a pike fly in the wind were growing tiresome but despite this there still seemed a faint hope that any moment I could connect with a surprise last minute fish which helped keep the excitement alive.

As time drew to a close we headed back towards the jetties and were pretty much the last boat back. I felt we’d given Chew a good shot and really enjoyed fishing from the boat even if it wasn’t successful fish wise. I’d love to revisit Chew in better weather and would fancy my chances at the trout in calmer conditions. At the same time, it would be rude not to have a few casts for the monster pike that lurk in there somewhere..




Easter at Luccombes Coarse Fishery

In an effort to break out away from the Easter Eggs and risk of overdosing on chocolate, I dragged the family down to Luccombes Ponds this Easter for a quick fishing fix.

Being a bank holiday weekend, the place was understandably busy and we had to settle for whatever swims were available. I selected a spot next to a reed bed that had quite a bit of fish activity visible, and set up a float rod as well as a fly rod with the intention of switching between the two as the need arouse. The pond was quite shallow, and the spot I fished next to the reeds was only 2 – 3 foot deep. Despite being able to fish only one or two rod lengths out, the proximity of the reed bed would mean I’d have to bully any fish from the start.

I started off with the float rod using luncheon meat hook bait fished on the bottom. Bites were pretty much instant and it wasn’t long before I had the first fish on the bank. This turned out to be a modest sized bream. After this the carp moved in and a steady procession of carp around the 2lb mark came out.

Loose fed dog biscuits with fly fished pellet fly tempted one carp but apart from this solitary fish the others for the day all fell to float fished spam. Looking around at the other anglers on the other ponds and it seemed that floating dog biscuits or bread were the baits of choice which probably accounted for the wariness of the fish when presented with dog biscuits on the surface.

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Amongst the array of carp, I caught a couple of small skimmers and a fish that looked a lot like a large rudd but could possibly have been a hybrid of some description. All in all we had a nice couple of hours with no shortage of fish and fairly decent weather. Certainly beats being at work.




Easy fishing at the Waie Inn.

We had a family day out at the Waie Inn near Crediton today. Easter half term and glorious sunny weather seemed too good to be true. We popped out to the Waie Inn to sample easy fishing alongside pub food.

The pond here is quite small, but is well stocked with fish, making it a perfect place to get the kids catching. In fact it really did prove to be so full of fish that bites are pretty much guaranteed every cast – perfect for the younger members of the family.

We started fishing with Rhianna’s little pole, using maggots for bait and loose feeding small amounts each cast. For the serious angler it’s one of those locations which is just too easy – but for the kids this proved perfect; plenty of ravenously hungry little carp – all a nice size to put up a scrap on light tackle without proving too much of a handful.

Once the thrill of catching the gluttonous carp on pole waned, we switched to the fly rod to get to see the more visual spectacle of watching the fish slurp down the fly.. We used my little #4 rod with a self tied dog biscuit fly and loose fed 3 or 4 dog biscuits each cast. The carp switched to surface feeding immediately and were so numerous they were properly competing with each other for the loose feed.

I did try fishing natural flies, but the fish seemed well and truly conditioned to expect bread or dog biscuits and all ‘natural’ baits were rejected. Nevertheless, the dog biscuits did the trick and really gave the kids the fishing fix we were looking for. Both Rhianna and Isobel got the hang of flicking out the fly for themselves as well as hooking and playing each fish. The fly rod definitely proved to be the favourite method of the day. Not a bad day considering the day ticket only cost £3.50 and the Inn has a fantastic play park for when small people get bored along with the option of a pub lunch and beer to refresh the weary angler.



Wild and Windy on the Canal

A brief encounter with Dominic Garnett who was manning his DG Fishing stand at the West of England Game Fair on Saturday inspired me to the need to get out and go fishing; and soon. Talking to Dominic brought to mind the distinct lack of fishing I’ve actually done since Christmas – one solitary trip in a little over two and a half months!!

To rectify this terrible state of affairs, Sunday morning saw me up and in the car before first light, bleary eyed and already regretting the decision. I reached my selected fishing destination, the Grand Western Canal at Halberton for first light; and stepping out of the car to peer over the Greenway bridge, I wasn’t filled with optimism. Every angler will appreciate the joy of looking over the side of a bridge on a sunny day to gaze into the water below, with the hope and expectation that goes with this simple activity. In this case, there wasn’t much to be seen in the half light of dawn, mainly due to the waves and chocolate coloured water, making any hope of seeing anything below the surface an impossibility.

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I retreated to the car to seek shelter from the cold and wind with the intention of heading for home. A short internal mental battle with myself ensued, which to set a long story short resulted in me deciding rather stubbornly that as I’d gone to the effort of getting here I might as well wet a line at least.

The wind, and there was plenty of it, was straight down the canal, but was at least from my left hand side, which suited my right hand casting style. As the light grew it also became apparent that the water clarity was better than I’d first thought – murky, but not completely coloured up. If I put the fly right past a fish, it might actually have a chance of noticing it.

Brightly coloured flies were the order of the day and I duly worked my way along the bank, undisturbed by any other canal users due to the early hours and pretty uninviting weather I guess. I can’t begin to pretend that my heart was really in it, and after an hour and a half of misery I’d pretty much decided to have one last cast. As is often the case in these situations the “one last cast” turned into another half dozen or so which resulted in an oh so welcome fish, in the form of a small jack pike taken right under the rod tip. I didn’t see the fish take, partly due to the water clarity or lack of, but more likely due to my lack of attention…

Either way, a fish is a fish and I went home happy. Happy to be out of the wind…. Looking forward to the warm, still summers days on the canal when I can stalk the Rudd amongst the lilypads in gin clear water, with my only concern being whether it’s time to apply more suncream or not. Roll on summer!

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