Fly fishing for mullet

Posted: May 19 2015

Morbihan, the department in which I live, 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 we 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.


These fish have a special diet : scraping the surface of soft bottoms with their lower jaw, they collect mud or sand containing planktonic algae, small crustaceans (amphipods, copepods) and decaying organic matter of which they feed. They are sometimes seen eating seaweed, and largest mullets may be carnivorous and hunt little fish.
Obviously, it is not easy to fly fish a mainly planktivorous fish, especially as mullet mouth is very sensitive and quickly detects any abnormality in what they swallow.


Fishing for mullet is a fine fishing 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.


If fishing with nymphs can be very efficient in deep water and strong current, for my part, I prefer fishing in calmer areas and shallow water, just for the pleasure of sight fishing.


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.


Last week, I enjoyed this happy fishing in the quiet of autumn, along the banks of a small estuary.


Fishing when tide is coming in, invading this small river, some green flies moving just below the surface have been effective. They allowed me to catch four mullets (about 18 inches long), and I could have taken more if I had not spent half my time watching curlews, red shanks, sandpipers and other beautiful shorebirds

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