Fancy a Fight?
‘6lb bs mainline, size 8 hook, tied to a 4lb hooklength, baited with breadflake and fished beneath a small waggler. The tackle balanced by a match rod suitable for tench, chub or small carp. Expect fish in the 2 – 4lb range, maybe bigger, they fight hard’.
Hmmm! With plenty of experience of playing chub in a strong current, landing good-sized tench, not to mention the odd accidentally hooked carp to around 6lb on identical tackle, I couldn’t see that I’d have too many problems banking a mullet.
The big problem, I suspected, would be hooking one in the first place.
Several snapped lines and hook pulls later, I was beginning to realise that it wasn’t just bad luck I was suffering from, but an arrogance born of the complacency of all my previous experiences. These fish deserved some respect!
Nothing I’d caught before had prepared me for the fight you get from a mullet.
My first experiences with mullet had been at the very tail end of the season, and saw me finally putting my mullet tackle away without landing a single hooked fish, but filled with resolve to do better the next season.
No June 16th had been awaited so eagerly as the interminable wait for first signs of returning mullet the following year.
May passed quickly without me hooking a fish, but June finally produced that satisfying solid feel you get when a hook goes home.
Mindful of the experiences of the previous year, I was fishing with the drag tension almost non-existent, ready at an instant to lower the rod and to immediately concede line. I had learned respect.
When a mullet is hooked, there is a period of around 10 seconds or so, when the fight is not particularly spectacular. This is a time to check for line caught around rod tips, or behind the handle of the reel, and to take a deep breath. It’s not a time for complacency.
Without warning, all of a sudden, the fish ‘wakes up’.
Burrowing deeply towards the depth, taking reluctantly conceded line. If you aren’t ready for it (maybe lulled by its earlier confusion) this is when the hook is likely to pull, and leave you cursing with a slackened line.
‘You can’t catch mullet, their lips are too soft!’
I wish I had a fish for each time a helpful sea angler has explained that to me, perpetuating a common myth. Soft Lips! Anyone who has removed a size 8 from the lip of a mullet will tell you differently.
That myth is down to the tremendous power that mullet exert when they go on one of those power dives. The force of such a run would lose the hook hold, whatever the species, unless the angler is using balanced tackle, and ready to instantly concede line.
As the fish burrows deep, you know that the game has begun. The roles of fish and angler are reversed, as the fish wakes up and begins to ‘play’ the angler, testing their responses, testing the tackle, and the angler’s experience and nerve, perhaps like no other fish.
No matter how many mullet I’ve caught recently, once the mullet has started to play in earnest, I’m amazed all over again at the power of these fish.
No two mullet fight alike, but they have a repertoire of moves to put your heart into your mouth.
Seeming to hug bottom, like a fixed rock. Just a metre and a half down in 6 metres of water!!
Long determined pulls, this way and that.
Then there is the ‘thumping’. God knows how they do it, but with line stretched tight, it feels as though they have recruited a friend to bang on the line with a shovel!
You hang on, sometimes gaining line, sometimes giving a metre or so, your arm beginning to ache. Then you notice, as your arm is weakening, that the fish is actually growing stronger!!
The fish has been on for quite a time, and now the psychological battle begins.
All you’ve seen of the fish is the odd churning of water near the top; perhaps a glimpse of a powerful tail as it dives once more. You know it’s a big one, perhaps a personal best. How much longer is that hook going to hold? ‘Christ!’ you think ‘ I wish I’d put on a newly tied hook’.
Perhaps now is the time to give it a bit more welly, the longer this lasts, the more chance that hook is going to come out.
Fortunately, before you have time to think about tightening the drag, the fish has had enough and decides that the game is over, and off it goes!
Unless you’ve experienced it, it’s difficult to describe. The after burners and the turbos go on together, and the fish is powering away!! (and this is a fish you were beginning to think was at last beginning to weaken!) As line peels off, you thank the stars that you hadn’t given into the temptation to set the drag, just a little bit tighter, that you hadn’t leaned into the fish at the same time it ‘leaned’ into you (like other times just before the line suddenly went slack!)
Frustrated, the fish comes back. You lift its head, and up it comes. You get your first glimpse, near to the surface, and it’s not quite as big as you thought.
Now at the surface, you lift its head out of the water.
At this point, every other species of fish I’ve ever hooked has had it. Head out of the water, you tow it to the net and lift, don’t you?
Not with mullet you don’t.
The mullet rolls, it’s head goes down and it’s off again, the rod tip bending down into the water as the fish goes deep once more.
And it hasn’t even seen the net yet!!
OK, in that first full season of mulleting I’d learned a few things about catching mullet, and banked a few fish. But I’d lost more.
At the end of that season, I remember writing ‘After nearly 50 years of fishing, just as I was beginning to think I was a half decent angler, I realised that I still had quite a bit to learn. On points, in 1999, the mullet had definitely won!’
Last year, I bought a centrepin reel!
Fancy experiencing the power of these fish for yourself?
A good place to start is to get in touch with the National Mull Club.
Just one word of warning though, you may find that it will be a long time before you find the time to go summer tenching again!
Tight Lines – Leon Roskilly