Shortly after we received the article from Mike Ladle on his Mullet catching exploits in  England ( I received an email from Alan Bulmer, describing the flies that he tied for Mike Ladle to entice Mullet species in the UK…..

The e-mail went:-

“Hi Paul,

First things first, the species of mullet that Mike Ladle catches in the UK is not identical to the NZ Grey mullet. It is however similar enough for Mike (who is a marine biologist) to believe that NZ Grey mullet can be successfully targeted with a fly.

Mike and I first started discussing catching mullet on an artificial fly about five years ago. My thinking was that if I could understand how Mike set about catching them in the UK then it may be possible to follow a similar path in NZ. For him, mullet on an artificial fly were the holy grail.  He had long wanted to catch mullet regularly on artificial flies but despite trying many flies from other fisherman he had struggled to hook fish with any regularity.

In the UK the key to catching mullet is to find wracks of seaweed on the high water line that have been blown (eggs laid amongst it) by seaweed flies and contain maggots. When there is a spring tide anglers toss the maggot infested weed into the sea and effectively use the maggots as ground bait for mullet and bass. The maggots themselves do not live that long in the saltwater and for some reason the fish seem to target the maggots which are wriggling in the surface film. UK anglers mainly use live maggots which they impale on a hook that has been wrapped in a thin strip of polystyrene sheet. This diaphanous sheet is the material that is often used to wrap delicate objects in for shipping.

I have long believed that artificial flies need to not just look like the naturals but should move like them too. I’m also an advocate of the supernormal releaser theory whereby flies need to emphasise a key feature of the natural that the fish are sensitised to and use to identify prey.  Once the see the releaser they intuitively  lock in for the kill.

Armed with this philosophy, and some excellent information from Mike, I developed my first maggot flies for mullet. They had a carapace of tan closed cell foam for flotation, tan chenille (ends tapered with a cigarette lighter) and thin rubber legs for movement (see Maggots – Side image attached). I soaked the flies in Loon Hydrostop floatant and sent them to the UK. Mike tried them and was not that impressed. He opined that they did not stay afloat long enough. He also reiterated that it is critical that the maggot flies float in the surface film and wiggle. Back to the drawing board!

Maggots - Side

Version two was based on a few extensive but crude “university tests” in our bathroom sink which identified the best floating material and approximately how much was needed to keep the fly afloat indefinitely. This version uses a small cylinder of booby ethafoam for flotation, off white chenille (ends tapered with a cigarette lighter) to represent maggots and white rubber legs (rubber from a thin bungee cord). I run a line of UV epoxy along the hook shank, top and bottom, to lock everything in place.

Version Two -Maggot flies and SJ worms

Mike was initially hesitant to use this new fly as it looked “fugly” (f***ing ugly). He reckoned that mullet were so cunning that they could spot a microscopic freckle on a fraud at 100 metres and that the fly probably was not close enough. I could actually hear the guffaws and giggles in Auckland. Yeah right, I thought. Not to be deterred, I kept on nagging him to trial Version two and to his credit he eventually did. Within six casts he hooked and lost a mullet that he reckons was bigger than his personal best. He was ecstatic and hooked on the “Fugly maggot fly”. I guess it speaks volumes that I’ve been asked to tie some more for him shortly. It is pretty cool that Mike has been able to describe this phenomenon well enough for me to tie him a fly that works, especially as I’ve never actually seen a seaweed fly maggot!

If you would like to see how to tie the Maggot fly click on the following link:- VIDEO – TYING THE MAGGOT FLY

I’ve a feeling that the SJ worm will also likely work on estuarine NZ grey mullet, especially after rain when worms will be carried into the estuary by flood water. Someone just has to find a pod feeding and put the theory to the test. Gary Kelmsley reckons he has seen double figure NZ Grey mullet so if you hooked one of these on a fly the fight would be epic. Mullet could be the next big thing for fly fisherman.

As an aside, Mike has also got me to tie a fly which represents Idotea, the marine slater (wood louse), but he has yet to see another concentration large enough to try it. Idotea are big by NZ slater standards (> 1.5 cm). I’m not sure whether we have these in NZ but, if we do, they will almost certainly be eaten by Grey mullet. Let me know if you want an image of the Idotea fly.

Interesting stuff. In time I’m sure that fly caught Grey mullet could become our equivalent to bonefish. Wouldn’t that be something!”

Doesn’t it make you want to give mullet fishing a crack?


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