Mike Ladle


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Tackle and Tactics.

THINK LIKE A FISH Part 31 New views on mullet 'off the top'.

A few weeks ago I had an e-mail from an angler called Jim Parsons. Jim is a keen fly fisherman and last year set about catching maggot feeding mullet. Now I've beem catching mullet on the fly for the best part of forty years but Jim's comments have radically changed my view of fishing for these fish. To start with here's Jim's first e-mail more or less verbatim -

Dear Mike,

I thought it was about time that I wrote to thank you for your wise words. A year ago I bought a 2nd hand copy of "Operation Sea Angler", and it has to be one of the best pieces of modern angling literature.

My primary interest was in mullet, as we don't get many bass where I now live. Well, the fishing has been a revelation especially as I am an avid fly angler too. I searched out all the likely spots for weed accumulation and lo and behold the previously elusive mullet became somewhat more accessible.

My best on fly came in October (2002) and weighed 6lb 14oz 8dr, and had to be one of the most memorable catches I've had. Here are some points of interest? I would appreciate some feedback.

1) The mullet here show best on tides that are building. This is to be expected of course but they don't have to be big springs at all, as long as there is a suitable weed deposit. We often find we can fish this, method every two weeks for months on end.

2) The average size of fish is, as you point out, much better than ones we target using bread etc. Perhaps an analogy with the mayfly hatch is not out of place.

3) I personally find it easier to fish with a small bite indicator 12" from the fly ? have you tried it?

4) There is always one 'hot' tide in the week when there are far more fish than the others either side of it ? and it is fairly easy to predict which one it is.

Of course, the wonder of fishing is such that last month I fished for four consecutive tides, each spilling thousands of maggots in big slicks, yet did not see a SINGLE mullet! Could they have been spawning ? I know it's a little early?

God I do go on.

Once again thanks!

Jim Parsons

P.S. there are only two of us who fish for mullet around here, and its a constant battle to keep the locals from netting all the best marks, but at least there are PLENTY of Good marks!

I wrote back to Jim congratulating him on his magnificent fish and asking if he ever caught bass when he was fly fishing for mullet. I also mentioned that bass had largely replaced the maggot feeding mullet shoals in my part of Dorset over the last two seasons. I don't have copy of my letter but in essence I asked how big the tides were in his area (I've always assumed that the good fishing in Dorset is due to the small tidal range). I was also interested in how they were able to predict 'hot' tides (this is obviously a useful bit of information). Then came his second e-mail -

Dear Mike,

Thanks for replying. Unfortunately, WE HAVE NO BASS DOWN HERE. I'm not sure exactly why - perhaps the absence of nursery areas like estuaries or lagoons - but even the netters don't get them. However, I have friends in Dorset so I get my fix now and then!

Our season seems to be year round though the shoals are smaller and evenings too short - in fact we had fish on New Years Day this year which a was fantastic way to start the new campaign. All our thoughts on tides correspond - the mullet must be conditioned over their long life. I am sure that the maggots and pupae form a major part of their diet - high protein, plentiful and available for several tides a fortnight.

How do we predict the HOT tide? Well, we can't always, but we spend lots of time in reconnaissance - all the marks are no more than five minutes from my house, and can keep a very close eye on the state of the weed and height of the tide etc. Generally it's THE SECOND TIDE TO REACH THE WEED that seems to produce most fish. After that things go downhill and once the tides reach their maximum its waders on and forks at the ready for some serious stinky shovelling!

Interesting about the bass. Hopefully the protective measures taken in recent years are paying off though I understand there are still problems with pair trawlers. Perhaps its about time mullet received the same attention - as always when things are plentiful not much notice is taken. And as always it is the people who monitor the situation regularly, i.e. anglers, who pick up on the first sign that something is up. I hope not - mullet are heavily netted around here and when you hear about chaps netting 200 fish in a tide it does make you wonder.

OUR SPRING TIDES ARE BIGGER THAN IN YOUR PATCH (three times bigger ML) - between 5.8 and 6.3 metres, and the places where weed collects are generally small bays and beaches, often which you could cast across. There is one spot that always seems to have a large deposit, but it is tackled with float gear normally as it is hard to fly fish. Anyway, better go. In two weeks we have some cracking tides and already there is some weed with maggots in so fingers crossed. I'll let you know how we get on All the best.


Again I replied and asked whether Jim had come across fish feeding on Idotea woodlice in his area.

Dear Mike,

Very interested about Idotea feeding fish. When the tides are no good for maggot, I often take a float rod and wander the coastline. Doing this, I find certain areas hold mullet regularly - shallow weedy bays and occasionally sandy beaches - where they will lie right on the shoreline, sometimes in just a few inches of water. Interestingly, they usually respond favourably if you toss a few pieces of bread in. Then fishing on the surface it is often possible to take two or three fish before the shoal disperses (strangely sometimes the fish stick around for hours). I just wonder if these fish are feeding on Idotea?

Also, I must tie a 'bread' fly, because fish often try to take the float (traditional shop bought 'crab' float as conventional wagglers etc are much too long and foul the bottom and weed), these are two inch tubes of polystyrene and white! I am sure that there are areas all over Britain where mullet feed on maggots regularly, but you have to know your patch locally. Hell, nothing is new in angling - there are probably hundreds of anglers doing it and keeping quiet! Regards.


I'm sure that we'll have more interesting correspondence in 2003 but the fundamental things about Jim's information are firstly that mullet feed on maggots WHEREVER they occur. Secondly, you don't have to have 2 metre tides to make maggot feeding a worthwhile proposition. Thirdly, there are places where the maggot feeding season is much longer than in Dorset (we have maggots all the year round but NOT mullet) and lastly there is no substitute for spending lots of time on the shore and keeping your eyes open.

If you have any comments or questions about fish, methods, tactics or 'what have you.' get in touch with me by sending an E-MAIL to - docladle@hotmail.com


Think like a fish.

New views on mullet 'off the top'.

Seaweed flies.

The seaweed fly Coelopa frigida is abundant all along the south coast.

A fly-caught thicklip.

The larger fish tend to feed at the surface.

An even better one.

A fish of well over six pounds that took the maggot fly.


Bass often take maggots off the top and in the past two seasons have been predominant.