Mullet are suckers for a floating sand flea imitation. This is especially true along beaches where masses of sand fleas are writhing under every frond of decaying kelp. This was not one of those beaches.
On numerous occasions when action was slow, schools of mullet had me wishing that I had a few mullet flies in my box. None more so than during dawn session in Spain while I was targeting bass. The bass were not about, but hundreds of 20+ inch thick-lipped mullet were feeding in the surf around my ankles. There are now always several mullet patterns in my salt box.
Leonard Flemming’s sand flea imitation has landed me hundreds of southern mullet under the right conditions. It is a simple pattern – essentially a small foam backed scud. White, tan or chartreus foam over a grizzly hackle or CDC split thread hackle do the trick. Ostrich herl body is also good.
I have found the flea performs best on the pushing tide along sandy beaches in the surf zone. Wave action churns up food and gets the mullet feeding hard. In calm estuaries or harbours the flea pattern has not worked for me.
Mullet do sometimes sit tantalisingly out of fly casting range. If you are not a purist, bread, a handful of sand fleas or chopped up sardine can be used to bring them closer.
I digress. Today was not one of these kelp lined, flea infested beaches. Instead this was a family trip and I was exploring a new white sand beach that had some fishy looking rocky outcrops.
A big school of mullet surfed into the bay. I dropped the 8wt which was half rigged for blacktail and instead rapidly tackled up the 6wt. On went a chartreuse foam sand flea and I ran down the beach to intercept them.
This was a wild school of mullet – not a crumb of chum in sight.
They ignored the chartreuse flea bobbing on the edge of the school. I switched to a white foamed CDC version and put this on the edge of the school once again. Sure enough, a light sip. Missed. I had forgotten how quick these takes could be and how hard it is to track a #16 flea pattern, in the surf, 20m out. The next time mullet lips appeared near my fly I lifted. Hopeful. This time, the line went taught and a typical feisty mullet raced about.
The school continued to hold in the clear water just at the back of a sandy rip current. Every so often one would sip the flea. As the tide filled the school moved off deeper. I was chuffed, the mullet fly vow had paid off. I was also looking forward to a couple on the evening braai. Mullet are certainly still very plentiful and I do not mind taking a few for the pot.