I had a session with a saltwater fly guide last year and had a few good follow-up sessions on my own. Following some more research over the winter and armed with Colin Macleod’s excellent “Mullet on the Fly” book, Beardy Paul and I booked a few days on the south Hampshire coast to see if we could find any bass or mullet.
The location was a long stretch of beach with some interesting features which we hoped would offer the chance of fish at various stages of the tide. We met at midday on a beautiful sunny Thursday. High tide was at 12.10pm and we were aiming to fish the tide out. We had both decided to use light 7 weight rods with floating lines, which should give us the power to fish heavy bass flies as well as the chance to cast small shrimp imitations at mullet, if we could find any.
In previous sessions last year I had seen mullet close in at high tide, feeding along a line where a concrete walkway meets the sandy sea floor. We had a walk down to this section first and saw small numbers of very large mullet swimming along the high tide line. They were feeding only occasionally as we saw the silver flash of their sides as they darted in to take something but it was enough to have a cast at. I tried a few different patterns including a red apps worm, light coloured shrimp and a shrimp pattern with a red tag but had no interest despite pulling it past their nose. Eventually, I tied a weighted pink shrimp and managed to cast it out in front of a mullet that was feeding in shallow water on the concrete. I couldn’t see the fly but I was confident it was lying on the ground, so as the fish passed I gave it a gently tweak and the line tightened, briefly. So a miss but at least my first take from a mullet. As the tide started to withdraw, the mullet disappeared and we moved onto our second mark.
This is an area I have fished before, where the outgoing tide pushes the water over a small sand bar where bass can congregate to pick off small baitfish caught in the current. Beardy Paul managed his first bass on the fly, albeit a small schoolie but there was not much action and an increasing number of swimmers made it a bit tricky. We took a break for half an hour before moving onto our final mark of the day, a small outflow. We took up station either side and cast into the fresh water flowing into the sea which was around 2 foot deep when we started. I had an immediate small bass on a chartreuse sandeel pattern and then another slightly bigger bass a few casts later. Beardy Paul changed his fly to something similar and we both had a manic thirty minutes of action catching a load of small bass until the tide dissipated and the fish moved on.
We were keen to try for mullet so we were up and on the water early to catch the incoming tide. We arrived at the mark to see what looked like perfect mullet conditions; sandy bottom, shallow floor and the tide starting a gentle flood. As we watched the water we started to see the tell-tale signs of mullet; flashes of silver, tails breaking the water, deep v’s in the water from fast darts and the occasional splashy commotion from groups of mullet together. We approached the water with rising excitement and started casting to the feeding fish. Its very visual fishing but also quite frustrating as we cast a variety of flies to fish that were clearly feeding, only to be completely ignored.
Eventually, Beardy Paul had a good take from a fish which was on for a moment and then off again. A few casts later I had a quick take to a stripped apps worm. After no further interest, even though the fish were actively feeding, I changed to a light tan sand shrimp and a pink shrimp. I saw a sudden commotion from a group of mullet tightly packed and plonked my flies in the middle of the group. After a few short, sharp pulls the line went tight and I had a mullet on! But not for long; it ran and wiggled and the hook came out. Before long the tide came in too deep, the wind changed to an onshore direction and the fish dissapeared.
After a short break we went back to our second mark from the previous day which proved difficult with a stronger wind blowing directly into our faces. We managed to get a line out and both caught a good number of small bass until eventually the wind became to strong to cast into.
We spent the next few hours walking the beach to try to find likely looking spots into which it was possible to cast but with little joy. Eventually, as the tide was moving out we tried back at the outflow. The strong onshore wind made it difficult and the conditions changed the mark quite substantially with the result that the small bass from the day before were absent. Beardy Paul did see a very large bass in the waves and had a good take from something that felt much bigger but it didn’t stick.
We were lucky with the weather but spending a couple of days up to your knees in the sea, with highly visual fishing in conditions that would be awful for trout fishing, was really good fun. Definitely something that both of us will continue to explore over the summer months and potentially another annual event for the diary!