The Mullet Outing: Hangklip, Cape Town
I decided it was time to try and target the mullets in the little bays in this area again. Previously I have had moderate success, but now it was winter and there was a large cold front on the way. Nevertheless, it was spring tide and I decided to brave the expected cold water. Both my fishing buddies opted out – no, in fairness they were out of town and busy with renovations respectively. I arrived around lunch time with a pushing tide. While there was absolutely no wind at my house, the wind was howling – ice cold – the sea was fairly rough and mostly very dirty. Was it worth it? Perhaps not, but seeing that I drove all the way I dressed up, took my rucksack and my Sage 0 weight. I did not bother rigging it though as I expected merely a stroll down the coast. On the way I collected a few – well actually quite a lot – of sand hoppers to entice the mullets with if I could see any in the surf. All of a sudden I saw a few cleaner areas of water and my pace picked up. There were three fishermen near the area that we have fished before and they confirmed: “Geen byte nie – hier gaan niks aan nie” (No bites at all). No mullets seen either. About 100 m further I got to my one spot – don’t even ask – and saw a few grey ghosts flirting in the waves. I dipped my hand into the plastic bag, scooped out a hand full of sand and hoppers and cast it on the water. I added a few more just for luck. They are here! I quickly rigged up, stripped into my shorts and entered the water. More hoppers, a few more casts – then I was on. What a fight on my “0” weight, felt like a king fish pulling! The small submerged shrimps I tie were working again. And so I regularly hooked into mullet of 28 – 33 cm.
The fishermen were now taking notice and two decided to come and join me. ”Hel, ek kan dit nie glo nie” (Hell, I cannot believe it!) he uttered when he arrived looking at my little rod and repeated it over and over when I showed him the tiny flies. The one chappie was now eagerly collecting more sand hoppers and the other was asking me for a fly to try with his large rod. I rewarded their optimism with a few mullet for bait / to eat. They were very happy and the one said he is going to take the fly for a “souveneeeeer” to show his friends. Later, I switched to some floating white sea lice I tie and the takes on them were quite potent. Some of them eventually get water-logged and slowly sink, I think the larger mullet grab them sub-surface at high speed. I was having a whale of a time – or is that a mullet of a moment? Lots of fun indeed. At 26 on the scoreboard I decided to call it a day as today I was going to keep a few of the larger mullet and still had to clean them. Fried in garlic butter with lemon – purrrfect.
Which reminds me – I better stop now as there are still a few morsels left in the fridge that “needs sorting out”, so to speak. In retrospect – “hell it was certainly worth it! I will settle for 13 inches any time!” Till next time.
An update on the mullet fishing in the Western Cape
My friends and I have been catching lots and lots of southern mullets, Liza richardsoni, mainly by attracting them with live sand hoppers, Talorchestia capensis, scattered onto the water as the tide comes in. Not only does this seem to get them into a feeding frenzy, well some times, but also keeps them in that general area. However, the hook-up rate was not always that great, except if you could see the take and strike immediately; and often it was fish on as you lifted the rod to recast indicating just pure luck! I have also noticed that often small schools of mullet patrol the water’s edge at high speed, just before high tide, waiting for sand hoppers to wash into the sea. If you can cast at these fast moving schools you often got instant hook-ups. Many people chum for mullets using bread and sardines or, in our case, using live sand hoppers (don’t worry – there are millions of them and the fish enjoy them too – says the person that works for Environmental Affairs – see it as assisted sustainable harvesting). Now the purists will scoff at this as not being fly fishing and not in the spirit of the gentleman’s game! Even I wondered: “surely there must be a more natural and better way to catch these mullets?” Only time would tell.
Yesterday my wife had to work and did not want to be distracted. She suggested that I needed to go fishing, bless her soul. I needed no further encouragement and decided to go experimenting with a new way of catching these mullets. I was fairly convinced it would work, but still needed to test it. I decided not to tempt my fishing buddy as I thought that he has by now undoubtedly used up all his Brownie Points and needed to invest a bit of time with his family – after all, high tide was around Sunday lunch time! The other reason was that it will leave me enough time to experiment without being tempted to go back to our normal tried-and-tested ways of catching these mullets. And yes, I did haul the cell phone out to ring him as I got in the car, but put it down reluctantly. He is going to kick my backside! Again! But when it comes to actual mullet fishing, I still kick his! Well most of the time. Ok, some times. Ok, sort of neck-on-neck. But then again, he is not writing this, so: “he usually struggles and I catch bags full” (fingers crossed that he does not see this)!
As with my previous report, I decided to ignore Wind Guru that predicted strong south easterly winds at Betty’s Bay – after all, there was not a breath of wind in Cape Town and the slight smog layer confirmed it before I left. Hell, but they can be annoyingly accurate! A cold, howling south easterly wind and rough seas made it virtually unfishable at our normal spots. Should I rather turn around and go and try in the Lourens River for some freshwater critters, a fleeting thought crossed my mind? No, definitely not – after all, I had a card up my sleeve and was on a mission: For the first time, I was not going to chum with sand hoppers at all and just sight fish at the cruising fish. I was also going to put on a small wool strike indicator as I felt that we were missing a lot of fish by not always seeing the take and the fish rejecting the flies before we could strike – actually without us even knowing about it! Now I only needed to find a sheltered spot with clean water, and some mullets – and I knew just where to find one – about 30 minutes’ walk away.
Well, well well! The 150 m long sandy bay was flat, clean and largely sheltered. The tide was still fairly low – much lower than the last time I fished here. When I left the car I did not rig up because of the unpleasant conditions and was still scanning the water – sh-one-t, not a mullet in sight! Disappointment; but perhaps they will still come as the tide got higher? The next moment I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye, a small school of very active mullets coming at full speed – right up to the water’s edge, and I mean right up to the water’s edge, like 1-2 m from the side in a foot deep water. A hasty retreat to the nearest vegetated dune, rigging up while also taking a sip of water and a bite of last night’s “viskoekies” (fish cakes), after all who knows when I may get a chance again to eat or drink – it could be hours – days even if the fish fever gets hold of you!
Experience has shown that the thinner the tippet the better – I now use Stroft 7x on a 3# rod – just don’t strike too hard, avoid the bushes at the back, the floating kelp and you will be ok – makes a huge difference to the number of takes (although it does sometimes tangle up – leading to lots of frustration and time-delays – especially if the light is already fading). I take a 1.5 m length (stretch your arms out side-ways) and use about two thirds to make a loop, using a double surgeons knot. I then pull the loop straight and cut the one side in the middle of the loop, if you know what I mean, resulting in a short length of line (fastened loop-to-loop) from the tapered leader, then a short tag for the one fly nearest the leader and a longer part for the point fly. I normally use either two floating small hopper flies (tied on Gamakatsu SC15 #8 light wire hooks) or a floating hopper and my sinking “Niel’s mullet shrimp fly” tied on the same hook. I always tie all my flies on with a Rapala knot, giving them free movement – this is the only knot you need to know for tying on all flies! As mention, this time I also added a small woolen strike indicator – pity I forgot to pack the silicone lubricant.
I left the half of the “viskoekie” to eat next week, or whenever I would get a chance again, and rushed down to the water’s edge, ripped line off the reel, made a few false casts and sent the flies out towards the mullets that were now about 20 m away. Virtually immediately the strike indicator dipped and I struck, fish on and safely released! That was easy – must be beginners luck, surely the next one will be a bit more difficult? In fact, using the strike indicator the success rate increased dramatically and at one stage I was hooking up every third cast.
The fish moved around and sometimes disappeared for a while, only to be seen 30 m down the beach, resulting in a quick sprint and a few casts. I landed 12 in about 2 hours before the fish disappeared just after high tide (compares very well with our other trips). There was still the odd small fish around, but they have gone off the bite. I decided to call it a day as I had a splitting headache and felt nauseous from staring into the glaring water – I was feeling really sea sick! Very strange! On my way back I stopped at the shop to buy headache tablets as I was by now feeling awful – but, on the other hand, I was delighted that the experiment worked. The mullets can be targeted without chumming!
Now, the next question is how effective this will be in estuaries? As I said in the beginning, only time will tell – watch this space.
PS: I forgot to post pictures of the flies! Do you know how you keep a fly fisher in suspense? ……………………………….Tell you next time!
Now, In February 2016 I caught these two beauties in the Garden Route – 58 and 53 cm respectively. The last one on my #3 weight fly rod – pure fun. The first blistering run was some 70 m! Mmmmm, perhaps I need to reconsider the title?