I have quite a specific set of requirements when it comes to flies that I cast at barracuda and sharks. Firstly they have to have the appearance of a substantial sized meal – there’s no point offering the equivalent of a hors d’oeuvres to a big, hungry shark when it’s after the main course. As such, I’m looking for a streamer that’s around 8 inches and fishy looking. My second criteria is that it must cast well bearing in mind that I’ll also be adding 20 odd inches of wire bite tippet, crimps and a split ring to attach it. As an aside, although split rings can be a real pain to thread onto the eye of a substantial hook, they are the most reliable way of attaching the fly in my opinion (yes, I’ve tried all sorts of snap links in the past). To make life easier I usually attach split rings to my predator flies before I’m out on the flats, that way I have the simple job of attaching the wire loop into the ring if I need to change fly, rather than the trickier job of threading the hook, which requires split ring pliers, normal pliers and usually a lot of swearing.
Being able to cast this set up well is vital for the technique I use to get cudas to take the fly. Most big flies are ok once you have sufficient weight of fly line out of the tip to overcome the inertia and drag, however I also want to be able to make quick, accurate short casts as well – i.e. I don’t want to make 3 or 4 false casts to get to the point of where I feel I’m actually fly casting the thing, although some compromises must be expected for this type of set-up. The fly must also‘fish’ properly from the moment it lands in the water – I purchased some commercially tied streamers before this trip and a couple of them float until the first couple of strips take them sub-surface, this is a real pain and doesn’t work for me in my fishing scenarios.
After discussing all this with Flavio he tied me what I can only describe as my perfect idea of a flats predator fly. I asked him to look at pictures of mullet and observe them swimming whilst out fishing (you tend to see lots of them in the more ‘fishy’ areas). When you do see them there are some stand-out features, firstly the eyes – you definitely see the eyes and I assume the predators do too. Then there’s the colour of the back of the fish, a shade of tan darkening into grey with an olive hue. Finally there’s the dark tail which it beats in a minute motion to give the impression that it’s moving more like a propelled torpedo rather than a side-to-side swimming action. Flavio’s imitation was almost perfection in my eyes in terms of the shape and colouration, especially once I’d coloured in a distinct ‘vee’ shaped caudal fin with a permanent marker. I knew this fly was destined for good things and I was reluctant to use it until I thought I had a great opportunity for a big fish. However, Covid, intervened and the fly has sat in my box for the last 3 years.
On planning a visit to a part of the coast that, on past trips, has been great for seeing sharks and cudas I decided that the time was right to deploy Flavio’s mullet. As it turned out, Tracy and I walked for over a mile without seeing much at all until we got to a creek entrance. This was at the latter part of a rising tide so the water was relatively deep and flowing at a good pace. Whilst Tracy set about catching snappers and jacks on a clouser I continued to look for predators – and I found one in the shape of a decent cuda holding position in the current. Now, saltwater fish generally hate it when flies come at them, however it was clear that this fish was looking for food being swept towards it. As such, an upstream cast with the fly being retrieved across the nose of the cuda was the obvious choice. To say that the take was ferocious is an understatement, anyone who has seen how cudas operate on the flats will probably know that they like to split their prey into two halves with their initial attack. This involves hitting the unfortunate victim at high speed with their mouths open, exposing their scissor-like teeth towards the back of their jaws. With the prey item split in two the cuda can mop up both halves at its leisure, a bit like us having a twix I guess.
When I landed the cuda, I noticed that Flavio’s 8 inch mullet had been split and all that remained was the head portion that was now no longer than 3 inches. The fact that the cuda had hit the fly so hard confirmed to me what a great imitation it was, however I was also slightly dismayed that I wouldn’t get to see what a big shark would make of it. Unfortunately I encountered that big shark on the way back from where I’d caught the cuda, a 70-80lb fish that was chasing some jacks parallel to the shore no more than 60ft out. I hadn’t changed the fly at this point so all I could do was present the ‘mullet head’ fly to it. The reaction was disdainful, this fish definitely wanted a main course and all I had to offer was hors d’oeuvres – next time I’ll be prepared though.
One of the photos is what’s left of the fly, against the commercially tied pattern. Both were originally the same length.
Have a great week, James