Fine Tuning Mudeyes
by John Orchard
Much has been written about mudeye fishing, all of which works just fine.This article is about taking mudeye fishing that one step further.The theories that I am about put forward are based on nearly 20 years of working toward fine tuning the art of mudeye fishing in an effort to maximise results (and enjoyment) from each fishing trip.
Equipment - It is important to firstly look at what constitutes a good mudeye outfit and the benefits obtained from using the right equipment.
Rods - Ideally the rod should be very parabolic (or soft) in its action, as this acts as your shock absorber when using light line, giving the drag on the reel time to release line smoothly when the trout begins to run. Personally I believe the age old favourite "Black Queen" is without equal or for those who prefer a shorter rod the "Erskine Deluxe" takes a lot of beating. Both these rods are constructed from solid fibreglass with over and under bound eyes ensuring optimum performance on even the largest of trout and are tough enough to withstand knocks that would put many other rods out of action. There are many rods on the market now that will suit and your local tackle dealer will give you good advice.
Reels - Almost any reel with a reasonable drag system will suffice, however, I have found the bait runner/dual drag style reels to be superior for this type of fishing, particularly when there is an annoying breeze blowing.
These style reels run two drag systems, the first allows you to keep the bail arm closed with the drag setting light enough to allow a trout to run line off with only minimal resistance, whilst stopping the breeze taking line off an otherwise open spool while you are awaiting "a take".
The second drag system is your fighting drag which you pre-set at whatever resistance you pre-determine based on the breaking strain line you are using.
Your dual drag reel will automatically revert to the fighting drag system when you commence winding the handle, thereby allowing you to apply instant pressure on the fish without having to manually re-adjust your drag system as would be the case with a normal reel.
Line - The line you select to use should be soft and supple in nature and no more that 6 lb. in breaking strain, the lighter you use the better your results will be, hence the importance of a good shock absorbing style rod. Ideally a 4 lb. breaking strain line is about perfect provided it has good knot strength, don't hesitate to ask your local tackle store for advice if you are not sure which lines are recognised as having the above characters.
Floats - When it comes to floats there are a myriad to choose from, most of which do an adequate job, some better than others dependant on the conditions, however, the small "egg" style floats are in my opinion about the best all round float.
These floats are easily adjusted in weight to suit the conditions you are fishing in by simply "popping" the centre out to allow water in. This is particularly handy if you need to cast a bit further than normal or to slow down the drift in windy weather.
I carry a number of these floats, some plain and some painted various colours to allow for higher visibility in different light and weather conditions.
Hooks - Ideally the hooks you use should be small, light gauge, preferably chemically sharpened, "wide gape" style hooks that allow the mudeye to hang freely underneath without "scrunching" up the wing case. This style hook also allows for a more consistent and solid hook-up rate.
Float stoppers - To set the length of your leader it is preferable to use a float stopper rather than a small swivel. Swivels have a tendency to drag line through the float therefore taking away your ability to control the depth of your mudeye and can cause foul ups in weed. Although somewhat more fiddly, I prefer a very small piece of matchstick as it is virtually neutral in buoyancy and has a small amount of "give" in it when wet. Contrary to belief, it is extremely rare to get a break-off at this point if it is tied on correctly and makes an excellent float stopper. Proper float stoppers are also available from most tackle stores.
Accessories - An easy to apply line floatant is an important part of your equipment to ensure your line rides on the surface film of the water thereby reducing resistance (and foul-ups in weed) when the trout makes its first tentative run. I also carry a bottle of leader sink in case I inadvertently get line floatant on the leader section (between the float and the hook).
It is also important to carry a small pair of forceps to remove the hook from any trout that you intend returning to the water, the hooks you use are small and fiddly, any unnecessary delay removing these causes stress to the fish and greatly reduces its chances of survival.
Bait storage - Last but not least in the equipment section is a small esky or cooler bottle to ensure that your mudeye's maintain optimum health on hot days. There is nothing more frustrating than going to change your bait for a fresh one only to find they are virtually cooked.
With the advent of a company called the Mudeye Factory, collection of bait is no longer a problem. Mudeye's can be purchased from most leading tackle stores around the State ensuring that you can have the best quality bait on hand at all times. This beats wasting valuable fishing time having to search for bait in every water you visit. It is important to note that it is also an offence to collect bait from one lake and transport it for use at another water in the State. Only mudeyes from licensed suppliers such as the Mudeye Factory can be transported from lake to lake.
Putting it all together - When you get to wherever it is that you are fishing, firstly decide upon the depth that you are going to start fishing at and adjust your leader to the correct length.
The depth that you are going to fish can be decided based on many factors - the time of day, how hot the day is, are fish showing themselves? How deep is the water you are fishing? What type of weed cover is there on the bottom and what height is the weed cover above the bottom? All these things are important factors in deciding what depth to start fishing at.
For example, if fish are showing themselves by either rising or "bulging" the surface then start with a short leader only 12-18 inches from the float, however, if there is no movement I would start with my mudeye suspended approximately 1-2 feet above the weed cover on the bottom. This effectively has the mudeye swimming about spreading its scent as it tries to make it to the cover below and also has it in the strike zone as trout cruise the bottom.
Once you have set your leader, completely fill your float with water and cast it as far across the lake as possible and then retrieve the line applying line floatant until the line has been greased right back to the bubble.
Select a mudeye and attach it by gently applying the hook through the wing case as shown in the photo. Great care should be taken to ensure the hook is positioned correctly, too far back toward the wing tip and the mudeye will come off when casting; too far forward and you will damage the mudeye.
Positioned correctly the mudeye will swim around freely for hours and increase your chances of success. This method is different to that shown on the information sheet obtainable when you purchase your mudeyes, however, I have found that the catch rate is greatly increased using this method so why not give it a try.
Before casting your line out, drain the water from the float, leaving just enough water to allow you to cast as far as you require.
Try wherever possible to work with any breeze at your back, this allows you to cover more area with your bait. Start by casting only a very short distance away and allow the bubble to gradually work its way further away from you.It is possible in the right weather conditions to cause the bubble to swing slowly to one side and then back to the other side in a gentle arc by throwing a loop of line say to the right and then when it completes its arc, throwing another loop to the left, causing the bubble to swing back the other way.This effectively allows you to cover a larger area from the one position, taking your bait to the fish rather that waiting for the fish to find the bait, particularly if the fish are quiet and not moving around much. Practice and you will be surprised at the difference it makes.
Once you have cast your line out, check that the fighting drag is set at the right pressure and then switch over to the free spool drag setting and back this one off as far as possible, remember, this setting is only to stop line being blown off the spool and to allow the trout to run with minimal resistance until you can open the bail arm. At times when there is no wind at all it is even better to leave the bail arm open, the less resistance when a trout picks up the bait the better.
When you get a take, flick the bail arm open to ensure that the line runs freely allowing the fish to run a few metres before engaging the reel, this allows the bait to be swallowed further back into the mouth before striking. To strike, simply point the rod toward the fish, wind in any slack and then lift the rod gently but firmly, a hard striking action will only increase your chances of a break-off. Remember, you are fishing with very light line so don't try and "beef" the fish in, enjoy the fight and tire it out, that's what its all about. Use the rod to steer the fish away from any obstacles and keep it in clear water until you are able to bring it to the net.
Tips - Mudeyes are one of the trouts favourite foods, a well presented mudeye that swims freely around is rarely refused if there are trout around. I would only fish a given area for twenty minutes or so before moving if there have been no takes or sign of fish.
Always check to ensure that your mudeye is going down to the depth you have set it at, if not, you may need to apply some "leader sink" to the leader itself as it may have picked up some grease off your hands.
Wherever you can, fish with as little water in the float as possible, this cuts down on water resistance when the trout takes the bait and lessens the chances of it detecting your presence, however, during periods of stronger wind you may need to fill the bubble up so that it only just floats, this will cut down the amount of un-natural drift and also the amount of bounce caused by the wind ripples - trout aren't used to seeing mudeyes swimming flat out in reverse, or ones that look like they are riding a pogo stick.
Should the waves get too big you may even have to change to a weighted quill float in an effort to reduce this un-natural motion.
Check out your surroundings and make sure that you are fishing the right areas, mudeyes live in weed, they particularly like areas with strap weed or areas where there is a build up of leaf matter on the bottom.
Couta mudeyes (the longer shaped ones) also like stony shores. Try to avoid fishing over plain sandy bottom or weedless mud flats.
When fishing from a boat, try and anchor your boat front and rear to avoid too much boat swing.
Conclusion - I have found the mudeye to be one of the deadliest baits I have ever used and great fun to fish with. I have tried them out in a large number of lakes both in the highlands and also lowland waters, they have been just as deadly wherever I have tried them. The above method of fishing these wonderful aquatic insects has resulted in many a fine fish coming to the net, some destined for the table, many have been returned to fight another battle another day. If you have never given them a try you don't know what you are missing, those of you who have would know what I am talking about.
Tight lines and remember - the fish you release today may well be the trophy you catch tomorrow.