It all started in November last year. My mate Laurence Hanger had come down to Cornwall for a few day’s fishing and was visiting my house. ‘Got something for you,’ he said as he popped the boot of his car. He pulled out a rod bag and handed it to me, ‘This is what I’ve been using for my fishing lately, it’s bloody good!’ One of the perks of Laurence working in the media department at freshwater tackle giant Drennan is that new gear is constantly floating in and out of his orbit and is more or less readily available to him. So if he was so impressed with one particular rod that he felt like giving me one of them to see what I thought, it wasn’t such a big deal. Luckily for me, he was and he did and that’s how I became the owner of a Drennan Specialist X-Tension 13ft Compact float rod.

The X-Tension Compact’s chief design feature is that a foot of the butt section telescopes into the handle, effectively making it two equal 6 foot sections. As I discovered later, this is useful for fitting into coarse-fishing-style rod cases but at the time it wasn’t something I cared much about. What interested me more was that the rod had an extra foot length advantage over the rod I had been using (a 12 foot Drennan Vertex Carp Waggler) and seemed to have a good bit more steel in the lower reaches of the blank. It was notably heavier than my Vertex but with a reel fitted, the balance was good enough that it was a non-issue.

Laurence fighting a mullet

Prior to the X-Tension, I knew that Laurence had been using a Drennan Acolyte, an absurdly light wand-like rod that always bent alarmingly whenever he hooked anything sizeable. I was interested in what had taken him away from this most sporting of tackle to something that had the feeling of an altogether heavier piece of weaponry. ‘The Acolyte was fine for Cornwall where I could let the fish run,’ Laurence answered, ‘But back home fishing the southern rivers, there are a lot more obstacles in the water and I’m having to bully the mullet to have a chance of landing them. The X-Tension helps me catch fish that I would have lost using the Acolyte.’

After catching a few fish with the X-Tension myself, I realised that the same properties that Laurence now relied on for his fishing translated well into the kind of float fishing for Cornish thick lips I do through the winter (a style of fishing that Laurence himself introduced me to a few years earlier). The extra reach and grunt in the rod were a big advantage, particularly in rougher sea conditions and strong wind. It took me popping a couple of fish off on the strike to also realise that I would do well to up my line breaking strain a tad from 6lbs to 8lbs to match the rod’s power. Once I did, however, a harmonious balance was struck and fishing with the X-Tension was a seamless joy. After that, I never reached for anything else.

Laurence fishing a creek

Laurence casually mentioned on that November trip that there was a possibility that he’d make a video for Drennan in the future about mullet fishing with the X-Tension and that he’d like me to feature in it. I didn’t take the idea that seriously at the time but when Laurence brought up the subject again earlier this year and said Drennan had given the video the go ahead, I realised he fully intended to make it a reality. I had fished with and caught some nice mullet with the X-Tension by that time and I felt I knew the rod well. Besides which, as far as I was aware, there weren’t any anglers other than Laurence and myself using the rod for mulleting so we were the best people for the job!

Timing the trip was not straightforward. Laurence had originally planned to come down at the end of March and run on into the beginning of April but a spell of unseasonably settled weather (not great for the local fishing) and some personal circumstances meant that it wasn’t until the calendar ticked over into April itself that he managed to make it down to Cornwall. On my local marks, April generally seems to be the month where the mullet fishing winds down, the smaller fish move in and the better fish disperse. That said, throughout the earlier part of the month, there is still the chance of catching a big one. Laurence had visited in early April the year before and caught two five pounders in that week. But the fishing was much harder this past winter and my confidence in finding a nice mullet for the camera was not sky high, although I felt it wouldn’t be a problem catching a few presentable fish at least. Little did I know.

Let the filming commence!

Our efforts got off to a good start. The weather was too calm to stand much chance of good fishing locally so on the advice of our friends Mark Reed and Roy Moore, we spent a cold, clear morning exploring a creek in the Helford estuary. We were both stunned as we drove down the narrow road towards where the main body of water opened out before us and were greeted by the vision of the morning sun rising over the water. Plumes of mist drifted along the surface like ghosts, carried by the gentlest of breezes. 

Laurence did a fair bit of filming at this venue and, for the first time, it struck me that it is actually pretty frustrating when you’re keen to fish but you have to hold still or repeat movements several times while the man behind the camera gets things just so. This is something that I often expect my friends to do for photographs so I made a mental note right then to be a bit more grateful and respectful of their time in future!

The scenery was truly beautiful and the mullet were on the feed as we followed the tide draining out of the creek. The bites were mostly from small fish and they were very difficult to hook but eventually my sharps found a couple of mullet in the 1-2lb class, one on the float and the other on a feeder rig. Laurence managed to sniff out a better one on the float, a fish around 3lb that we were both delighted to see.

Unfortunately, this first day proved to be as good as it got for a few sessions. Over the next three or four days, we tried estuary marks and harbours with very limited success. When we found mullet they were either too small to be worth filming or they were of decent size but impossible to interest.

Laurence fishing Helford

One particularly rough session saw us travelling to Mylor harbour in the Fal estuary. There were plenty of good fish there but we couldn’t get anything going with them and after being kicked off a spot behind the boat hire shed, we were then told to leave the main marina itself. We had not attempted to fish from the pontoons and there were no signs to say that fishing was prohibited from the grass verge alongside the road but the marina official insisted that, ‘We prefer to come down and tell the anglers to leave in person.’ I was left feeling that if we had turned up in a Range Rover and flashed a wallet full of fifties, nobody would have had anything to say about us fishing there, but hey, what do I know.

It wasn’t until we took my dogs for a coastal walk that evening and clapped eyes on the sea conditions that we both realised that things were starting to look a lot better. The water was carrying a nice tinge of colour and the swell was bigger than we had anticipated. We agreed then that the next evening we would fish local and see if the mullet were still hanging on there.

In the end, it turned out well that we did for the next evening we encountered our first shoals of proper-sized feeding mullet of the whole project. We tried a couple of spots, seeing fish in the first but struggling with the strength of the incoming tide. Dropping into the second, I couldn’t see any fish but when my float zipped diagonally under the water, I found myself connected to a nice mullet of around 4lbs that, after a good tussle, sadly managed to be the first good one I lost in months! You can literally see my heartbreak in the video – it’s genuine! Fortunately, I got another chance (although the mullet was about half the size of the one I lost) and we finally had some more quality action footage for the film. 

Our next day passed without event, we tried visiting a harbour where Laurence had seen lots of mullet a few days previous but apart from a couple of sickly-looking fish cruising near the surface, we couldn’t find any mullet in there at all! Reeling from this strange turn of events and beginning to feel pretty negative about our chances of finishing with a flourish, we decided to have another crack at a local spot early the next morning.

Mylor harbour

Fortunately, our decision to stay close to base paid off again and after both seeing a few fish and missing a few bites, we each caught a mullet in quick succession. Laurence’s was the better of the two and the fish of the week at somewhere comfortably north of 3lbs. The absolute best thing for both of us though was when Laurence reviewed his shots and declared that he now had enough material to base his video on. I couldn’t have known when we began filming how relieved I would be when we finally got the fishing footage in the bag. The going really had been tough and, although I enjoyed it, I was beginning to get a bit anxious at the idea of being in a mullet video with not many mullet in it! 

We wrapped up filming the next morning, Laurence working through his list of shots and finishing off with the interview you see in the video. It was a bit surreal for me explaining mullet fishing tactics to the camera and I lost my train of thought several times but, thanks to Laurence’s editing, I think it worked out pretty well in the end!

Considering the struggles we’d had with the actual fishing, the film came out better than I ever could have hoped for. Watching it for the first time, I was really proud of what we had achieved and particularly Laurence’s filming work and the way he told the story throughout the video. I think everyone can agree, Laurence has really developed a style that is all his own and to see such care and dedication to making his presentations as cinematic as possible is super inspiring. Watching one of his productions for me is like being drawn into a mysterious and beautiful world where the real world of school runs and council tax is left well behind and everything is just the pure excitement and magic of fishing. Seeing the response to the video so far has been a fantastic experience and I’m very grateful to have been part of the project. Such well-crafted videos are not the norm in the sea fishing world so to be involved with one is an experience I will always count myself fortunate to have had.

Laurence with a nice open coast mullet
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