Mullet-mustering: How to cast a net

The author secures a throw line
Lee Brake
Being able to throw a cast net, at least adequately, is one of those skills you pretty much must have if you’re ever going to do any serious live bait fishing. This week Lee Brake will show you the method he uses.

We all know blokes who can spread a 10ft net over a flying mullet at maximum range nine times out of ten, and I’ll tell you right now that I’m not one of those guys. I can make a school of herring pretty worried though, and that mullet would be about a 50/50 chance of ending up on the pointy end of a barra rig. I’ll share what I know and how I do it with you, but if you can do it better, then let me know, so that if I ever take you out, I’ll know to do the driving...

How to throw a cast net:
Before I start, let me clarify that this is how I throw a cast net, as taught to me by my grandfather and as was taught to him by his. It is just one of many ways and has its strengths and weaknesses. Feel free to Google the 'off the wrist' method if you’d like an alternative.

Step 1. Loop the throw line securely over your wrist (of your throwing arm). It may seem simple, but the next person to cast a net only to watch it disappear won’t be the last.


Step 2. Gather the rope up into your throwing hand and when you get to the top of the net continue to grab lengths of the net, about a foot each time, and store these in your hand. Continue this until the length of what remains stretches from your shoulders to your knees, or just above.

The author holds the net out and selects the leadline from the far side.
Lee Brake

Step 3. Hold the net about shoulder height and take a bit of the leadline, with your other hand, from the side of the net facing away from you.

He then he flicks it over his shoulder.
Lee Brake

Step 4. Make a skyward-facing wing with your casting arm and place this bit of the net over your arm. Note: this is the biggest weakness of this technique, as you have to be mindful of stingers, stonefish and other nasties. A long-sleave, button-less shirt is a must.

With the net in place on his “wing” the author begins running his fingers through the excess hanging net to gather around half. He then holds this gathered net out forward with his spare hand.
Lee Brake

Step 5. Reach inside the net with your free arm and grab the leadline closest to your body, then gather this by running your fingers through the bunched up net. Gather about half of the net and hold this out in front of yourself, so that it forms a semi-circle.

The net is now primed to throw and you’ll note that it forms a semicircle.
Lee Brake

Step 6. Swivel your body backwards 90 degrees and swing the net back behind your shoulder. Then assume a pose of concentration while you watch for signs of bait... either tongue out the side of your mouth or biting the bottom lip works well.

The caster now rotates his body 90 degrees and waits, primed, for a target.
Lee Brake


The Throw: Once bait is spotted, the caster begins to rotate his body 180 degrees. You’ll note that half way through the cast the net comes off his shoulder as his casting arm straightens.
Lee Brake


He then straightens the casting arm completely once it’s pointed at the target but continues to rotate and bring his spare hand, which still holds the net, around. Once turned almost a full 180 degrees he releases the net with the spare hand.
Lee Brake


Step 7. Once you’ve seen your target, it’s time to throw the net. In the process of the swing you swivel your body 180 degrees, however, you will 'throw' the net and dictate the direction it will go halfway through by letting go and straightening your throwing arm. Where your arm straightens is where the net will go. To get a spread though, you need to keep hold of that bit of gathered net with your non-throwing arm until you get to the full 180 degrees. This is what creates the spin and opens the net.

Retrieval:
Once the net has hit the water it pays to hold the throw line taut and low to the water so the head, or tube, of the net is submersed. Once the leadline sinks, the bait will head towards open space, which will be up the net if it’s submersed. Then, once you start pulling the net in, it will 'close up' and flatten out, forcing any bait that hasn’t bottlenecked in the top of the net into the pockets at the bottom. For this reason, if you’re casting from a boat, a good driver can be just as essential as a good netter. Communication is the key. Verbalise your actions: 'Okay, I’m sneaking in; we’re in neutral; cast when you’re ready.' And then as soon as the net leaves the caster’s hands, the driver should start reversing gently. This constant verbalisation will prevent any mishaps like driving over nets, throwing the caster off balance, or running aground, and once the net is being retrieved, gently driving backwards will help to close the net and lower the angle.

Other tips:
There are a few other tricks that veteran mullet-musterers use to make the job easier. Firstly, be prepared with a shirt that has no buttons on the sleeves – nothing throws you inside-out like catching a bit of your net on a button and then throwing yourself with the net. Secondly, invest in some polarised sunglasses. A good pair will halve the time it takes to spot bait and will make the job so much easier. Thirdly, prepare your surface. Nothing mucks up your boat carpet like cast-netting and nothing makes an aluminium deck slipperier. A few hessian bags laid down over the front of a bare tinnie deck can stop you doing the Boson Two Step and ending up on your bum, or worse, in the drink, once the deck gets wet and muddy. They are also easy to take out and hose clean. The last tip involves being aware of what may be under the water where you are about to cast. The next net to be ripped to shreds on an oyster covered rock or tangled on mangrove roots won’t be the last.

Till next time, fish hard and stay safe.
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