No rain in Spain, but a bounty of barbel in the rock pools

Angling Notes: Recalling a fishing trip deep in the mountains of southern Spain in 2010

Betty Hayes with a barbel from the River Rio, near Campanillas, northwest of Malaga in Spain

Betty Hayes with a barbel from the River Rio, near Campanillas, northwest of Malaga in Spain

 

I lived in London many years ago, and still have pleasant memories coarse fishing on the River Thames. Setting up camp on the riverbank at Hampton Court became a weekend summer pastime fishing for bream, dace and roach by day and the shy, sporty barbel by night.

Of course, the elusive barbel was the main attraction. Ledgering with worms in the fast-running water, the magical sound of the bite alarm in darkness signalled a run to last several minutes before banking the whiskered fish of perhaps 4.5kg (10lb). To catch three in one session was considered an exception.

These memories were rekindled in 2010 while on holiday in Spain, where I linked up with renowned fly tyer Michael Hayes. Now living in Elviria near Marbella with his wife, Betty, he discovered a plethora of rivers suitable for fly fishing for barbel.

Michael was keen to point out that since joining ACPES, an association dedicated to fish conservation or pesca sin muerte, it had directed him to locations deep in the mountain range of southern Spain.

While most rivers had dried up due to lack of rain, there were still some deep pools to be found. One such pool was on the River Rio in the town of Casasola, near Campanillas, 12km northwest of Málaga city.

We took time to allow a herd of wild goats and their shepherd pass by before descending down a deep, dried-up gorge. “In the raining season this is inaccessible, with a torrent of water from the mountains,” Michael said.

We soon found the pool at the bend of the otherwise dry river. And surprise, surprise, plenty of barbel cruising below the surface. In preparation for my visit Michael had assembled some barbless Klinkhammer flies, a dry fly that previously worked well.

Cautiously manoeuvring the cast and taking care not to spook the fish, I soon connected with my first Iberian barbel. After an exciting struggle the fish of about 0.6kg (1.3lb) was landed, photographed and quickly returned to the water.

In complete contrast, our afternoon session entailed a short drive to the Casasola embalse, a 9km reservoir that supplements the water supply to Málaga. Here, our quarry was black bass or large-mouth bass.

A Klinkhammer dry fly enticed this barbel of 0.6kg from a deep pool in an otherwise dry River Rio, in the town of Casasola in Spain
A Klinkhammer dry fly enticed this barbel of 0.6kg from a deep pool in an otherwise dry River Rio, in the town of Casasola in Spain

“Try a tinsel-tailed yellow popper and create a splash on retrieval,” Michael advised. Within minutes, these sturdy, tough-skinned bass were attacking the poppers from all directions. I accounted for at least 15. Great sport!

Later in the week we travelled 10km west of Marbella, passing the beautiful pueblo blanco or white village of Ojén, en route to Aroyo and the River Grande. This river was also in severe drought, with just the deepest sections retaining water. The barbel were showing in good numbers, some to 1kg (2.2lb).

I first tried the Klinkhammer, then a beaded nymph, and finally got an “interest” in a tiny black midge. However, I missed the fish and instead spooked the residents which brought an abrupt end to our fishing.

I was grateful to Michael, though, for allowing me share his fishing hideaways. “I like to go fishing at least once a week – it gets better from late October with the onset of rain,” he told me.

The first wild salmon of the year

The first salmon of 2021 was caught last Saturday, January 30th, on the river Laune, Killarney, in Co Kerry by Stephen Jordan. The spring fish of 9.5lb was caught on worms from Beat 1 in Lyons Pool at the mouth of Lough Lein at noon on Saturday.

Inland fisheries staff were on hand to verify the catch as the first wild Atlantic salmon to be caught by rod and line in Ireland in 2021. Stephen, who works as a manufacturing technician, said: “I did a lot of salmon fishing in my younger days and then switched to sea fishing. It’s only in the last few years I have taken up salmon fishing again.

Stephen Jordan with first salmon of 2021 in Ireland from the river Laune in Co Kerry
Stephen Jordan with first salmon of 2021 in Ireland from the river Laune in Co Kerry

“As soon as the fish grabbed the worms, it shot straight into the air. I knew it was a good fish. I’m looking forward to my dinner tonight and have already divided the fish for my extended family,” he said with a smile.

Elsewhere, there was little luck to be had. On the Drowes, with just a few anglers out on the river, there’s little to report besides the odd sea trout and a few salmon lost, according to proprietor Shane Gallagher.

“Those with permits purchased prior to lockdown and living within 5km of the fishery are only permitted to fish,” he said.

It’s a similar story on Lough Currane in Waterville, Co Kerry. “A few boats ventured out on opening day with no success. Since then the weather has deteriorated with heavy rain and the lough has risen dramatically,” gillie Neil O’Shea said.

angling@irishtimes.com

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