Tuesday, 26 March 2013

I've caught a Monster!

Well I suppose better late than never, I started this blog with the intention of spending an hour or so a month recording what we'd been up to and where our travels in life had taken us. So in an effort to make up for 6 months of procrastination I thought I'd better catch up or scrap the idea all together.

Catalonia - October 2012

For the past fifteen years I've been a regular visitor to the River Ebro in Northern Spain. I love to catch the catfish that inhabit the river and have observed and watched them grow in size from the early days when fish of a 100lb were rare up to the present day when all of us who have put the time and effort in are waiting to catch a fish to break the magical 200lb mark. I should say I fish the lower river below Mora and upstream of Tortosa. Theres some big old zoo creatures swimming around further upstream at Caspe & Mequinenza living on a daily diet of halibut pellets, not really my idea of fishing and it attracts every idiot and his dog, so my fishing is strictly one rod and livebait exploring some of the most scenic stretches of river in europe. 

Making his first trip for four years was my lad Sam along with my regular catfishing partner Al and our mate Spenner (John) making up the numbers and providing light entertainment for the week. It really is like travelling with a stand up comedian when John's about and you're never entirely sure what he's going to get up to next.

From East Midlands with Ryan Air to Reus and we're in Benifallet by lunch time and on the river by 2pm. I fished with Sam for the trip and Alan fished with Spenner and off we went. A boat for each couple with Pete Evans crewing one and Rob Marsh the other. It was lovely to get back upstream towards Miravet, I've not fished that beat for a couple of years and forgot how much I liked it. Its never been particularly kind to me in the fish its thrown up but we've sneaked the odd hundred off it in the past and its always capable of throwing up a lump.

Looking upstream to Miravet Castle
The river was in an awkward mood and we had just the one chance which resulted in a missed take and us returning to base empty handed to drown our sorrows in Casal's. Alan and John had faired a little better with John taking a fish downstream of the village at 108lb as dusk fell.

We stayed as always at Pepo's which is without equal in this area of the valley and as is customary spent the evening drinking beer and talking bollocks in Casal's Bar as is the norm every trip!

I'm going to condense the next three days in to a couple of paragraphs. The fishing wasn't brilliant but Sam soon got amongst them and continued his claim as being the worlds unluckiest cat fish angler landing 5 fish to 88lb but still failing to bank his first fish over 100lb. I struggled along catching just the one fish at 55lb but was happy to let Sam outfish me, at least thats what I'm writing now! Alan & John kept their boat average up with Alan catching the same 108lb as John on the 3rd day but fishing was generally very slow. The weather was a bit hit and miss for October alternating between pleasant sunshine and rain and grey cloud, it did provide us with a couple of glorious sunsets though!

One of sam's 5 catfish from the trip

Ebro Sunset downstream of Benifallet

Swims like this used to produce but seldom do now, a classic slack water snag area on the Ebro.

What was apparent was that swims that had produced the goods in previous years were not doing it now and I can't help but think that the cats have wised up to some of the methods used to catch them. I experimented with small double baits and we started to get action by fishing in areas that very often we'd ignore. Alan and John found a lovely swim at Miravet that they put us on to and Sam managed to get a kitten of 40lb on the biggest livebait we had from 28' of water, it just screamed catfish and had not been fished for a couple of years. Going in to the last day Alan was adamant that the swim would produce a good catfish and so it proved with him taking a fish of 132lb from it, a new personal best to round the trip off for him. Somehow between them they managed to mess up completely the photo's of the fish so it remains in Alan's memory banks rather than on his memory card!  Speaking of ruined photo's I had a nightmare of an afternoon with a full days images blurred and unuseable. I was using a Sigma 10-20mm lens on my Nikon D7000 which up to that afternoon had worked fine, for some reason not yet known the two conspired to produce a series of out of focus images which for the life of me I cannot work out what went off. How you can get an out of focus image at 12mm and f8 is beyond me, needless to say I shan't be using that combination again and despite the D7000 been a damn fine camera its little autofocus glitches are really beginning to piss me off and its to be relegated to a spare now the D700 is on the scene.

Dusk arrived too quickly and we were just coming off the River at Pete's place when the phone rang as I was carrying the gear up the steps. It was Spenner in a rather irate state, all I heard was  'I've had a Monster' and they were heading downstream for the jetty at Benifallet. We jumped in the hire car at Pete's and putting the foot on the gas we arrived back in the village within 5 minutes. Sure enough he'd had a monster alright and how they managed to man handle the fish on to the jetty is anyone's guess. Taking four to hoist the sling it tipped the scales at 182lb which is the largest authenticated cat fish taken from this stretch of river. Spenner was over the moon having beaten his long standing best of 127lb and its now the latest of a series of happy memories that fishing at Benifallet has given us.

Alan, Sam, Spenner and Robbie with Spenners 182lb fish

I'm not sure when I'll fish the river seriously again at Benifallet to be honest. The Delta is now producing fish above 180lb and I think there is only a handfull of fish between Mora and Xerta that could match the one above. I'll certainly go back because I love the village and its my favourite place in Europe but I think a return to Tortosa, Amposta and the Delta beckons for next year, who knows!

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