In 2009 a very special event took place, my soul mate Holly and I got married! The wedding was an amazing occasion, full of emotion and high spirits. That story is for another day however, this is the tale of one aspect in the traditional build up to the big day, the ‘stag do’!
Me being me, and being a fishing nut, I wanted to do something a little different. At the time I’d never been to the Ebro in Spain, but I had read a lot about the giant Wels catfish that now call it their home. These fish interest me immensely, not just for their colossal size and power, but I also really admire their tenacity, there unflinching drive for survival. They really are extremely well evolved creatures, able to not only cope with most conditions, but thrive almost everywhere they’re found. So I put the feelers out and a small but dedicated group of friends ranging from experienced anglers to newcomers to the sport, signed up to the idea of a three-day trip to the Ebro in search of catfish!
The journey begins
Our destination was Caspe on the outskirts of Zaragoza, which is the capital city of the Zaragoza province. Zaragoza is situated on the banks of the Ebro river and its tributaries, the Huerva and the Gállego, near the centre of the region, in a valley with a variety of landscapes, ranging from desert to thick forest, meadows and mountains. The area fitted the bill to perfection, the river was on our door step, and there promised to be some nightlife too!
Meeting at my house and setting of first thing the mini bus we pre booked whisked us to Stansted airport, at the other end of the country. A journey of about 4hrs, which felt so much quicker as we excitedly chatted away about the coming few days. The satnav played up the whole way down, which put a nag into my mind that we might be doomed before this journey even gets going. I needn’t have worried however and our driver duly deposited us and our luggage at the airport in plenty of time.
The flight was uneventful, just as I like them to be. I’m not a great fan of flying, it’s not so much the being high up its more the cramped conditions and uncomfortable seats. Being tall doesn’t help matters, but anyway, it’s a short hop of a flight really so nothing to worry about.
Landing is always an eye opener whenever I fly abroad, I know its going to be hot, but it always seems to hit me like a ton of bricks. We landed in Zaragoza in the evening, and it was still really hot, not unexpected really for late July!
See that nice attendant in the hi-viz jacket in the picture. She gave me a bit of a slapped wrist for taking these pics! Maybe she thought I was an international spy casing the joint, who knows. You can’t be too careful these days I guess.
Once through Zaragoza airport all that was left for us to worry about was making the transfer to our apartment. This posed a slight worry as we had arranged to meet our guides at the airport, and they would take us to our accommodation. All set up perfectly you’d think, however we couldn’t find anyone for some time, or so it seemed. It was probably only a couple of minutes but it felt like an eternity looking for our guide. We found him eventually, or rather he found us, and he transpired to be the wonderful Scotty, who stayed with us throughout our visit, top chap he is too!
Once all bundled into another mini bus we trundled along into the night getting closer and closer to our destination. We were treated to a few glimpses of the river on the way, but for now, that would be as close as we would get. It was bordering on midnight if not a touch after, we’d had a long journey and just needed to settle into our beds and rest ready for tomorrow. Which of course we did….
No, the cards came out along with some every welcome refreshments, and for the next couple of hours we really relaxed into our surroundings and became one with the adventure we were now in. The observant among you will notice my t-shirt, or rather the subtle slogan across the front of it. ‘Petal Fish’, is my wifes pet name for me, or was back then, she’s more to the point these days. I have no idea where it came from or how it evolved, but anyway Carl my best man picked up on it and very thoughtfully had a t-shirt made for me with it emblazoned across my chest.
Day one on the bank
Good morning fellas!! Just for reference, yes that’s me in the background being woken up to go to the river looking ‘fresh’. More importantly, that’s Carl in the foreground, also looking ‘fresh’. Gotcha mate!
So we’re here, it’s the morning of the first day fishing and I am absolutely bursting with excitement, as are the rest of the group. It’s always the way when you look forward to something for so long, it almost doesn’t feel real when you finally arrive. But real it was, full breakfast in the bar, The Jolly Fisherman and we were off to the river, all with full bellies and brimming with excitement and anticipation!
As we were quite a large group we split into two for the day, one half going with Gaz, the other half with Paul. Both excellent guides, and if you fancy a trip to the Ebro I’d recommend searching either of them out. There are a few companies to choose from when visiting the Ebro fishing, we went with Catfish Capers, and we were well looked after in all areas of our stay.
Another short ride to the river, and when it finally comes into glorious view, and my heart is in my mouth! It’s exactly the same feeling I have had with fishing since the very first time I went. What is down there in the depths? I know there are big catfish in the river somewhere, are they here? Will we see any, or catch any to have a closer look at? A million questions race through my mind as at the same time I’m grinning from ear to ear! It’s that magical feeling I always get at the start of every fishing adventure!
So this is home for the day, where we will pit our wits against nature in an effort to get closer to it. To momentarily become part of the catfishes secret world! We set the rods up in a row, and Paul took the lines out in the boat as he baited the swim up. He knew the spots to drop our rigs on, that was evident. With everything set, we waited, watched and tried to avoid soaking too much up of the blistering sun!
We waited for quite a while for our first bite, which wasnt exactly a hardship in such interesting surroundings and glorious sunshine! As it was my ‘do’ the lads let me hit the first take. Which turned out to be a cat of about 80lb! Using strong braid, beefed up carp rods and big reels, this still felt like nothing I’d experienced before. The fish used all of its power, along with the force of the river to try to pull me in, rather than me pull it out! I was eventually victorious however, and pleased as punch to meet my first big catfish.
Mitch helps me hold my first big cat!
The rigs we used were essentially extremely long hair rigs. With about eight 22mm halibut pellets threaded on. However instead of putting a stopper in the end loop, the loop was placed back over the hook point, creating what looked like a necklace no-one would want to wear, stinking and oily! Perfect for the cats though!!
As the day went on Carl hooked a few nice Carp, as did Nick, on the single carp rod we had out to the left of our swim. Just a single pellet on this rod with a few free pellets scattered around it.
Then there was a lull in fish activity as the peak of the day emerged and the heat was really up. We scrambled for a bit of shade, and some had a swim to cool off as much as possible. We had plenty to drink (provided by the guides) at all times, which is extremely important when spending long periods of time on the bank in the sun. The heat seems to bounce up of the water and temperatures are hotter than normal.
As afternoon crept round it was Nicks turn to see what these cats were all about. The bite was as ferocious as the first, and although we had bite bells on the rod tips, they weren’t really necessary, as the rod tip hooped over and the reel started to spin it was obvious something big had taken the bait!
Something very big is now attached to the end of the line, which is attached to the rod, that Nick has hold of! It’s an awesome sight, and as much as I love catching fish, seeing my friends catch is just as enjoyable! We’d had a few carp since my Cat, so we knew straight away this wasnt a carp and was another cat, and it looked like it was going to be much bigger than mine!
Sure enough when on the bank it went 146lb, what an incredible creature! Magnificent in its display of power coming in, and equally mesmerizing in its sheer size and beautiful colours on the bank.
That was the end of the action for us on our first day, all that remained was to pack up and head back to base for the night in readiness for the next days fishing. Upon returning to the apartment, the other half of our group were yet to return, so we settled in with a beer and chatted about the days events. I was convinced we wouldn’t see a bigger fish than Nicks, he was convinced we’d see much bigger, the next two days would reveal all!
The other half of our group still weren’t back late into the evening, and word started to filter through of boat accidents and stuck vehicles. This was all very worrying, until we heard that Dom had driven the boat up the river the wrong way and basically run out of water, grounding the boat! An easy mistake as lots of the scenery can look similar, especially at night, but we weren’t surprised it was Dom involved, he’s a true character alright! A rescue party was dispatched in the Land Rover, and shortly after we were all reunited at the apartment, swapping stories of huge cats and carp.
The catch reports from the other half of our party told of how they’d caught more than us on the first day, however the pictures said other wise!!
Seriously though, they had some cracking fish, Dom and Baz both with nice cats here.
A nice picture sequence of Baz playing, posing and releasing a big catfish.You’ll notice upon release the cat didn’t swim off. More so it turned around and almost glared at the lads on the bank. When asked what it was doing, Scotty the guide replied, ‘its Pee’d off’! What a great attitude these creatures have, all round proper animals, in every sense of the word.
That evening we went down to the bar and had a few beers, all content with our adventure so far, and bubbling over with anticipation for the next two days fishing. We had a couple of drinks that evening, the whole group together with the guides, enjoying each others company and fishing stories. There need be no further explanation, the pictures tell the tale, and there are rules anyway, ‘what goes on tour, stays on tour’.