Dean Macey - Huge Spanish barbel in style!
In recent years I have become more and more obsessed with barbel. From the small intimate rivers like the Lea and Kennet to the much larger Wye and manly Trent. Yet there was always something niggling in the back of my mind that some of the largest global barbel lived over seas and I was gagging to have a go for them. Spain is a barbel breading ground with eight different species in many different venues from the stunning Gypsy barbel to the more prehistoric and predatory Comizo barbel. Many people believe that all Spanish barbel are Comizo but with lots of hybridization, in reality they’re actually quite rare.
Late one night last year a friend, Paul Austin, called me and told me he had heard of a venue that was under the radar and contained a low stock of genuine Comizo barbel. I really didn’t have the time to fit the trip in but after a few cheeky nights out and some VERY smooth talking from yours truly, Mrs Macey agreed it was an opportunity that
couldn’t be missed…GOOD GIRL!
Flights were book and arrangements were made for a February assault on this magnificent mountain lake but mother nature was against us with freak snow fall and plummeting water temperatures killing all chances. In fact, the whole of Spain on that week shut up shop… BUT we wasn’t going to stop there. The venue was so wild to anything else I had fished in Europe that we just had to get back!
The months passed and eventually the time came to revisit Tono. This is the man that runs the trips and has fished the venue for many years. However, it’s far from a fully guided trip. You’re dropped off on the side of a cliff to base camp, provided with everything need to fish effectively and given a few tips and then left to your own devises to do what you please with no rules or anyone looking over your shoulder and fish. If you want to catch one of these gems then you’ll need to earn it. It’s definitely not for the inexperienced angler. The harder YOU work the greater your chances, and boat experience is a must!
Our first night was spent sitting up listening to what sounded like small pigs falling off the cliffs into the water but I reality, it was the barbel hunting and moving all over us. It may seem a little drastic but after just the one night of hearing so many fish crash over our rigs and no bites, I knew we hadn’t got something right. I was convinced it was the spots. With depths down to 11m, the fish were much higher in the water. So as the sun rose on day two, I hopped into the boat with the echo sounder, a few H blocks and went for a looksee.
After about an hour I found two spots in much shallower water. Rigs were positioned and plenty of bait was applied as the crays are very active at this time of year. Again the fish started to show on dark and it seemed that my new game plan hadn’t worked…but completely out of the blue just before light the next morning, my rods went into melt down.
Paul and I jumped into the boat and tried to head out to meet the fish in the middle, well away from the marginal snags but we didn’t move? Paul screamed push…I screamed row but nothing budged! Unbeknown to us, the water level had dropped a couple of feet over night and were grounded! We both came together and managed to get the job done but for at least a minute I was fighting this angry barbel, pushing the boat off the rocks and wetting my pants with laughter as Paul rowed like a crazy man all at the same time. In the hauling wind and driving rain we met the fish over the deep water as it plodded around under the boat. A few spirited bursts later she was mine! At 17lb it was an average fish for the venue but a very warm welcome and just the start of an AMAZING
The very next night the traps were all set just before dark and as the sun dropped behind the mountains the barbel once again started to put on a show. Again we sat there marvelled that the rods weren’t rocking off one after the other but in the early hours of the morning the same rod was away. This time we were much smoother in the boat and before I knew it we were above a VERY hard fighting Comizo. Even in that depth of water we could see it twisting and turning under the boat. The Water is tap clear. What struck me was the shear length of the beast…its looked more like an alligator gar than a barbel!
Time after time it stripped braid from the reel but knowing I was well away from all the snags I did my best to keep my shit together…this was one I didn’t want to get away. As she hit the surface for the first time it was clear this fish was something special and when its nose hit the spreader block we both lifted the net and its tail was still some way out! A second or two later and after some shuffling around she was in and sooner than expected, I was looking down into the net at my target. I was shaking with excitement and Paul and I let out a few choice words. Not that anyone on the planet would know as we were in the middle of nowhere!
Weighing over the magical 20lb at 21lb 12oz it was and looked every bit as impressive as I had hoped a Comizo would. An incredible creature from the tip of its long shovel like mouth to its massive fins. It was 3am and the coffee pot went on but I never had time to drink it. Minutes later I had another take! This time I was able to play it and land it from the bank and to be honest, everything went perfect. Yes, it fought well but no dramas or snags came into play and to my surprise, it was another beast at 19.14lb but this time it was a common barbel.
Paul and I experienced and few more fish over our time resulting in nine barbel caught and one very rare carp of 33lb to Paul. Spending a week on the side of a mountain genially fending for yourself, with no internet, very little phone reception and just the deer, wild boar and vultures for company isn’t for everyone. For me though, its was the trip of a lifetime!