I love fishing the wild waters of the world and catching catching carp that have probably never been caught before. Chances to do that type of fishing diminish every year but one water that is gradually coming in to its prime is the massive River Ebro in Spain.
For me winter is the perfect time to go, the catfish are less active and the banks are almost devoid of anglers! I’d been once before and with the river high conditions were tough so this time I decided to spend a few days in the company of Nick Shattock who guides on the river, reason being that Nick knows the river well and moves around to find the fish - or as it turned out to find areas that are fishable!
The problems start not in the areas we fish but much further north, where periods of heavy rain or indeed snow melt off the mountains filter down in to the Ebro causing difficult conditions for weeks at a time. The water was higher than when I’d fished the year before and most areas we wanted to fish just weren’t practical with the increased flow, but after driving around and searching for most of the first day we ended up finding a quiet spot off the main flow - and the fish were there waiting for us!
River fishing can be so different to fishing stillwaters and they require different tactics. Generally the finesse side can go straight out of the window, these are wild carp that aren’t so used to the pressures of angling and what’s required is tackle that will hook and land the fish in what can be testing conditions. I find that nylon can be better in flowing water as the slight stretch helps to stop the leads from dragging around, which is a potential problem with braid.
All the rods needed to be cast out from the bank so it’s a balance between having a lead which will hold bottom but still be small enough to cast. Tractor style leads in 5 oz were about right this time. Rigs just needed to be strong, 12 inches of 35lb Combilink and size 5 Twister hooks completed the set up.
The river wasn’t particularly wide where we were, maybe 150 metres and it was the middle area we wanted to target. We’d seen several fish on shallower areas further up to our right but those areas weren’t fishable, so the hope was that they would move down on to the bait at some stage. Free bait consisted mainly of maize, as it often does on wild waters but with boilies and pellets included. Pellets in particular can work very well on the Ebro as so many have been introduced over the years by catfish anglers. For hook baits I’d taken along some Key® Cultured® hookbaits and a variety of pop ups to try alongside the maize and pellets.
In the end I didn’t have to wait too long for the action to start. The first fish was a long common of high doubles, which was soon followed by a better one of 23lb. It was good to get off the mark and just catch fish considering how tough it could have been. The early mornings were extremely cold with temperatures well below zero but the sun would soon melt the frosts away. But those early mornings were actually the most productive periods. Amongst the action I latched in to my first really good fish of the trip at 37lb 4oz and if I’m honest my hope was to get a 35lb-plus so I was happy with that one! But better was to come when the next day I landed a fish of 39lb, which I really thought was going to top 40lb but I wasn’t complaining.
Once the action started it was very consistent with fish coming every day. In fact it increased as the fish realised there was food to be had every day. The Cultured® baits did indeed work as expected but to be fair I did catch on a variety of baits, but that is typical with wild carp once you’ve found them and got them feeding. I ended up with 19 fish landed with the 39-pounder the biggest. There are certainly bigger fish roaming the Ebro but on this occasion the areas known to hold them were out of the question so I was very happy with the result I had.
The Ebro is an incredible venue that improves every year as a carp fishery and I’ve no doubt I’ll be having more trips there in the future!