Barbel in Spain

For the past seven years Martin has been heading over to Spain – a two hour flight from Bristol Airport, to fish for barbel.  The most remarkable aspect of fishing for the barbel in Spain is that they are caught exclusively on dry fly!  It seems impossible to imagine that a fish that normally feeds on the bottom can be persuaded to feed on the top, but, in the environment in which they live, they have become accomplished surface feeders.  The lakes (Embalses) that are fished are right in the centre of Spain and are basically hydro-power lakes.  So, being fed by large rivers, these lakes have decent populations of barbel.  Being vast expanses of water and often deep, the barbel out of necessity tend to patrol the edges and feed opportunistically on ants, beetles and grasshoppers.

Some lakes have just the common Spanish barbel, whilst others have comizo and micro-cepahus species.  One day soon the groups will find where to catch the Gypsy barbel!  On the first trip to Spain, the advice on fishing was passed on by Andy Lush of “The Friendly Fisherman” tackle shop.  Andy had fished in Spain with James Gardner many times and had great results fishing Embalse de Cijara with grasshoppers.  On a couple of occasions the two anglers landed eighty fish in a day!  Martin’s first trip was not so good as the barbel were spawning, and so it was the black bass that provided the sport for the group.  Subsequent trips have proven to be very successful.  The mixture of luxury accommodation at a very reasonable price and countless miles of banks to fish, along with the most splendid bird watching, makes for a great short trip away.

The outfits used for the fish, which average around four pounds, are five weight rods of nine foot in length,  teamed up with a floating line and single fly.  It is basic fishing!  The fly is only cast when a fish is spotted, hence the need to walk a fair distance.  Good polaroids are a help, as are decent walking boots.  One of the lakes fished has a bank that stretches to 535 Km.  Often the fish can be seen “tailing” in the shallow water as they seek the bloodworms and small insects.  These fish will readily rise to a well presented ant or beetle pattern put over their head.  However, at times these bottom feeders may be fairly preoccupied by whatever they are feeding on and so need the artificial fly to be “plopped” on top of them.  But, too much of a “plop” and the barbel will disappear rapidly!

All in all Spanish barbel present a great challenge on the fly and they are certainly worth their oft-called “European bonefish” title.

Copyright © Martin Cottis