Arthurs Antics… Land of the Giants

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Recalling the second part of his fantastic Spanish expedition…
Sky television’s presenter Keith Arthur gives you more with
Catalan carp and giant cats!

Keith Arthur
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The River Ebro in Catalunya in Spain has been changed by man several times. The most striking feature of this powerful waterway are the hydro-electric systems, which have changed the aspect of many miles of the river from a wide, shallow, weedy, fast flowing river to wide lakes of great depth. In these dammed sections the native carp grew to greater size than their cousins who ‘went with the flow’ and remained with the barbel.

Then in the late 1960s along came some German anglers who introduced some wels catfish and zander. Legend says the numbers were as low as 30 cats, others swear 300 were planted over two years. The zander were accompanied by bleak, as a food source. However many catfish were put in, they have multiplied at a phenomenal rate and with the massive amount of natural prey, carp, in place they have grown alarmingly.

Giant catfish
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Giant catfish

It won’t be long before the first ‘double tonner’ turns up. The confluence of the Rio Evro (Ebro) and Rio Serge, the Ebro’s main tributary, is where the giants dwell; close to the Bavarian Camp, set up by the original introducers of the species. I fished the river further downstream, at Flix and Riba Roja. The pussies are there in numbers and they are doing their best to catch up in size with those further upstream, but whilst 100lbers are numerous, those of 150lb and over are very scarce. So with that in mind when I pushed off from the famous Flix ‘barca’, two traditional Ebro barges lashed together and set up on a pulley system as a ferry, I was hopeful of some armache. Our guide, Mike McQuade drove us a couple of hundred yards downstream to the outflow from the power station, a huge eddy whose flow is dictated by whichever turbine is on stream.

The idea was to trot baits around the eddy.If that sounds like more or less conventional river fishing, then it is, except that the floats are ballcocks from lavatory cisterns mounted on sticks, the ‘shot’ is a 3oz inline carp lead and the business end is a 6/0 Owner treble and single ‘hair rig’. The rods are 5lb test curve, purpose built cat sticks and the reels Penn multipliers loaded with 100lb braid. Bait is live eels, hooked in a special way that I’ll leave as Mike’s secret that gives a first-class hook-up to almost every take. Once the anchor was in place my boat partner Peter and I trotted our baits, whilst our other pal, Siegmund, Peter’s Norwegian neighbour at his house in Alicante, fished a bait more or less stationary in the back flow. Within ten minutes Peter’s float had disappeared and his rod arched as a very powerful fish ran upstream at a rate of knots. Drag pressure soon told and the fish came back into the eddy, before setting off in the shallower, weedy water below the outflow.

Ten minutes later, laying relatively quietly alongside the boat, was what I can best describe as a six

Giant catfish
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Giant catfish

foot long slug, with a face that only its mother could love, little slitty eyes and a gob like a skip! Mike expertly ‘chinned’ the fish into the boat, weighed it on his custom-built sling and declared Peter as a ton-up man. 106lbs to be exact. Next cast he had a repeat performance, this time the cat was even bigger, at 115lb. So in 40 minutes Peter Hobbs, a 70-year-old who has fished many of the World’s best places, had beaten the freshwater ton twice. I hadn’t had a nibble. Next time Peter’s rod went, he had the good sense to hand it to Siegmund, who after a pretty dramatic up-anchor and chase, managed to steer a 75lber out of the weedbed it had decided to dive into, towards Mike’s waiting glove. Any chance of a bite for me perhaps? Then it happened.

Two hours of controlled trotting, like manoeuvering a humungous stickfloat, was rewarded by the float darting under. My swift strike was met by….fresh air! On inspection my eel was seen to have little bite marks, a zander was to blame we guessed. But eventually I did get my fish; at 60lbs a bit of a kitten next to Peters, but still a magnificent creature. It won’t be long before the catfish in Pat’s Pool reach that sort of size, and without the benefit of a boat, I’ll happily leave the landing of them to you. I returned to Riba Roja again, soon after my original trip, this time fishing with Ebro Angling’s Andy Shattock, and did my ‘ton’. Something tells me I’ll be back again…

Tight lines

Keith


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