A surprise return trip to the River Ebro for my dad had been in the pipeline for a few months since my return from a work experience trip in the summer. All was well until just 48 hours before our departure at Liverpool; we had our trip cancelled by the company, which meant that the birthday trip to Mequinenza was off.
After some frantic phone calls to Spain (Glad I don't pay the bill!) we managed to rescue the trip; in the shape of Martin Walker, and his business partner Duane Williams and their Catfish guiding company; Catfish Capers based in Caspe. With our heads full of thoughts about the magic of Mequinenza we were a little unsure about the four days that lay ahead. We arrived on the Wednesday at Reus airport just outside Barcelona and were greeted with lovely mild weather, somewhat different to that which we had left behind in Britain! On meeting up with Duane we were on the road in less than 20 minutes of touching down â€“ much quicker than at a big airport.
After the best part of two hours on the road we reached our destination; Caspe. Situated to the north of Mequinenza. Caspe is bigger than Mequinenza and offers access to many areas of the river provided you have the knowledge, guidance, and of course a 4x4! The apartments encourage a more social and group-type holiday whereby the guides are never far away to offer help and support with your fishing. We hit the road and within 10 minutes turned off the main road onto a track. We followed the track for a further 20 minutes until we reached the cliff-sided river valley. We got the tackle down to the swim and started to tackle-up. We expected the fishing to be similar to that in Mequinenza, heavy rods, usually around 8lb test curve with big deep-sea multipliers, thick braid and fishing with the rods in the air. However, this was definitely a more sporting approach which I personally enjoyed much more. My set-up consisted of 4.75lb Fox Warrior XT Pellet Master rods, Shimano Big Baitrunner Reels with 70lb braid, and pods! Basically a stepped-up carp fishing outfit.
Carp set-up for Cats!
We baited the rods with between two and five pellets on a hair matched to quite large hooks. Once cast to mid-river the 10 and 8 ounce leads would hold in the strong flow. Then a 25-kilo sack of Halibut pellets were taken out and introduced throughout the stretch that we were fishing with dramatic effect! Within seconds rods were screaming off and the pre-arranged â€œRun Rotaâ€ came into effect. The idea being that we would have a run rotation rather than people sticking to their respective rods, thus giving a more equal spread of the action and giving everyone in the group of five a good chance of landing some fish.
We soon got to grips with the new style of catfishing and on the first day had 8 runs in just five hours, of which four were landed, the best a hard-fighting 77lb'er to my own rod.
A hard fighting Ebro 77lb Wels Catfish
Then the civilised part of the holiday; rather than fishing up to midnight and being on the bank again at 6.00am the following day which we had done on previous trips to Mequinenza, this holiday proved that catfishing holidays don't have to be 24/7 fishing. We were back every night by around 7.30pm leaving the rest of the night for having a shower to get rid of the cat slime, going out for a meal, and even a few beers in one of the many local bars - one of the best turned out to be directly below our apartment and it only took a minute to get from our apartment to the bar and restaurant â€“ result!
Next morning we were up for 8.00am for a full English breakfast and on the bank shortly after 9.00am. As soon as we were there the team operation kicked in and as one member of the group put the rods together (they were left broken down into their two sections overnight) another would be putting the pods into position along the bank whilst another person would be lumping bags, bait, and tackle from the van to the swim. Pellets would be drilled by another and shortly afterwards we would be fishing.
On this particular morning the action was fast and furious, a trip out in the boat to introduce bait and stir up the fish encouraged a feeding spell prolonged by the wind and sometimes cloudy weather.
Feeding Time â€“ the boat journey that produced the kippers!
As the day progressed all members of the party saw arm-wrenching action, with grunts and groans of physical strain and tiredness heard echoing down the valley! By 6.00pm we were all very tired and surprised at what a day we had caught. Between the group, the catches were as follows; Phil â€“ 4 Catfish to 125lb, Dave â€“ 3 catfish to 98lb, Ron (My Dad) 3 Catfish to 126lb, Carol (My Mum) 3 catfish to 92lb, and myself with 3 catfish to 122lb. Jimmy, our guide had previously told us that 5 catfish in a day was expected for the time of year and expressed how our catch was on par with a typical summer's day!
Just a bit! My 122lb catfish
Once back to the apartment we all showered, changed and then went out again for a Chinese meal across town. A brief walk showed how Caspe was a considerably bigger town than Mequinenza. The next day (Friday 25th) I decided to drop out of the rota. I had caught a specimen PB cat and so decided to go carp fishing, which would increase the chances of both my mum and godfather Dave catching a fish over that magical 100lb barrier. I'm nice like that!
At the top end of the swim was a series of marginal snags and at the lower end a thick reed bed extending about 10 yards into the water. After seeing some carp jump relatively close to the bank near the reeds I decided to use one of the company's carp rods paired with my own reel and terminal tackle to try and tempt one. I cast a single halibut pellet on a size 4 hook with a PVA bag of crushed pellets around 40 yards downstream and sat back in hope.
Scenic carp fishing on the Ebro
The wind was strong, which kept giving me false bites on the indicators and alarms due to the bowing line and the reeds knocking against it causing the indicator to jump up and down. After a couple of hours I had a positive response and as the Fox indicator danced up and down between the bankstick and rod I knew it's was a fish.
I bent into the fish and the 2.5lb test curve rod meant that I couldn't give it too much pressure due to the flow, however an exciting battle followed. Guide Jimmy was on hand to instruct me how best to land the fish from the area and after an â€œuncarpyâ€ fight I had a long common in the net. The fish was incredibly long and had boggled eyes and speared fins. She took the needle on the scales round to 21lb and was in my opinion a worthy result for my efforts.
My long plump 21lb Ebro Common
Within minutes the rod was off again and I allowed Phil to take the fish, which turned out to be a fish of 8lb and was incredibly black in colouration. My dad then jumped in on the action and the next time the rod went he bent into a fish, only for the hook to pull, and that was the last carp action of the day.
I persevered however and stuck out another rod, trying different areas, and exploring which parts of the river I could present a bait with my 4.5 ounce lead. Although my efforts did not succeed, the catfishing took off in the late afternoon with the sound of screaming catfish takes echoing around the valley once again. The others in the party managed some good cats between them with 10 fish to 106lb taken, which was my mums first ever â€œton-plusâ€ Catfish of 106lb, one of only two fish taken over 100lb, the other being my dads of 102lb.
The next day saw me, my mum, and my dad drop out of the rota, with the idea that it would give Dave, the remaining party member to catch a 100lb plus catfish. Within the first hour there were numerous runs, and double hook-ups, and even triple hook-ups were taken during this heavy feeding period! We ended up with Jimmy the guide, myself and my dad all gloving fish for colleagues at the same time! It really was a truly magical moment, three takes around the same time, three fish gloved around the same time, I've heard that the Ebro is a place where dreams are made, and it's so true!
Included with three fish on the bank at the same time were Phil's new PB of 142lb (the biggest fish of the trip), Dave's new PB and first ton-plus catfish of 105lb, which later in the same day became 116lb. Mum's fish was also weighed in at 94lb, and released immediately due to the 142lb fish up the bank that needed photographing.
Dave with a long-awaited 100lb plus Catfish
I then decided to come back into the rota, something which put a curse on the runs as it really slowed down for the rest of the day. The carping was poor in the morning and the catfishing in the afternoon. However Phil still managed to keep his tally up landing more cats as the last day passed, however he caught nothing to exceed his 142lb lump from the morning.
We all changed and showered before packing and then going out for a final night in the bar and restaurant and had a fantastic meal and social with Jimmy the guide, which added to a fantastic trip.
All in all it was a great trip with 50 Fish (48 Catfish & 2 Carp) to make a final weight of 4,087lb overall. It was a real eye-opener too, as we wouldn't have considered fishing such an area prior to our last minute changes and after experiencing this location we will definitely be back â€“ Maybe its all down to fate!
The bend in Dave's 4.75lb rod shows the power of an Ebro Catfish
Thanks to Martin walker, Duane Williams and Jimmy of Catfish Capers for a fantastic trip, and I would fully recommend this company to anyone interested in catfishing on the Ebro.