As some may know Tony (Pieater) Balfour and myself had planned another excursion to the Mecca of Catfish fishing that is Mequinenza in Spain and after a request via Pm it was arranged for Cockney duo Kev (Beefster) O’keeffe and Bill (Legend) Palmer to join us on our travels in April this year.
Our flights had an arrival difference of four hours so Tony myself and guide Ed, who had met us at Reus airport made the short journey to the resort town of Salou for some refreshments in the form of Lager (what else) and some very nice spare ribs, the journey between the resort and airport only takes twenty minutes so any one with a few hours to kill waiting for a flight can take advantage of the resort if they so wished.
Soon enough we had collected Kev and Bill and were on our way to Mequinenza and after the hour and half journey we arrived at our very nice apartment right on the banks of the mighty Rio Ebro.
We got the cases unpacked and Bill started laying out little money bags full of pills on the table, “Feck me Bill are you a dealer or what” Tony chirped up, after this comment Bill explained that they were his daily intake of pills to keep him alive after his heart bypass and other life threatening ailments but he was worried as he was missing one particular bag of pills, these he went on to tell poker faced were to stop the increase in female hormones brought on by his cocktail of other tablets Tony and I promised to find a chemist in the town in the morning.
(but made sure we shut our bedroom door that night in case his female side took over him and he fancied a bit of northern rough lol),of course it was all bollocks and the old git and Kev had been winding us gullible kind hearted northerners up.
The next morning after a hearty breakfast we made our way down to the peg that the guides had selected for us where we met up with Gareth Edwards the main guide who runs the company http://www.catfishtours.com/Gaz had been on the Peg (pump house) with other clients overnight and after catching a couple of fish decided to stay put, he then told us the news we did not want to here that the cats were starting to spawn and the fishing was very hard at the moment, having fished with Gaz before and at a time when all others were struggling he found fish for Tony and I to catch so I was confident he would help put a few fish on the bank for us and after all fishing is fishing no matter where you are, and these are wild fish in a massive river environment we are after, not fish in a carp puddle, so we settled in to the routine and got the rods baited up and boated out to the island we were fishing against and the waiting game began.
We also set up various other rods to pass the time whilst waiting for the cats to arrive, we had a feeder rod out for the Roach which go to well over three pounds on this river, Lure rods for jigging for the Zander and even a float rod to catch the Bleak which we used as Zander bait, most of this extra tackle was supplied by Kev (the walking tackle shop) O’keeffe who had more gear than Nevs tackle shop in his case.
We were soon settled in catching the baits and Bill being Bill found a bamboo cane and decided he was going to use it to catch Bleak, so line float and hook were attached and the now famous (in our world) BPBBW MK1 (Bill Palmer Bamboo Bleak Whip)was created.
This should come with a health warning though, as it does not reach far the user is tempted to reach that little bit further out by standing on wet slippery rocks and we know what happens if you try that don’t we Bill ? LOL, Yep you guessed it he went in, wallet, passport, phone the lot and he got a nasty bruise as a memento.
The bleak fishing became quite competitive and the sight of three very experienced anglers reeling away in disgust all cursing the one on the rod who had a missed a bite on the BPBBW MK1 with the words “YOU WANKA” said in the best Cockney twang we could muster, this became the norm when ever any one cocked up throughout the week and any one who came within earshot were probably lucky they did not speak the language.For some reason my stomach was bubbling like a cauldron and the guys were suffering the after effects and each eruption from my lowest orifice was also met with curses and the obligatory “Webbo you smelly Wanka”
Sorry guys lol.
Later that evening the weather turned decidedly nasty with rain lashing down on our new found home, this weather to be honest caught out the guides and there were not enough Ovals to go round as they were unsure whether we were going to night fish or not, as Bill was still feeling the effects of his fall I decided to return to the apartment with him for the night leaving Tony and Kev to fish the first night session under the guidance of Gaz, with that we said our good nights and wished the diehards good luck.
The next morning we returned to the great news that Tony and Kev had indeed had some luck with Kev being the main recipient catching a magnificent PB Common Carp of 41lb, plus three Cats up to a very credible 123lb, to say he was happy was an understatement.
Tony chipped in with a Common Carp of 23lb and two cats in the 30 to 40lb range, small by Ebro standards but welcome on the first night none the less.
Throughout the day we all caught a steady run of Zander on bleak deads fished on ET sneaker rods supplied by Kev and Bill, all the fish being in the 1lb to 2lb bracket but again good fun all the same.The cats did make an appearance that day with Tony and Kev landing fish to 50lb and Bill having one at 75lb topped with one fish to me at 112lb so we were all up and running on the cat front which made everyone much more comfortable.
That day we saw something that we agreed we had never seen before, a Swift that must have been skimming the water for flies crash landed in the water, we watched for a few seconds willing the flapping creature struggling in the water to get airborne before some sinister creature from the deeps devoured it, Gaz being the good guy that he is decided he wasn’t going to watch that happen and took to the boat and rescued the poor bird who spent the next couple of hours perched on one of the ovals drying out in the now warm sunshine, once dried out and after a short photo session she was launched in the air and to every ones relief she flew off strongly.
Good deed done for the day and extra ovals, bed chairs and sleeping bags brought out from the tackle store we all settled in for the night, my bag being one of those German ex Army ones with the arms in and no wonder they lost the bleeding war cos you cant get in or out of the feckers very quickly at all and I felt like bleeding Harry Houdini.Here's Tony trying it out.
And what a night it turned out to be with six hours of solid rain accompanied by thunder and lightning hammering down on our ovals, and with the wind changing direction throughout the night we were all soaking wet by the morning, I remember laying there holding on to the oval wishing one of the rods to go off just so I could watch Kev who’s turn it was on the rods and Gaz try and land a big cat in the storm lol, but in the end mercifully, I suppose, no runs were forthcoming.
By mid morning the site looked like a Chinese Laundry with sleeping bags clothes and the like hanging or draped over every available object and the mood was a bit down to be honest, though this changed after a good cuppa and some food which the guide delivered from the local café, at this stage we were worrying about Bill as he is 72 years old and has had a heart bypass, “bleeding hell at this rate the Pike Pool article will be Bills Obituary” I mentioned out aloud which was met with equal amounts of laughter from the lads and Bill.
During this second day the water was rising and colouring rapidly due to the recent downpours and we looked on in fearful trepidation deep down fearing the worst but we continued to catch the odd fish so spirits were still quite high and thankfully the sun was now high in the cloudless sky.
This day provided me with a memory I wont forget in a hurry in the shape of a new PB Catfish of 185lb Upping my PB by 23lb,even on the right gear such as 7lb TC rods and big multis these fish take some landing but they breed em tough “oop North” so no but pad for me “eh Kev” lol.
This fish was landed by Tony “cheers Tony” as Gaz had nipped to the shop for more supplies, funnily enough this happened with my previous PB fish which I caught a couple of years earlier under the guidance of Gaz.
Bill chipped in with a small cat in the 40lb bracket and a magnificent Zander of 11lb4oz, you can see why he has caught so many big predators they seem to be drawn to him while all around are catching schoolies Bill gets the quality fish.
After landing my PB I decided to have a night back in the apartment also partly due to the fact I hadn’t had any sleep the first night due to a certain Pie eating Lancastrian snoring like a Pot Bellied Pig and none the night of the storm, so after a nice meal in the Bela Vista restaurant which I can highly recommend I retired to the digs and left the others to it.I tried to work a bit of the bill off by ironing the curtains in the foyer but all to no avail.
The next morning Gaz collected me with bad news, the river was not fishable due to debris in the form of large rafts of weed and trees coming down stream, indeed a tree had wiped out the rods at half one in the morning forcing Gaz into the boat to cut the braid on two rods before the were spooled off. So it was decided we had to move, and we had the mammoth task of clearing the swim of all the tackle and bait required along with 3 boats, this took most of the morning and we relocated to the other side of the river a mile or so downstream where the flow was easier and we could place our baits out of the main line the debris was taking.
The move looked like it was a good one as Tony had a 50+ fish in the first hour but alas no more cats were forthcoming and unfortunately this proved to be the last cat of the trip.
While in this peg and knowing we would struggle for the cats we decided to set our sights on the Zander again and due to the nature of the peg we were going to fish from one of the boats, one of these had been damaged during the move and one being needed to get baits out this only left the Bic, now any one who has used one of these will know how unstable they are so you will know what happened next lol.
Gaz and I had gone off to have a look at another river (the Cinca) and before I went I gave Bill my phone and wallet to look after as I only had shorts on and just as we retuned there was Bill up to his neck in the water again and the Bic with Kev in it perfectly upright with all the bait and tackle still where it had been placed, even the bucket Bill had been sat on was still there, of course once I knew he was alright my thoughts turned to my phone and wallet“feck me Bill don’t tell me they are in your pocket” I asked
“sorry mate” he replied tapping his pocket, my heart sank a little only to be raised almost immediately when I caught sight of the smile spreading over his face, what a bleeding wind up merchant he is up to his bollocks in water and still sharp as a tack at 72 years old.
Later on we could hear Bill on the phone to his Sheila (because he is deaf as a post he has his phone on speaker and at full blast we could here the conversation plainly) “Here Sheila these bladdy norveners are trying to bladdy kill me” and she replied “you are insured aren’t you” we were all pissing ourselves at this stage with Tony and I reminding him it was the other southerner who tipped him out of the bleeding boat.
We never caught any thing of substance after that but we were amazed by the strength of an amazing weight lifting Crayfish who managed to lift an incredible 20oz lol (no Crayfish were hurt in the making of this photo)
We binned it at 10.30pm and headed to the boozer to drown our sorrows.
Due to the state of the river the next day Kev and I along with Gaz hired a boat and headed above the dam in search of Perch or Black Bass on the lure rods, the water up here is gin clear but in most places very deep so we headed in to the many shallow arms that snake out of the main lake and its here that we began catching the Black Bass on small rubber lures cast to fish we could see in amongst the vegetation, any one who has seen the Bass fishing on Sky TV will know what it was like and even though the fish were small (Gaz had the best at 4lb1)
It was absorbing fishing and made all the better set amongst the amazing scenery that greets you at every turn. The Carp we saw in these bays had to be seen to be believed and they are completely unfished for we reckon we saw fish up to 50lb swimming in the shallow clear water and Gaz reckons the potential is unlimited on this area of the Ebro.
Unfortunately Tony and Bill blanked on the river after cats so the day after being the last full days fishing we decided to go for the Carp on the Top Lake at Chiprana, and we were going to fish hard with a 5am start so it was after only a couple of pints we retired to the apartment for a well earned kip, this time with Tony and his mattress banished to the living area and bog roll applied to my ear holes.
At 5am the next morning Gaz and Ed pulled up outside the apartment, both vehicles loaded to the gunnel's with tackle and bait ready for the onslaught we were about to unleash on the Top Lake Carp.
We arrived in the dark and unfortunately our first choice pegs were taken but Gaz had a back up plan and we were soon setting up in a new spot with a target of 20 Carp set by Gaz.
Soon enough we started getting runs and Tony was the first on the rods unfortunately he lost the first two fish to a chorus of the now oft used “You Wanka” and had to drop to the back of the Q because of the two strikes and your out rule.
There was no need to worry though as the Carp came thick and fast and we easily passed the 20 fish mark even with Tony (rubber hooks) Balfour losing six fish, we actually ended up with 27 carp with five over 30lb the best at 36lb6 to Bill, at one point we had 3 carp on the bank at the same time and this could have been 4 but we had just put one back a minute earlier.
At 9.30pm with Gareth’s swim choice vindicated and the sky getting blacker we wrapped up, we were all feeling a lot better with a few fish under our belts and we made the 40 kilometre trip back to Mequinenza for a well earned beer,knackered filthy and a little bit sad it was almost all over.
Here's a little present us norveners left Kev on his camera when he wasn't looking lol.
The last morning had arrived and Tony and I had a walk in to town for a breakfast where we met the others, as our flight was 5 hours earlier than the other guys they decided to spend the morning back in the first swim after Zander and of course Bill had another couple at 5lb and 8lb among several others he and Kev caught, the swim was by now in perfect nick and I wish we had a couple more days to fish it as it has a real big fish pedigree.
After breakfast Tony and I had a stroll down the front in the town and were amazed at how many snakes we spotted warming up in the sun,Adders we thought,"but i now think they were harmless Corn snakes" we tried to catch one or two by the tail but it was like trying to pull a giant lobby out of there holes in the bricks so not wanting to damage any we left them be.
All in all we had some great laughs even though the fishing was hard and we ended up with
11 Cats to 185lb
29 Carp to 41lb
30+ Zander to 11lb4oz.
The company was great Tony never got amongst the big fish but never moaned even after all the stick and banter he had to endure.
Kev had cats to 123lb and obliterated his Carp PB with a fish of 41lb and I am sure went home a happy bunny.
Bill is Brill in my eyes, you know when you admire someone from afar who has done the business and you finally get to meet them and they are not what you thought well that’s not Bill he is everything I hoped he would be, he still has the passion and drive to keep going after all his health problems and the sense of humour to go with it as well, he is a fecking legend in my eyes and I know Tony and Kev feel the same.
I had two cats but both were 100+ fish with my new pb at 185lb so I was over the moon as you can imagine, I can only apologise to the other guys for spending the whole seven days farting like a Water Buffalo and dragging Bill out the bathroom in mid shave while on the point of no return.
A last word is reserved to praise Gaz for once again putting us on fish when all around are struggling(one group with one of the big tour companies were on a 5 day blank) this guy will help you catch the fish of a lifetime I can assure you and I would not consider going with any other tour guide so if you are having your first trip or returning for another try him out at http://www.catfishtours.com/ you wont be disappointed