We might have travelled to Iran for shots at big mangar (king barbus) with fly (read the full story of that trip in issue 10 of The Mission), but my fascination resided primarily in the myriad cyprinids I read about in scientific publications on pre-trip Google searches. There was also no shortage of strange fishes cruising the margins while scouting the banks for good looking structure that may attract mangar. While Ewan concentrated on the main target, Gerald and I were easily distracted by lesser ‘things’ swimming past our vantage points.

In some of the bays that seemed devoid of mangar, there were so many other species one could spend hours targeting them with tiny nymphs and small streamers. These are some of the fishes we managed to tick during the visit:

Chub

The chub that Gerald caught was more likely the Oriental chub (Squalius orientalis); he intercepted cruising chub with small nymphs and streamers, just like one would cast ahead of lively rainbow trout patrolling the margins:

The features of the numerous chub that Gerald caught by sight fishing from cliffs corresponded to that of the oriental species, Squalius orientalis.

 

Capoeta

I managed to catch two fish that resembled our smallmouth yellowfish, however, although they seemed as aggressive and similar in shape they had many, tiny black spots on them:

This fish was hooked in the most bizarre manner on a large streamer fished late in the evening; a few days later I caught another one of these fish in exactly the same manner, large streamer stuck in it’s palate.

This interesting ‘yellowfish’ may according to my searches be Capoeta trutta.

 

Cyprinion

While sitting above a rocky dropoff, patiently waiting for a king barbus to pass by, I spotted small schools of pale barbs ‘dancing’ back and forth along the rocky edge; it didn’t take long for me to descend a small hot spot nymph and although it took some time hooking one of these shy barbs I eventually figured out to delay the strike with a few seconds and numerous Cyprinion watsoni came to hand:

 

Alburnus

The bays in front of camp had many long, slender and very active barbs hunting along the surface; they looked like a cross between our local papermouth and barred minnows and were as aggressive as these smaller predatory fishes. They were great fun to catch while spending time ‘resting’ in camp:

Although several Alburnus spp. occur in Iran, I believe the ones we caught closely resembled Alburnus hohenackeri and Alburnus mossulensis. We caught them on almost any fly that fitted in their mouths.

 

Chiselmouths?

In most of the shallow, rocky bays we saw schools of spotted fish spawning on gravel beds, daisy chaining near the surface in shade or grubbing on rocks; I managed to hook two of these ‘unknown’ fishes and they resembled our local chiselmouth species:

Photo by Gerald Penkler

Unfortunately I could not identify these fish as they did not look like any of the Iranian fishes depicted in images on the internet.

 

Carp

Although not indigenous to Iran, common carp (Cyprinus carpio) were stocked in many of Iran’s dams and rivers due to its popular demand as an angling species. We frequently saw carp feeding along shallow mud banks and I gladly threw a Zulu at them (and to my surprise one of the carp I caught ate a zonker meant for a mangar):

 

Shabout/Shirbot

Shirbot (Arabibarbus grypusa long, slender carp-like fish, which we saw all over the dam) was the second largest indigenous ‘barb’ living in the dam. They were quite tricky to fool on fly and also fought incredibly hard on light tackle; a fish I would certainly return to Iran for regardless of the other species:

Photo by Gerald Penkler

Photo by Gerald Penkler

Photo by Gerald Penkler

 

Mangar/king barbus

Interestingly, there are a few mangar species in Iran, the biggest is of course the so called ‘king barbus’. While searching the internet for other Iranian barbs and freshwater fishes I came across a collection of mangar species, including a smaller species that looked very much like some of the ‘juvenile’ king barbus (Luciobarbus esocinus) that Ewan caught; I therefor believe that the lucky bugger not only caught the well known king barbus, but also very likely the less famous Bulatmai barbel (Luciobarbus capito):

Some of the smaller mangar that Ewan caught did not look like the juvenile king barbus we saw at all and I suspect that they were in fact Bulatmai barbel.

Ewan Naude with his best king barbus caught on fly.

 

Gerald Penkler with his king barbus on fly.

 

Some of the references used:

http://www.fishbase.org/identification/RegionSpeciesList.php?resultPage=6&c_code=364&SortBy=family

https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Squalius-orientalis-Tajan-River-Iran-Photograph-by-Hamed-Mousavi-Sabet_fig26_284360685