“A mirror-calm bay glided into view as we hiked around a dry wheat-coloured hillock.  Dry grass lined the banks as far as the eye could see and I regretted wearing the thick socks that had turned into scratchy grass seed pin cushions.  This was forgotten as ripples broke the surface and the backs of two fish rose inches from the shore. “Carp or Barbel?”, we asked each other and rushed to rig up.

A barbel slipped out of the glare and gloomy depths to sip something from the surface, while I crouched a few metres away, behind a dried out old tree.  A balbyter fly pattered down and, with bated breath, I waited.  Mirroring the morning calm and neither slowing down nor speeding up, a carp-like mouth breeched and calmly slurped down the ant.

First cast, first fish is a bad omen, but this was a great start to our search for the infamous, dry fly- gobbling, tippet-popping, hook-opening barbel that inhabit the large reservoirs of Extremadura, Spain. These reservoirs are truly massive, with the largest, Embalsa La Serena, being one of the largest in Europe and having an estimated 500 km of shoreline.

Spain has eight species of Barbus, namely B. meridionalis, haasi, bocagei, comizo, graellsii, guiraonis, sclateri and microcephalus.  All of these, apart from the first, are endemic.  The lakes we were fishing included comizo (iberian), sclateri (gypsy/andalusian) and microcephalus (shorthead).  The aim was to try to catch all three species, although the comizo truly captured my imagination with their sheer size and long protruding heads.”

Most people go to Spain in search of the sun, the beach and the food. Gerald Penkler and his better half, Suzanne, had something else in mind – a smorgasbord of Spanish barbel off the banks of the massive reservoirs of Extremadura. Read his account in issue 17 of The Mission below. For info on the fly patterns that worked, click here.