Tackling the River Ebro

The mighty River Ebro, one of Europe’s great waterways

Nothing gets Briggsy more excited than fishing the wild waters of the world, and one place that’s really grabbed his attention recently is the River Ebro in Spain.

As a carp fishery the Ebro is really starting to mature and come into its own. Of course the main attraction is still the massive catfish which patrol its murky depths, but with carp now approaching 80lb it has to be taken very seriously!

You can fish it drive-and-survive style and the yearly permit costs a mere 12€, so it won’t break the bank, but I prefer the idea of fishing with one of the many guides on there these days. My guide on this trip was Nick Shattock (ebrocarpfishing.com), whom I met several years ago in the USA. Nick is a great guide, and one who roves the River, always searching out the best areas. I knew that he would be the perfect guy to spend a few days on the River with. As it turned out it was the best decision I could’ve made as the River was coming into flood and most of the known areas were unfishable. However, Nick’s experience took us off the beaten track to an area off the main flow where we started spotting fish immediately! Up to our right was a shallow section where we could see the fish cruising around in about one metre depth.

Strong and robust end tackle was the order of the day
Yet again, the Cultured Key hookbaits proved their worth

Tactics

River fishing can be very different to other styles of carping and it’s important to approach it the right way. Nick had the main items of tackle, but I’d taken along my tackle box, alarms and a few leads. The main part of catching wild river carp is finding them; sounds obvious, but whole areas can be devoid of fish, and who knows when they might turn up? We were on the fish (well, almost on them, as they were around 200 metres to our right in an area where we couldn’t set up) so the hope was that they would move down on to our baits sooner rather than later.

The Ebro fish will eat boilies and I knew that Ditch Ballard in particular has done well of late on the Instant Action Tangerine Dreams. I’d taken some Cultured Key hookbaits with me as I thought the fish might like them, but apart from the boilies many of the fish get caught on large pellets. In recent years the catfish anglers have baited up with pellets by the sack load, and of course the carp have had their fair share of them along the way. Also maize is a proven bait for wild carp anywhere in the world and the Ebro is no different.

We baited a central area of the River with about a 10kg bucket mixture of maize, pellets and boilies. Although my river fishing has been fairly limited over the years, I’ve normally found that the deeper middle sections tend to produce the most action and indeed the bigger fish.

Rig-wise it’s all about strength and durability. The area we were set up in was fairly angler-friendly, but as a rule there will be snags and flow to contend with. Hooklinks of 35lb Combilink and size 5 Twister hooks are perfect in those situations, and I always find that a length of rig tube not only helps protect the fish but also helps protect the end tackle from any potential damage.

Action

We had to wait a few nervy hours before the first rod rattled off with a mid-double common on the end. I slipped it back after asking Nick if we were likely to see bigger ones. He just winked and smiled. The year previous on the River had been really tough and I didn’t want to put a fish back unphotographed if it might be the only one. However, it looked good for more and, sure enough, a couple more runs soon followed with fish to mid-twenties.

Setting up in confidence after finding the fish
Morning action – the bite times were quite predictable.

The afternoons were the slowest times, but that gave us a chance to explore the surrounding bits and pieces. I walked as far as I could up to my right before the water narrowed down to almost nothing. It was incredibly clear there and I watched in silence as several groups of fish came back and forth. Most were certainly in the lower weight ranges, but there were some good fish in amongst them. Indeed, Nick had taken them to well over 50lb from the same area before! Really it was a good stalking opportunity, but I’d only taken the cameras with me and not the rods. Still, I was happy enough just to watch them for the time being.

Bigger

Although we were confident that catching wouldn’t be a problem, from what I had seen it was clear that I’d need a bit of luck to get amongst the bigger fish. Sure enough, when bite time came around the first rod went off right on cue. Invariably, the first fish would be one of the smaller ones; any chance of a bigger fish would come a bit later.

At 37¼lb I was well happy with that!

Three or four bites later I hooked into something a bit heavier. I didn’t say anything, but Nick sussed it straight away. Just that extra weight with the fish staying deeper always gives it away. Eventually Nick slipped the net under a 37¼lb common. Although I’ve caught many bigger carp from other waters over the years, that one fish was good enough for me!

Of course there were still a couple of days left, and it seemed that once the fish knew where the food was they were coming back for it in greater numbers. One thing that did worry me was when I looked back at the shallows the next day, nearly all the fish had cleared out. I feared the worst, but I needn’t have worried; with a couple of very cold nights the fish had simply moved more to our left, but when it was bite time they still arrived in the swim.

The majority of the fish were low- to mid-twenties, but again in the middle of all of that I felt one that had that extra weight and managed to land the best of the trip at 39lb. I’ll be honest: I thought it was going to top 40lb, but it was good enough for me.

It was one of those trips which could have been an absolute disaster with the conditions elsewhere on the River, but in just a few days I’d caught 19 fish up to 39lb and I went home a happy man after that. The Ebro is certainly an exciting venue. You never really know what the next run will bring and many of the fish will never have seen a hook before. I can definitely see myself getting out there a lot more in the future.

One last good one to finish with at 39lb

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