Over the last 12years I have spent an awful lot of time fishing for true wild river carp, and anyone who knows me will tell you that a 50lb river carp has always been my objective. That objective was partly fulfilled when one of my clients caught a 50lb carp in October of last year. But what I have experienced over the last months fishing has really taken my expectations to a whole new level. It started just after Christmas when with two friends, Robbie and Shane, I went down to my favourite spot on the Ebro for a short two-day session; only to find that the wind was too strong - a cross breeze was making fishing impossible. We had a look around the area and found a swim that was sheltered and fishable, and after an hour we had, got our rods in and our bait out. The bait we were using was some of my own pineapple and butyric acid bollies. I have been making my own bait throughout the year and it’s been taking the river apart whenever used. End tackle wise, I was using my ever-faithful Muggas and Mantis combo, which has stuck with me over the last 12 years and which I have the utmost confidence in.
The action was slow at first, I think partly that the area had never received any of my bollies before, but after they had been in the water for 24 hours the fish started to feed and the runs started to flow with all of us getting into some nice fish. I was first into the carp with a 42lb fish pulling me 50 yards to the right, and after a five-minute fight the fish came easily to the net. Whilst photographing the fish another of my rods screamed off and I let Shane hit it. The fight was not spectacular and in minutes he had another lump in the net. On the scales it 'Went 44lb and was Shane's PB, but he was a little disappointed it had not come to his own rods. One hour later I received another run, and this fish turned out to be another low 40lb fish. Three 40s in a one-hour window - we were buzzing. My runs then dried up but the fish must have moved to the left as the boy’s rods started to sing their merry tunes. Robbie had gotten into the largest fish, a nice looking low 40 with a couple of mid 30s following. Shane, not having as much luck, only seemed to find 20lb-plus fish with his biggest going 27lb.
The next morning we had to be off but not before the boys received some more action having three runs in five minutes with two small 20s and Robbie catching a 36lb fish. As we packed away the gear we vowed to return after we had celebrated the New Year. Once again, that morning, after kneading a nasty hangover we made our way to the same spot as before, and thankfully there was no one fishing the swim. I had literally only had my rods in the water for around an hour when one of my rods 'started knocking - a true winter take. After striking I was met with some force and the clutch started to whine. After a spirited fight, net and went in first time. It looked a right lump, and on the scales it went 47lb, a new Spanish PB and equalling my St Lawrence record, so I was truly ecstatic. My fishing went downhill from there and over the next two days I only managed two small carp. The lads were getting into the fish though and landed a couple of low 40s and a host of smaller fish. With time not on our side, we made a slow pack up and I wondered to myself when I would be back.
Once back in Riba Roja I got onto to my emails to find that a group of lads from the Black Country wanted to come out at short notice so with no delay they flew out three days later and once again I found my way upriver to the same spot. Turning up at the area I was a little disappointed that someone else was in the swim, but after some twisted Spanish I found they were leaving the next day, and as we had a week ahead of us we could be patient. Whilst fishing further down the bank we could see the fish rolling in front of the other fisherman and this only served to whet our appetites I had offered the lads a guarantee that they would all catch 30lb carp, so on the next morning when Ben broke his PB with a 45lb fish, I was a little relieved, and this from a swim I didn't fancy a first.
A couple of hours later the other anglers packed up and we swiftly moved in. After spacing everybody along the bank and baiting the swims sufficiently, we sat back and waited. The action was slow in the beginning but Scott, who was on the very left of the swim, had found some carp in the margins and caught a 45lb fish during the day. During the night his margin rod was always screaming off and he landed four more carp with a 44lb fish being the best. The odd fish came out in the daytime but nothing large, and as the night approached we all felt a big one was on the cards. We were all sitting around enjoying a roasting fire when I mentioned that I had bought a bottle of wine for when we caught our first 50lb carp, me being ever the optimist. Ten minutes later Mark received a very slow take, typical of the large carp of the area. After striking, the fish woke up and went on a 50-yard run, which was unstoppable. I immediately thought he was into a catfish, but the rod was not banging in the usual catfish way. Finally he managed to coax the fish away from some upcoming snags and started to make headway on the fish. With waders donned, I made my way out into the water and waited for the approaching fish. My first glance at the fish had me squirming; it looked a beast. Not wanting to have Mark panic I kept what I saw to myself. The only thing I could say was "Don't lose this one". 15 minutes after it was first hooked and some spirited runs later it came to the net, and the size was mind blowing. It went into the net first time and I let out a cheer. The lads all looked bewildered, not knowing what they had caught. As they peered into the net they had finally realised what I was going loopy for, and when I lifted it out of the water and I felt its true weight it was clearly the largest river carp I had ever seen. Once in the cradle we could not believe the length. I had often joked that my Nash Cradle would not be big enough for a true lump after seeing many 45lb-plus carp filling it in the past, and as predicted, I had to take one of the bars out.
As I lifted the fish into the weighing sling I thought that it might even go 60lbs, but the scales don't lie - it went 59lb. I couldn't believe it; I was, indeed, awestruck. After taking several photos and wallowing in respectful admiration for this spectacular species, we carefully placed the leviathan back into the depths and watched it slowly swim away. Ultimately, and with great joy, the wine was cracked open and I could not stop dancing for hours. The rest of the night was a blur, but what a buzz. There were no more fish that night, which was some relief, as I always have to get up and put the waders on. The next morning came too soon, as a few sore heads were preoccupied with when the new day's action would commence. But we didn't need to wonder long because the fish just kept on coming and continued on over the remainder of their stay. The Bartman also started to get into some fish and he also bagged three 40s up to 471bs until his back finally went out. Unfortunately for him he got a double take on his rods and he wasn't able to get up, so Mark and Ben were up for the challenge and landed an unbelievable 51lb on one rod and a heavy 39lb respectively - another 50lb fish! This was turning out to be a mega session. If that wasn't enough, the catfish rods were also receiving action and everyone was happy. By the end of the week they have handed 2- 50lb fish, eight 40s and 12 thirties with 8 cats to 90 lbs. not monster cats for the Ebro standard. But it was January they were all welcome. The guarantee had not been a problem, with every one of the lads smashing their PBs all by 20lb plus. After all this action, I was determined to return the following week.
That next session, I was accompanied by my mate Lee, his missus Lisa, my dad and Rob. With so many of us fishing I thought that I would fish with my dad in a different area that I had prebaited at the end of our last session and leave the other area to the others - I just had an inkling of a feeling about the other spot. After setting up and getting the rods out I thought I would pop and see how the others were faring and let them know where to place their baits. On arrival at the swim I could see Lee already in the water with what looked like a nice catfish - what a start. On the scales it went 140lb, a new PB for Lee. Whilst photographing the fish we all heard my dad shouting, "NICK! “so with haste I legged it back to our swim to find my dad playing what was obviously a large carp on one of my rods. As he had it almost in I grabbed the net and the fish went in first time. In the cradle the fish looked a right lump and on the scales it went 54lb 60z. I could not believe it - if I hadn't gone round and seen the others I would have smashed my PB. Obviously though I was delighted for my dad who seven years ago caught a 53lb carp on his own with no camera, so now at last he had a picture of a true beauty. Incredible - 140 cat and 54lb carp both within the first couple of hours. What else was to come? Four or five hours later I heard some shouting coming from Lee's swim, so I started to head round when I was met by a jubilant Lee, who was jumping and leaping all over the place. Lisa had just caught a 54lb 8oz carp. I ran around and saw the beauty. It looked great in Lisa’s arms a true beast. My handmade boilies were indeed working some kind of magic. After a celebration of sorts I returned to my swim full of confidence in the upcoming night.
That evening was freezing, dropping down to minus seven, but the fish were still having it. My margin rod had five fish in the night; all 30sto 371b,and my deep-water spots had two fish; a 351b fish and a 411b 60z fish, which I sacked until the morning as it was so cold and my head torch was on its way out. When morning came and I unzipped the sack to gaze at the fish in the sunlight, and I was taken back. It looked like a fully scaled, although the scales also resembled a common. It was a stunning fish nonetheless, and I was delighted with my first river 40lb mirror.
My dad's and my swim then went quiet on us with the fish moving back in the direction of the other area. The others continued to catch though, and Rob managed a PB of 41b and other carp between him and Lee in the 30s.We did one more night in our swim but the fish had deserted us so in the morning when it had sufficiently warmed up we moved to the left of them. There was a big snag in front of us that my dad fished straight to, and I fished 40 yards to the left of it. It was a different area again but due to the snag I fancied it for some more action. Over the next couple of days everyone continued to catch, with my dad landing fish to 39lb and me landing fish to 37lb, but on our last morning I got into something special again.
Everyone else was still tucked up in their warm sleeping bags when I received a belter on my left hand rod, which woke me out of a deep sleep. The fight was great at first, but once it reached the margins it woke up. What with me having to try and get my wellies on as well it proved a laugh, but eventually I managed to slip the net under her at the third or fourth attempt. On seeing the fish in the cradle it was a cream fish, and an absolute beaut! I weighed it straight away and it went 48lb 60z - a new PB. After waking up the “Carpy Crew” (a new nickname we have given ourselves) we commenced with the photos and saw a true splendid wild river carp in my arms. What an end to a great session where in total we had 98 Big Carp Shane with the 44lb carp taken whilst busy with another 40lb fish. Six different PBs between us.
The following week we all managed another trip down to the swim, again with my dad and I fishing the snag again. Over the four days we. were there I caught 16 fish with one 451b fish and ten 30s, and my dad managed eight fish, with his biggest going 40lb 100z. But the icing on the cake was another mirror of 34lb 120z; a lovely fish that this time was a definite mirror; it looked a true old warrior fish with what looked like barnacles along its top. As I look back over the last month's fishing I realise that I now have different goals to achieve, and I am presently seeking a 60lb carp, which I have high hopes about. I have heard of larger fish coming out to 63lb just three miles upstream, so I hope to achieve that goal this year so watch this space