A Fish Down South…

Head Waters of the Oreti & the Road to the Von River Valley…

With the regular trout season coming quickly to an end, coupled with me having had a guts full of house projects, I made the executive decision to go for a decent, final fish with my mate Chester in Southland. So I packed up Gertie my 1975 Series III Land Rover & toddled South…and I mean toddled, as it was a long 9 hour road trip. After a delicious Sunday night feast & a decent catchup, we headed for bed to get a good night’s sleep so we could do battle with the Southland trout.

Southland Waters…

We awoke to a day that, weather-wise, could not have been any better – no clouds, blue skies, decently warm temps and NO WIND. So we hustled our bums out the door as New Zealand weather can change in a, well, New York minute.

Looking at the water flow charts & post a quick river inspection as we left Mossburn, we decided to fish the Upper Oreti to start the week off – hopefully with a bang. All kitted up, we fished our way up stream with modest success – a 6+ pounder to the net, but very few fish spotted in what were perfect conditions. Chester & I both thought something was definitely amiss, as our usual fish count was more in the 30-40 fish range in that amount of fishing time.

The Oreti had a wee bit of excess water in it & it had a smidgen of colour, but not enough to put fish down or off their feed. A week or so before it had had a bit of a fresh, so we decided to explore a different section of slightly calmer water on the idea that they may have migrated there to escape the rough waters.

As right decisions go, we could not have been any more righter. We found stable pools with decent water flows (not any sign of flooding like the Oreti) & best of all – trout! Working our way up the these series of perfect pools with deep cut banks was a joy – first fish took a blowfly from the surface & set off on a leaping frenzy & looked to be about 8 pounds. A beautiful take it was too — as happens with many good things as well as bad, it all seemed to happen in super slow motion. I saw him rise from the bottom, silver head shining as he opened his jaws to gulp the fly & turn & return to his post. The day finished out with 4 more fish in the 6-7 pound range – now that’s a start with a bang!

Southland Waters Continued….

The Basque Boys Off for a Fish…Wearing Our Berets (Boinas in Spanish) I Picked Up in Spain…

We awoke Tuesday to yet another stunner of a day (the rest of the week would be ditto) & decided to hit the Upper Oreti again, but work upstream from where we’d finished the day on Monday. And as good as Monday was, Tuesday & the rest of the week was as dead as a door nail. And we could not figure or sort out why…we postulated that since it was spawning season for the browns that maybe they’d gone off the feed & were just looking for sex. Or maybe the previous week’s decent flooding had pushed them to other parts of the river. We saw no fresh footprints on either day, so we could not put it down to other anglers thrashing the water before us.

Yet Another Beautiful Pool to Thrash….

Given Tuesday’s blank trout day, we opted to make the Mararoa River our designated destination as it holds a decent population of rainbows who were not ready to spawn until May, and therefore might offer us a better chance of a hookup. But we’d misread the water flow charts & it was a raging torrent when we pulled up to its banks. Oh well…we had already come this far, so we drove on to the headwaters of the Oreti in hopes we might have access to some decent water which we did, but we were also buffeted by almost gale force winds. So we retreated to another Oreti access point & Chester saved us from another blank day with a 4+ pounder to the net.

Wily Southland Trout Spotted, Cast To & Hooked!

On Thursday we decided to attack a couple sections of the middle Oreti (we had done an inspection the day before & water was crystal clear) but it proved to be as devoid of trout as our 2 previous outings. Always a bit of a puzzle – perfect weather, stunning water with loads of character but no trout. I did spot one – a weird one @ that – sitting on his belly in about ankle deep water with his dorsal fin in the air.

Gotcha!!!!

For our final day we decided that rainbows needed to be found so the Waiau River was the pick of the day. Our first section of the river was a dude, with neither one of us, despite fishing hard, touching a trout. After a great fish & chip lunch, Chester said we were going to a spot where some rainbows were guaranteed – a section of the river where a backwater joined the main river flow making it an excellent spot for rainbows to hold…positioned in the slow, zero current back water but poised to make a quick dash into the main flow for any passing comestible. And Chester fished it hard for half an hour with a streamer, throwing his entire fly line down to the backing out into the main current & letting it drift, and then swing round before stripping it back. Zilch…zero…nada. I guess that is why it’s called fishing…

P.S. – I know I ended this post by saying I guess that is why it’s called fishing, but I wanted to comment on the tragedy of the state of our waterways. In just a short 10 years our freshwater waterways (and salt water too I imagine) have witnessed severe & serious declines to the extent that many waterways are unfishable, unswimmable and certainly undrinkable. And in my opinion & I think many scientific opinions & evidence state that it is primarily because of dairy, intensive agriculture and forestry. Federated Farmers & Fonterra will scream they are not to blame for much of it, but methinks doth protest too much as the reports show, 40% of our waterways flow through rural agricultural & dairy land while only 1% flow through urban areas. I see photos almost daily of cows standing in rivers, streams or lakes having a big piss & poo fest, algae blooms in waterways from low water levels (over irrigation extraction) & massive fertiliser & chemical runoffs and massive sediment clouds in waterways from poorly planned developments & outright idiotic forestry works. And it boggles the mind that New Zealand could have and still does treat its most precious resource – fresh, drinkable water – so tragically bad and to add insult to injury, even sells it to the Chinese for pennies on the dollar to be exported. How much dumber than a fence post do you have to be to not only permit that, but promote it? They say water is the new oil & I think they are right. New Zealanders have a history of passivity but  I can only hope the average punter in New Zealand is finally getting mad & will not take it anymore and gets up off their arse and does something…even if it is just to write an email or letter & let the morons in charge know that you care and want things to change.

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Fishing New Zealand’s High Country Lakes with UK Charlie…

Lake Georgina…

I kept getting tagged by mates in a Facebook post by a local Lyttelton woman who was in search of fly fishing folks to take her visiting UK Dad out for a New Zealand fish. I decided to offer up my services if time & plans allowed & was shortly in communication with UK Charlie.

One minor hiccup was that UK Charlie is a ‘lake person’ whilst I am pretty much a 99.9% ‘river person’. Not that I wouldn’t mind at all taking him to a lake it was just that my lake knowledge & expertise is next to non-existent so I had not a clue as to where & when to go. Hit up a mate of mine who is not only a serious lake man but had spent the better part of this season fishing the lakes that surround Lake Coleridge. He messaged me with some serious details on each of the lakes & with those facts in hand (coupled with a Fish & Game notice of two 15 pound rainbows recently released), we made a bee line for Lake Georgina….

Stunning day @ Lake Georgina…

UK Charlie & I could not have asked for a sweeter day – the drive up was a stunner with UK Charlie regularly blurting out – “This is real New Zealand scenery…” and a day that was near on perfect – blue sky & sun, no wind and fish!

As we kitted up we were both a bit amazed at the level of trout activity already in progress – in any direction you cast your eye fish were jumping…lots of wee to mid size ones but quite a few big boys too. All morning long UK Charlie & I were into fish & it did not seem to make a damn bit of difference what fly you had on…I started with a Parachute Adams, caught fish. Switched to a Blue Blow Fly, caught fish. Put on a Yellow Humpy, caught fish. And UK Charlie was having the same success with a succession of oddly named UK flies like Boobies & Buzzers (?). UK Charlie was the first to connect with a couple of respectable fish – a decent 3-4 pound rainbow that I was able to capture in the photos below.

Fish On!

We decided to sit down for lunch @ 1:30pm and as we ate & talked, we noticed the surface activity has slowed considerably. So I re-rigged by shortening up my leader to 5 feet & putting on a bead head Wooly Bugger streamer to probe the deeper part of the lake centre. I had no action for the better part of an hour, hurtling my heavy rig to the lake centre & stripping it back…when all of a sudden there was a sharp tug & then nothing. A guide mate of mine taught me that when fishing streamers, many times the big fish will hit the fly hard to try & stun what they think is a fish & then circle back to eat it. So your best plan of attack is once you have the first big tug, stop stripping & let the fly sink…which is exactly what I did & all of a sudden there was another BIG tug & an anchor on the end of my fly line. And it was an anchor that made straight for the lake centre despite as much pressure as I could muster & my rod doubled over. UK Charlie just kept saying “That’s a bloody big fish…” but we never did see it – after just a minute or so of struggle my streamer came free with a chunk of lake moss the size of a rugby ball attached. One of the 15 pounders I do believe…

Lake Marymere…

UK Charlie was keen to go out again before his return to the UK in early March, so again a conundrum – what lake??? Just by pure accident, I’d had an reupholstery fellow visit my house to quote on some work & we got to chatting as he was a serious fly fisherman and he told me the story of his daughter. She was having a bit of a rough patch so he offered to take her fly fishing for the first time. He took her to one of his favourite lakes – Lake Marymere – where just after her 3rd or 4th cast with a fly rod she managed to hook & land (on 4 pound tippet) the fish pictured below.

Typical Lake Marymere Trout….

Reading up a bit about Lake Marymere it is a lake known for its big trout – both browns & rainbows. UK Charlie & I had yet again a perfecto day for fly fishing & we were just hoping the fish would co-operate…

Well the fish are there alright – we saw at least a dozen or more like the fish above, cruising about 2 rod lengths off shore & not wanting to give us the time of day, almost thumbing their fins at us daring us to make a cast. Which we did, and which they completely ignored. I am not at all sure how you actually might catch these fish – as well as we seeing them, they could clearly see us & there is next to no cover to hide behind except along one shore.

Lake Marymere & UK Charlie…

But it was still an awesome day out all the same, with typical New Zealand scenery making the day and a gorgeous memory for UK Charlie…until next time Charlie!!!

Fly Fishing Southland New Zealand….Nice To Be Home.

The Stunning Upper Oreti River, Southland, New Zealand

It’s nice to be ‘back in the saddle’ again after many months of a motionless fly rod. I last wet my fly line in León, Spain back in July 2017 but our move back to New Zealand quickly took on a tsunami life of its own, wiping out most available free time. Returning to New Zealand in October/November 2017 our daily lives became dominated (and still are) by various issues related to our house, Gertie the 1975 Series III Land Rover, our super dog Billie the Jack Russell and many other hiccups to sort out. 

We have not reached ‘peak chaos’ yet as a friend of ours so accurately described our status, a space where we will begin to feel the gentle (or still bumpy) descent into some form of normality.  But it most definitely felt like I needed a break to thrash some decent trout waters. And I am blessed with a marvellous fly fishing mate Chester (and wife Gillian) who reside in Southland and on their property they have an estupendo granny cottage which is about as perfect a fly fishing crash pad as you could ever want…and they are grand hosts to boot.

After a good night of catchup chat (and a few too many vinos as you do), we arose to our first day of fishing to absolute shite. An ugly Southerly was raging about the place, pissing rain combined with freezing temperatures – an environment which under more normal circumstances we’d have hung home. But we were keen (Chester had not been out this season either) and modestly hungover, so off we plundered into the grey mists, stupidity reigned.

The Oreti was first in the queue and the weather actually worsened the closer we got…we decided on our ‘usual’ beat & plunged into the whipping winds, horizontal rains and numbing temps. Mate Chester had wandered around his kitchen prior to our departure continually repeating the phrase “Do not forget your boots, do not forget your boots” which did the trick – but he forgot his rain jacket. So periodically throughout the day he made a hasty retreat to the truck to get a blast from the heater. I reached peak cold a few hours later when I could no longer tie a fly on due to my violently shaking hands. And the fishing was just like the weather – shite. I raised a fish on the first pool, on my second or third cast & that was the day. Chester irritated a decent brown with a streamer but the day’s fish count (not catch) was a total of 4. Very strange for this Oreti section as a more normal number is closer to 40 or more…could it just be the weather?

Equally Awesome Mararoa River, Southland, New Zealand

Day 2 saw us back @ the Oreti with a chalk & cheese kind of day compared to the first – sun, blue skies, little wind and almost warm temperatures. We fished the next section up & with near perfect conditions for spotting, we were hoping to see & of course catch more fish. But the river gods were not so kind – though the weather was totally different the fishing was still shite – I raised & hooked one on a blowfly which quickly achieved long distance release and Chester did not do much better. And again, with perfect conditions, we saw a total of 4 fish. Our working theory was that the previous week’s floods had possibly pushed the trout down river to other sections…

Too Crowded Oreti Beach…

As we wound up our second day of water thrashing, the back of my casting hand had developed quite a swollen muscle lump as it has been 4 or more years since I had last cast a 6 weight rod for 5-6 hours (mostly 2 or  3 or 4 weights in England & Spain). So we opted to have a rest day and dose myself with some anti-inflammatories in the hopes all would come right to finish the week out on the Mararoa River. We busied ourselves with Chester’s weekly supply runs to Invercargill, a drive along the oh so crowded Oreti Beach (not) & a damn decent fish & chips lunch.

Top Left: Southland Humour with Mircowave Mailbox; View up the Mararoa Valley; Fish On!; Kitted Up & Ready for Action!

For our last day on the water, all had come right as my hand was sort of back to normal and the weather had stuck on the nice side of the spectrum with sun, decent temps but just a wee bit of gusty winds. On our previous 2 days fishing on the Oreti we saw no other anglers, just cyclists on the new cycle trail. But the Mararoa was another kettle of fish – first 2 access points had been snatched by anglers and what looked like a guide prepared to climb the Himalayas.

We snagged the next access point & we hit the water quick snap & were very happy to see that the didymo levels were amazingly tolerable as after a decent flooding you can find it coming down in sheets. But once again, the fish numbers were depressingly low – I managed to hook & land one decent 4-5 pound brown on a blowfly and Chester hooked a 4 pound rainbow on a streamer. But other than a few tiddlers (Chester also landed a 1 pounder & I had aggressive smacks by wee ones) that was the day. I guess that’s why it is called fishing…

Hoping for some more piscatorial adventures before this season wraps up in April…

Fly Fishing Los Ríos Norte de León…

Río Curueño, León

I have always had the rivers of Castilla y León on my ‘to fish’ list but last season was literally a washout. My mate Asier & I tried to go several times but his good León fishing friend waved us away as pretty much all the rivers were in flood and pretty much stayed that way for the season. So I was very happy to see the León rivers come right this year and be in mint condition if not a wee bit low. So I packed up Gertie, my Series III Land Rover, and made a bee line for the hills north of León…

Río Curueño…

My primary source of information or guidance for this escapade was an article in Eat-Sleep-Fish, a free web-zine put out by my friend & super UK guide Pete Tyjas of the Devon School of Fly Fishing, that recounted a fly fishing adventure on León’s rivers. The Río Curueño was awarded high marks in the article for its abundant amount of trout and this was backed up by an article in Danica, Spain’s one (as far as I know) fly fishing magazine.

It is VERY difficult in Spain to find any useful information about where, when & how to fish. And you need information because Spain is an extremely complicated country to fish in with numerous licensing requirements, special permits to access to private or managed water (called cotos), vastly varied seasons and regulations, etc… Despite hundreds of Internet searches I was able to track down ONLY 2 books (and a few web sites) on where to fly fish in Spain, but one, Dónde y Cómo Pescar En León by Eduardo García Carmona, is outstanding – only drawback is you need to be able to read & understand Spanish.

As a 3rd backup information source I have struggled to use some of the books written by Englishman Philip Pembroke – his heart is in the right place but to be perfectly candid, they pretty much suck. They are poorly written & edited (or not), the maps are almost undecipherable and much of the information is just plain wrong or mis-leading. On the positive side they do not cost much and they are in English.

Centre of the World for Coq de León…

I based myself at the lovely Casa Candana in the pueblo of La Candana de Curueño which happens to be the centre of the world for the famous Coq de León feathers (there is actually a feather museum up the road in La Vecilla de Curueño). Casa Candana is perfectly situated to access the Ríos Curueño (it flows past the Casa Candana & is free to fish pretty much from La Vecilla all the way down the valley), Torio, Porma, Esla, Bernesga & many more with a short to modest drive. And the owners of Casa Candana are sweet as and serve up an awesome start-to-the-day breakfast.

Bar La Pluma (Only Bar in Town) & Free Pintxos…

To say that La Candana de Curueño is a small village is quite the understatement – it has 2 streets (one is simply called ‘the street behind the church’) and one taberna called, naturally, La Pluma (The Feather) which also appears to double as the local store because there isn’t a store in La Candana…or any of the other pueblos up & down the valley.

Rush Hour in La Candana de Curueño…

All Star Fly Fisherman’s Breakfast @ Casa Candana….

In my first full day on the Río Curueño, I combined some fly fishing with a wee bit of reconnaissance to suss out where the free (libre) fishing spots were and what the stretches or beats (tramos in Spanish) looked like in terms of fishability. I came across a lot of superb water which confirms León’s reputation as  one of the best places to fish in Spain and I believe it has the largest amount of free fishing water of any of the autonomous communities (there are 17).

Río Curueño, León

I fished 5 or 6 different beats my first day that were quite varied in character – below the gorge (Hoces de Valdeteja) you will find numerous sweet, well defined pools (top picture above) with some faster & rockier runs in between. Here the river is about 20-30 metres across with the deepest depth being about thigh high. Hooked a pile of trout with 2 or 3 hitting the 1-1.5 pound mark & beautifully coloured…Above the gorge it becomes a tad bit more bouldery and turns more toward pocket water fishing. The Río Curueño has 2 cotos – Coto de Vildapiélago and Coto de Tolibia.

Río Curueño @ the Source – High Mountain Fishing…

The next day I decided to head to the source of the Río Curueño for a fish and then work my way back down river. As you would expect, the river narrows significantly here to no more than 5 or so metres across (or way less in some cases) and the banks are, for the most part, completely covered in bushes or small trees. Some precision casting is called for or you’ll lose all your flies – after 2-3 hours I caught 6 small fry and was a bit surprised concerning the lack of trout as usually these less fished waters are chocka with very stupid trout. And these types of waters are mostly ignored by fishing folks as: (a) the fish are not big or big enough to take home for a feed; (b) the casting is a bit tricky & frustrating and (c) moving & navigating up river with all the bush is a serious hassle.

So I toddled down river to a free stretch that runs between the pueblos of Tolibia de Abajo and Lugueros. Had a delightful couple of hours here with 2 trout to hand that tipped the scale at just over a pound (or half a kilo) & they were feisty as! Now it was time for some lunch…

Superb Menú del Día @ Los Argüellos: Top Left – Vino del Día; Local Hooch; Salad of Scrambled Eggs, Shrimp & Young Garlic; Veal Cheeks – Super Yum!

I was a bit of a starv’n Marvin at this point as the last real meal I had eaten had been Sunday night (it was now Wednesday) as La Pluma bar only serves pintxos when you order a drink & Casa Candana was closed to go shopping in León. I first stopped in a popular, local taberna but when I inquired about some food I was told ‘later’ – it was now 2PM – so I asked how much later & was told 3PM! So I drove on to the next taberna or what I thought was a basic taberna (Los Argüellos) only to walk into a super swanky place – in my full on fly fishing kit of boots, neoprene socks, gravel guards, polypropylene tights & shorts and an Akubra fedora. They wanted to put me in the dining room but I managed to talk them into letting me eat in the courtyard…and what a meal! They offered an outstanding menú del día (3 courses, wine & coffee) for the pittance of €12 – score!

Post my superb lunch, I tackled several of the stretches of the Río Curueño that run through the gorge. Gorge fishing is not my favourite cuppa tea though I know (especially in New Zealand) it can be superb if you have the right conditions. It can be frustrating putting in at one point only to fish 4 or 5 pools and then find when you round the corner you cannot go any further due to deep water and there is no way to get around it as you are bookmarked by sheer rock walls. So you retreat…and repeat.

The next day I decided to test some new water – the Río Torio – which was an easy 25-30 minute drive west & then south. I parked up riverside in a pueblo called Pedrún de Torio & I knew there would be a weir here (I hate weirs), but Googe maps showed a road that paralleled the river for quite someway. Well, there is no road but I managed to walk across the weir to a footpath on the other side & make my way a decent distance up river to find – another effing weir! Pushed on to some good water & noticed the trout were taking dries – so put on a #20 Royal Wulf (all purpose bug) & made a perfect cast to drift it under some overhanging bushes and just when I lifted my rod to avoid snagging the fly – bam! A serious tug on the other end! Best fish of the trip (pic below) weighing in @ 2+ pounds (1+ kilo) – a seriously fat boy!

Roman Bridge over the Río Torio (and big trout); Río Torio; Best Trout of the Trip from Río Torio – Weighed in at 1+ Kilo or 2+ Pounds…

I left the Río Torio @ Pedrún and headed north to another free section near the pueblo Serrilla. But first – lunch! Another menú del día deal to make ya squeal @ Las Portillas @ a price shattering €9! Had a quick chat to 2 local council workers & they gave me instructions on how to get to a Roman bridge which marked the start of the free section. I was able to park up just short of the Roman bridge & slowly crept across, scanning up & down river for trout when I spotted the biggest trout I have seen in Spain. He/she easily weighed in at 5-6 pounds (sort of normal for New Zealand) but was located directly under the Roman bridge, cruising a beat in shin deep, super calm water. Impossible to fish to…

Top Left: Gertie The Land Rover; Ensalada Ruso (Mayo & Shrimp); Lomo de Cerdo (Pork Loin)

Brought to hand a decent number of trout on this free stretch, but then the wind & weather changed & I could hear the deep rumble of thunder a ways away…and some flashes! Done & dusted for this trip…

Fly Fishing: Los Pirineos de Aragón – Estupendo!

The Fun Starts for Texas Cari…Out on a Pintxo Stroll in Hondarribia!

Many months ago I received an email from my good UK mate Pete, a great fly fishing guide @ Devon School for Fly Fishing, asking me for the OK to forward my contact details on to a woman in Texas named Cari who was interested in the possibilities of fly fishing in Spain. I have been living in Spain for 2 years and I am well acquainted with the mysterious vagaries & deep black holes you can encounter in sorting out a Spanish piscatory adventure, so I was more than happy to be of any help…

But as weeks and then months went by, with round after round of email exchanges with advice to do this or not do to that, it appeared to me the simple solution was for Cari to come to me & we would fish together. Problem solved…

Cari flew into Hondarribia on a Tuesday arvo in June & after settling in, we headed out for the 50 cent tour of Hondarribia & of course, a pintxo stroll. Our next day was spent in the Big Smoke of San Sebastián and then it was time to get serious – pack up Gertie the Land Rover & get fishing!

Río Ara, Torla-Ordesa, Aragón

We were headed to Aragón where we had at our disposal the Ríos Ara, Cinca, Cinqueta, Aragón & Veral. But first, we had a mission – to reach the Environment Office in the pueblo of Boltaña before closing time (2PM but Gertie is a tad slow) to try & procure several permits to fish some of the managed or private water called Cotos. And as usual with Spanish fishing, it was a bit of a palava : extended conversations in Spanish per what cotos were available, several phone calls were made, lots of paperwork & document checking, then a brisk run to the local bank before closing time (2PM) to pay our fees & a mad dash back to the Environment Office to pop through the door at 1:57PM…Phew!!! Mission accomplished.

Cari’s First Spanish Trout on the Río Ara Alto…

After a bit of lunch, we had a substantial amount of fishable day left so we headed for a free fishing stretch on the Río Ara above the pueblo of Torla-Ordesa. We kitted up & climbed down the steep path to find ourselves abreast of a typical, high mountain river with big boulders, fast water and pools of pocket water. Cari confessed she felt a bit daunted to fish this water as it was a totally new style to her, but a few minutes of instruction & demonstration & she was away & brought her first Spanish trout (of many) to hand!

5 Minutes of Fame…Just Starting Río Cinca & Spanish Fishing Film Crew Shows Up!

Our first full day of fishing began on the Coto de Bielsa on the Río Cinca…we arrived at the start of the beat, parked up and started to assemble our gear when a Spanish film crew appeared out of nowhere & asked if we’d mind being interviewed for a Spanish fishing program…why not? A very amusing exchange transpired where I was given ample opportunity to trash Spanish fly fishing (in a humorous way) with regards to its bureaucracy & limitless paperwork (I have 7 fishing licenses). Hoping to catch the program…

Río Cinca, Coto Social Captura y Suelta, Biesla, Aragón

Ready to go, we started to work our way up some marvellous looking water – crystal clear, good current flows & depth and hopefully lots of trout! Well, we were not disappointed – each of us connected with a decent drop of trout and some running to a 8-10″ range…but lots of fun wee ones. After a couple of hours we bumped into some other anglers upstream (the coto allows 6 anglers a day) so we retreated to devise an alternate plan…

Top: Río Ara Below Tributary Río Cinqueta; Río Cinqueta, Saravillo, Aragón

We opted to drive back down river to where the Río Cinqueta joins the Cinca & scrambled down to have a go at several of its stretches but it was not very productive water and a bit of a difficult wade…so on to a lower stretch of the Río Ara. We had some decent hookups here…but it was getting late so we headed back to our home base of Sarvisé & a cold ‘jarra‘ (or 2) of Alambra beer to finish the day @ Chill Out Los Caballos, the only bar in town…

Asador Ordesa – Pulpo Enslada & Ventresca Tuna / Pimientos & Onion Ensalada

Top: Duck Confit; Suckling Lamb Ribs & Taters; Cari…

Since lunch that day had only consisted of a few muesli bars, some nut mix & a packet of cecina, we decided to hit the local Asador Ordesa for a proper meal. A tad extravagant for 2 fly fishing folks, but we felt we had earned it…we were the first & only people in the dining room for the better part of an hour (it being after 9pm) but tucked into 2 monstrous starters – Ensaladas de Pulpo (Octopus) & Ventresca de Atún…estupendo!

And both of us craved a decent dose of protein, Cari had the Duck Confit with potatoes cooked in the duck fat – the only way – and I went for the Costillas de cordero de Broto a la brasa (Lamb ribs on the grill) – mos def hit the spot. Home to bed…

Gertie The Land Rover Did Her Job, Now It Is Cari’s Turn To Catch Some Trout!

Up bright & early the next day (Saturday), we toddled off to our second chance to fish some more private water (Río Ara) on the Coto de Torla-Bujaruelo. A modestly nerve wracking drive up a single lane, shingle road that in the off season is often closed to traffic or requires a serious 4×4 & careful negotiation. But we made it and parked & geared up for a day of fishing – stupendous weather too…

Río Ara, Coto Social Captura y Suelta, Torla-Bujaruelo, Aragón

Stunningly beautiful – Cari blurted out it was the prettiest place she’d ever been in her life…I concurred. Gin clear waters, impressive mountain peaks & lush woods…but we’re here for trout! Well we were not to be disappointed on any count – every pool was good for 4-5 or more trout…granted, wee ones but awesome fun still the same.

Río Ara, Coto de Torla-Bujaruelo, Aragón

Río Ara, Coto de Torla-Bujaruelo, Aragón

Río Ara, Coto de Tora-Bujaruello, Aragón…Muchas Truchas!

We fished our way through numerous pools during the morning but about mid-day we bumped up against a couple of other anglers so we reviewed out coto map & saw that above a non-fishable gorge section, the river again opened up into a valley. So off we went in search of a track or path to the other side…after many false starts & dead ends, we climbed a super steep track to reach another track that for all intents & purposes felt like THE track…we queried several folks that confirmed we were spot on, so on we went.

Río Ara Muy Alto – Top of the Beat…Serious High Mountain Fly Fishing…Cari Pulled 5 Trout Out of that Pool!

And finally our nirvana was within sight…post a wee bit of scramble down some shingly slopes, we were again on fishable waters. Although a short section, it was chocka with lovely pools…Cari pulled 5 trout out of the last pool before becoming a gorge again…then the long walk home – we covered more than 20km that day!

Río Ara High Mountain Scenes…

Our last day together we had planned to hit the Ríos Aragón & Veral as a fishing mate Oscar said they were waters that usually held some bigger fish. It being Sunday, and good weather, the Spanish pescadores were out in force. We struggled to find a vacant stretch but eventually managed & had a fun morning/early afternoon hooking some wee ones.

We then turned our sights & rods on the Río Veral, and parked up on the free stretch below the pueblo of Biniés. The river seemed in low flow but we gave it a thrash for a few hooks ups but the higher up we moved, the more like a jungle it became where casting was near impossible…so we called it a day on the Veral & decided to hit a good, free stretch of the Río Ara just below our town of Sarvisé.

Río Ara Final Casts…

Slowly cruising the mountain road parallel to the river, we found our designated access point to the Río Ara on the Coto de Broto. We ambled down the track to the riverside & waded across to the opposite & fishable side. This section of the Ara was about as close to a New Zealand river as I have seen in Spain. Pool after pool, after perfectly formed pool of impressive water. I fished it blind & hard, (like I would a New Zealand pool if I were to fish it blind), methodically quartering the river & then moving up a rod length…but nothing. But not at all surprised either as my Spanish experience has been as much about not catching or seeing trout as catching them. After 2-3 hours & many pools later, the dark clouds started to move down the valley…then the drops began to fall. A retreat to our local pub for a jarra was in order…where it began to hose down…fly fishing finished!

Aragón Scenes…

It was a stupendous trip where fish & the weather gods fully co-operated…we both enjoyed ourselves & had no arguments at all with the scenery. Hoping to see Cari on the Other Side (New Zealand) when I return in September….

Fly Fishing Asturias & Cantabria…


We recently went on our second big adventure to lovely Asturias where Hounds #1 & #2 planned to hit the beaches while I thrashed a bit of Spanish water in search of trout. Asturias can be a tough fish, as many of the rivers close to the coast are also classified as highly prized salmon rivers for which the permits or licenses are obtained via a lottery system that you had to have put your name in the ‘hat’ the previous October. And, as they should, they heavily favour locals. And in some of my own research into Asturian rivers I found that for every 100 salmon beats you will typically find only 4 or 5 trout beats, often on wee tributaries (most likely dried up in mid to late summer) to the real deal like the Rivers Deva or Cares or Sella. And given I only had 2 or 3 days to fish, I made an executive decision to hire a guide to cut to the quick & catch some trouts rather than fritter my time away in search of elusive river access & fish. I chose Oscar at A Mosca Cantabria and he was estupendo! Hard to go wrong with Spain’s two time World Champion (been in to top 4 four times and placed in the top 10 every year for the past 10 years) and a guide with extensive and intimate knowledge of the rivers, their current conditions and, most importantly, where the trout are.

As we head into our final stretch of time here in Spain, I am trying to squeeze in as much fly fishing on Spanish rivers as is humanly possible. I am now the proud owner (sort of) of 6 fishing licenses as you need one for any or all of the Spanish provinces that you want to fish (if you are a Spanish native you can obtain a multi-province license which covers I think 7). I am thinking about writing an article on the Spanish fishing license debacle as it is as close to Hell on Earth as you can get…

Some of the Trouts Caught in the Deva via Czech/Spanish Nymphing and Dry Fly & Dropper

When Oscar picked me up for our first outing, he explained that given the VERY mild winter where there was virtually no snow, combined with an extremely dry Spring in Cantabria and Asturias, that many of the rivers he wanted to fish had seriously low water levels and were close to unfishable. So his plan for the day was to head to the pueblo of Potes near the Picos de Europa to fish a catch & release section of the River Deva. The Deva’s source is in the Picos de Europa where the high valley that the Deva originates from actually faces South. The South had had a decent amount of rain recently so the Deva’s level and flow were good.

We rigged up 2 rods – one for Czech/Spanish nymphing and another as a dry fly & nymph dropper. As most fly fishing folks know, to say the Czech/Spanish/French nymphing technique is productive is truly the definition of an understatement. We soon had a posse of trout to the net but as we cruised into the afternoon we made the decision to: (a) head a wee bit farther out of Potes, up river for a less urban/more wild setting and (b) to have lunch.

Río Deva, near Potes, Asturias: Top Left – Me; Guide Oscar & Mate Dario; High Mountain Flows of the Deva

After a couple of hours or so fishing the upper Deva stretch (with some success), Oscar decided we should head 45 minutes due East to the river Nansa where as early to mid evening rolled in, the Big Boys came out to feed. We arrived at the river bank shortly after 8PM and scanned the river for any activity. Not much to see but Oscar said it usually kicks off into high feeding gear just after 9PM.

And almost like a trout alarm clock, when the face of my watch registered 9:15 the sips & sucks began to happen. Big sucks and sips…clearly gulps. But the trout were clearly wary from fishing pressure – I had one decent take but my reaction time @ 9:30-9:45pm was a tad slow & the Spanish trout are VERY, VERY quick, so no Big Boy prize…

The next day the weather turned ugly as it was forecast to be a day of rain…and more rain. And for once in their sorry forecasting lives they were 100% right. Oscar said we would head for some other stretches of the river Nansa, a bit higher up where the river was narrower with pocket water & flat stretches to fish.

River Nansa on a VERY Wet Wednesday: Top Left – Best Trout of the Day; River Nanasa & more River Nansa (Almost looks like New Zealand) and final Fish Shot.

Despite the despicable weather conditions (I was soaked to the bone), we fished and we caught some trout…and my best fish of the trip – who rose from the dark, deep water depths to a perfectly cast & drifted (if I say so myself) CDC dry tied by Oscar. Sweet fish, great fly fishing & estupendo guide Oscar – muchas gracias!

Fly Fishing The Pyrenees

As I may have mentioned in my previous blog on fly fishing in Spain, the season is or can be a short one. With that in mind & fall / winter quickly marching in, I decided I really wanted to have a go at some of the high mountain rivers in the Pyrenees. A wee bit of research and I was in touch with Chema @ Danica Guides. And as luck would have it, he and his lovely wife Marta also run the phenomenal La Casa del Río hotel. So we were off…FYI – this blog post will be more pictures & less text as I was also blessed with an ace photographer as well as a professional trout guide!

Anywhere is a long drive in my 1975 Series III Land Rover (Gertie) so we tried to make the most of it and stopped off at various sites for a look see and often a cold cerveza. Hound #1 requires a few piss & poo stops so we pulled over at this lovely looking reservoir where quite a few folks were either having a dip (it was a warm one) or fishing. Litter is a big problem in just about every place we have lived, but I think sometimes Spain is vying for the global championship.

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Contrasts…

The very final stretch of our travels presented the Land Rover with a wickedly winding gorge road that paralleled the Ésera River the whole way – sometimes several hundred yards/metres above with shear drop offs that gave Hound #2 the willies.

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Scary Gorge Drive…

But we made it safe & sound and received a warm & wonderful welcome at La Casa del Río….we were most def ready for a beverage or three, some comestibles and a good bed!

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Estupendo!

A sign I like to see upon arrival! And BTW, La Casa del Río is also very dog friendly which gets a solid 2 thumbs and 1 paw up from this crew.

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Good Sign To See…

The weather could not have been more co-operative and we awoke our first morning to a stunningly sunny, bright blue sky day…and a estupendo breakfast which was exactly the food fortification we would need for our full on day of activities.

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Two Brothers From Different Mothers….Guide Chema & Me

The river water in the high mountains of the valle de Benasque is stunningly pretty – clear as the water that I find in my home rivers in New Zealand. But the fly fishing style is a bit different than most of New Zealand fishing as these rivers are quite bouldery with small pools of pocket water. It can be difficult wading at times, and much of the actual fishing is dapping a dry fly with a nymph dropper on the water surface with very little fly line out, mostly leader.

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A Beauty of a River

One of the things I had to learn when I moved from New Zealand to the UK and now Spain is that the trout are damn quick on the take. It is a common piece of advice or practice in New Zealand that when you see a trout take the fly, you need to say “God Save the Queen” (or the real Kiwi phrase – “Bloody Hell – a fish”) so as not to strike too early. Not here…

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Small Pocket Water Fishing…Small Fish

On numerous occasions during my two days of fishing with Chema we had some challenging boulder scrambles and tricky casting perches.

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Tricky Waterfall Climb…Then Trickier Perch

As the first day wound down to a close, Chema took me to a section of the Ésera River lower in the valley where it flattens out a bit and looks a bit more like your normal river. We stayed at it until dark or I was unable to see the fly and were rewarded with some very solid hookups & fish!

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Best Catch of the Day…and Night.

As I mentioned above, the quality of the river water struck a New Zealand chord with me as did much of the flora and fauna (of which Chema was supremely knowledgable)…just a wee squint of my eyes and I could have been fishing one of my fave rivers Down Under.

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Fishing for Trout in Hobbitt Country…

And Hound #1 is a faithful wee boy – it’s just that rivers and fast moving & sometimes deep water is not really his thing. So he and Hound #2 joined us for a wonderful lunch each day for a chance to recharge the batteries and then they were off to hike the valley & mountains.

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Hound & Fisherman….

We also greatly appreciated the fact that besides giving me 2 excellent days of fly fishing in the Pyrenees, Chema organised the day’s activities to easily include Hounds #1 & #2 in the fun. Muchas gracias…

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Happy Pyrenees Crew – Perfecto Weather!

Halfway through the second day I, by George, think I got it, the pocket pool fishing & it was fun…

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Pool Pocket Fishing…

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Just One More…Please.