4 a.m. on Friday the 3rd October, saw ten of the Thames Gateways intrepid catfish hunters, meeting at Stansted, to catch the flight to Reus, Spain for a weekend of hog hauling on the middle stretches of the mighty River Ebro, home of some of Europes largest wels catfish. What started off as a chat at one of the regions meetings, was now a reality as we checked in, off loaded the fishing tackle, and headed to various parts of the departure lounge for our pre flight nuptials......some headed for the resturant and a big fry up, and others headed for the coffee shops and bars!!.
After the pleasant experience that only a Ryanair flight can be, we touched down (or were we shot down??) at Reus, only to be greeted with an overcast and blustery Spanish day.... after a pleasant transaction with the Hertz car rental lady, and a 10 minute scour of the car park for our hire cars, we were loaded up and on our way.
The weather had brightend up as we rolled into the sleepy little Catalunian village that was to be our base for the next few days. We met up with Mike Bevan of Hacienda Angling who sorted us with our hotel accomodation and Spanish licences, and then with a few hours to kill before the first catting session, we headed to the nearest bar for some refreshments and food.
The Thames Gateway foreign contingent soak up the Spanish sun (and Spanish lager!)
After getting suitably refreshed , we doned our fishing attire and headed for our rendezvous with the 5 guides at the aptly named "Riverside Lodge". We all jumped into our allocated launches, and headed off to various parts of the river eager to do battle with the rivers leviathans! Well, that was the plan, but after sitting in a wind swept and unseasonally cold river until dark, we all returned fishless, bar for a 55 and 65lb fish taken by John and Martin respectively, who were in Carl of Rioebroanglings' boat.
John with his 55lb cat, and Martin with his 65lber
That evening was spent in Bar Panza, eating far too much meat, in the shape of the bars famous veal T bones, and consuming too much of the local brew.
Daybreak on Saturday saw a bunch of subdued anglers heading out for the mornings fishing, but with a change in the weather, we were a bit more optomistic. Ha!, how wrong we were, 4 of the boats returned to the lodge late morning fishless, but the news was that Gary was into a big fish up at the Dam, and had been for about the last half hour.....as we were about to sit down to a hearty fried breakfast, the call came in that Jeff's boat was coming down river at a rate of knots with Garys fish aboard......the reason it had taken so long to get in, is was that the cat had taken a lure intended for the zander, of which the lads had had a few of that morning on small rubber jigs.
Garys lure caught cat weighed in at 111lb....nice one fella, the first ton up of the trip. Gary's lure caught 111lber
After the photo session, the cat was returned to the margins, where it sat sulking under the boats until way past breakfast. It seemed that the dam was where all the action was, so the afternoon session couldn't come quick enough. John Synnuck and I were in Carls boat, and headed for the dam, as did Kev and Ian in Jeffs boat. John was soon in on the action and quickly subdued a 70lb fish, as is his style!
Soon after I was to catch the smallest fish of the weekend of around 10lb.
Kev and Ian in the meantime were pulling out Zander with gay abandon, when something a bit larger took a fancy to Ians' lure, and after an arm wrenching battle in the heavy flow of the turbines, a cat estimated to be around 125lb surfaced, as it reached the boat, it made its last dash for freedom, and got it!!. The light lure rod snapped, the line got tangled round the butt, and the fish had it away on its fins!! Expletives could be heard ringing down the valley!
Ian playing the 125lb (est.) cat on a zander rod.
Kev made amends later on though by landing a cat of 45lb and a near 7lb Zander on his trusty ET sneaker rod.
The boats further down from the dam hadn't fared well with them remaining fishless apart from a few abortive takes to the clonk fished baits on Chris's boat. In the bar that night, Mike Bevan annouced that he had a cunning plan. He was going to take his boat to another stretch of the river that he thought could produce in the prevailing conditions...but it would mean fishing all day there for one pair of anglers......after some debate Kev and Ian unselfishly agreed to be Mikes guinea pigs for the day. Again that night much meat was scoffed and much beer was quaffed.
Sunday morning saw Jeffs boat with John and I aboard and Carls boat with Bill Palmer and Malcolm Styles, plotted up at the dam. As I landed a zander on a jig we saw Bill bent into a fish across the mist shrouded water. The fish seemed to be getting the better of the old fella in the turbulent water, but soon we saw a nice cat roll by the side of the boat, and it was deftly hauled aboard by Carl. A phone call to Malcolm confirmed the weight at 92lb. Nice one Billy!
"Wild Bill Palmer" after being duffed up by a 92lber!
The other two boats further down the river only managed one fish between them, and that was a cat of around 20lb to Paul Sharman. Breakfast/Dinner came and went and the final fishing session of the trip for the majority of us was under way. John and I were with Mick drifting the lower reaches of the stretch of river, as were Bill and Malcolm in Chris's boat. John Sultana and Martin Waldock were with Jeff at the dam, so were Gary and Paul in Carls boat. Late that afternoon, news filtered down that John Sultana had had a decent fish and was heading to the bank for a photo session. Johns fish weighed in at 130lb and was taken on a zander fillet fished hard against the wall of the dam.
John in action with the 130lb cat
In true continental catfishing style, John and Martin quickly stripped down to their undies for a waterbourne photo session with the big cat.
We all returned to "Riverside" for a post angling drink to find that Malcolm had also had a small cat, when the wanderers returned from their trip to the "other" stretch of river. The lads had faired pretty well, with Ian landing cats of 118lb and 99lb and Kev taking one of 114lb...
looks like Mike's hunch had payed off!
Much frivolity ensued that evening in Bar Panza, most of which revolved around certain people trying to get a hint of a smile from the lugubrious waitress, but to no avail....she obviously wasn't a fan of good old british humour!!...
Seven of the party were due to fly home on the Monday morning as opposed to the scheduled Monday night, thanks to Ryanairs' ridiculous administrative policies, but three of the lads had to stay a further day, again thanks to Ryanair moving their flight home from Monday evening to Tuesday morning.
The lucky three, Gary, Kevin and Ian where fishing with Jeff up at the dam for the extra day, and whilst the unlucky seven where sitting in the departure lounge at Reus, Gary texted to say he'd just landed a 62lber......thats it mate, rub it in why don't ya!!
Later in the day, another text was recieved telling of a 40lb cat and numerous Zander and lots of missed cat takes....
All in all the fishing wasn't as prolific as it could have been, but we all caught fish. All the lads that had never caught a cat before all caught hundred pounders, or "hurters" as we like like to call them,
This is why those big cats are called "hurters!!"
So it was a successful first trip for the Region 19 Catfish Cowboys....here's to plenty more in the future!