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Fishing blog April, Barbel fishing in Spain, Comizo, Smallead, Bocagi and Andalucian!


This is a blog that I began writing in 2017 and never got around to finishing off for some unknown reason, I will use it as the start of a little series of blogs from then till now…just give me a while to get my typing finger back up to speed

Well what a fantastic week was had in Spain, the fishing was tremendous and the company even better. I had thought that last year would take some beating with me getting amongst the Comizo and Smallheaded barbel of the Guadiana river system, making my grand total of barbel species landed almost equal to the numbers of rivers I have landed them from, this year however I went a little better and added at least one and possibly two more species.

Before I get on I should point out that Spain has more than one species of barbel, in fact it has at least seven to my knowledge ( I don’t know everything so there may be a few more I don’t know about so don’t get all titty lip about it), these seven being the ones that I know of

1. Luciobarbus comizo

2.Luciobarbus Microcephalus

3.Luciobarbus graellsii

4.Luciobarbus guiraonis

5.Luciobarbus sclateri

6. Barbus meridionalis

7. Luciobarbus Bocagei

Not all of these species are fish that I am likely to come across whilst fishing the Guadiana catchment but some are, up to now I have  definitely landed the mighty Comizo and the equally if not harder fighting Smallhead ( L.microcephalus) it now seems that according to the locals we may have landed examples of Luciobarbus sclateri or the the Andalusian or “Gypsy Barbel” commonly referred to as “Gitano” by the local anglers, these are a very pretty fish that are bi-coloured horizontally along the lateral line, the problem is trying to work out if the catchment actually holds them, up to now my research seems to indicate that the Guadiana does indeed have access to stocks of l.sclateri via some of its lower tributaries .

Gitano Distribution:Gypsie barbel?
The gypsy barbel (Barbus sclateri) is an endemic species of Spain with a southern distribution covering the Guadalquivir river basin. This includes the rivers Guadiaro, Guadalete, Guadalhorce and Segura, tributaries of the lower reaches of the Guadiana and other small basins of southern Spain and Portugal.

Another problem is that  the barbel species seem to hybridise quite freely and this seems to have been made worse by our building of dams and altering waterways which pushes together the spawning populations and increases the potential to interbreed and therefore show characteristics from both species.


The one above I believe is a L.sclateri, I could be wrong, it may just be a bi-coloured Comizo and not a “Gypsie” but my gut says it has a bit of “pikey” in it, if it isn’t full pikey all along!

Comizo barbel

The next one is a classic Comizo, look at the length of the snout, it is huge, it is almost a pike like beak…pike like…Ahhh!!!

So that is where the latin name comes from “Luciobarbus”, which translates to  ”Pike like barbel”

The comizo have a huge head to body ratio and they use this head to turn over boulders on the river bed with far more ease than our own barbel species.

On the first day of the holiday this year IComizo Barbel head watched a school of barbel completely plough a stretch  of the river in search of food, I could actually hear them clattering the river bed.

They really are an impressive fish and one that may be in need of a little help as its distribution is rather restricted and as such its numbers have been impacted by pollution and agricultural practices. It is thought they may have lost 30% of thier numbers over the last century. In Spain it can only be found in the basins of the Tagus and Guadiana rivers. There have been reports in the past to be found ¡n the lower Guadalquivir and Ebro rivers, but seems to be extinct now.

The pretty cousin of the Comizo is an equally endangered species known as the Smallhead, Luciobarbus microcephalus ( Micro as in “small” and cephalus as in “head”), once again these are only endangered because they have a very restricted catchment and as such are more at threat from pollution incidents or the Small headed barbel luciobarbus microcephalusintroduction of alien species or the threat of interbreeding with other related species.

Pound for pound I would have to say that Smallheads go a bit better than the Comizo barbel, my mate Ian “hobby” Hobkirk has had a 12lb Smallhead and he says the fight was epic, my biggest would be a bit more than half that size and I can vouch for the truth of his point, they are real warriors!

They may be the pretty cousin but they can really set off on a blistering first run!

But when it comes to first runs, there is NOTHING to touch the “Bocagei”, nothing in barbel fishing had prepared me for this first run…Wow!

Tony thought it a good idea to travel onto a different catchment to fish a different river system, we fished a river in the town of Coria, in the town the river is as many rivers are, impressive but “controlled” and “engineered”, with walls and bridges and all manner of human things on or around the waters edge, fish could be seen in the margins , big fish as well.

I was tempted to ask to stay here, I would love to catch a big Spanish carp and what was tearing up the silty edge looked to me to be bloody great huge Spanish carp…but is a holiday and Bocagei barbel everything should remain social when on holiday, so me playing Billy No-mates would be a waste of a day in my opinion.

And so we drove, not for very long, Coria isn’t that big and once we were out of the city the countryside opened up…Oh…Wow!

This is some seriously good bird watching country, Luciobarbus Bocagei or Common Barbelvultures and eagles soar overhead almost continually.

I chose to fish below  a little set of rapids and was informed that I was only the second Englishman to ever fish that swim.Tony being the first.

I was happy with that!

At least nobody would be lining up behind me to fish once I had gone!

stork nest spainstork nest spainThe only thing behind me was a Pterodactyl sized Stork sitting on eggs!

Storks IMG_3870are a huge Stork on the nestbird and not at all aggressive considering thier size, a Mistle Thrush would have been more of a problem to fish near and even a Wren would have given me a bollocking far more severe than the little bit of beak clicking I got from them.

I did a little bit of leading about and found a depth of six to eight feet shallowing up to a couple of feet as it moved out into the main pool, it looked awesome!

Out came the PVA and I made some big sticks to attach to the line just above the feeder as a booster, I made 4 up containing about a pint or so of maggot between them, the PVa also had a few dry pebbles mixed in with the maggots to help keep it in place as it melted…I have no love of PVA…In fact I hate the stuff.

That aside I was fishing on two rods within a few minutes, one out onto crease at the edge of a dead spot towards the middle of the pool and one into the side pool, the chair was made comfortable and I sat back….This lasted five minutes.

I cannot sit with all this stuff going on around me, I like to mooch around my peg…First off I see a jaw bone in the margins, its a bit of an old boar that has died somewhere upriver….I will have that!

Then I find a few crayfish, I will save one for the hook, you never know…

Then I see the otter poo.

A lot of otter poo.

A healthy river can support a lot of otters, otters will not impact to badly on a healthy river because there is a lot of food for it to go at, they will feed on the crayfish as is proven by the poo being full of crayfish long before they start eating barbel…but I won’t go into that too much as the rod in the side pool has just gone off!

I lift into a solid lump of fury.

This is dead weight, it’s just hanging…hanging…hanging..And then its off…..Oh my!

It’s not happy, it’s halfway across the main pool in about five seconds and there is not a lot I can do about it, all I can do is keep calm. I have done this before a million times, ok, not quite like this….This is mental.

Slowly I IMG_3841IMG_3841managed to get some line back on the reel, the thing apparently content to drift across the river in my general direction and then it got bored or realised there was a decent sized lump of Drennan steel and then it went off…Oh lord it went off, out into the main stretch of the river and down towards Tony, Tony was on the phone to his wife at that point and he later told me in typical uber dry Tony stayle that he has simply said ” It looks like Swordsy might have one on ” as I came bowling into view.  The fight was like nothing I had ever experienced…Insanity…I had no control whatsoever….and then the hook pulled!

the rod pinged back from its fighting curve and the world dropped out of my arse…what had it been?

A huge Bocagei? A catfish?

I would never know…but I would get a clue twelve months to the day later…but that is another story for another blog.

The Next Blog

“365 days later”

 I was going to make this a seperate blog update…But in all honesty, I couldn’t be bothered. I was back in Spain, the only difference this time was that I wasn’t expecting to be back so soon but Tony had phoned me up at work a week or two previous with the offer and I was never going to miss the chance to go escape the still cool British weather and get myself back fishing for those Spanish barbel…I just had to ask Tina first!

I am sure she wouldn’t mind, I was only shedding fur and cluttering the house up during the closed season, as usual for me I generally spend the closed season dressed as lord of Bones whilst reading Game of Thrones.

Instead of Hobby, the third person on the trip would be Mike “Biggun” Berridge, Mike had fished Spain a fair few times more than me so I was still the “rookie” and as such happy to fish wherever was decided.Lord of Bones

 The trip down from Madrid had been hard as the rain was extremely heavy but once we went through the mountain and dropped down the otherside it improved no end and by the time we arrived at Tony’s place the weather was tremendous with the thermometer hitting the mid twenties, the river was in more than decent nick and were all soon into some very nice fish, after a day or so it was decide that we would see what the river was fishing like up in Coria.

A phone call was made and the reply was an emphatic “No”, the river was unfishable, it was well up and over the banks….Bugger!!

Oh well, we would just have to Lee swords Fishing Gypsy barbelsettle for fishing the Guardiana, how disapointed was I?

I was about as disappointed as a dog with two tails!

Everyday was a beano day, ten fish being the average, nothing massive for me but the rod kept going over and over and over.

The weather was awesome and the sky was blue…And so we thought about Coria again…

How high could it be?

We had three or four really nice dry days, surely the river would have dropped off nicely by now, Tony made the phone call and the answer was ” Unfishable”

That night we went out and we had a few beers and over those beers it was decided that if we could fish the Trent with 15 foot on The river at Coria Spainwe could handle a bit of Spanish water, so we stumbled off to bed, got up bright and early and set off on a nice little road trip!

When we arrived at our hotel in Coria the river looked “cock on”, there was a bit of colour and maybe a foot or so extra water on…Unfishable?


Sweet jesus, we are Yorkshire men…We aren’t put off by a bit of extra water, we thrive on a challenge, hardship and adversity is what puts meat on our bones!!

We got back in the car after securing our rooms and headed out of town to our favourite stretch…I had a re-match in mind…Would the monster be in residence?

One thing was for certain, she wouldn’t have been pressured out by a thousand angler that was for sure…If she was still there I wanted a rematch!!

Conversation was confident and then we pulled off the track to go down to the river…..And found the river waiting for us….Bollocks!

Unlike in Britain, Spanish rivers are allowed free reign to flood and they dont have miles and miles of flood banks to impound the extra water…so a few feet of extra water can really really shit on your plans…

There was no way we would be able to fish this stretch…it was unfishable.

Luckily for Biggun and myself Tony is a mine of knowledge, he did know where the river was impounded by flood banks…and so we were off with a spring in our step…Pfft…Unfishable!?

We will test that concept!

Ten minutes later we are back out of the car and the river looks stunning!

High banks and a solid dirt track mean that we are able to fish, a long sweeping bend with twelve to fourteen foot of almost still water before a marked crease and 150-200 yards over to the other bank.

The dropper was soon out and half my bait set aside for droppering in…and then, I stopped what I was doing, I had not followed proceedure…I had not greeted the river and introduced myself to her, I was taking her for granted. I was being rude.

I announced myself to her and then dipped my hand in so that I may take some on her energy in return ( Don’t ask…I follow my own pagan tradition, you probably wouldn’t understand)


The water was freezing cold, it was like ice…..Oh bollocks…It “was” ice!!

This river was fed by the Gregos Mountains….This wasn’t rain water that had bumped up the levels….It was snowmelt…Bollocks!

I would not waste good bait on “iced water” so I only put in three or four droppers….and then all I could do was wait…and wait…and wait.

An otter popped up in front of me, he waived and said “Hola”, as he would, him being a Spanish otter, it would have been quite surreal had he greeted me with a cheery “Hello”

I smiled to myself, I had already caught a lot of fish, the scenery was awesome, the wildlife was epic, what would it matter if I did not catch today?

At that moment the rod tip gave a nod, it wasn’t a bit of weed in the current nod, it was a proper nod, a nice nod…it nodded again….And then it went off!!

I was in!!

I was not massive but it was pulling back, it was then shooting forwards…and then it went all wonky and started pulling back, it felt like a nice eel!

Lee Swords Wells catfish spainIt even looked like a nice eel as it was dragged up from the depths….Ooohhh!

It was a Wells catfish!! New PB for Spain!! Bonus time!!

I was over the moon, I went to tell Tony who was a couple of hundred yards down river, he wasn’t impressed at all. In fact I think he would rather I had snagged a used sanitary towel…Tony really doesn’t like catfish.

Over the next hour I had a steady procession of Silure coming to the net, none of them were massive but one had been extremely lucky as it sported scrapes along both sides, it had obviously been on the end of a very close run thing with a much bigger catfish…and that settled it in my mind.

The fish that I had hooked the year previous had been a big catfish, it probably hadn’t even realised it was hooked for the most part.

bocagei barbel spain Lee swordsThe day wasn’t a complete write off for the barbel however, eventually they did arrive and we all had a few, Mike’s was a first for him, he had not landed a Bocagei barbel before and so he was quite rightly chuffed to bits with it!

We did decide however that we would return to the Guardiana…We had in typical Yorkshire fashion proven the locals wrong in that the river was not unfishable…but we also had enough nousse to see when we were on a hiding to nothing in regards to putting together a big catch or landing a monster, we may be a bit daft but we are certainly not stupid.






One Response to “Fishing blog April, Barbel fishing in Spain, Comizo, Smallead, Bocagi and Andalucian!”

  1. Nice blog post about your journey :-). You have a new follower!!! I also publish my fishing experiences in https://rockfishing.es. Greetings from Spain!

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