Epic Journeys into Wild Waters

One toners screeching out across the vast lake surface of Embalse de Orellana, Spain. My recent Spanish trip is recalled with special memories and great fondness. 

On the western side of Spain not far from the Portuguese border lies the vast province of Extremadura. The name is fairly apt as this region is extreme, it’s baking hot during summer and icy cold in winter, the landscape can be stunning or barren, Griffin Vultures glide on the thermals high above and it’s easy to forget you’re in Spain and not the Serengeti. It’s also home to giant carp filled reservoirs. The lakes and reservoirs or ‘Embalses’ as the Spanish call them were formed in this region from the Guadiana river, these huge dammed waters were sanctioned by Spanish dictator Franco in the 60’s to provide water for irrigation to the nearby city of Badajoz.

Monstrous carp lie beneath the deep waters of the Orellana. Growing large after many years on a diet mainly consisting of crayfish and other fish. Such are the numbers of kray fish present they are commercially gathered and sold across Europe.

However the carp fishing on the Orellana is growing in popularity as is carp fishing in general in Spain, the Spanish are becoming quite fanatical. Numerous bait companies are springing up across country. This rapidly growing market is still relatively untapped by the English tackle and bait companies, those with hindsight should take note.

Despite the growing numbers of Spanish carp anglers the Orellana is still a place to head for if you want to get away from the madding crowds with the chance of catching a monster. Though unlike France there are no electric hook ups and supermarkets within a 10 min drive, if you want creature comforts it’s not for you!

I’m fortunate in that my good mate Gary Thorley, himself a mad keen carp angler is based in Spain. I have a set of tackle that stays permanently in a purpose built  brick building that Gary has knocked up and its totally vermin proof!

I tend to head over to Spain around three times a year to fish with him, on this occasion we were being joined by another friend of mine who actually lives in a town not too far from the Orellana. Craig Reid has an intimate knowledge of the area having lived out there for 10 years. Craig runs a business called Extreme Fishing Spain and guides anglers from all over Europe in both carp and predator fishing.  My first ever trip to the Orellana in 2006 was guided by Craig, he taught me a lot about the area and we have remained good friends ever since. Craig had been guiding individuals and small groups for a few weeks prior to meeting us and was ready for a chill out and a bit of a social.

My trips to Spain always start with a flight to Alicante to meet Gary. Baggage is always maxed out with my favourite baits and additional rig bits, I can never remember what I have stored in Spain so I always take extra bits, just in case! Bait consisted of Poloni Pop ups, wafters and as much shelf live Poloni boilie as I could cram in. I had booked two large bags for this trip. We set off early the next day arriving on the lake by midday a 6 hour drive soon passed as anticipation helped usher me to the destination in no time at all. It was a Friday and it happened to be a bank holiday weekend in Spain so the bass anglers were out on-mass.  We loaded up our boats and set off across the huge bay we had decided to target. The sun was beating down and it was still high 20’s even now in mid-October. The water temp was showing at 21 degrees on the sonar depth finder, which was remarkable for the time of year. A depth finder is an essential piece of kit to feature find and give you an insight into the underwater world that lies beneath. My only concern was that the high water temp would encourage the smaller carp to put in an appearance.

Once camp was established and we had drawn crayfish claws, shorted claw got last pick for swim choice I spent a fair amount of time out in the boat looking for features, the left hand rod was eventually positioned in a deep gully at 100 metres, the second rod was on the far side of the gully two rod lengths further out and just beyond the gully the lake bed was as flat as a pancake and in 13 metres of water it was here I decided to position my right and rod. Importantly the distance was a major aspect to consider as I would be able to recast accurately during the night should I pick up a fish.

Let me give you an idea of the size of the lake, the bay we fished is just one of around a hundred bays dotted over the lake. It was a fairly large bay which stretched for over 2.5 km in length.  To help give some perspective on the size of the lake if you were able to stroll around the entire perimeter of the lake you would have walked 250 km.

There’s a couple of even larger waters close by its totally mental trying to get your head around the size of these places, the untapped potential of the area is staggering.

Bait and Rigs:

y3mqutVEQ_kmg_5lCzlo5znPNeq99ePJ7okG5Ql-LgxMWIeNBEYs9nmkS03tFvJ3-F6MuAtlTa6Y-wuq2L6Kl_bI89yTdQqbacdJL3Wazsp9C_v0jEtGyqfFYFNj148oAKDfOfbcRdHavzI6fvfDTrT645oE6tCLhKWuR0CpaTEDEoI baited cautiously to start with using just half a kilo of Bait-Tech’s new Poloni boilies around each hook bait. The spicy scented boilie was soon doing the business and the first few nights produced three carp each one coming to the right hand rod. A snowman hook bait with half a 14 mm Poloni pop up countering the hook was sat up enticingly for any passing carp. A three boilie stringer was attached to each rig and a pva nugget ensured the hook bait was fishing once on the bottom. Each evening I would place the rigs out by boat to my spots. Rigs were simple but strong, Nash size 4 Fang X curved shanks attached to 25 lb Camotex soft coated dark camo hook link material fished blow back style seemed to work perfectly, and hook holds were solid, 4 oz square pears held the rig in place and were set to be dropped on the take.

On these wild venues it’s mega important to use a strong leader as the lake bed is covered in sharp rock and tree stumps .The water level was low after the long hot summer and savage looking rocks were visible wherever you looked, for the first couple of days I kicked or ran into many of them during the night, my legs and toes were black and blue.

The days were warm with only the odd smaller carp showing, and the air was full of nuisance Spanish wasps which homed in on the scent of our food and boilies. One managed to sting me but an iced cold can of lager soothed the sting. As darkness fell and the wind dropped you could hear the big girls as they entered the bay looking for food, they were crashing all over the place and it seemed only a matter of time before one of the rods ripped off and the screeching sound of my Nashy sirens would pierce the muggy night air. I sat listening to the carp until my eyelids drooped and I drifted off into a deep sleep.

At around 5 am I was awaken by one of the fastest carp known to man, it’s extremely difficult trying not to rush and panic as pure pandemonium is occurring outside of the bivvy, one toner just doesn’t do it justice. On went the crocs and as I was in shorts I was able to enter the water to safely net the carp. It went 30 lb on the scales, not a bad size at all but I was still hoping for larger.

DSC_0247It was quickly returned, a fresh hook link and Poloni hook bait was attached via a quick change swivel, I marked up using my head torch. By using a 4 oz Exocet distance lead I could comfortably hit the clip and feel the lead down. I put another 20 boilies over the spot with a throwing stick and retired back into the bag. Shortly after the same right hand rod screamed off yet again, this one went into hyper drive as I was about to pick up the rod, these wild carp are so fit and fast, absolute fighting machines. It was difficult to gauge which way it was kiting as it was so dark. Eventually it rolled a few rod lengths out and after a long and dogged battle the carp slid over the waiting net, I knew this one was bigger than the others.

Morning was about to break and a shred of light enabled me to glimpse the unit that lay in the mesh, I gleefully gave a little fist pump.  What a creature, I felt so privileged to have caught such a beautiful, scale perfect wild common carp. The scales registers 43lb 15 oz and it was my new Spanish best. I was content.

Mother Nature Strikes Back

The weather was becoming more unpredictable, warm still days began to merge into gale force winds and occasional torrential rain storms. The first heavy rains of the year are bad for the fishing in this area as they stimulate plagues of large flying ants to appear from the ground. I had heard about this phenomenon before but never experienced it until now! It was unbelievable as swarms engulfed the sky and you could hear the hum of ant wings as they hovered high above, the sky was a sight to see and hear, it was of biblical proportions. Millions upon millions of them began to litter the surface of the lake as the wind picked up. I expected a quiet few days on the carp front as they munched this natural bait. Imagine if you could only drink beer on one day of the year, when that day arrives you would probably quaff the stuff until fit to burst. I imagined the carp were also pre-occupied on their natural larder.

The gully rods were being attacked by Krays during the daylight so hardened hook baits were the order of the day, fortunately I had some of the Poloni hardened hook baits I was testing to help resist their attentions, these worked a treat and gave me confidence to leave the baits for 48 hrs.

IMG_1445554774114Surprisingly but thankfully it was only two days after the ant invasion that the carp switched on again. So far all my carp had been coming from the right hand side of the swim when I suddenly got a pick up on the middle right on the far side of the gully. Gary netted it for me and shouted it’s a mirror. Mirrors are massively outnumbered on the Orellana by the common carp population so I was super happy with its capture. It was a stunning heavy plated beast with a tail so large it could barely hold it up out of the water.

In between being woken by mice rummaging through my bags and burrowing up from the gravel  below my bed chair along with a friendly natterjack toad that had taken refuge under the bed I was also being woken by savage takes from yet more carp. Loads of high twenty’s and low to mid thirty’s were putting in an appearance, it was good sport. They started to come thick and fast for me, strangely the gully spot I expected to produce the larger fish didn’t produce until the very last morning, with a, 32 lb a 35 lb and an immaculate 38lb common all falling to this rod in a short space of time, I even had a forth take  which flat rodded me and hook pulled, I wasn’t too upset, as I had had a remarkable session, made even sweeter as I had shared it with true friends in great surroundings, what more could an angler ask for.

My next trip to an even more remote and wild location in Spain is already being planned so watch this space.

Until next time, tight lines.

Ian Hirst

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