Notes from Spain, Day One: Barbelicious

Written by: Phil Monahan

The author’s first barbel was a true eye-opener.
Photo by Sandy Hays

Thirteen years since our first visit, my high-school buddy/photographer Sandy Hays and I have returned to fish with Salvelinus, a lodge and outfitting company in the Spanish Pyrenees. Yesterday, we left the lodge—in the small farming town of Aren, about three hours from Barcelona by car—and traveled to a river just a half hour away, where I added a new species to my life list. The Mediterranean barbel (Barbus meridionalis) is a fascinating fish that lives side-by-side with brown trout in some rivers of Aragon.

Our guide, Pierre, spotted this fish, and set me up with a dry-dropper setup consisting of a Chubby Chernobyl and a Perdigon-like nymph. The barbel refused to move for the fly, so I had to make just the right cast to deliver the flies right on the fish’s nose. Once hooked, the fish screamed across the current and pulled hard. It ran both upstream and down, and I had to work hard to turn the head several times. Pierre finally got the net under this beauty, which displayed a cormorant wound in its side. The fish wasn’t as slimy or smelly as some carp can be, and it was really firm-bodied, which explained its strength.

We caught a few trout, as well, but this golden handsome beast was definitely the highlight. I look forward to catching more barbel.

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