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"Comizos are easy!!" 

The object of our desires. Albeit that this is a large, poorly stuffed version!

A Spanish mountain lake, and waiting for the carp to get on the bait. They didn't!

The first carp of the trip for JJ.

Having read about the Comizo Barbel (or Iberian Barbel) a couple of years or so ago, I was fascinated by the fact that there was actually a predatory barbel in Europe capable of growing to 30 pounds or more, and I remember thinking how much I'd love to catch one. Information on them either in books or on the internet was a bit thin on the ground, so when my good friend Johnny Jensen suggested that we met up with his friend Peter Staggs down in sunny Espana to try and catch one, I jumped at the chance straight away. So in early April I met up with Peter & Johnny- along with Mads Scheibye and Claus Bellars from Denmark- for a week long session to try and open the Comizo account. Peter had done us proud, and was there to greet us at the airport, complete with fishing permits, sacks of pellets and particles, boilies, brollies and bedchairs- all the stuff that is impossible to get on a plane basically, and we set off on the 6 hour drive from Malaga northwards up into the centre of rural Spain. Funnily enough, the trip seemed to pass really quickly, even in a 4x4 jammed with clothes, anglers and tackle, I think mainly due to the excited natter about the possibility of catching a huge Comizo and loads of big, scale-perfect common carp! Little did we know what was in store...

Peter had also arranged for us to spend the first night at Jose Luis's (one of his close Spanish friends) holiday home- which also proved to be ideal to leave spare clothing etc at- and so after dumping our gear there we went for a quick look at the lake we were to be fishing for Comizos during the next week. Now my first impressions were a little disappointing, since the weather was dark, windy and overcast upon our arrival, and we simply jumped out of the car at a lay-by at the side of the lake, where, somewhat inkeeping with local culture, there were bits of rubbish left kicking about in the reeds. Why do people do that? They have a beautiful, natural environment, and they want to go there for a bite to eat and have a bit of a picnic- fine. Now why is it they can be bothered to take the packages down there when they are full and heavy... and yet they can't be arsed to take away their crap when they've finished with it and it's empty and light? Jees that makes me angry. Anyway, soapbox away, when I stepped closer to the lake, and I saw how perfectly clear the water was, and that it was so big that there were areas we could just get tucked away where the public didn't go... then my perception point altered a little. 

No, more than a little. The laguna was stunning, and none of us could wait to get the rods out and get started!

Johnny plays in a Spanish common... but Mads just decides to go out and meet it half way.

Flavour boosting the boilies in the bushes.

Johnny forewarned us that the fishing would not be easy, since the Comizos are somewhat of a rarity, and it proved to be the case. Peter had showed us a spot on another lake where we could fish in the day and catch (apparently!) loads of carp. I had a plumb about, and at about 90 metres found an area (conveniently in line with a nice round bush about a kilometre away on the other bank) where the water of 17ft deep one side shelved up to 10 to 12 feet deep, and then sloped back down into 17ft on the near side again. 'That'll do for me' I thought. I clipped up and marked my lines, then got them chucked out there with a stringer on each... I then also went (well, kind of) against one of my little 'moralisms' and used Pete's bait boat to get some pellets and particles out there, since there was no other way of doing it (we can all bend our morals when times get desperate!). The day passed quietly for all of us, and although the sun was out, we spent much of it trying to shelter in the lee of bushes to get out of the biting cold wind that threw itself down the lake. Johnny managed to catch a nice upper-double common, but apart from that, all was quiet on the western front. Eventually, after a few hours, we were sat sharing a couple of beers when my buzzer sounded and I struck to find a lively fish attached to the other end. Mads came over with the net, and a few moments later, as the fish chugged around and got closer to the margins, this long, thin fully scaled thing swam across in front of us... 'That's not a carp! It's f***ing Comizo!' shouted Mads as he scooped the net under it. I was astounded. I mean how lucky is that? I'd expected to get one or two chances maybe in a week, and there, within hours was a beautiful sixteen and a half pound Comizo laid at the bottom of the net!

The rest of the day went by without any more action or any of us, before packing up the gear and heading back to the previously mentioned lake to get bedded in (sneakily) for the night.

Mads admires our rare prize Comizo.

A few hours into the trip, and Golden Bollocks comes up trumps again with a handsome 16lb 8oz Comizo. How chuffed? Over the moon!

 Mads and Claus shared a really lovely looking swim, where a fast flowing channel linking two of the lagunas together pushed it's way through the reedbeds, and Johnny and I shared spot another perhaps half a mile or more away (yup- it was quite big!) where we could just fit two rods each through a gap in the reeds. Once everything was set and hidden out of sight, we set about getting a few G&T's down us, as is tradition, and after the bottle had gone, and enough bull spoken, we bedded down to try and get a few hour's shut-eye. Sleep came easily, as you'd expect, but as the ice glistened on the sleeping bags we were awoken in the half-light of pre-dawn by a squealing buzzer... Johnny says 'Andy- that's yours man!', but because I couldn't see the L.E.D., I just said 'No mate it's yours innit.... oh shit, it is mine!!'. I jumped from the bag and raced over to the rod in my socks (why do we think that if we run along on tip-toe our feet are gonna stay dry?!). But just as I got there the Baitrunner over-ran and the rod was ripped out of the buzzer bar; leaving me running into the margins of the lake to catch up with the rod, and just as I got my hand on the cork and lifted it, there was a crack like a starting pistol and the 16lb Pro-Clear parted... and the bait had been cast some 70 metres into the lake! A swearing session ensued... then I spent the next few hours trying to get some feeling back into my feet, because the temperature had dropped to around minus 3 overnight- and it was bloody freezing!

Laguna stunna'.

I have never seen or fished in water so clear and blue as the lagunas. You could see every strand of weed on the bottom in 20ft of water.

Now, having encountered (in all probability) two Comizo's in the first 24 hours of the trip, this lead me to pass comment to Johnny in the morning that "I dunno what you're on about mate- Comizo's are easy!!" (tongue in cheek of course). And, of course, after trapping-off like that, that was the last Comizo I encountered all week!

The weather was very inclement or the whole trip- because although we had a little sun early on in the week, we also had sharp frosts overnight, and then we went on to have torrential rainfall and then gale force winds which I am certain made the fishing even more difficult. Hence due to the weather we ditched the idea of moving from lake to lake- so that put paid to any real chances of some big daytime catches of carp, But upping sticks and moving twice in a day in cold, torrential rain is nobody's idea of fun, so common sense won through our tiny fish-addled brains. Having said that though, although most days were devoid of action, most nights would provide something for one or two of us- and although Mads went on to lose another of what he and Peter were sure was a Comizo late one night in the thick, heavy weed, a few nice carp turned up- including a couple of 35 pound plus commons for Claus & Johnny, so there were still some great fish caught between our band of merry men.

Much of the fishing turned out to be at pretty long range- up to around about 200 yards, and this necessitated the use of rowing boats to get the feed and hookbaits out there. Not the most 'organic' of techniques, and a downright pain in the arse after we celebrated Johnny's birthday at a local taverna with massive paella madness and wine and brandy insanity. But it was necessary to ensure that the bait was on one of the limited amount of clear areas amongst the heavily weeded lake bed- and these would have been impossible to cast onto even at 70 yards let alone 170. It also meant some nail-biting and arm-aching fights to try and bring the fish to the net from such distances without them dropping off... something that wasn't always achieved with a great deal of success.

A lovely brace from the blue lagoon.

Last knockings over the laguna. And it stopped raining at last.

A nice 12 kilo common for Mads, again taken at very long range.

And a nice looking, similar sized specimen for Claus too.

Yours truly decided to move swims half-way through the week, because while having a paddle about with Mads in a row boat in one particular large bay, I came across a lovely clear spot- they would glow up like white, sand beacons from in amongst the weeds on the lake bed- just a few feet from the reedy margins of the bay... And what really made my mind up to move was when suddenly, at very long range from the nearest fishable spot, I found a huge clear, bright-white sandy area in amongst the weed. So big, bright and clear was it, that it was easily discernible in just over 5.5m of water! That was just too good to miss. In the three nights I fished those spots I had one nice common and two missed chances- one being a drop back that came adrift on the way in, and the other...? Well..., I hadn't had a take in 20 hours, but due to the difficulty of placing your baits at that kind of range, I was determined to leave them as long as possible... Now we had had no runs at all in daylight- from anything, and it was approaching lunch time... and I was getting starving hungry... and there was a cafe just behind the spot I was fishing (and when I say behind, I mean 15 to 20 metres behind). Mads came by to say he was going to get something to eat from the cafe, and asked if I was coming. I said no, because I had baits out and that I didn't want to move them, and I didn't want to be inside away from the rods. So he said he'd order me an omelette sandwich and chips with ketchup and bring them out when he went back to fish. I was getting hungrier and hungrier, and eventually I could see inside that Mads had my food in a foil package wrapped up on the bar... and temptation got the better of me. I decided to leave my rods for, literally, a minute, and fetch my grub and bring it back to my pitch... Well you know the rest! I walked inside, picked up the package asked for a fork... and when I looked round I could see the rod on the margin clear patch bent alarmingly over the buzzer bars and the swinger jammed horizontal! I dropped my dinner, sprinted out to the rod... but the buzzer had just stopped, with the latching L.E.D. just glowing in it's little socket mocking me! I wound in the bait to find it had been moved some 20 metres from it's spot tight to the reeds. Needless to say I didn't move more than 10 feet from my rods after that!

Johnny stayed put in his spot all week, mainly sleeping, but occasionally eating and reading..., and was rewarded on the final night at the lake with a terrific 36lb plus common- a truly immaculate fish. It really makes you wonder how big the carp could grow in there- especially seeing as they could swim around hoovering crayfish up from the lake bed all night long, every night, just getting fatter and fatter.

The business end. At ranges up to 170- 200 yards, big heavy leads were essential- especially when the storm hit.
Using protection  is always essential when likely to encounter unwanted crustaceans on your travels.

Johnny's biggest of the trip- 16.5 kilos. An awesome fish.

Back she goes, safe and sound.

One other little side issue was that there are some huge pike in the lake- rumoured to reach over 40 pounds. Now Mads got some mackerel off Peter one day, and dropped one out, and it was with much surprise that a few hours later, it seemed to have grown legs and started to run off across the lake-bed. He struck, and then played and duly landed a perfect 18lb Lucio. So this got me thinking of a way to pass the long daylight hours where the chances of action were slim, and, lo and behold, I had put a couple of traces and a Springdawg lure in my box- just on the off chance! So a third rod was rigged up with the lure, and out it went over the edge of a drop off which was clearly visible from the pontoon where I was standing. First wind in, I felt a bang on the rod tip, struck, and was briefly in contact with a pike before it dropped off. Second cast, in came the lure, and after about ten turns of the reel handle... Doink! I struck again, an duly wound in a small pike of perhaps 8 pounds- just as Mads came round for a chat and see what I was up to. 

'Here, take a quick snap of this Mads- my first Spanish Lucio!' 

So he did and I slipped it back. We had a chat for a minute or two, Mads went back to his swim to get fishing again, and I tried my next cast 'over the edge'. A few turns in... Bang! And I was in again, but unfortunately this one dropped off- again. But three takes in three casts- what a fine way of spending the day this could end up being! So, I went for cast four, anxious to keep the record up... and the snap-link came undone to the lure and I watch it sail off through the air 60 yards into the drink. That put the mockers on that!

Mads and myself did manage to net a couple of small livebaits from the margins, and once I'd improvised a trace and paternoster rig this again only lasted half an hour before an really pale fish of perhaps 14lbs snaffled it- and how strange did that fish look coming up through the crystal clear water- just like some ghost of a pike on the end of the line. Spooky! Mads and I agreed that on any return visit to the lake some pike tackle proper would have to find it's way into the bag- after all, a few hours in the day in one of the row boats casting lures about, or drifting some livebaits over the weed beds would be better than sitting waiting for carp or Comizo that are unlikely to feed... and you never know, we might bag a Comizo anyway!

Claus and his biggest of the trip - 16.7 kilos of perfect common carp.

A pale and pasty 14lb Pike for me...

We finished the trip with an attempt to catch some Yellow Bellies (Andalucian Barbel or Gypsy Barbel) on the Rio Jandula down in what must be one of the most picturesque areas of Spain at Los Pinos (great name!). The river was out of sorts however (again!) since there was next to no flow and the levels were very low, so although it was easy to spot and stalk the Yellow Bellies... getting them to take a bait was another matter! I had one fish of about 5 or maybe 6 pounds eating pellets & corn off an underwater rock ledge like they were it's last supper. It edged up to my two grains of corn on a No12 hook, stopped and inch or two away, inspected the bait... and then bolted out of the swim like it had dynamite up it's trumper! And while that one was taking the mick out of me, Claus was further downstream pulling his hair out as the barbel steadfastly ignored everything he tried: I could have sworn no-one said we were going to the Dorset Stour!

Unfortunately we could only stay in the area for one day since we had to drive Mads & Claus all the way back to Malaga, via an early morning trip through the olive groves of Grenada. But luckily Johnny and I had an extra day or two after the others had left, and it was during a short afternoon session then that the Yellow Bellies put in an appearance, and I was lucky enough to catch one on a link legered Halibut Pellet. I think you'd have to agree that they are the prettiest freshwater species in Europe. I wish they lived in the River Welland up the road from me, put it that way.

And an 18lb Lucio taken on  mackerel for Mads.

The Rio Jandula in Andalucia. Unfortunately the river was so low when we were there that the fishing was nearly impossible, so with that- and the fact we had to get Mads & Claus back to the airport- we only fished for one afternoon, even though it was a very beautiful area.




Spain is a terrific place to visit and to fish in- once you get out of the way of the ex-pat haven of the Costa Del Sol, awash with its designer ex-pats and English menus. Quite seriously- it's the worst bit, and by miles the most expensive. But away from there, there's some superb scenery, and some very, very friendly local people who looked after us perfectly. It was pretty amusing when each morning the guys from the cafe behind would come down to my spot before work: 
"Hey senor! Tiene pesca?!?" ("Here mate have you got any fish?"), to which I would usually reply "No pesca - lo siento" ("Sorry mate - no fish")... and they would go "Oohhhh", and laugh and then head off to work, smiling and shaking their heads. Then one morning, down they came: '"Hey senor! Tiene pesca?!?", and I replied "Si! Un carpa!", and they all went "Hooorayyyy! Un carpa!! Estupendo!!!", and left me with brisk handshakes and a pat on the back! How bizarre eh? If they were English I'd be sure they were taking the piss, but in Spain? Well I wasn't sure, so just smiled and said "Gracias". "When in Spain" and all that.

The food there was excellent, the beer, wine and spirits flowed (rowing your baits out to a marker at 150 metres plus in the dark after a huge meal, several bottles of plonk and two bottles of local VSOP brandy is not recommended though- although afterwards as I sprawled out drunkenly on a park bench behind my rods, watching Claus try to weave his way off into the darkness through all the other picnic tables and benches and tripping over every single one of them, well it seemed like just a fine idea). I can't wait to have a return visit to put to the test a couple of new ideas I had while taking my first taste and initiation at Comizo angling.

The trip finished for me and Johnny with a blinding meal down in Marbella with Peter and his family on the last evening... the thing is, you just get used to understanding a menu in a bit of Spanish, then you head for the Costa Del Sol and they're back in bloody English again. I was sad to leave and head for home the next morning- another trip over and I was already wondering how and when I could wangle another trip back for the those elusive Comizos again. 

But then again, I had to get home because some thieving git nicked my wallet at the airport!

I'd like to thank Peter for sorting so many things out for us- a real star. You can e-mail Peter at the following address if you fancy a fishing trip to Spain, and he will hopefully be able to advise and arrange an itinerary to suit your needs- whether that be Comizo, Yellowbellies or simply a load of nuisance carp!

Please click here for more info on Peter Staggs' Spanish adventures...

Peter & Mads take advantage of the cliff faces to do a bit of Barbel spotting. Seeing them was easy enough.. catching them was another matter entirely.
Andalucian Barbel.jpg (55037 bytes)
Fortunately one of them made a mistake! Well chuffed with that one. And how cool would that look in a tank?

As the boys tucked into a suckling pig, Mads says 'Hey look! I have one of the kidneys!' and sticks it into his mouth. At the end of the meal I asked how it was. 'Very good' says Mads, 'but the kidneys taste like shit...!' Peter then started laughing... 'That wasn't a kidney', he says, 'It was one of his bollocks!' The look on Mad's face was a picture...... But who got the other one...??

I'm pleased I stuck to the Sea Bass.

Claus was a hit with the local talent.

Peter sets his rods at long range, fingers crossed for some Comizo action

But it was usually carp that interfered with our baits. Not that you can call fish that look like this an irritation.



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