A few years ago I was lucky enough to win a fishing holiday for carp in Spain’s Extremadura region in a raffle, all expenses paid. The only thing I needed to take was the end tackle. I am a real noddy where carp fishing is concerned, I dabble at it from time to time.

In due course I flew into Madrid and was met by two of the brilliant guys that ran the company and provided much of the guiding services. We waited for a short time until the other angler due to fish that week landed, collected him and set off for the small Spanish town that was to be our base of operations.

The waters here are huge. To aid water conservation the rivers are dammed so that water is available during the hot and dry summer months. The stretch we were planning to fish was the Orellana, something ridiculous like 25 kilometers long and a kilometre wide in places.

The bad news was that due to un-seasonal weather, the fish had not spawned when expected and had in fact just started, not what you want to hear in our position.

We hadn’t planned to fish the day of our arrival but decided to give it a couple of hours. We drove down the narrow track to the river/reservoir and I found that they were expecting me to be able to cast 100+yds to the hot spots. I fish margins for tench or small rivers like the Kennet, not inland seas! My first attempt had everyone running for cover as my 3 oz zip lead cracked off, however with some helpful tips I began to get a bit further although still not hitting the 100+. The wind was up and we blanked that first session but every so often it sounded like people were throwing fridges into the water as enormous carp went about their nuptials.

The following morning after breakfast we went to the other side of the water and fished again 100+yds out towards what had originally been the far bank of the old river. It was another fruitless day but an amazing visual experience, carp over 40lbs and maybe 50lbs swimming and spawning in the thick weed beds in front of us, vultures flying overhead, probably because we had not had to move much and literally thousands of white egrets nesting in the islands that were the old far side of the river.

This was the pattern of the next couple of days although we visited another waterway and did catch a couple of 20lb+ fish, not the monsters however. The continued high winds and thunderstorms seemed to bring the spawning to an end so for the last 2 days, Thursday and Friday it was back to the Orellana.

The Thursday there were signs of fish moving around in the deep water and far less activity in the weeds and margins, just no luck for us.

That evening however became one of those never-to-be-forgotten moments. As this was a bird sanctuary no boats were allowed but one of our guides was determined we were going to catch the fish of a lifetime so, as dusk fell, he proudly produced a small rubber dingy which he started to inflate. It soon became apparent that it had a leak and equally obvious that our guide did not have a repair kit. Undaunted he asked for a waterproof plaster and even thought we pointed out the probable risks, he was determined, and in spite of our ridiculing him he patched his dingy, only for another leak to start. 4 plasters later and against everyone’s advice he was ready for the off.

A large bucket of maize and crushed boilie mix in hand and wearing a life vest he slowly paddled out into the gloom. By the time he had got into the weed bed to our front, 10yd out he was leaking air but as a true 100% customer-focused guide he carried on. Again we called him back but he was determined and began to paddle faster. By the time he had reached the fishing area, 120yds away his freeboard was very low and the dingy was looking decidedly V shaped in the middle. Our guide furiously began dumping the mix overboard to our hysterical laughter and even as the last of the mix landed in the water the dinghy sank beneath him. At that point his plaintiff little voice echoed across the water “throw me a line” – more gales of laughter from us, he was still over 100yds away. His partner however, between bouts of hysterical laughter picked up the spod rod loaded with whiplash braid and cast to within a few yards of our guide, an amazing cast given he was crying with laughter. I would point out that the guide could swim and he had his life vest on but was trying to bring back the bucket and the _ submerged dinghy. The guide grabbed the spod with 1 hand and shouted “pull me in”. More hysterical laughter ensued but a good curve was put into the rod and our guide was assisted to shore by his partner (for a new PB!). The other fishermen were absolutely useless as we were all laughing too much.

Early the following morning we went back to the heroically baited swim and set up 6 rods, this was it; all or nothing for the last day.

After around an hour my fellow angler’s left had rod had a take so violent that he almost followed it in. It stripped line off the reel at an alarming rate and although the rod had a significant bend the fish kept going through the islands and “ping”. We were told this was unusual behaviour for the carp as they normally came towards the bank and dropped in to the old riverbed to fight, so this might have been one of the legendary Comiso Barbel, maybe even a 30 or 40lb+? We will never know. Before he could set the rod back up his middle rod had another powerful take, he hit and started to get a measure of control then disaster, the metal quick change link snapped. It looked like we were doomed but then I had a 20lb plus fish, then another.

My fellow angler’s right hand rod then went off and after a short but fierce battle a beautiful 44lb common carp was in the net, absolutely pristine, not a mark on it’s body and only the one hookmark in its mouth, truly a magnificent fish.

I lost another fish in the weed but that was it. The following morning it was back to Madrid for the flight home. The fishing was fun, the scenery and wildlife was superb and the guides and especially the baiting up priceless, I really must go back, either for the barbel or for the big tench that swim there.

Rob Richbell