It must have been around 1996 or 97 when I saw my first Ebro zander. I was with Dr Paul Garner on what was then a pioneering catfishing trip to the catfish Mecca of Mequenenza on the Rio del Ebro in the Spanish mountains. We’d fished hard for a week, wobbling dead bleak, before Paul finally cracked it with a magnificent 140+lb pussy.


Tuesday morning dawned with a
thick clammy mist covering the water.

The Bavarian guides we’d rented a boat from had as a guest the great European lure angler Olivier Portrait, from whom we picked up some great tips. At that time Olivier was fishing the mystical Top Lake for zander and catching some remarkable specimens for the French TV crew he was filming with at the time. Double figure fish were not uncommon and one day he returned to camp with three fish all looking to be around the 20lb mark. A remarkable catch indeed!

“I want some of that” declared Paul. I agreed and we vowed to return one day to try to emulate those lure-caught catches.

The years slipped past and one thing after another got in the way. There was always something that seemed to interfere with our plans. These were usually catfish or carp shaped obstructions so we were never too bothered but at last this year we managed to plan an Ebro zed trip. We had little time to spare so we prayed to the gods of weather to be kind to us, took a deep breath, and jumped in at the deep end.


Dr Paul Garner with an 8lb Ebro zed

Our good buddy, fenland predator angling guide Gordy Howes joined us to provide a touch of comedy to the trip and supply the lure fishing expertise we would need. Well, what I would need anyway because (whisper it) I had never caught a zander on a lure before! We also needed a guide who knew the area – but here we were in luck.

Gary Sheridan is fluent in Spanish and has been running angling trips on the Ebro for donkey’s years. I first met him about a dozen years ago when he guided fishing trips from his home on the delta. He’d already been at it for some years by then so there’s not much anyone can teach him about the job. He’s probably one of, if not the longest serving British angling guide on the river. Find him via  Around three years ago he moved his base up to Caspe, so was a natural choice of guide for us. Gary was able to put us up in an apartment in the middle of town, handy for shops, bars and restaurants and much better than most of the angler accommodations I have experienced in Spain. He also arranged our licenses and was a general mine of information about both the fishing and the area in general.


Confident takes resulted in some deeply hooked fish

Ryan Air has a lot to answer for. The cheap flights they supply to either Reus or Zaragosa from Stanstead make it easy for almost anyone to nip out to Spain for a few days fishing on the Ebro – it’s even worth going for a long weekend. Go with pals and the checked baggage charge can be kept right down by sharing a rod-box and tackle bag with the free cabin baggage allowance reserved for clothing and personal effects.

We chose a Monday to Friday trip and rented a car, which was a negligible cost when shared between the three of us. An hour and a half after landing we were in the small town of Caspe with Gary strongly suggesting that we ignore the zander and fish for carp instead because they were really having it! He had just had an amazing session, taking an amazing 2500lb of fish up to 50lb+. That’s another story for another day and I’m trying to get Gary to tell it himself in another article. The upshot was we wouldn’t listen to him and insisted on zander fishing with lures, which was the whole reason for being there.

Tuesday morning dawned with a thick clammy mist covering the water. This persisted whilst we launched the boat and it was mid morning before the sun burned it off – yet by midday we were in T-shirts and beginning to worry about sunburn. The weather in this part of the world can be extreme and at this time of the year (early spring) you can get the lot in one day so it’s best to come prepared for anything and everything. No trip to Spain would be complete without three things: a suntan, bad plumbing and excellent fishing. This trip was typical one.

We had timed this trip hoping to find some big female zander amongst the schools of smaller male fish on the spawning areas. So we spent our time fishing areas where the water was shallow and muddy and the bottom comprised of clean gravel. We found zander easily enough but they were mostly small male fish. The big girls had not yet arrived. We were a week or two early for them. We cast mainly jig-headed rubber lures and caught fish on several patterns, as well as on hard lures, though the yellowish bullhead lure the Doc was using out-fished all the others put together. Worth noting for the future!


This lure outfished all others

Another interesting capture was a perch of around 2lb that I managed to juggle back into the lake before any decent photos could be taken. This was the first perch from the Ebro I’ve ever seen in all the years I’ve been fishing it. My secret wish that a catfish would grab my lure didn’t happen but I bet it would have if we’d had a little longer, hence I was fishing with 30lb braid and a 24lb leader which would at least give me a chance to land one despite the light lure rod. Gordy was fishing with wire traces but in deference to the zander’s renowned aversion to large amounts of end-tackle metal, Paul and I used flurocarbon. I don’t know if it made a huge amount of difference however. In the heavily coloured water we mainly fished, the majority of our fish had the lures deep down their throats; they were very confident takes.

Unfortunately for us, on this trip the weather snookered us. On our second day of fishing, the Wednesday, the wind got up and the chop on the water made boat fishing impracticable so we had to cut the session short. Thursday the weather was no better with wind producing white-capped waves so we had to content ourselves with a short session bank fishing. We took a couple of fish that day but to be honest, without a boat our lure-fishing options were too limited. We called it a day.


Maybe next time I catch you you’ll have grown up a bit

In retrospect, ignoring Gary’s suggestion to fish for carp was probably not the most sensible course of action we could have taken but at least we managed to finally scratch the Ebro zed itch that had been bothering us all these years. Maybe next time we’ll get the weather right and connect with the big girls because I feel sure there is a 20lber there somewhere with my name written on her. And I want it on a lure. Badly.

Geoff Maynard