Monday, August 17, 2015

Algarve - Day Of The Shad

Fly fishing in the Algarve is not widely known, or at least I have not found much information on the Internet. Yet through the Internet I managed to meet Russell who is guiding in the southern part of Portugal.

Many waters dry up during the summer and the only fresh water fly fishing options are reduced to a few dams and bigger rivers. In dams you can catch large mouth bass and carp. My attention was captured by a river that marks the border between Portugal and Spain, Rio Guadiana. With a length of over 700 km, traverses the Iberian Peninsula from North to South and then it flows into the Atlantic Ocean. The fish fauna is varied. Perhaps the most interesting fish for the fly fishermen is the shad (Alosa fallax), a herring-type anadromous fish which migrates into fresh water to spawn. The fishing season begins in April and ends in June. Besides shad you can fish for different species of barbel, large mouth bass, zander and carp. Fishing license is required and can be obtained from an ATM or at the local authorities in Olhão, Faro or Portimão against a modest sums. Getting the fishing license from an ATM is possible only with a Portuguese card.

I met Russell near Tavira where he picked me up and drove with his car to Mertola, a small town, forgotten by time with narrow streets situated on the banks of Rio Guadiana. The Phoenician, Roman and then Moorish influence merged of in this merchant place. Sulfur and silver from nearby mines were exchanged for grain. The place where we fished lies a few kilometers north of Mertola. A country road that meandered arid fields took us to an old mill on the banks of the river.

Until I had my fishing rod ready for action, Russell inspected the river and told me that we have a good chance to catch shad. Initially I thought it would be interesting to fool some Iberian barbel with the fly, having already some experience with their continental counterparts. I started fishing with a tandem of two heavy nymphs and soon I had the first fish. Shad's attacked in glee my nymphs. Twice I managed a double. An orange BH nymph proved to be attractive for a small barbel, unfortunately the only one during that day.

After some nice shads, Russell managed to catch two little zander on a minnow imitation. Meanwhile I changed my rig and I started fishing with sink tip and streamers. Great was my surprise when I caught a sea bass with a clouser minnow. There followed many other shads on a white / chartreuse clouser and on one of Russells flies, a sparkler (fish imitation tied only with pearl flash and a BH). The take on the streamer is extremely strong reported to the size of the fish and the best way to hook up is a short strip-strike. Shad turned out to be a real game fish making a lot of jumps until you manage to have it in the net. Some of the fish didn’t managed to survive the long and exhausting journey into the river.

I ended the fishing day on the Rio Guadiana getting new experiences and lots of great pictures. If you are interested into fly fishing in this area you can contact Russell. He can provide any kind of help (information, guiding, fishing tackle). More information can be found on his website GuadianaFishing.

...more photographic impressions from the Algarve...

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Dry Fly - Fished Wet

On the last day of the Craft Beer Festival, I was sitting at a table with my buddy S. and lament about fly fishing. Although initially we planed to join our friend L. for some fly fishing in the Sumava region (southwest Bohemia), we had to change our plan and opt for a nearby river.  When we almost emptied the Double Jack glasses, I asked my friend:
"If you could choose, what would be your top five fish that you want to catch with the artificial fly?"

After our thoughts have crossed seas and distant countries, somewhat nostalgic S. said:
"No.1 in my top is a trout, a big one. At least I’d like to beat my personal record."
We parted that night with thoughts for the next day.
Punctual as promised L. was at 7 AM in front of my flat followed by S..
We drank the morning coffee on the balcony while L. tied a few " Mercers Missing Link” that he gave us to try them on the water.

We departed with two cars to a world of water, fish and insects. Our paths parted at some point, each heading to another river. Arrived at the water, we started to look for some action on the water surface. Lots of mayflies danced like fairies when suddenly a large stone fly sat on my hand. It was like magic. Fish didn’t cared to much about the food abundance on the water, so we went upstream. This time we chose a part of river where only dry fly fishing is allowed.

Fishing was more difficult than we imagined. The sun was high on the sky and we changed many productive flies for that water without any results. Somewhat frustrated, my eyes glued to a Chernobyl Ant left in the dry fly box. I had nothing to lose so I decided to give it a chance. After several casts, I had the first attack and first fish was caught, a small trout with a mouth as big as the foam fly I served him. I thought that the ice was broken and others will follow but still no interest for the goodies on the water surface.

Time passed in our detriment, when suddenly I noticed a very fine rise. Initially I thought it was a grayling and began to serve him what I thought was best from my box of flies but remained unsuccessful. Cast after cast, fish raised but the fly on the surface remained dull for him. I changed to a dry red tag tied on a hook no. 14 without the desired result ... and yet the fish was there and was active. The question "What am I doing wrong?" was haunting me. Meanwhile I changed the leader with a longer one with a 0.12 mm thin tippet and still no results when suddenly I had an idea. The fish didn’t eat on the surface, which meant that it only took emergers just below the surface. What to do? I stopped drying my fly and started fishing with casts at 45 ° to the opposite bank followed by mending. The second cast brought the take, I countered and soon had a beautiful brownie in the landing net. The trout was followed by a chub.

S. followed my advice and saw his rod bent. It was a big one. I thought he caught a big chub but after several minutes of struggle proved to be a brownie. Happy like two children we looked at each other without saying a word. Our eyes and souls were laughing. What a splendid day and what a hard fight until we got to this result. It was the biggest trout caught by S. till now. The fish was over 17.5 inches long.

There followed some nice fish but none like that. Meanwhile I called L. and heard that he had a great day too. At home we watched the pictures we took and had some IPA. ... and there is a fly fishermen God who occasionally makes our dreams come true.