Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Deseaba que yo Pescara en España! Part I

Wished that I fished in Spain Part I  
Córdoba and Seville, Andalucía, Southern Spain

I hope the title displays the correct Spanish to match the English translation above!  Google Translate is pretty cool.  But for all I know, it could say that I stink at fishing!  My translation is also titled above, and I hope that it actually is the correct translation.  Since I don't speak Spanish, please forgive me if I've accidentally typed something that doesn't make sense, or worse, insulting!

A couple months ago, my wife and I flew across the pond to Spain for a few reasons, to meet my daughter after she studied for an entire Semester, have a vacation experience that we’ve never had, and make sure that we bring her home…single, and with last name, unchanged!

Neither fishing nor fossil collecting were on the agenda.  We had plenty of tours lined up.  My feet, two months later, still ache from all that walking, although we did take our share of hairy cab rides too.  Don’t get me wrong, in those Spanish cities, where narrow streets and heavy traffic are the norm, those cabbies aren’t bad drivers at all.  In fact, I'd say that the majority of the ones that hauled us around were very skilled.

Our daughter refused to let us rent and drive a vehicle, and after the visit, I agree with her assessment.  Those cab drivers are skilled, but they’re crazy, and they pretty much have to be.  Each cab ride was almost like an amusement park ride, full of thrills.  It was very impressive to see the traffic flow as it did, with so many close calls and tight situations, so many pedestrians, and the amazing thing was that we didn’t witness even one single traffic accident!  That's either pure luck or a testament to their driving talents.

OK, so what about the fishing?  And what about the fossiling?  You do have an outdoors blog, don’t you Kevin?  Hold your horses folks, I’ll get to that.

Our vacation began in Seville, a city in the Southern part of Spain, in the second largest and most populated autonomous community known as Andalucía.  During that stretch, we also toured the city of Córdoba.  These areas are rich in history, art, architecture and are really a sightseeing paradise.  You just can't see it all in a couple weeks, and we only stayed here for a few days.

Our arrival in Madrid followed the night flight across the mighty Atlantic, a first for me, was followed by an enjoyable connecting flight to Seville during the daylight hours.  Of course, I’m like a kid on a plane, I need a window seat.  I always try to see what’s down there, try to figure out where I am, and as an angler, try and figure out what those bodies of water are, and ask myself, what species of fish do they fish for.

I observed many bodies of water from the air that looked like grassy pike type lakes, with what looked like standing timber.  But as it turns out, most of them were gigantic puddles, and most were really temporary.  The terrain around Seville is fairly flat.  As the plane's altitude decreased, I noticed that there were not any homes, docks, or anything that would indicate recreational activity surrounding those bodies of water.  Just to the North of Seville, there are quite a few reservoirs that can be fished as well as a couple of them to the South and East.  Those bodies of water looked pretty fishy too.

Seville does have a river.  In fact, during the final minutes of our tour of Córdoba, and after touring the amazing historical buildings of this fantastic city, we made the most of our final minutes admiring an old Roman bridge that was built during the 1st century BC.  Of course, as if the historical significance of the bridge wasn't enough to amaze me, so was the river.  Were there any fish in there?  Did people fish there?  What kind of fish live there?

Seville and Córdoba share the same river, with Córdoba being upriver from Seville along Rio Guadalquiver.  Well, of course, upon returning home, I had to do a quick internet search of that river.  According to Wikipedia, it's "the only great navigable river in Spain.  Currently it is navigable to Seville, but in Roman times it was navigable to Córdoba."  Interesting, but what about the fishing?
Seville does have a river, Rio Guadalquiver.  Of course, I had to check out the fish along with the Roman Bridge!
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the river is known, as far as fishing goes, for trout and barbels.  What's a barbel?  I had no idea.  I suspected that they are carp, and as it turns out, they aren't, but very carp like.  The truth is that they are native to Spain, and one species is only found in Spain.
In the short video above, you may see fish moving in and out of the current breaks created by the bridge pilings.  When I was there, I wondered if they were salmon, trout or carp as I overlooked the ancient bridge, mesmerized by the many fish moving in and out of the eddies.  After researching on the net a bit, my guess they were barbels, but they could have been carp.  I took a brief walk and noticed some anglers down river, but didn't have time to take a picture.  I had a tour bus to catch!  The river in Cordoba is freshwater, and reminded me much of the Eastern U.S. rivers that are home to our smallmouth bass.

Prior to our departure from Córdoba and my fascination with the bridge, we toured some amazing historic sites, including Mezquita–catedral de Córdoba (the Great Mosque-Cathedral of  Córdoba), which had many fascinating architectural and historical sites, gardens, artifacts, enough to entertain oneself for a month.  And of course, the Muslim influence in the architecture was evidenced by the many gardens shaded with orange and lemon trees, flowers teeming with wild parakeets.

The abundant fountains complete with ancient irrigation systems connected each of the many garden sections.  That was all fascinating enough, but did any have fish in them?  I managed to locate some pools filled with carp and goldfish.  Well, they don't allow fishing in the mosque gardens, but at least I could see some real teleosts to remind me of my favorite hobby.
My fascination with the history and architecture in Córdoba was enhanced when I found fish!
Upon our return to Seville along with a nice siesta, we freshened up for a night out on the town.  Our plan was to walk along the river for a bit, then head to a restaurant complete with entertainment.  We ate dinner and watched a Flamenco show at the Tablao El Arenal.  The food was fantastic, but the show was spectacular!  Never in my life did I imagine attending such an event.  The dancing was amazing the the music was very entertaining.  And let me tell you, those flamenco dancers were in some kind of shape!  I was in awe.
A walk along the river in Seville at the onset of our night on the town.  Actually, the body of water is the Canal de Alphonso XIII along the Rio Guadalquiver.  It was beautiful, but I had to  once again ponder the fishing potential.  This stretch of the river is navigable to the Mediterranean evidenced by our sightings of a couple cruise ships and several large tour boats.  It has to have some big fish!
This typical Seville street was the location of Tablao El Arenal.  We waited here for the doors of the flamenco show to open.  The place was small, but was packed.  We had a great time and the food was outstanding!

Here's a view of the river in the distance from the tower of the Seville Cathedral, the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world, and also the third largest Cathedral in the world.  You can see the huge drawbridge crossing the river to accommodate the shipping traffic.  With water that big, what big fish can be found here?  In the foreground, you can see part of the Alcázar of Seville, which is a royal palace and a former Moorish fort.
As far as the fishing in Seville goes, the river seems to be tidal, and is known for it's sturgeon fishery although overfishing and pollution may have caused the population of the once abundant caviar source to decline drastically.  Other species caught in the region, either in the rivers or lakes include various coarse fish such as carp, barbels, and tench.  The local Seville waters also harbor perca-sol (sunfish) and róbalo (snook)!  But the thing that, from an angling standpoint, makes me feel at home is possibility of catching pike in some of the local rivers, and even black bass!  

That's right, the famous largemouth bass!  Imagine traveling across an ocean to fish for bass!  The warmer reservoirs are stocked with bucketmouths, while the cooler ones provide action for brown trout, which are native to Spain.  There are also trout fishing streams, although it seems that they are off limits all but for one day a week, where catch and release fishing is permitted (see link below).  I have no reason to not trust the website below that cites those regulations, but take them with a grain of salt and check the regulations yourself (as you might anywhere).

The following website provides specific on where to fish in the Seville area:

The website below has an interesting read on fishing in Andalucía, an article from an angler with many years experience there.  The author's name is Phil Pembroke.  After reading this article, on my next trip to Spain, you can bet I'll get a license and won't forget my fishing tackle, along with a rod and reel! This article also has some licensing advice too.  That is, as long as my family sets me free to explore these fishing opportunities.

I will share more about my vacation to Spain and my missed angling opportunities in my next post, titled, "Wished that I fished in Spain Part II:  Malaga and Barcelona".

For any of the readers that have fished these waters, I'd really like to state that these are merely observations and thoughts combined with a little bit of web research.  I'm far from an expert on this subject, and would welcome comments.  I apologize in advance if I've provided erroneous information or anything, so I will check back on the comments and correct anything that isn't right.  Also, please feel free to share any information about fishing in the Seville or Córdoba area, not only to benefit the reading public, but also to inspire my chance at fishing in Spain during my next visit!

Sources:  Wikipedia, Encyclopedia Brittanica, and the linked sites above.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Happy Birthday Kyle!

For those of you that haven't read about my brother, my inspiration for starting this blog and to keep it going, and for helping to put my life in better perspective, along with the help of my wife, daughter, and sisters, I certainly recommend that you check out his story, linked here:

Tribute to my Brother Kyle

It's his birthday today.  This post, and the wonderful article below by Jim Cumming, are a very fitting way to honor my brother on his day.

I love and miss you Kyle.

Small Stream Summer Ramblings

By guest author Jim Cumming

It’s been said that if you don’t like the weather in Maine, wait five minutes and it will change.  This summer has been no exception, with conditions bouncing back and forth from flood warnings to near drought, from 90 degree heat to jacket weather, and everything in between.  For fishermen, the task has been clear…..adapt or risk dancing with the skunk.
Jim is not only talented at writing fishing articles like this one, he's also a heck of an angler and a good friend.  I hope you enjoy his work.  Please note the links to his other articles posted within this blog at the end of this post.  I'm sure you'll enjoy them as well.
A few weeks back, I avoided my usual left turn toward work (always a good move when you can swing it) and headed right for the Western Maine Mountains in cloudless, bluebird skies.  Conditions were perfect for soaking up some Vitamin D, but the unlimited sunshine would have small water trout at their spookiest.  The hour drive to higher elevations passed quickly for me.  A bite to eat to fortify myself for several hours on the slippery stream bed and I’d be good to go.  The local warden pulled up as I was finishing off my turkey and cheese and greeted me with a question.  “Heading out or finishing up?”.  When I told him that I hadn’t wet a line yet, he didn’t offer much encouragement.  “It’s been tough.  Water’s down and with this much sun you’d be better off waiting till dusk.”  He went on to suggest several other spots.  I thanked him, but since additional driving or staying late were not in the cards, I had no choice but to stay the course and adapt.

Sometimes it takes an escape from the confines of my work cubicle to be creative.  How creative can one be when a move of a foot and half in any direction causes a collision with a file cabinet or a cubicle wall, a trip over a power cord, or other typical Monday through Friday hazard?  Leaving that in my rearview cleared my mental fog and ignited a focus on the task at hand that I hadn’t felt in days.  As I waded up the rocky streambed, I compiled a mental journal (a “play-by-play” if you will) of my thought process for dealing with the tough conditions of low water in bright sunshine, and what ultimately did or didn’t work.  I ended up with a series of mental snippets and observations leading to the following bits of advice which should be helpful wherever similar conditions prevail.

Stay Low
It’s great to know that fish are at least in the stream you’re fishing.  It’s not great when you make this discovery by virtue of wakes of spooked fish darting off.  That was the result of my approach to the first pool upstream.  I thought I’d been stealthy enough, but the trout proved me wrong.  Time to “Get low, Jimbo”, or to get behind a shoreline rock or bush to block my quarry’s view.

Get High
What’s this?  Is he truly altering his frame of mind?  For sure, I’m a child of the sixties and seventies, but being on the water is buzz enough for me.  What I’m referring to is the benefit of getting higher in elevation in a watershed in summer conditions.  An obvious benefit is lower water temperatures, particularly if your quarry is a cool or cold water fish like trout.  Another benefit is the lessened impact of flood damage at higher elevations.  After ruining my first pool by spooking its residents, I waded for an hour or so with no sign of life in the fish department.  I had noticed that the bottom was very light in color, not the dark, productive, food-rich bottom environs I’m used to.  If that was a sign of scour from flooding, what I found around the bend was a dead giveaway.  Mystery of the slow bite solved.  Flood waters gain volume from run-off and tributaries as they rush downstream with gravity.  The lower section of the stream had fallen victim to this.  Time to get high…or at least increase my elevation.
Although the water was low when the author fished it, debris piles reveal a history of flooding that left this stretch of stream unproductive, at least for a season.
Easy Going Doesn’t Mean Easy Fishing
A move uphill was just what the doctor ordered for finding a stream that hadn’t been damaged and scoured by flood waters.  On top of that, the fine gravel and sand was easy wading on my half century (plus) old legs.  On the other hand, it lacked the cover to hold fish.
The author enjoyed wading this featureless bottom, but the action was non-existent.
A move to a bottom with larger boulders and bedrock got the catching into higher gear.  Yeah, the slips and trips multiplied, but so did the bites.
What this stretch lacked in terms of easy wading, it made up for in good action.
This feisty wild rainbow trout struck readily in a stretch of broken water.
Don’t Get Cut Off
Over the years, I’ve been immersed in large metropolitan area traffic from time-to-time.  Now, living in Central Maine, that’s largely behind me.  Still, getting cut off on occasion is enough to re-ignite the road rage in me.  It’s also something to be avoided on a stream.  Under the existing low flow conditions, the pool in the foreground in the picture below has enough depth to hold fish, but is cut off from the main flow toward the top of the picture.  Water cut off from the main flow is productive only under very limited circumstances, and rarely during the summer.  It is not as well oxygenated as water in the main flow, which can be critical during the warm months.  In addition, it suffers from the continual problem of lacking the current conveyor belt that fish favor to bring food to their doorsteps.
The water in the foreground had adequate depth, but lacked the current that stream fish favor in holding areas.
Leave the Swimming Holes to the Kids
A little more wading brought me a deep, slack water hole.  Great to cool off in.  It was a weekday morning so I had the place to myself.  The quiet, however, wasn’t enough to help the fishing.  I rarely do well in stretches like this, in spite of legends of occasional big fish falling to mainly bait fishermen.
This deep, slack water hole is great for a dip, but poor for summer trout action.
The Shadow Knows
The catching can get nearly impossible at mid-day in the open stretches of a small stream.  You can often break the funk by fishing in the shade of a high bank or tall trees.
This high rock ledge cast just enough of a shadow to be a potential fish holding area at high noon.
This deeply shaded hole held a nice fish, but the author ended up with a swing and a miss.
I had the right fly, made the perfect cast, had a nice drift, and had a nice trout nail my dry fly in the picture immediately above.  An imperfect hook-set left me with an empty net.

Hang Around Something Cool
As the afternoon wore on, the bite slowed again.  A check of the water temperature showed it had gone up a few ticks since morning….from 65 to around 68 degrees.  This was enough to put the cold water-loving trout off their feed.  As a note of caution, I avoid fishing for trout in water with temperatures much above the mid-60’s.  Catch and release may not be successful after the fight in warmer water.  The solution on this day was to find cooler water, which was provided by tributaries draining higher, shaded terrain or fed by springs delivering groundwater.
A tributary from higher terrain joins the main stream (at the top of the photo) providing cool water and concentrating trout.
It may not look like much, but this spring seep (at the left of the photo) delivered enough cold groundwater to create a fish-holding spot where it joined the main stream.
Both of the spots pictured above produced multiple fish, including the “hat trick”….not a three goal game in hockey, but instead a mix of brook, brown, and rainbow trout.
Wild rainbows dominated the catch in this stretch.
But native brookies were by no means a rarity.
And with persistence and a little luck, the day’s catch was rounded out with a big, colorful brown trout.
Beware of Imposters
Not all tributaries are created equal.  Some drain boggy, dark bottom areas and many actually deliver water that is warmer than the main stream itself!  The excessive green algae in this tributary are a strong indicator of a high nutrient content and warm water temperatures.  However, the surest way to determine this is with your stream thermometer.  I can’t stress enough the importance of having one and using it, especially for summer fishing.  At 71 degrees, this tributary was three degrees warmer than the bulk of the stream and certainly didn’t hold any trout.
While most tributaries deliver cooler water and good summer action, this warm drainage brought in warm water and had the opposite effect.
Summer Breeze Makes Me Feel Fine
For those of you who weren’t around, this is a soft rock title from Seals and Crofts (1972).  It was a day for flashbacks, what can I say?  It did have relevance to my fishing situation however.  Hot sun in the mountains is called “destructive” in meteorological jargon, meaning that it is self-limiting, and leads to instability and often showers.  Kind of casts a cloud on a beautiful day, doesn’t it?  Speaking of clouds, the heat of the day on my outing did indeed cause thermal updrafts, mountain breezes, and just enough cumulus clouds to dim the sun and ignite a few bites.
A few afternoon clouds blocked the bright sun just enough for the action to pick up.
Pick Some Pockets
No, it’s not my latest get rich quick scheme to follow-up on the Economic Stimulus.  Instead, it’s another way to bring a few more fish to net in tough summer conditions.  As my upstream trek neared its end, the combination of cool tributaries, higher elevation, and lower sun angle had water temperatures back down into the mid-sixties.  Still, it was quite bright and the bite wasn’t what I’d hoped for.  However, the stretches of water with broken water and deep pockets provided the cover and feeding lanes to hold a decent number of fish.  Strikes from opportunistic trout were swift and enjoyable.
This pocket water yielded three or four quick fish to cap off a good day.
I ended my day with a pleasant walk down the dirt road back to my car.  I thought of how the day started with a warden questioning whether my time would be well-spent on this stream, and I chuckled about how a few tricks I had up my sleeve had beaten the odds.  Those are the most satisfying days on the water for me.  I hope others find my approach helpful.  You can do a lot worse than warm sun, a good bit of exercise, and a hat trick with no ice in sight.

Blogger's Note:  Thank you Jim for this wonderful contribution.  I'm sure that everyone that fishes will love this post and your beautiful pictures.  For those of you that are interested in more of Jim's work, here are some quick links:

Small Stream Magic...Going with the Flow

Small Streams...Arctic Style

Thursday, August 8, 2013

What? Too Much Fishing Tackle? You can never have enough...

I always carry way too much fishing tackle with me.

Why? I don't really know. Maybe it's a fear of not having what the fish want on any given day. Having everything that the fish will likely bite on either in the boat, in my tackle bag, or in my fishing vest, gives me a sense of confidence and security.

The extra tackle also comes in handy when you're fishing with a buddy and they run out of something, or don't have anything like what you're catching fish on. After all, you want your fishing buddies to catch fish at the same rate that you do, right?  If not, shame on you! What? You're competitive? Nooooooo.... That's a future blog post right there!

I admit that I have an obsession about fishing lures. Kind of akin to Imelda Marcos having too many shoes, or perhaps my wife!  I mean, how many shoes do you need, right?  Well, she can say the same thing about me.  "How many lures do you really need"?

I'm a tackle collector. The lures that are made that catch more fishermen than they catch fish? Well, I probably have them.  Going into a tackle shop for me is like my wife heading to the outlets.  It's addicting.

In fact, my fishing pals joke that I have enough tackle to open my own tackle shop. I'm not sure about that, but I definitely have enough to catch fish the rest of my life.  I guess that's why it takes me so long to prepare for a fishing trip the next day, because I have so much to go though, and takes time to find what I really need to bring.  But what happens if a secret hot lure comes out on the market, some lure that catches fish far more effectively than anything out there? I gotta have it!

This time of year, when I wade to fish for smallmouth bass or fish off the bank for largemouth, my vest is stuffed to the max with bags of soft plastics, at least a hundred of each in a couple hot colors.  My pockets are also lined with boxes of crankbaits, a bag of buzzbaits, a topwater box, a few spinnerbaits and chatterbaits, a box of terminal tackle, a jighead box, a bottle of worm dye, extra reel spools of line, and just about anything else that I can carry that I may or may not need.  It's almost comical that I'm stuffed so much with tackle that my vest pockets can act like arm chairs while I fish!
My vest is so packed with lures and tackle that I can use the pockets as arm rests!  I'll carry whatever I think that I may need, and then some, to catch smallies like this spunky little guy.
And the obsession doesn't end there.  It happens in all forms of my fishing.  When fishing out of someone else's boat, my tackle bag weighs a ton.  Lifting that monsterous bag onto a trailered boat would give Lou Ferrigno a workout if he had ten reps with it.  In the case of my buddies that own jet boats, getting on a plane might be an issue.  And, my buddy Howard has a Coleman Crawdad, so I need to be careful how much I bring or water will spill over the bow!  Of course, everything turns out OK, but I still catch fish on far few lures than I bring with me.
When fishing with my friend Dave, I carried all these boxes were crammed into a gigantic Cabela's tackle bag along with a pounds and pounds of soft plastics and other tackle accessories.   I caught all of my fish that day on the only lure that I tried, a soft plastic worm.  I had other rods rigged with stuff, and plenty of tackle, but didn't need any of it.  The fish wanted one thing, the first thing that I offered them.   I could have brought one small box of terminal tackle and that bag of worms that day!
Another example, when I ice fish, I have a portable shanty called a Fish Trap.  It's basically a big sled that has a bass boat seat to sit on, and converts to a pull-over shelter.  Of course, I have to cram it full of tackle too.  That poses problems when fishing in deep snow and/or slush, especially when mobility is the key to finding fish.  The sled with the additional weight sinks into the snow, and is tougher to drag around.
Pulling a Fish Trap stocked with tons of tackle will weigh it down, which takes a ton of effort to haul over ten inches of snow and slush.  My buddy Jim is off in the distance, leaving me way behind, pulling my gear, huffing and puffing.  He's a billy goat anyway and can scamper around because he's in better shape than I am, but he also carries far less weight in his sled.  I have to make sure that I have all of my lures, rods, tackle, heater, lantern, depthfinder, portable video camera, and ice auger in my sled.
Now, my boat is like a giant tackle box.  But since I'm the Captain, nobody really can complain as long as there's enough room for them and their stuff.  But the downside is that carrying more tackle means more weight, which makes it tougher to get on a plane and slows the boat down.  But so what?  I have all of my tackle at my fingertips!  I'm in heaven!
The great thing about owning a boat is that it's one giant tackle box.   I'm in fishing heaven when I'm in my boat!
One last point though, is that there is a downside to carrying so much tackle.  When making decisions on what might work or not work, I tend to go with my confidence baits, and forget about some of the stuff that I've dragged along.  I'll peer into my tackle bag, rummage through the boxes, open them up, study what is there, and ultimately grab something that I have confidence in, leaving the rest for another day that may or may not ever come.  It can actually get confusing!

The ironic thing is that the same lures that worked twenty years ago are just as effective at catching fish today as anything else on the market. Catching fish is all about confidence, technique, and more importantly, understanding the habits of the species that you're targeting.

The next time that I go bass fishing, I'm thinking about limiting myself to ten lures (a pack of soft plastic worms counts as one lure) and a box of terminal tackle. I bet that I catch just as many fish on that trip that I normally would.