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Thursday, May 28, 2009

About time for some fishing

People sometimes complain that there’s not much fishing in this blog. Fact is that for me, living in a city like Madrid, there are more opportunities to take photos rather than go fishing. Said that, a couple weeks ago I drove some 500km to the north east of Spain to meet a couple of friends and fish the waters surrounding the Delta of the Ebro River.

This place is quite emblematic for the Spanish coast. Is probably the best spot for Leerfish, Bluefish and Sea Bass plus a number of smaller pelagics. Sometimes Tuna and False Albacore show up yet it offers a very scarce jigging action. I have fished this area since 10 years probably, and I think I can say that I have been the first in consistently using top water lures, introducing the technique to many people who now use it with great results

During our two half days and one full day session we had seen quite a bunch of fish following our lures. My friend Oriol hooked a pretty large Leerfish and as many times happen he lost it during then fight. These darn fish for many different reasons are very tough both to hook and to keep hooked. I don’t know if is because of the hard mouth, the way the hit the plug or the fight they develop, but the fact is that for every 10 you have following your lure you are quite in good shape if you bring one to the boat

The Bluefish amused us with their spectacular strikes and fun fights. They’re not the main target but hey, they’re a good alternative and deliver tons of action. We also tried the Sea Bass, with scarce luck. Three small fish caught and one monster behind a lure creating a wake of impressive size. The good thing about Sea Bass fishing is that you can use very light tackle, and this is for me, at the moment, a major pleasure.

Oriol and Carlos, my fishing buddies, showed me how far the top water technique has been developed in their area to catch all these predators, and the funny thing is that in other areas of the Spanish coast, things can be dramatically different, and what works in the Delta, doesn’t’ work in Alicante, just to make an example.

I must admit that now what really attracts me is the light tackle action. I’d love to nail a large Sea Bass with an 8lb rod and line. I’m addicted to the walking the dog top water lures, I’d love to be more acquainted with the soft plastic and everything able to give me back my wrist sensibility lost in many tropical battles. Medium or heavy top water fishing can be fun, but for me it makes now sense to do it if the opponent is a member of the Tuna family. I have a pending affair with those fish and they’re at the top on my favourites list, but this is another story yet to be written...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Bullfighting in Madrid

Last Sunday I received a wonderful invitation to see a “Rejoneo”, one special kind of bullfighting where the bullfighter rides a Spanish horse, especially trained for this kind of show. The place was nonetheless the “dome” of Spanish bullfighting, the famous arena of Las Ventas, in Madrid. Hermoso de Mendoza, Andy Cartagena and Sergio Domínguez completed the billboard against 6 bulls from Los Espartales. That’s enough for technical infos, I’m not a bullfighting major fan or expert and the main reason I went is because I love to see what they can do with the horses in front of the bull, something absolutely magic.

Fact is that I had THE seats. “Tendido 9”, front row. Nobody in front of me but the bullfighters and helpers ring, the fence and the arena. Obviously I took with me the entire pack of camera equipment: my old D80. 5 lenses, SD cards etc. First lens to be used a Nikkor 10.5 f2.8 Fisheye, just to get an idea of how the “Plaza de Toros” looks like

The zoom that worked the most has been the Nikkor 18-200, pretty efficient in terms of focal length and fast focus yet not fast enough neither too sharp, especially when worked constantly at f5.6. As the afternoon light got dimmer also the D80 showed its limitations with the high ISO I needed to use. Noise was showing pretty heavily in most of the images and together with my scarce experience in these kinds of photographic events, delivered many poor images, and many already swallowed by the recycle bin.

Among the major difficulties I had in the beginning was trying to compensate the exposure difference between the shaded areas and those where the sun was still heavily shining. Once it settled lower on the horizon I switched to manual and worked more or less with the same setting for the rest of the evening.
Eventually I found myself with a bunch of underexposed images, more noise then, while those I have tried to shoot at a lower shutter speed came out quite blurred… It’s the story of the dog biting its tail, and sure enough I couldn’t go any further than ISO 800.

Have played with different kind of focusing, shutter speed, metering and focus point, and when the 18-200 became too slow to capture the dimmer light of the evening I switched to the 60mm f2.8 trying to gain a couple stops. Unfortunately, because of the Murphy’s Law, the rest of the action happened almost entirely on the other side of the arena and couldn’t get many decent frames.

Anyway, let’s not find excuses, what was missing was a good photographer dealing with the situation: my complete lack of experiences in sports and fast action in general heavily shows in the results and the only thing I can think of now is to go back in the near future and try again. Thus, I doubt very much I will be able to do it again from such privileged position.

If I will have such chance I will try to put my hands on a good 70-200 f2.8 and a body that allows me to pump up the ISO with no fear. Is a very exciting show and there are many good opportunities for amazing photos.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Can I help you?

People sometimes are strange, let me explain you.
I have an internet tackle shop ( Is a specialist shop, solely dedicated to top water and jigging in saltwater. This is what I have been doing in the last 20 years, being a fishing guide and travelling to the world explaining people how to do it. So today I got the call from this guy, he needed some lures to catch Dentex, quite a nice predator we have here in the Mediterranean. He says he has seen my videos, he’s been following me in the mags and he is sure I can suggest him the best for his fishing.

Great, so far so good. I record his data and get myself ready to fix the order. I start suggesting him a white 120g Hooker, a lure I think is really worth having when fishing for these critters. He replies he likes the lure but maybe he wants it pink. I try to explain him that more important than the colour is the brightness (or the lack of it) of a lure, and he says ok…but I want it pink. Then I recommend him another metal jig I know it works well. Too heavy he says, and the colour doesn’t suit his taste. The third lure I propose is a 100g Ouka in White, in fact I believe he needs at least a white lure, but he says he was thinking about the pink/blue/sardine. So far none of my ideas was accepted and I told him he should probably tell me what he needs in fact he seems to have pretty clear ideas about his fishing needs.

At this point he picks another jig, one I don’t have in stock and I put forward a similar one, which is available. He declines and asks me again if I have that jig I just told him I don’t have. Nope, still is not available. I offer him another lure I know works well for the Dentex, many friend are pretty fond of it. He says no, he wants that jig. Again the one I don’t have. Then he thinks back again and asks me for the alternative lure I advised before and picks one. Guess what colour? Pink. At the end of the phone call he bought three pink jigs of his choice plus another one somehow I managed to advocate and I think he didn’t refuse it because he didn’t realized it wasn’t pink.

Well, after this conversation I have mixed feelings. On one end I’m happy because I made a sale and he bought the lures is confident with. A very good thing because he will fish them hard and catch some fish. On the other I wonder why on earth he called me if he knew what he wanted and couldn’t care less for my help. A simple e-mail could have sorted out everything faster and painless.

Can you help me?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Spanish Pikes

Last week I had an happy day. After a long and cold winter I finally went back to my favourite fishing grounds in the Castilla Leon area, near Benavente, 250km North-west of Madrid. This is about two and half hours drive from my house, so I left pretty early in the morning, fivish I'd say.

These are relatively small rivers, formerly populated with trouts and now, due to the pollution, dams and bad management have turned into great Pike waters. The fun thing is that you can wade most of them and fish top water a lot, in fact the water is pretty clear and also shallow, with lots of weeds.

The start of the day hasn't been very good. One of my favourite stretch of the river (and the whole river for that matter) was carrying a lot of water, pretty high with a strong current. Had two pikes following on the first pools but finally had to quit. Too dangerous.

Pretty upset I moved to another river. The water was perfect, it was quiet and beautiful and on cast # 3 I had my first Pike charging wildly the Super Spook from almost 10' and halting like Roadrunner once he saw me. Funny enough, the usually better shore was non productive and when I moved to the other, the sunny one, I found a good deal of fish in very shallow water, very aggressive with the top water lure. By the end of the morning I had collected 10 strikes, most of them missed, and landed 2 small fish.

In the afternoon, moving to another stretch of the river I missed the right turn and ended up in a road I didn't know until I found a small bridge on a nice looking river. A local explained me what river was that and I decided to give it a chance. "20 casts Nicola, only 20 casts and if nothing happens we proceed to our known spot". Thing is that on cast 3 a very nice fish followed and hit the spinnerbait under my feet. Missed it. 10 more casts and another fish follows, to strike again under my feet and miss the darn lure. Finally, a third fish inhaled the spinnerbait and I had the third fish of the day.

Needless to say I was hooked. I kept fishing downriver, in almost every deep spot I found nice Pikes (they're not big fish but we are in a small river as well) and started improving my score. Too bad I was on my own because it was a great day to take amazing photos. I had to do everything myself, and to make things worse I only had with me the Nikon D70s with a 35mm f2 lens, the less bulkier I have, great tool but not for wide angle stuff as most of the times I need. A SB600 was also in my wader's pocket and I used it a great deal, can't live without strobes these days.

Late in the afternoon I crossed path with a fellow fisherman, trying to catch a trout on a fly, exchanged few words and resumed my fishing. Next pool I hit a very nice fish (again, nice for these waters) and called the guy to help me with the photos. I asked him to hold the fish for me but he was clearly nervous and his hands were shaking. Hoping he was able to take a picture I held the fish and the result can be seen here. A good 10 pounder that looks like a 4lb fish!

It has been a great day out on the water, probably my favourite fishing after all