Mick Jagger carp that gave me satisfaction.

To read the original version as it appeared in the Angler's Mail please click the following link: Angler's Mail 5th Dec, 2006 or read on.

that Portugal hasn't really become a popular angling destination for traveling carpers, as from what I can make out the potential is absolutely enormous. There are a mass of waters available either free of charge or on a very low cost day-ticket basis. Phil Rosa-Leeke was born in Northampton but moved to Portugal in 1978 and reckons to speak the lingo more fluently than his native tongue. An avid coarse angler fishing mainly for carp and barbel, he is at the forefront of setting up Portugal's first association for carp anglers.He has got to know the area like the back of his hand and has fished many of the reservoirs and rivers throughout the country.

A couple of years ago he set up FLAP-HOLIDAYS to help anglers on holiday in Portugal. He arranges a comprehensive package, including car hire, hotel bookings and detailed maps of where to fish, and licensing and day ticket requirements. You just arrive at the airport, where a hire car and maps are waiting, and are free to roam and fish wherever you fancy. We concentrated on one of the many reservoirs in the Vidigueira area, which was a couple of hours drive from Lisbon airport. Other reservoirs in the area that are definitely worth a visit are Odivelas, Roxo, Monte da Rocha and Alqueva, which is Europe's largest man-made lake, with a shoreline of a 1,100 km (683 miles).

I thought location would probably be a daunting prospect, but I was gobsmacked to find carp showing at every spot we pulled up on. There were loads of them in the margins, as well as fish crashing out all over the place. Phil said that the biggest problem was trying to get through to the big ones. The carp seem to breed like rabbits because of the nature of the water and the climate, and there are fish of every size and year class. It seemed to be a matter of wading through lots of singles, doubles and twenties to get at the bigger fish. No one has found a magic recipe for targeting the big lumps. Most of the monsters are caught by accident, with fish of over 60 lb coming out every year, the biggest authenticated fish a massive common of 72 lb. It certainly gives you a feeling of expectation when the indicator screams off! I thought bait was going to be a problem, as the baggage restrictions on budget airlines are quite limiting. I took all of the fishing gear I needed but was unable to take any extra bait, such as a stack of boilies. Instead I took plenty of pop-ups, and Phil supplied big buckets of maize and hemp, which is a service he offers to all of his clients. This certainly made life a lot easier.

I was surprised to find that the reservoirs were quite clear, reasonably weedy, but in some areas full of snags. Phil took us to a lovely peninsula at the north end of the reservoir that gave us plenty of clear water and a good vantage point for covering a big area. This reservoir was quite shallow, with a nice, hard, shingle shoreline gently sloping into a couple of meters of water at about 60 yards. We intended fishing the reservoir for a couple of days before moving off to target big barbel on the rivers. I started by catapulting out a big bed of maize, over which I planted a couple of double pop-up rigs - one with a sweet flavour and another with fish, to see what worked best.

The weather was reasonably calm and sunny when we arrived, but the wind got up quickly and the Heavens opened. I was glad that the road access was good and we could almost fish from the car, which was a real plus given the dreadful conditions. The weather had been wonderful right up to our arrival, and Phil had warned us to pack plenty of sun cream. I think rust protector would have been more appropriate!

It took all of ten minutes for us to get our first take, which screamed off at a hundred miles an hour and then stripped off another 25 yards of line against a heavily set clutch. I thought I had latched into one of the monsters with my first cast, but after an unbelievable fight I was amazed when I put the net under a mint condition common of no more than 12 lb. It was like being attached to an express train. Phil claimed that all of the fish fight like this, and he wasn't exaggerating. By the end of the first day I was exhausted. I'd landed over 40 carp from 8 lb to just over 20 lb - all commons and all hell bent on putting as much distance as possible between us as possible.

Day two and the weather got even worse. The wind whipped up to 50-60 mph, and huge waves crashed onto the shoreline. Even wading out up to my waist I couldn't catapult freebies any more than a few yards, but it didn't seem to matter. As long as I kept plenty of bait going in, the runs were continuous. Playing big doubles and twenties in the "surf" was quite an experience, and in a masochistic way quite enjoyable. In the afternoon I hooked a couple more express trains, which powered off with over one hundred yards of line and found sanctuary in some submerged trees, where the hook link parted. I've no idea how big these fish were, but they were unstoppable. I had a very similar amount of fish on day two, the best just over 23 lb, all commons again.

About 50 per cent of the fish had the most peculiar mouths I've ever seen. They had what I would call "Mick Jagger lips". The locals seem to think it's to do with their natural diet of crayfish. It certainly didn't stop them fighting, that's for sure. They provided some of the best scraps I've had from carp anywhere in the world. Reluctantly we pulled off the reservoirs with the promise of some giant Comizo barbel on the rivers the next morning. I'll let you know how we fared with them next week.

The above article was printed in the Angler's Mail which went on sale on the 5th of December 2006.

To read the original version as it appeared in the Angler's Mail please click the following link: Angler's Mail 12th Dec, 2006 or read on.

The River Ribeira de Raia is just one of many venues that contain big barbel, along with the River Tejo and the Guadiana. Standard carp gear with 10 lb main line and semi-fixed bolt rigs were used, even for barbel. All of the takes were blistering runs.

LAST week I was fishing windswept Lake Alvito for carp and, while I didnít land any monsters, I had a stack of action with doubles and low twenties. But big barbel on the River Ribeira de Raia beckoned, so I headed for a nice, sheltered valley close to the quaint town of Mora, my home for a couple of nights. It was great to get out of the strong winds at last and experience even the odd period of sunshine between the torrential showers.

My guide, Phil Rosa-Leeke, who runs a fishing holiday company in Portugal, had taken me to one of the most well-kept river venues I have ever seen. Run by the local angling association, it is a day ticket water costing the princely sum of 1 Euro a day for two rods!

The place was immaculate, with manicured banks, easy access via a road behind the swims, and well signposted directions from the town. Despite all this, the place looked as if it had hardly been fished. We drove a mile downstream and there wasn't another angler to be seen.

We headed for a known, favourable area that had produced a 20 lb-plus Comizo barbel only a couple of days before. This was caught on sweetcorn by one of the locals, while carp fishing.

Phil told me it was rare for anyone to target barbel, as most of the regulars fish for anything that comes along, usually close in on float fished corn.

I had a quick cast around to get an idea of the topography. The river was very canal-like and had almost no flow. The average depth was around two metres, with fairly steep margins and a reasonably uniform bottom. There appeared to be a few large rocks and an occasional weed bed, but the near and far margins looked the most interesting.

Phil said I would catch plenty of carp as well as barbel and, as they are not tackle or rig shy, he suggested I use standard carp outfits. With this in mind I fished 10 lb line straight through to a semi-fixed 2 oz lead and a 10 lb fluorocarbon hook link with hair-rigged maize on one rod, and a couple of 14 mm boilies on the other.

The downstream rod was close in, while the second rod was cast across to the far margins. Several pouches of maize were sprayed over both baits and then I was able to sit back and soak up the atmosphere.

What a great venue, and in complete contrast to the massive reservoir I had fished the day before. It did seem a bit strange fishing for barbel in this very canal-like water, but I was assured there were plenty of them.

My first take came within minutes of casting out, and I was soon attached to something that felt quite substantial. But having been caught out by the hard-fighting carp on the reservoir I was playing it down a bit.

After a ten-minute scrap I slipped the net under my first fish of the session, an immaculate common carp of about 18 lb. I can't believe how hard these fish fight. Even modest doubles give you the run around. My first take was on the near margin and, just as I was replacing that rod, the far one on the boilies screamed into action.

This felt like something completely different. It was a strange fight, with the fish changing direction every few seconds. It rolled on the surface about halfway out and I could see it was some sort of barbel. This was exciting because I was sure it was going to be a new species for me, whatever I had hooked.

A few minutes later I slipped the net under a pristine barbel of 7 or 8 lb. Phil identified it as a Comizo. What a wonderful looking fish! It was completely different from our own native barbel, with a very long snout and a much more rounded body. I really hoped I would bump into one of the monsters that I was told were lurking along this stretch.

A couple more carp were followed by yet another barbel species, known locally as small- headed barbel. They are the second largest in Portugal and run to over 20 lb. This was a modest specimen, just short of a double-figures, but another new species for me.

Strangely, the barbel seemed to be falling to boilies rather than maize, so I changed both rods to double 14 mm boilies. It's amazing how they accepted these baits instantly, especially as Phil says they don't see many of them.

The first day came to an end all too quickly, yet it had been almost constant action, producing well over 40 fish, a mixture of carp and barbel. The carp ran to just short of 20 lb and the barbel just shy of double-figures, but still a fantastic day's fishing.

That evening we visited one of the many great local restaurants serving traditional Portuguese recipes at very modest prices. It was unique in having rows of old terracotta wine vats, some of which were still in use. After a good night's kip I began my last day on the river, though sadly it was a short day as we had to head back to Lisbon by mid afternoon.

I fished the same swim as on the previous day and once again the action was instant. I caught some decent carp, including a few mirrors, which are said to be unusual in Portugal, and yet another species of barbel, the Steindachneri, the smallest variety in the country. That brought my tally to three out of the five or six species that live there.

It was all over far too quickly, but I will be back, as there is so much fishing and so little pressure on any of the waters.

You do have to wade through a lot of small fish to get to the big'uns, but a big lump could come your way at any time, which makes it really exciting.

With a few more days fishing, I reckon I could have come up trumps, but catching some different species was a very nice introduction. I'll be looking for the other varieties on my next visit.

 The above article was printed in the Angler's Mail which went on sale on the 12th of December 2006.

Phil Pembroke.

The Smooth Guide To Fishing In Portugal (ASIN: B00E1O5C2W) is just one of the many angling books written by Phil Pembroke.

About the author

Described by himself as a much better rugby player than fisherman. Phil decided to begin writing a small booklet on angling in Spain and Portugal when, after making his first visit to the wonderful river Ebro in Catalunya in 1989, was unable to locate much previously published information on angling in Iberia.


"Where else but on the beautiful river Douro in north Portugal would I get the opportunity to take up the recent challenge of fly fishing for battling barbel. Take a look at some extracts from my books on my new web page and you too will soon want to experience a great European angling adventure."

What else he has done

He has also written a book covering the angling in France (ISBN 0-9546924-2-X).

Phil now has is own web site, why not take a look: http://www.spainfishing.com

The Smooth Guide To Fishing In Portugal