You should never underestimate the usefulness of goats. Down at the river I come a across flocks of these all the time and last Saturday, when I finally managed to track down a few fish in a shallow pool on the Río Grande, a flock materialised and went tramping noisily among the far bank. The goat herders keep dogs which are about the size of horses and which act as communal bodyguards for the goats and a couple of these giants decided to jump into the river to intimidate me.

The problem with these guard dogs is that, despite their general remit which is to scare away any potential threat, they look so nice and cuddly that my urge, if they managed to reach me, would be to hug them or even wrestle with them. But of course that might not be too smart as they would probably want to rip my head off if I even tried. In the event they only splashed around a little and never completed the river crossing.

Before this I had been fishing the pool which had been, in the past, the most reliable provider of barbel. But the fish were one step ahead of me yesterday and I had nothing to show for my efforts. Unfortunately conditions were tough for spotting fish and I resorted to a little indicator and concentrated my efforts on the fast water at the head of the pool. I fished away for ages. Nada. There had been fish here, for sure, but I probably put them down and they may have drifted downstream to be swallowed up by safer, deeper water. After flogging the fast water for ages I decided to concede defeat and, out of curiosity, to walk close to the water I had been casting to from a distance. I figured that if I couldn´t catch them I could at least have a look to see what was there. When I did there was not a fish to be seen. Christ knows how long I had been flogging this dead horse!

I was beginning to think, after all that horse flogging, that the Río Grande might be in one of her capricious moods, and was thinking of hopping back in the car and heading to the Guadalhorce which is a safer bet when times are tough. But before doing this I decided to have a little peak at the next pool upstream. This is pretty shallow and so I figured my best bet might be, again, to fish the fastish water at the head. I was wrong about that. Those old barbel never fail to surprise and I saw signs of fish moving where I was not expecting them, in the shallow water of the tail of the pool where the surface is a continuous slow smooth glide.

The fish were clearly there but they were very difficult to see. I tried a few speculative casts with my indicator still attached to where fish were showing but nothing came of this. And this is when the goats showed up. Things were looking a bit bleak as far as prospects were concerned and the goats crashing around were hardly likely to improve things. At least they offered a convenient excuse. If anyone quizzed my on my failure to catch I had the following response in mind:

“Of course I didn´t catch anything! How could I when that great flock of goats started tramping along the far bank and those great big hairy dogs started bouncing around in the river! All that commotion would have scared the shit out of anything swimming within half a mile!”

The strange thing is that it had almost no affect on the fish at all! Again, these fish are full of surprises. Inevitably they were put down initially but it wasn´t for very long, and soon the odd bulge near the margins, or a fin curing the surface indicated that, from the fish´s point of view it was business as usual.

The fish are so easily spooked here that often just the disturbance caused by a small nymph landing will make them scarper. So off came the indicator on the basis that two things landing are scarier than one! I positioned myself so that the water I was looking into was “dark” rather than reflecting the sky so the fish could be seen more easily. And then, as the herd receded into the distance I found a few fish that were prepared to play ball.


Oh great!



The dogs came hopped into the river to warn me off.



I managed to catch three barbel from this pool. The fish were spooky and wanted a longish cast and longish leader. They also wanted you to stand well away from the river. The easiest way to spot them was to look towards the bank of eucalyptus trees on the far side where the water is darker.



There is a little seam of water entering from the left. It is very shallow around here but several fish were cruising around and I managed to fool a couple of them.


I tied up a few little nymphs before I went out. In the end I only tried two of them. The one on the top didn´t seem to do me any good at all but they did go for the one on the bottom which I have christened the Río Grande nymph.


And here´s me looking very pleased with myself!