Fishing with PR is a good laugh. He is one of the best fly fishermen I know and is one of those guys who has been everywhere and caught just about everything that swims. He also has a touch of that particularly English kind of eccentricity that makes him something of a “fish collector.” He would have made a first rate Victorian. Targeting a “full house” of Mediterranean barbel species is part of his quest to tick off all nine species that swim around here in the Iberian Peninsula. But searching for these fish is part of a wider adventure. It is a means of discovering all kinds of wonders hidden among the nooks and crannies of this remarkable country. 

He has already done a pretty comprehensive job of catching the salmonids of North America, having all the trout and char species notched up. All that remains is the pink and cherry salmon although I understand that the cherry is actually runs the rivers of Russia and Japan and so can be let off the hook, so to speak. The pink salmon has huge runs in North America but runs every two years so there are “odd” and “even” year salmon in different regions and that do not interbreed for obvious reasons. As it happens, I think when Paul was in the right place to catch a pink it was the fish decided it simply was not the year to bother showing up

We have now fished a few times together, Paul and I. I was able to help him to catch my own local species of gypsy barbel and our recent visit to Valencia was our second attempt to catch the elusive and mysterious Mediterranean barbel.

Away from the river Paul is, to use an Irish expression, “mighty” company. We have a lot in common being obsessive fly fishermen and coming from a Science background.  Invariably our conversations, fuelled in the late evenings by white wine (PR) or beer (PH), take us through a wide gamut of topics. We have similar views on many things including a shared rock-bottom opinion of the current political leaders of the US and the UK. On our final morning, on the way to the airport we wound up talking about ballet over a coffee and a “tostada con aceite y tomate”. It was clearly time to leave!

Paul is a fountain of surprising and interesting stories and observations. When I tried to come up with an example from our most recent encounter I began to remember what he told me about parrots. As it turns out we both had a parrot story. Let me start by giving you mine:

A newspaper story here in Spain recently reported that neighbours began to be worried about a large parrot that had landed on somebody´s roof and had not moved for a couple of days. Eventually they called the fire brigade and a fireman heroically climbed up a ladder and started reaching out to the stranded bird. In response the parrot turns around to his would-be rescuer and loudly tells him to fuck off!

Apparently it had been trained by its owner to insult people in this way. After a little while the parrot got bored of the whole thing and flew into the open bedroom window from which it had escaped a couple of days previously, presumably to meet up and probably hurl offensive remarks at his owner!

Paul made a film a few years ago about parrots and knows a lot about them. What he had to say was not so much a story as an observation about parrot behaviour about which I had been unaware. This is what he said:

Parrots are very smart birds and make deep attachments to their owners. By far the strongest bonds are made between a parrot and an owner who is of the opposite sex. A bloke can own a male parrot (they would probably only talk about football) but the relationship is not in any way as deep as would happen if the parrot had a lady owner (and vice versa).

Paul told me that there are instances of lady owners of male parrots having a new boyfriend show up and the parrot gets mad with jealousy and has a go at his new “rival” with beak and claws and every other weapon that comes to hand.

I never knew that about parrots.

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This is the Río Júcar as it runs through the town of Álcala del Júcar. You can just about make out Antonio standing upriver close to the bank. This is a really beautiful spot.

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The river here runs through a gorge and the scenery is lovely. Here Paul is fishing the downstream section of the river that flows through the town.


Here are PR and PH after tackling up in the car park in Álcala del Júcar. As you can see both of these magnificent anglers are primed and ready to go.


This is Gregorio. He is an African Grey who resides at the Café Europa cafeteria close to the Río Guadalhorce. Having grown up in Andalucía his first language, naturally, is Spanish. When he is not asleep he greets visitors with a hearty “¡hola guapo!”