On Wednesday Steve Lawler and I chucked our stuff in the back of the car and headed off to Extremadura to see if we could catch a few fish on La Serena reservoir. We planned to go afloat with a local guide who Steve had fished with in the past and that turned out to be a good call. La Serena is a huge reservoir. By capacity it is the second largest in the Iberian peninsula after Alqueva Reservoir in Portugal, but if you measure by the length of the shoreline, it takes top spot. It is hard to imagine the scale of this thing. From the dam wall you can travel 70 kilometres to the other end.

Much of the reservoir follows the “old” bed of the Río Zújar which snakes into the southern part of the reservoir in its eastern end and leaves at the western end where it continues on its way before emptying into the Guadiana river. Before it enters the reservoir the Río Zújar forms a section of the convoluted border between Extremadura and Andalucía. The Guadiana in turn, carrying within it the waters of its Zújar tributary, continues westward before turning south and making up much of the border between Portugal and Spain before finally emptying into the Atlantic at the Gulf of Cadiz.

The confluence of the Guadiana and the Zújar is close to the town of Villanueva de la Serena where Steve and I lodged for the two nights of our stay. Before they converge those two rivers border a region called Entrerríos where there is a town of the same name. That is where our guide Daniel lives.

The fishing is pretty straightforward and the barbel are quite happy to take a dry fly. Before the trip Daniel suggested smallish sedges were worthwhile but I think the fish were not too fussed. I tied up a few sedges the morning of our journey but Steve fished with a Grey Wulff or something similar.

There are three kinds of barbel in La Serena – the Shorthead (Luciobarbus microcephalus), The Guadiana (Luciobarbus steindachneri) and the Comizo (Luciobarbus comizo). Steve and I caught Shorthead and Guadiana but the more predatory Comizos did not put in an appearance.

Daniel is mainly a pike and black bass guy and he does a bit of tournament bass fishing and so his boat is pretty well kitted out. It has a huge 150hp outboard and really flies along. I don´t know if he opened it up fully but, looking over his shoulder, I could see we were travelling at 42 mph at one point. And then he´s got an echo sounder and a nifty bow-mounted electric engine. All that kind of stuff.

Our strategy was quite simple: zoom to a prospective bay to explore, cut the big engine and amble along with the electric while looking into the margins for signs of fish. Usually just one of us would be fishing while standing on the bow and then we swapped over.

There is a lot of everything in La Serena. There is no shortage of water, secluded bays, of hills or of open sky. The only thing that is hard to find is shade and we had to travel a little way to find some underneath an old road bridge. When we got there we tied up and climbed out of the boat. Over beer and while munching the treats that Daniel had prepared for us, I began picking Daniel´s brain. The pike fishing in the reservoir is very good at the right time of the year and clients have had good success fly fishing streamers in the margins. The pike here are larger but less abundant than in the neighbouring reservoir of La Orellana. There are zander too and catfish which, interestingly, are not the Wells catfish but another introduced species, the American channel catfish.

Having a guided trip is a rare treat for me and I am more familiar with solitary stalking on rivers and reservoir margins but it undoubtedly a great way to cover a lot of water. Daniel is a great guide and Steve is excellent company and so we had a real blast. When we returned to Villanueva de la Serena we were pretty knackered but somehow dug deep and found the strength to head into the town and sink a few beers to toast what had been a great day of fishing.

Here Steve and Daniel are looking for fish in the margins.
La Serena is vast
For me this is pretty high tech fishing
The electric engine allows you to explore the shoreline
This was one of the few places providing shade. Daniel told us that at high water levels this bridge can be several metres underwater!
A bit more sophisticated than my float tube!

The view from where we stopped for a bite of lunch

Only the most handsome and talented fishermen fish La Serena

I think Steve might have been pleased at this point
Proof! Here is Steve with a Guadiana barbel
And one of mine