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.