Fly Fishing for Barbel in Spain: Top Info & Best Secrets

Fly fishing for barbel in Spain is a spectacular experience: sight fishing, dry fly presentations, and explosive battles. The barbel, often referred to as the "freshwater bonefish," is a sizable fish that offers exciting angling opportunities. The prime locations for barbel fishing in rivers are in Aragón, while reservoirs in Extremadura also present excellent opportunities for this thrilling pursuit.

These are our fly fishing trips for catching barbel in Spain:

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Fly fishing for barbel may not be as well-known as trout fishing, but it is one of the most sportive fish species you can catch with a fly in Spain. It is a truly strong fish that will test your equipment on many occasions, making Spain an ideal location for barbel fishing. Here are ten of the best destinations for this type of fishing.

    • Aragón River: In this case, it is a river that descends from the Pyrenean mountain range into the well-known Ebro River. The best area for this type of fishing is the middle stretch of the river, between the town of Jaca and the Yesa Reservoir. This stretch is located in the Autonomous Community of Aragón, where you will need a license from this community or the interregional license valid for 8 autonomous communities in Spain. Along this extensive river stretch, there are 2 preserves and free fishing zones (fishing is not allowed in these free zones on Wednesdays and Thursdays). The two preserves are: Aragón River Preserve and Berdún Canal Preserve; both are sportive, and permits can be obtained through the Aragonese federation’s website or in person at «Camping Victoria» in Jaca or at the bar-restaurant located in the village of Puente La Reina de Jaca. The best months for barbel fishing in this river are the summer months when the river’s flow decreases, and the water warms up. The primary technique here will be dry fly fishing, using large dark-colored beetles and some grasshoppers. If the river has a high flow, the best option will be nymph fishing in the large pools with nymphs tied on size 12 hooks, preferably with natural colors and hair.
    • Almendra Reservoir: This reservoir, bathed by the waters of the Tormes River, is another exceptional destination for common barbel fishing (Luciobarbus graellsii). It is located in the Autonomous Community of Castilla y León and boasts the tallest dam in Spain at 202 meters in height. In addition to barbels, anglers can also find carp, perch, and pike, which can make the day successful even if the barbels are not active. The reservoir is surrounded by oak forests and shores of fine sand mixed with large granite stones. The best time to fish in this reservoir is during the autumn months when ant hatches may occur. Fishing involves exploring the shore and trying to locate barbels, enticing them with small foam flies such as beetles and ants, primarily. Occasionally, if the barbels are active and the water is a bit stirred, larger grasshoppers or flies can be used to enhance visibility. On calm and sunny days, fishing with unweighted nymphs or small emergers will yield better results.
    • Guadalmez River: This stretch of river, located in the southwest of Ciudad Real, is a little-known yet charming corner. The riverbed forms the border for most of its stretch between Ciudad Real and Córdoba, except for a small section where it enters Córdoba. In the final stretch, it extends into Extremadura (Badajoz) to form La Serena Reservoir, the largest reservoir in Spain, renowned for fishing large pikes, common barbels, and catfish. In this case, we will focus on river fishing, as it is more effective in this area than fishing in the reservoir, although it could be attempted on occasion. Our attention will be on fishing the Guadalmez River and the final stretches of Valdeazogues and Alcudia, near the national road N-502. In this area, both common and comizo barbels can be found. The comizo barbel is more streamlined and has a larger mouth than its cousin, the common barbel, and can also reach larger sizes, although the largest specimens are usually found in reservoirs. Fishing takes place in the spring and autumn months when barbels are more active, especially in the falls of small ravines or areas with water movement. In these areas, typical foam flies mentioned earlier, sight-fishing nymphs, and small streamers imitating injured fish can be used, as the comizo barbel is more aggressive than the common barbel and sometimes preys on other fish.
    • Oria River: Located in the Basque Country, the Oria River is another excellent destination for common barbel fishing. The best areas to tempt them are the stretches near the towns of Andoain, Lasarte, and Beasain. Regarding fishing techniques, it follows a similar approach to the Aragón River, using small terrestrials and sight-fishing nymphs. In this river, the optimal months for fishing are during the summer, as in spring and autumn, the water flow can be too high for optimal angling of this cyprinid. Fishing can be done with the community license, and this particular stretch operates on a catch-and-release basis, eliminating the need for an additional permit.
    • Atazar Reservoir: Situated in the Community of Madrid, Atazar Reservoir is filled with waters from the Madrid mountain range. In the past, it was renowned for trout fishing, but currently, this species is nearly extinct, and catches are very incidental. Large bass or pikes can also be found in the reservoir. Common barbels are abundant in this reservoir, and despite the demographic explosion of bleak in recent years, barbels are not very aggressive. Due to the cold and clear waters of the reservoir, the best months are the warmer ones when barbels seek food in areas with beaches or submerged vegetation. The most effective technique will be nymph fishing or, occasionally, using small terrestrials in areas where barbels are near the surface. Given the clarity of the water and the not overly aggressive behavior of the barbels, it is often necessary to use a leader up to 0.16 to get clear bites and prevent them from hesitating too much.
    • Iznájar Reservoir: This reservoir, the largest in Andalusia, is located in the province of Córdoba. It is a prime destination for fishing various species, and in this case, we will focus on barbel. In addition to the common barbel, the well-known «barbo gitano» (Luciobarbus sclateri) can also be found. This barbel species is noted for its increased aggressiveness compared to the common barbel and its beautiful golden and black coloration. We will choose the spring and autumn months for fishing this species, targeting stream mouths in spring and beach-shaped shores in autumn to better locate the barbels. For fishing the barbo gitano, even small streamers imitating injured bleak can be used, yielding good results. In this reservoir, other species such as carp, bass, and the problematic catfish can also be found. The catfish is causing issues for the cyprinid species in the reservoir by detecting their spawning and approaching to feed on the reproductive individuals.
    • Guadiela River: This crystal-clear river flows towards the Buendía Reservoir, with a focus on the stretch that runs through the provinces of Guadalajara and Cuenca. For fly fishing for this cyprinid, the area around the bridge on the national road leading to the town of Villar del Infantado and upstream will be most favorable. In the lower area, toward the Buen Día Reservoir, you’ll encounter more species coming up from the reservoir, such as bleak, pike, and perch, making barbel fishing a bit more challenging, especially sight-fishing. The prime season for this river is in spring (April-May), when large barbel specimens begin to migrate from the reservoir up the river for spawning. Once in the river, you’ll find clear waters, deep gravel-bottomed pools, and some strong currents at the heads of large pools. The most effective fishing in this river involves using large sight-fishing nymphs in the areas at the end of the pools or small currents that barely cover, allowing you to place the nymph very close to the fish’s mouth and observe its reaction. Locating the fish in this river won’t be problematic, as they contrast significantly with the riverbed: barbels are very dark, and the riverbed has a very light color. If sight-fishing doesn’t yield results, you can try the fast and deep currents with a setup of two heavily weighted hair nymphs, drifting as if you were trout fishing.
    • Ibor River: This small river in the Extremaduran sierras promises an engaging fishing experience. Our focus will be on the municipal terms of Bohonal, Mesas de Ibor, and Castañar de Ibor, from the path along the Huertezuelos stream to the bridge on the road from Bohonal de Ibor to Mesas de Ibor, where catch-and-release fishing is allowed throughout the year. Both common and comizo barbels can be caught here, migrating from the Tajo River during the spring months. You can fish for them using nymphs, dry flies, or small natural-colored streamers. Closer to the Tajo, you’ll find stretches with more pools and depth, and as you move upstream, the river takes on a mountainous character with more currents and less depth. In these upper stretches, you may also have the opportunity to fish for common trout.
    • Tajo River: This river hosts a barbel population in many of its stretches, with notable areas including the town of El Puente del Arzobispo in Toledo and the Tajo River upstream and downstream of the municipality of Aranjuez in Madrid. The river is quite similar in both areas, although the water tone or fish activity may vary depending on reservoirs and dams. Depending on the location, you will need to obtain the corresponding fishing license for that Autonomous Community. In both cases, hotspots will be areas where the current breaks, such as weirs or spots where the river has some structure that allows us to better identify the position of the barbels and entice them with our flies. The best time, as in most cases, will be during the spring months when the fish gather in these areas until late autumn (the latter months depending on the river’s flow and visibility). Regarding flies, in this river, in addition to the typical ones for this cyprinid, an imitation of eggs mounted on large hooks, around size 8, works very well, especially in areas with currents. Use heavier heads for current-rich areas and lighter ones if you intend to use them for sight-fishing on occasions when you observe barbels feeding on algae.

    • Rumblar Reservoir: This reservoir, located in the province of Jaén, unfolds as a beautiful setting for fishing the Andalusian gypsy barbel, characteristic of the southernmost regions of the peninsula. Surrounded by holm oaks with numerous inlets and outlets, it provides the opportunity to explore on foot in search of barbels for sight-fishing. It can be fished practically throughout the year, except during the coldest and hottest months when the fish tend to be less active. The most effective fishing in this reservoir is achieved using dry fly and sight-fishing nymph techniques. Occasionally, small streamers can be employed in areas of high activity, as the barbels in this location tend to be more aggressive than common barbels. Besides barbels, it’s also possible to tempt carp and some black bass. The reservoir harbors a healthy population of small to medium-sized barbels, offering the possibility of finding specimens of good size.
Fly fishing in Spain - Completed Guide


The optimal months for fly fishing in Spain for barbel vary depending on the geographical location. In the Pyrenees, where the waters are cooler than in Andalusia or Extremadura, the ideal season spans from the spawning period in June until mid-July and extends through September. On the other hand, in Andalusia and Extremadura, the fishing window extends from April to November.

A general rule establishes that for barbel to be active along the banks and on the surface, the water temperature should be at least 18 degrees Celsius. In Extremadura, the temperature exceeds 18 degrees from April to November, whereas in the Pyrenees, this only occurs from mid-July to late September. It is advisable to avoid the hottest months, such as July and August, in very warm environments, as external temperatures can exceed 40 degrees in the shade, which is not ideal for anglers.


Barbel fishing is gaining popularity in Spain, attracting tourists interested in capturing this beautiful native fish of the Iberian Peninsula. The appeal lies in sight fishing and dry fly fishing. Here are the best flies for catching the «freshwater bonefish»:

  • Beetles: Highly attractive, they yield excellent results in rivers and reservoirs. Some popular patterns include Hi Viz Beetle, Kicking Beetle, and Loco Beetle.
  • Ants: During a brief period, especially before storms, winged ants attract barbel. Although this phenomenon is rare, ant imitations remain effective at other times. It is recommended to tie the fly on hooks of size 14, 16, or 18, depending on the size of the present insects.
  • Small marabou streamers: Essential when conditions are not favorable for dry fly fishing. Effective colors include olive green and brown, while black stands out in murky waters. It is suggested to use hooks sized #12 or #10.


Barbel fishing demands a profound understanding of seasons, times of the day, and ideal locations. Even in a lake with the presence of barbel and during a favorable season, these fish may not always feed on the surface along the reservoir. Activity varies based on factors such as wind, sun, and the type of available food.

For an angler inexperienced in barbel fishing in a specific environment, having the assistance of a fly fishing guide is crucial.