Having survived two days in Paris and a week at the seaside in the far south of France, I had well and truly earned my part of the bargain—a week’s fishing in the Pyrenees, south of the border, in Spain.
A fast train trip had us in Barcelona and then heading towards Pamplona across a flat, parched summer landscape. My only homework was a copy of Hemingway’s Fiesta, which I started reading on the train with the vague idea that we might be fishing some of the rivers he regarded as the best in Europe.
Ivan Tarin greeted us at the station in Zaragoza, and we were in his hands for the next seven days, on a magical mystery tour of his beloved Pyrenees, which appeared unimpressive on the distant horizon. It was a leap of faith, but I should not have been concerned. He was mid-thirties, dark-haired, clean cut and spoke excellent English. We chatted comfortably on the two-hour drive into the mountains.
Over wine and tapas, the itinerary was sorted and we settled into Ivan’s homely fishing lodge in the village of Santa Cilia, on the banks of the river Aragon. This was to be our base for the first five nights as we focused our attention on the high valleys of the Western Pyrenees, within an hour or so drive on the many long and winding roads and bush trails threading the mountain passes.
Diversity was the agreed objective. Ivan wanted to pack as much as possible into the week, visiting at least two fishing locations each day, including everything from high mountain streams and lakes to trophy tailwater fisheries and weedy ‘chalk streams’ further east. To placate the cultural atta- ché we planned to visit key historical attractions along the way, while also sampling the best of the region’s gastronomic delights.