La Gomera - Leviathans From The Hidden Gem | Jan Ulak
For many years, carp fishing in the Canaries has appealed to me. I don’t really know why, but the very idea that you can catch carp on an island sitting in the Atlantic Ocean has a fascination for me.There are many lakes in the Canary Islands and almost all hold carp, but mostly they are very small ones. Lake Chira is the one most people know of, and after my first trip to Chira on Gran Canaria, I heard of a lake on the small island of La Gomera. It was said that true giant carp called it home, so I tried to learn more, but there was almost nothing about this lake on the carp grapevine. The information came in the form of rumours from people who had never visited the lake and I’d already rejected them, when, suddenly, a video surfaced, in which Kevin Nash and Alan Blair fished a reservoir on La Gomera. They called the lake Jurassic Park. It was fantastic, and I was so excited that I immediately started planning a visit, but as with many aspects of life, sometimes other things put paid to the planning, and the trip to La Gomera shifted again and again.
The information I had on the lake seemed to point to it being difficult, and only the more crazy carp anglers would venture there to fish. My friend, Alex ‘Sludge’ Hager, is one such crazy angler – it seems that if there’s just a whisper of carp, he’s there! Therefore, it didn’t surprise me when he suddenly sent me a message: ‘Greetings from the mountains of La Gomera!’ I was so jealous and couldn’t wait for him to get back home to Austria. No sooner was he back than I started calling him for details of his trip. He told me all about his stay and the ups and downs he’d experienced. What he told me of the people, the landscape and the water really appealed to me, but, and it was a big BUT, all the time he was there he didn’t see one single carp!
I was in emotional turmoil, and had to weigh up the pros and cons of making a visit. I eventually decided I had to try my luck, but I wanted to do it right, so planning the trip took almost a full year. I meticulously researched the carp in the Canary Islands, and particularly those on La Gomera. Why were these supposed giants so big? I knew from the few reports I’d seen or heard that they were, in fact, catchable, and that was my motivation. I had to catch one of these giants of La Gomera.
I sat down with my pal Sludge, and along with a contact on Tenerife, we planned the visit. The contact was a Scot named Ian, and his wife, Cara. Both were totally unknown to me, but the initial chats were warm and friendly, and my excitement for the project just grew. Ian’s wife, Cara, planned the whole trip with me, right down to the last detail. My girlfriend would accompany me for support, and it was really strange relying on the word of people we’d never actually met at this point.
Our trip was getting closer by the day, and although I knew that Ian and Cara would provide almost everything we required during our trip, I just had to take along some of my own familiar gear. I packed some food, my own rigs, leads, reels, line, bite alarms, etc., plus a couple of rods.
Our trip to the airport was accompanied by 108kg of luggage. Everything was going smoothly to plan – until the first police officer read the words ‘Dynamite Baits’ on some of the bags! At first I thought they would treat it as a joke, but it wasn’t to be. They did tests for explosives on everything! That was not all, though. We were going carp fishing to a lake, so we had no official address, no hotels booked, nothing. I jokingly said we were going to stay in the first tent on the lake, but unfortunately, their sense of humour was switched off and it took some serious negotiations before we were allowed on our way. All our luggage was allowed on board, and after every item was searched, checked and double-checked, we were finally on our way to Tenerife.
Upon our arrival, Cara was there to meet us for our transfer to the ferry. I hoped everything would go to plan (I’m always a bit sceptical), and Cara was very welcoming; she discussed with us every detail of our trip, and gave us our licences. In the Canaries, you can’t just go out and fish. La Gomera in particular has a large area which is a nature park, and licences have to be obtained. I was so glad that Cara had done all the hard work for us, and we were very happy as we sat on the ferry for La Gomera.
Once there we met up with Ian, and together we drove up into the mountains to the reservoir. On the way we were fascinated by the nature, unlike anything I’d seen in the Canary Islands before. It looked like the island in the original Jurassic Park film, hence, I suppose, why the Nash lads referred to it as such. After a short stop to pick up groceries, we finally arrived at the lake. Ian showed us round and we moved into our apartment for the first night of our stay.
In the evening, Ian introduced us to the people who lived around the lake, and we were made very welcome. Each and every one of them offered us all the help we needed, and in restaurant owner José, we found a new friend. He would provide us with food for the duration of our stay, and at very reasonable prices. We felt very comfortable, and Ian’s links to the reservoir paid off, as without him, fishing there would not have been possible because the land around the lake is private; it’s owned by individual farmers and controlled by park rangers.
At 6.00 o’clock on the Sunday morning, our adventure finally started. I lowered my first rig down into this magical water from the boat, and I really had goosebumps. I could never have imagined what would happen.
After we had put the rods out, Ian told us all about the lake and its history. He showed us pictures of the catches and I was enthralled by what he had to say. Again and again, I kept saying to myself that I only needed one fish from this incredible lake. Only one! In the afternoon, Ian, Sarah and I were the only people on the lake. The first night flew by and the water was flat calm. It became evident to us that to catch a big carp was going to require a lot of work. Some of the best anglers in the world had already tried; some had succeeded, some had failed, but I don’t think of defeat as such. You will not grow as an angler on success alone, and I was prepared to give everything.
The first morning, I phoned Ian and discussed fishing a very interesting place right at the top of the lake, near the dam. Ian said fish were rarely caught from this spot, but for me the area looked great, so on the Monday afternoon, I put a rod out on the spot. My bait was a mix of different pellets, groundbaits and 10-15mm boilies from my bags of Dynamite Baits goodies. I mixed up the baits with CSL liquid, with the goal being to reach the carp in water up to 30m deep – not to feed them, just keep them interested. I also used floating pellets, which I soaked in the CSL liquid and added to a very special particle mixed, which I fished La Gomera-style. This particle mix had been boiled with chorizo sausage and then allowed to ferment, and was fed very sparingly; I fished using PVA bags.
The second night was upon us, and my girlfriend and I enjoyed an evening under the stars, with a bottle of home-made wine from a local farmer and an incredible paella from José, right on the banks of the lake. That night I couldn’t sleep. I knew it was normal not to catch on this water but I couldn’t get my head around it, and thoughts rattled round in my head all night. The carp are there, of that there’s no doubt, so in the morning I discussed the situation with Sarah. I long ago learnt that her neutral view of things could benefit me. We’d discussed the food supply in the lake and decided that the carp were feeding in the mud on small creatures and insects, so I decided to fish with single corn and a 10mm boilie.
After the rods were back out, I went for a walk around the lake to see if I could spot any carp. I could see some fish, but unfortunately, they were so deep in the surrounding snags that it would be impossible to fish for them. Back in the swim, I made lunch for us and we both enjoyed the sun in the mountains. Out of nowhere, the indicator on my right-hand rod dropped down, and then rose up into a full-on run. I picked up the rod to find a carp battling away deep in the water. He was in almost 30m of water in the deep part of the lake, so I set off in the boat and pumped the rod to get him up in the water. It was an incredible fight. These wild carp just seem to fight much more than the carp in my homeland.
Suddenly the fish was right up in front of the boat, and I saw him for the first time. My thoughts were, ‘What the hell was that?’ It was a monster La Gomera carp – my goal was in sight! I struggled to get him into the net, but after several attempts I finally coaxed him in, and as he disappeared into the folds, I let out a primal scream which echoed through the valley. I think they could have heard it across the sea on Tenerife! I couldn’t believe it – I had a monster from this magical lake.
Back on shore, we weighed the fish, which turned the scales round to 28kg. I simply couldn’t believe it. How on earth did I manage that? The first fish was a true giant. I scarcely had time to breath, however, as after only a short time, the other rod was away, and once again I found myself fighting another La Gomera carp. Despite all the warnings about snags in the lake, I found I could land this fish easily. He turned out to be a lovely carp with an incredible scaling pattern. The madness continued when he turned the scales round to 21.5kg.
After we’d taken pictures, I called Ian, and his reaction to the events was even more incredulous than mine. Apparently he didn’t know of anyone who’d had this sort of catch in such a short period before. It pleased me even more to know that Ian was happy for me, and we talked for a long time. By now it was almost dark again, so I put the rods out. Any more fish would now be a bonus, and even if I blanked for the next 4 nights, I’d achieved my target. That night I had a small but distinctive mirror of 10kg, which showed that my tactics were correct. That made it three fish in a 16-hour period.
The next day was spent catching some black bass, and it wasn’t until the fourth night that I put the carp rods out again. It was shortly after dinner when I had another run, and this one proved to be one of the hardest fights I’d ever had. The fish repeatedly ripped 80-100m of line from the spool, and I had little chance to stop the flight. After what seemed like an endless battle, I finally landed him. In the light of my headtorch, I looked at a very large mirror. Man, what was going on?! Back on the bank he turned the scales round to 19.5kg, and I was over the moon. Every day I was calling Ian, and he was starting to doubt everything he’d ever learned about the lake over the years. I told him that fishing always involved a great deal of luck, and I’d probably brought some with me in my luggage!
The last 48 hours of our visit was looming, and I meticulously prepared my feed and rigs and put the rods out. I was sure I would get something. During the night I had another incredibly scaly mirror with huge fins, at a weight of 19kg. I simply couldn’t put my joy into words. The final 24 hours was fishless, and eventually, Saturday morning came around, as did Ian, who had come to take us to start the journey back to civilisation. We reminisced about the captures, and I’ve never seen anyone so delighted for another angler. The joy in his face made me realise, for the first time, what had actually happened in the last 6 days.
In José’s restaurant we said goodbye to everyone, with a mix of laughter and tears. It was time for Sarah and me to start the second part of our holiday adventure – a week by the sea. So, this is where I’m sitting now as I write this, beside the sea, with a fantastic view to the mountains of La Gomera over my shoulder.
The reservoir of La Gomera really is one of the untouched spots on our planet, and it’s a hidden paradise for anglers. The locals still live as they did many years ago and are very friendly. We were able to experience hospitality the likes of which is rare today, and I cannot speak highly enough of them. Everyone who ventures to La Gomera has to be aware of the nature, and to treat it and the people and animals with respect. Ian instructed us to pay attention to our surroundings, to take in the fact that he is an angler on the lake himself, and that fishing there is only for a small group of friends. You have to respect the people and the land around the lake. The park rangers visited us daily and are vigilant in their enforcement of the rules. I wanted to share my experiences with you, but I am aware that this could start a flood of visitors to the lake. Ian is the man to contact if you want to fish La Gomera, and he also runs holiday trips to other venues in the Canary Islands.
If you are interested in a trip to La Gomera, Ian and Cara can be contacted directly on Facebook at Catchin’ Carp in the Canaries, or by visiting their website at www.catchincarpinthecanaries.es