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Río Matarranya, Spain
October 1, 2012
11:09 am
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Matt
Málaga, Spain
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This was a trip we made earlier in the summer but hadn't gotten around to going through the photos until now.

The Matarranya is a tributary of the Río Ebro and is one of the more pristine rivers within that system. It has its headwaters in a limestone mountain massif known as Els Ports which is itself a nationally protected park and area of outstanding natural beauty, and it was this area we intended to explore.

The massif is located at the north-eastern end of the Sistema Ibérico, a complex system of mountain ranges and massifs in the centre of Spain, around 200 km SW of Barcelona.

Our first stop was at L'Hospitalet de l'Infant, a small coastal town south of Tarragona. There is a population of Aphanius iberus inhabiting a freshwater spring in a dry river bed here, and I try to check it whenever in the area. There were loads of adults and fry in the small lagoon so we didn't bother to catch any on this occasion as it was evident the population is doing well.

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Cake or death?
October 1, 2012
11:09 am
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Matt
Málaga, Spain
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We then drove inland and passed Móra d'Ebre, a town located on the main Ebro channel where we spotted some huge carp foraging among the macrophytes.

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Cake or death?
October 1, 2012
11:12 am
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Matt
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We then moved on to the village of Valderrobres through which the Matarranya flows as it leaves the mountains. Plenty of fishes visible from the bridge in the village.

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Cake or death?
October 1, 2012
11:30 am
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Matt
Málaga, Spain
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Close to Valderrobres is a waterfall known as 'El Salt', and which looked spectacular in photos. After quite a hairy drive down some dirt tracks we eventually found it only to be disappointed by the almost total lack of water. Place was still nice though so we climbed down into what would normally be the river and checked out a few of the remnant pools where we caught a few young cyprinids which I think were Parachondrostoma miegii.

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October 1, 2012
11:42 am
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Matt
Málaga, Spain
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We then drove to the village of Beceite from where it's a short drive to the gorge from which the Matarranya emerges within the park itself. In winter it's impossible to walk the gorge due to the amount of water but in summer you can follow the river bed right up to its source.

In places where water blocks the 'path' there are wooden slats or poles attached to the rock which you balance on while holding a guide-wire, and in others you have to climb small cascades, also with the help of wires to grab onto. It's a spectacular place with very few people, and as soon as we parked we spotted a couple of large raptors soaring overhead.

The park is home to a large colony of griffon vultures (Gyps fulvus) with golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) also common, and I think the ones we saw were the latter.

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October 1, 2012
11:51 am
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Matt
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There were also plenty of fishes; does anyone have any idea what this might be? There were quite a few of them in the lower part of the gorge but I failed to catch any as they were only present in the deeper pools.

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October 1, 2012
11:53 am
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Matt
Málaga, Spain
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Continuing upriver we found a place where it was easier to fish and caught a few juvenile Barbus - should be B. haasi.

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October 1, 2012
11:59 am
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Matt
Málaga, Spain
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Continuing on we found several deeper pools which were stuffed with Barbus. At one point we were also lucky enough to cross paths with a female Spanish ibex (this is the subspecies Capra pyrenaica hispanica) and her calf.

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October 1, 2012
12:09 pm
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Matt
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Finally arrived at the source of the river and at this altitude there were no more fish though there were plenty of frogs plus a young viperine snake (Natrix maura). We didn't go right up to the source as it would have involved quite a scramble and the sun was beginning to set so at this point we turned and went back.

As we drove out of the park we spotted a lone ibex enjoying the evening sun, and then it was back to the hostel for a very enjoyable hour watching bee-eaters (Merops apiaster) hunting, followed by quite a nice sunset.

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October 1, 2012
1:39 pm
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coelacanth
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There were also plenty of fishes; does anyone have any idea what this might be? There were quite a few of them in the lower part of the gorge but I failed to catch any as they were only present in the deeper pools.

Looks like a Pyrenean Zebra Trout.
http://tominargentina.blogspot.....ssing.html

October 1, 2012
8:14 pm
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Plaamoo
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Looks like a great trip. Thanks for sharing Matt!

October 1, 2012
8:39 pm
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Matt
Málaga, Spain
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Ooh nice link Pete and cheers Jim, bit more to come yet! :D

Here's a quick vid of those Barbus for now, and I'll put up a couple more pics of the striped jobby with some other stuff mañana.

list=UUhFm4Vng0lokjPQsPl3O2bw&index=1&feature=plcp

Cake or death?
October 2, 2012
8:40 am
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Matt
Málaga, Spain
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These help any? It does look quite trout-like?

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October 2, 2012
10:30 am
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coelacanth
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Zebra Trout for sure, cool fish! Away from the normal distribution for the fish though I think, worth checking if it's known that they are there.
You need a travel fly rod or ultralight lure rod.....

October 2, 2012
7:00 pm
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Matt
Málaga, Spain
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Ok will check it out and yeah a couple of hundred km south of the Pyrenees although that link did mention 'Mediterranean rivers'? Wonder if someone could have put them there as we only saw them in one short stretch of a few hundred metres.

P.S. as for the rods - still useful if one has no clue what to do with them? :p

Cake or death?
October 2, 2012
8:57 pm
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coelacanth
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Matt said
P.S. as for the rods - still useful if one has no clue what to do with them? :p

 

Never stopped me before....

There has been a fair bit of stocking done around the place with these things, although it's always where there is an established history of angling. It's perfectly possible that the same stocks of Salmo trutta sensu lato that produced them further North also left a population where you were, isolated as the lower altitudes warmed and became Salmonid-hostile.

October 3, 2012
12:03 am
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Matt
Málaga, Spain
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Heh might just give it a go - certainly appeals more than squatting by a murky canal with a fag and can of super.

Been doing some research and the checklists for the Matarranya do have records for Salmo trutta in the upper basin but the most interesting stuff was in Kottelat and Freyhof's 'Handbook of European Freshwater Fishes' who note that trout retaining parr marks in adults are known from Iberian Peninsula, northern Pyrenees, Corsica, Sardinia, southern Italy, Greece, Turkey, Algerian, and Morocco and all have been grouped together under Salmo macrostigma in the past.

Among other things they also say that Mediterranean trouts belong to very distinct lineages compared with Atlantic and Danubian ones, that the name S. macrostigma can only be used for some N. African species, and that those with parr marks occurring in France and Spain (Ebro River in the latter) 'apparently represent several distinct, unnamed and unstudied species'. The name S. cettii is given to the populations from Italy and Corsica.

Maybe the zebra trout is one of these parr mark-retaining forms?

Cake or death?
October 3, 2012
8:17 am
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Matt
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So the next morning we decided to check out the Río Algars which flows out of the adjacent valley before joining the Matarranya a bit lower down. Lots more Parachondrostoma miegii here, and some wonderful scenery.

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October 3, 2012
8:35 am
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Matt
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Final stop was the village of Fabara some 50 km downstream, in the middle part of the river. It was pretty dry here too but there were still loads of fishes including the by-now ubiquitous P. miegii and best of all the 'bermejuela', Achondrostoma arcasii.

This is a small fish growing to around 100 mm SL and I'd been looking for it since moving to Spain so it was great to finally catch some. Will try to get back in spring and look for males in spawning colouration as they should be quite something.

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October 3, 2012
9:09 am
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coelacanth
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Matt said
Maybe the zebra trout is one of these parr mark-retaining forms?

 

Looking at the pictures elsewhere, they are, but then again I've had small-stream brownies on more than one occasion that also retained parr marks in spite of being mature fish, so I personally would be interested to see whether retention of parr marks is simply a sign of a small-maturing population/individual. Larger zebra trout don't seem to have the parr marks (this is from a limited set of pictures I've been able to find), just like larger brownies. The dark pigmentation that makes up the stripes in a zebra trout does appear to be separate from the parr markings, they look like a different set of chromatophores to me.

Avoid looking at the Brown Trouts. I scratched the surface and it made my head hurt very quickly. Multiple radiations, multiple climatic events, phenotypic plasticity. 

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