|An illustrated guide to fishing, walking, wildlife conservation and other attractions in and around the Brecon Beacons National Park, South Wales, the country of the Red Kite|
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For a relatively small country, Wales can boast some 240 salmon and trout rivers, a great number of which bear significant runs of sea trout (or sewin, as they are called here). In addition, there are hundreds of upland lakes and lowland stillwaters holding stocks of wild brown or introduced rainbow trout. The mountains, in particular, are home to large reservoirs serving Welsh and other British cities. Many of these have been stocked with trout or other fish, are beautifully landscaped and can offer great fishing when conditions on the rivers are not ideal. Because of its upland nature the area I have described below as Kite Country does not offer as much coarse fishing, although there are some notable exceptions - the River Wye is a superb mixed fishery and Llangorse Lake near Brecon is a very popular destination for coarse fishermen.
Fishing in Kite Country is concerned with an area broadly defined by the Brecon Beacons National Park to the South and East, by the River Towy to the West, and by the River Wye to the North. However, as I have recently moved further North beyond the lovely Wye I shall make the most of any new explorations and include information about other Wye tributaries such as the rivers Lugg and Arrow in due course. This area is basically dominated by mountainous terrain and the river fishing is therefore upland by nature, taking in the higher stretches of some extremely famous and productive rivers such as the Towy, which I fish mostly for its excellent sea trout, the Usk, which is renowned for its wild brown trout, and the Wye, which is the greatest Welsh (and English!) salmon-fishing water. I shall also look at some of the smaller tributaries and give further information on reservoir fishing.
It is in the nature of upland fishing that it can be extremely unpredictable and visitors should take this into account when planning their holidays here. For many years I travelled hundreds of miles to Scotland from my previous home in London only to find the rivers bone-dry after weeks of drought or to be told that I "had just missed the best run of salmon in years". This was one of the main reasons for moving to Kite Country, as I now often have the opportunity to fish when conditions are just right. However, that doesn't mean that I often catch fish! Whilst fishing here is conducted in magnificent surroundings, you should be aware that the mountainous terrain, unpredictable climate and the sheer distance of some of the waters from the sea can make catching migratory fish a bit of a challenge.
For really up-to-date information on river conditions you can call the new RiverCall lines operated by the Environment Agency. For the rivers Wye, Usk and Towy call (0044) 0906 619 7755 (charged at 61 pence per minute). Thanks to the work of the excellent Wye & Usk Foundation you can now also view up to date water levels on various stretches of the rivers Wye, Usk and Monnow via their live web cam service.
You should also understand that many of the waters are accessible only to the fit and agile or to those able to cast accurately under overhanging branches and to use very small rods and featherweight lines. Some of the fishing can be downright dangerous if attempted alone. However, this is true wilderness fishing and those prepared to make one or two sacrifices, or to walk a little bit further, or to abseil down gorges and wade through fast currents will enjoy a truly rewarding experience and will find every fish caught more satisfying.
To get detailed information on some of the fishing opportunities that I can recommend, simply go to my Fishing Map. I am still in the process of exploring many local streams and stillwaters myself and will keep updating the site as soon as I have something to report. I have not made any attempt to give precise details of costs, although these are generally very reasonable and much lower than in Scotland, for example. You will get good reservoir fishing from about £12.00 per day and salmon/sea trout fishing is often available on private and club waters from as little as £20.00 per day, especially if you are prepared to try some of the smaller tributaries. You will pay more for private salmon fishing on the River Wye. and River Usk, although there are plenty of beats available on these excellent fisheries through the booking service provided by the Wye Usk Foundation. The Foundation also offers its very well organised Roving Voucher Scheme that provides visiting anglers with a huge variety of fishing on smaller rivers and streams throughout the region, such as the pretty little River Clettwyr shown to the right. Please make a point of looking at their web site for further details when planning a trip. For 2013 the voucher scheme will be changing to a new system of Wild Stream permits and season passes. Please see the Foundation's web site for further details.
I have tried to give general indications on seasons for individual stillwaters on their respective pages. Those for rivers are rather more complicated because of the increasing need to provide adequate conservation measures. These are also accompanied by a diversity of byelaws regulating the fishing methods permitted, etc. For example, the season for migratory fish on the Wye, Usk and Towy closes on the 17th October, but the first two rivers can be fished from the 3rd March onwards, whereas the Towy only opens for migratory fish on the 1st April. The permitted methods vary greatly for each river, so please check the individual pages on my site for more details or look at the actual Byelaws, which you can download from the Environment Agency. In general, however, visitors should note that on all rivers in England and Wales all salmon caught before the 16th June must be returned with minimum injury and that no fishing for salmon before that date is permitted other than with fly or artificial lure. There are sound reasons for these complicated regulations - see my Threats page for further details. You can also get more information on fisheries, byelaws and other related matters from the Environment Agency by calling them on (0044) 0845 933 3111. : Please note that for 2012 the Environment Agency is applying to the Welsh Government and DEFRA for approval of a proposed 100 per cent catch and release byelaw for salmon and sea trout on the rivers Wye, Taff and Ely. I shall confirm this as soon as I hear more.
Someone once said that you could catch any fish at any time by using one of only six different flies, in different sizes. However, local knowledge and experience can still pay dividends and if you are like me you probably prefer to have thousands of different flies and other lures "just in case". Hell, you might just like tying flies from around the World! If the latter applies then try clicking to my Flies and Lures page, where you will find some suggested patterns for trout, sea trout and salmon flies, as well as some lures. Welsh sea trout, or sewin, flies are quite unique and well worth a try. In general, the local practice favours night fishing for sewin with large flies, although water conditions will obviously dictate variations to this general rule.
By nature, all recreational anglers are conservationists - we must treasure the fish we seek to catch as otherwise nothing will be left tomorrow. As in most parts of the World, there is intense debate in the United Kingdom as to the future of salmon fishing in particular and game fishing in general. The arguments are complex and interests are rigidly guarded. However, we must address these issues now, as otherwise our children will not be able to enjoy the spectacle of an Atlantic salmon making its way upstream. To get things in perspective, a pollution incident on the River Tawe in Ystradgynlais on the 13th August 1999 resulted in the deaths of an estimated 10000 young trout and salmon. Action must be taken to prevent such attacks on the sensitive ecology of our rivers and stillwaters. To report similar incidents and enable urgent remedial measures to be taken, call the Environment Agency Emergency Hotline on freephone 0800 807 060. Also, for a small fee join the Angling Trust and report any such incidents to them as well. In general, the Trust (or rather its offshoot, FishLegal) will take legal action against polluters and recover the substantial costs required to put right the effects of their carelessness. If you are interested in this debate, then click to my Threats page and see whether you agree with some of the points. If you do then make your voice heard and join in the debate. I have included a number of links and email addresses for a number of other organisations, whether conservationist or governmental, so that you can let them know how you think.
Fishing-related links and many others are also listed on my Links pages - one for Welsh Fishing sites and one for other British and International Fishing sites - so that you can easily connect to other sources of online information devoted to fly fishing and game angling.
If you have come straight to this page off the Web and want to know more about Kite Country, including details of the fabulous and rare Red Kite itself, other wildlife issues, as well as information about Welsh history, culture and much more, then simply choose one of the options listed in the left-hand column. The Information section will give you advice on how to get here, where to stay, eat and drink, and even what to wear!
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