|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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This most interesting little river rises in a remote moorland tarn called Llyn y Fan Fawr, situated under the crags of Fan Brycheiniog on the Black Mountain (not to be confused with the Black Mountains to the East of the Brecon Beacons National Park!) From here it tumbles steeply to the valley and then runs close to the main A4067 road and through some very rocky gorges before it finally calms down into longer, shallower pools beyond Abercraf, where it leaves the National Park (see Map 11).
In its lower stretches the river runs through a number of former coal-mining areas before negotiating the city of Swansea and the fearsome barrage constructed across its estuary in 1992. After its former, heavily-polluted industrial past, the Tawe has been transformed into a sparkling little river with healthy runs of migratory fish, as well as a good population of wild brown trout. However, the barrage has undoubtedly prevented it from achieving its true potential and much will depend on spates.
This really is a cracking little river and a real challenge to the keen game fisherman, who will be very pleased to learn that the whole river is open to the visitor through permits issued by two angling clubs. The main river and tributaries in Kite Country, extending to some 25 miles of fishing in all, are in the hands of the Tawe and Tributaries Angling Association and day tickets are available from various shops and pubs in and around the impossibly named town of Ystradgynlais on the A4067 (see the web site for full details). According to the 2012 Fishing Byelaws salmon and sea trout may be caught in the Tawe from the 20th March to the 17th October. However, anglers should note that only flyfishing and spinning may be used between the 20th March and the 15th June and from the 8th to 17th October. Other permitted baits may be used between the 16th June and the 7th October. Brown trout may be fished for between the 3rd March and the 30th September.
Irrespective of the general byelaws, anglers fishing the Tawe and Tributaries AA waters are only allowed to use centrepin reels for spinning and are subject to much tighter rules. The fishing in the upper reaches can be really satisfying, although anglers should note that the rocky stretches can be dangerous, especially after heavy rain. Waders with felt soles are a must. Access to most parts of the river is good, with the road never too far away.
In the event that the river is unfishable, remember that the wild brown trout of Crai Reservoir are only a few miles away to the North up the A4067, although you should remember that the season there extends from the 1st April to the 30th September.
With all this fishing available, who would want to do anything else? Nevertheless, for non-fishing days there is always Craig y Nos Castle and Country Park (now a private hotel) in Glyntawe, beside the A4067 road. At the turn of the century this was the home of the renowned operatic singer Adelina Patti, before passing into the ownership and management of the National Park. There are plenty of things for kids to do and it provides a very good interpretative centre for the flora and fauna of the Brecon Beacons. There are some lovely walks through and beyond the grounds. Across the road from here are the Dan yr Ogof showcaves, which, amongst other delights, provide a recreation of life in the Iron Age.
Needless to say, there is plenty of walking in these parts, as in the rest of the National Park. Provided the weather is fine, there is a good marked trail leading from the minor road running alongside the top reaches of the River Tawe right up to the source of the river itself, Llyn y Fan Fawr. This is a beautiful little mountain lake only a short walk away from the equally beautiful Llyn y Fan Fach. An Italian correspondent of mine called Paolo Vanoncini spent a fine weekend here in July 2005 and kindly sent in the super photographs you can see on this page. Here you can carefully make your way East along the crags and enjoy fine view North towards the Usk Reservoir. Alternatively, take the minor road into the hills to the East of Craig y Nos Country Park leading up to Craig y Nos Quarry, where you can explore the very interesting limestone country features. This is caving country, so be careful where you put your feet!
Given good weather I can also now wholeheartedly recommend a visit to the Allt Rhongyr Nature Reserve recently acquired by the Brecknock Wildlife Trust. It is only about 1 mile from Craig y Nos (easily accessible on foot) and provides some fabulous views over the Tawe Valley as well as a diverse selection of wildflowers through various times of the year. For an exact location see OS map sheet 160. The grid reference is SN 852 156.
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