Teifi Pools

From source to sea, very few prettier courses cut by a river can exist than that of the Teifi. Revered for its sea-trout, bestowed as the Queen of Welsh-rivers, making it a difficult context to set or etch objectively whilst doing it justice in written form – especially through biased eyes.

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Much has been written on the sea-trout fishing opportunities to be explored on the Teifi, yet, as with so many other rivers, the success of one species is often viewed to the detriment of another. Somewhat overshadowing, or repressing opportunities that would otherwise be highly sought. Such is the predicament of the trout of the upper Teifi, which will now be given their just deserves.

Viewed on a map or from a satellite image it becomes evident that Romans had no part to play in the design of the Teifi! The river that distinguishes the divide between two of Wales’ prime game fishing counties; Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire is as straight as the ‘Blue Oyster Bar’. Carving its path ever seaward towards its destination, Cardigan Bay. On the other end of the spectrum are the lakes where the Teifi forms its roots, and this is where this journey will take us.

At the headwaters of the Teifi set steeply within the Cambrian Mountains a series of lakes exist, some of which are natural with others being intensified by dam walls. Bleak, remote, windy, with changeable weather almost to the hour would best describe their setting. However, I think that this is its charm; angler vs. the elements, and nature in its rawest form. A day can be spent exploring the many inlets and bays in complete serenity, where the red kites soar freely once more. Oh yes, and did mention that the trout fishing isn’t bad too?

The controlling body for these lakes is Tregaron Angling Association, where for £10 a roving ticket exists that not only allows you access to four lakes but also prime trout, with salmon and sea-trout towards the latter months of the season, fishing on 22 miles of the upper Teifi. A rare bargain, as I’m sure you’ll agree. This allows the visiting angler to get a taste of both Worlds, perhaps a likely combination being; fishing the lakes by day before returning to an evening rise on the river.

The wind on Teifi lakes shows little empathy to the angler striving and wielding their line. However, take the wind out of the equation and the angler’s catch soon diminishes too. Food supply in these peat laden hill lakes are described as sparse from the most generous of optimists. As such, the fish become opportunists gorging at every available opportunity on terrestrials or other morsels that suffer the ill-fortune of taking an impromptu dip. With this being the case the trout rarely stray far from the bank, good news for the angler, especially in a stiff, uncompromising wind.

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Certain banks indubitably fish better than others, and the windward shore often provides the best sport. However, this can, at times, become a misnomer. Especially since the terrestrials become airborne from the opposite side of the lake –be that by choice, or otherwise – either way they have little say in their journey direction or end.

The trout of Teifi Lakes indefinitely become territorial, highlighting the need to travel light and cover the water. Territorial fish usually lay the foundation for picky feeders and tough to fool, educated fish. Not to belittle the trout, but this doesn’t seem to be case on Teifi lakes where the sparse feeding has led to the abandonment of this trait. With this in mind, if an insect gets blown onto the water on a collision course with the windward shore then it is the trout nearest the leeward bank that will get the first and richest pickings. Why then is it that the best bags usually come from the windward shore? That I would account with the rougher and usually more discoloured water that is synonymous with windward shores, which disguise the angler’s presence and their cast, more than the carriage of food in this instance.

Fortunately, rarely would one be confronted with a windless day on such open waters. Whereas five weight rods would give the best sport on the trout that you are likely to catch – which range from a few ounces to fish of near a pound expected on most days – seven weights are more practical to help combat the wind.

Sport begins in earnest around the middle of March on these remote hill lakes. The hibernation period is prolonged due to its openness, exacerbated by cold, fleeting winds that benefit neither the brave nor the slumbering trout. However, ravenous from this lethargic state they awake ever obligingly. Such great fishing can be expected through to late September, weather permitting.

Fly patterns, as always, should rarely deviate from what is found naturally and therefore fed on naturally. A few minutes spent at the water’s edge and walking through the surrounding grass will be time well spent, and should pay dividends. Dependent on the time of year, the banquet bill would include; midges, beetles, spiders, daddies, with the great red sedge making sporadic appearances on warm summer evenings – which are a large food item for the trout and, as such, seem to lose all inhibitions when chasing these skittering morsels.

However, as noted, the trout are opportunists and general ‘loch-style’ patterns can and should be adopted – especially since a day may pass without seeing or finding and edible food source. Silhouette, size, and colour should hold precedence over exact imitations. Variables that I find to be directly applicable to most fishing situations, especially when fishing the wet-fly.

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Gold serves well as a colour in nearly all peat based waters, be they flowing or still. As such, patterns like the dunkeld or golden olive bumble are two not to be overlooked. In addition, much of the food on offer to the trout is of a solemn hue. With this in mind, and since it gives the greatest silhouette, black should indefinitely be incorporated onto the cast. Classical patterns such as the black pennel, zulu, bibio or a black dabbler would be foolish to omit.

As with all un-stocked waters, the fish are a natural resource, sustainable only by prudence and a careful hand. Fish may be taken from the waters; however, I would implore the use of a respectful mind – as nowadays a mental or digital image should suffice as a trophy. Either way, take sparingly.

A place to seek refuge from the nagging ‘other-half’? Respite from a hard week at work? Or, just fancy a change from hauling out sea-trout from the river? Teifi Lakes, In my opinion, has it all.

Steffan runs Angling-Worldwide, a company that specialises in sea-trout fishing packages, courses, and guiding in Wales, with a history of doing so stemming back for over a decade. For further information contact:

Web: www.anglingworldwide.com
Phone: 07879 898 344
Mail: Angling-Worldwide, Crosslane, Dolgran, Pencader, Carmarthenshire, SA39 9BY

Also check out:
http://www.fishing.visitwales.com/en/content/cms/Game/Sea_Trout/Sea_Trout.aspx

Sea-trout Fishing in Wales (Why, When, Where)

With sea-trout averaging 5 ½lbs in May on many rivers and still carrying an average weight of 4lbs by the middle of July, along with fish of over 20lbs recorded last year alone, you would be forgiven for thinking that we were talking about some far flung destination where ‘Cerveza’ and ‘Empanadas’ would reflect the local lingo! Not so! Welcome to one of Wales’ best kept secrets; the mystical and ever captivating sea-trout.

These silver tourists grace every corner of Wales; chances are where a large freshwater deposit meets saltwater sea-trout will be found. From the mighty Welsh Dee in North Wales right round to the Usk in South Wales, sea-trout make their presence and annual ascent. As they ascend, we, the anglers, embark on annual pilgrimages and traditions pursuing these illusive silver ghosts.

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But what makes sea-trout so special? No other species captivates and drives an angler, sometimes to despair, like sea-trout. Sea-trout fishing becomes a lot more than just about the catch – it becomes an addiction, sometimes to unhealthy levels proportions! As the shadows loom and all colour is lost under the night-sky, the period of quiet contemplation and solitude soon transforms to expectation and anticipation as the once devoid pool comes alive with sea-trout marking their presence with their acrobatic display that is without equal.

The sea-trout are primarily targeted in the night due to their shy and retiring nature in the daytime during summer low-flows and clear waters. However, given a spate and daytime action can be nothing short of exhilarating, be that with a fly, spinner or worm. For the fly angler it is the night-time sport on a humid summer evening that holds the true attraction and tradition of sea-trout fishing. At first the mere thought of flailing a length of carbon around in the dark sounds nothing short of idiotic. As the flies find their way to the trees behind then the trees in front idiotic soon turns to demoralisation and a feeling of attempting an insurmountable goal. However, when one pull from a sea-trout is achieved these trepidations will soon be forgotten, the addiction will take hold, and the drug will drive you on for as long as you have a drive to fish. This really is the pinnacle of the fly anglers’ quarry in the UK.

Why Wales? Very little light pollution, rivers that produce the largest fish and largest catches in the UK, easy to get to, good accessibility on all rivers, relatively cheap, an abundance of wildlife, beautiful and unspoilt countryside and if this wasn’t enough; Wales is the country that holds the longest tradition of fishing for sea-trout, especially so at night. So why travel thousands of miles, spending thousands of pounds getting to a destination like Tierra-Del-Fuego, where the wind will drag the hair from your scalp and the countryside is a monotonous plane?

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What about the usual ‘Where, When and How’? The ‘Where’ and ‘When’ are correlated, as the when you go where is of particular importance to a anadromous species such as the sea-trout, because they enter different river systems at different times, and different run sizes and fish sizes enter at different stages throughout the year. As a general rule; nothing can beat local knowledge when it comes to dictating an individual river’s run, as this is something that is monitored and cultivated not only yearly but through many generations, which has made timescales largely predictable. As such, the first step is to decide where you would like to target sea-trout, and then a little further research can pay dividends.

Rivers that have historically produced good runs and numbers of sea-trout include (from North to South); Mawddach, Dovey, Rheidol, Ystwyth, Teifi, Towy, Neath. This list is by no means exclusive or extensive, and as was previously mentioned; chances are where a large freshwater system meets saltwater sea-trout will be found to varying degrees. Indeed, many of the listed rivers have tributaries that are worthy of a mention in their own right, and many of these tributaries make for excellent starting points for newcomers to the sport, being less intimidating than the main systems.

With your river system now chosen we progress on our Welsh sea-trout journey through to the ‘how’. Firstly, and rather pertaining to the previous point regarding acquiring local knowledge, whenever possible do try and source a local guide to help you through the inevitable trepidations a newcomer faces. The benefits and guidance of a local and well rehearsed guide has never been as pertinent as when night-time sea-trout fishing is in question. Not only will the guide be there to assist you in overcoming well known obstacles that run in conjunction with night-time fishing, to which there will usually be well known antidotes, but they will also mature you into the art and get you accustomed to ‘things that go bump in the night’.

The tackle you bring will generally be dictated by the system you have chosen. For example, it would be a foolish angler that journeys to a river like the Nevern or the Cothi with a 13ft double hander, where a 9ft rod would be the order of the day. Again, a little research and obtaining some local knowledge would go a long way. However, as a general rule, and for the majority of the larger or well known Welsh sea-trout rivers a rod between 9-11ft rated for a #7-9 is ideal, with a 10ft #8 being a perfect ally – no need to splash out on a ‘sea-trout’ branded rod, any reservoir/lake rod will suffice, and crossover admirably. I would personally advise a middle or middle-tip action blank as fast rods and tight loops can spell disaster at night both from the fishing and the catching perspective, but the brand is totally your prerogative.

The technology and time invested in fly line development over recent years is significant, where we get to reap the rewards. However, the cost of these lines has not increased in correlation with this investment; indeed, lines are cheaper nowadays than they ever have been. As such, this is one aspect where I would say; be prepared! And don’t let a £30 investment be the shortfall of your success and failure of the trip. A floating line is paramount, and an essential addition to your fly fishing tackle. However, chances are you will need to search out those deeper lying fish at some stage, where even the heaviest of flies on your floating line will not suffice. As a rule I would advise you to carry at least three lines; a floater, intermediate and a medium/fast sinker. These should also be accompanied with a set of salmon/steelhead polyleaders in various densities, to allow you to explore other tangents and depths. The key here is to be prepared; better to have it with you and not use it, rather than found wanting.

The same advice is reiterated when flies are in question too. Bring everything and the kitchen sink! As you never know what will charm the bar of silver from the deeps – over the seasons I have heard of several sea-trout in excess of 10lbs falling to patterns such as; zulu, sparklers, and even a dry daddy long-legs skated as a surface lure in the dead of night! Most shops now hold an array of sea-trout patterns, many of which target the anglers equally as well as the sea-trout. However, in general these can provide inspiration as well as supplementary stocks to your armoury. There are several books as well as online articles on the Fishing-Wales website regarding tried and tested patterns for sea-trout, which would hold you in good stead when compiling an arsenal of fly fishing tackle.

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With your fly fishing rods, lines and flies in order the other items on the checklist are straightforward yet paramount and essential. Firstly, personal safety should be covered at this juncture; no fish is worth your life. Always carry a life-vest, accidents can happen in the most unsuspecting of locations. Further to that, some safety glasses are a wise investment at around £5 a pair, and a wading staff can be of use when fishing unknown waters, as can a rescue whistle and a mobile phone in a waterproof bag. Secondly, always carry more torches than you need, with 2 being a minimum. A good headtorch with changeable settings that includes a red-light or red-filter is advisable, as the red light preserves your night vision. Further to that, some heavy nylon – we rarely revert to nylon strengths below 12lbs when night fishing, with good reason – a priest, disgorger, and some late night sustenance compiles the makings of a sea-trout tackle-bag. Always carry enough fishing clothing, as temperatures and weather fluctuates considerably during the night. It is, of course, advisable to carry a coat even though we all know it never rains in Wales…

Steffan’s Nightime setup and fly fishing bag contents:

  • Rods; I usually carry 2 rods set-up with different tactics; one usually holding a floater, the other a sinking line of some description. I currently use the Airflo Airlite 10ft for #7/8 rods.
  • Reels; don’t skimp on quality – quality doesn’t always equate to expensive! Make sure the drag is smooth, and that it can hold a decent amount of backing to cover all eventualities.
  • Lines; I use a lot of the Airflo 40+ Extreme fly lines in densities from floating through to di-5. These are great lines for medium and large river systems. The Sewincaster range of lines are also a firm favourite, and are specifically designed for this aspect of the sport.
  • Waders; waders of some description are usually essential, even though wading above your knees is rarely required.  I would advise felt and studded (combination) soles.
  • Nylon; Terry Eustace pro gold in 12lbs and 15lbs. Alternatively, Maxima Ultragreen. Also, a spool of 15-20lbs fluorocarbon for surface lure work, and a spool of 8lbs fluorocarbon for dusk and daylight fishing – I have faith in Airflo G3.

Steffan runs Angling-Worldwide, a company that specialises in sea-trout fishing packages, courses, and guiding in Wales, with a history of doing so stemming back for over a decade. For further information contact:

Web: www.anglingworldwide.com
Phone: 07879 898 344
Mail: Angling-Worldwide, Crosslane, Dolgran, Pencader, Carmarthenshire, SA39 9BY