Float Tubing In The Hills
Ceri Thomas of Fishing in Wales shares the magical fishing on the Teifi Pools as he floats out in search of its beautiful wild browns.
Wales is quite rightly known for its spectacular mountainous terrain dotted with natural lakes, or llyns as we call them. Almost all of them hold native wild brown trout, some just mere fingerlings while others contain good quality fish of several pounds in weight. Snowdonia of course comes to mind instantly, but there are many lesser known parts of Wales dotted with llyns that can provide exciting sport for beautifully marked wild fish.
The Cambrian Mountains of central Wales are such a place; here the terrain is slightly softer than the north, with rolling hills, tussock grass, peat bog and wetland among the rocky crags. This is a favourite place of mine to fish; there are many trout lakes to choose from here, some of which require a walk of several miles across bleak moors, while others are quite easily accessible, yet retain a true wilderness feel. One such location is the Teifi Pools, situated in remote upland countryside in deepest Ceredigion, where the terrain is simply breathtaking. If you crave solitude when you fish, the Teifi Pools are the perfect spot to get away from it all.
Despite their remote feel and appearance, the pools can be reached by a small metalled track that allows you to park right next to some of them. The llyns are completely natural in origin, although some have had small dams added in order to convert them into a water supply. They have been fished and documented by visiting anglers for hundreds of years and have always offered excellent wild brown trout fishing. The fish, while not huge by stocked fishery standards offer great sport – if you can get your head round the fact that a pounder is a good one and a two pounder is something really special, then you are going to love the place.
The famous River Teifi originates in Llyn Teifi, the largest pool, one of a complex of six llyns in total. The others are Llyn Hir (the long lake), Llyn Egnant (the lake of the church), Llyn Du (the black lake) and Llyn Y Gorlan (lake of the enclosure) and Pond y gwaith (lake of work). Lying in a stretch of barren rocky wilderness of at least 1500ft elevation, each llyn has its own unique character and a different strain of trout in each one.
Fishing is available by day ticket on Llyn Teifi, Llyn Hir and Llyn Egnant only, with fishing rights being owned by Tregaron Angling Association. Handily, permits are also available online with the Wye and Usk Foundations Fishing Passport Scheme. Fishing is for the most part from the bank, however the Tregaron Club allows float tubing on the pools, another reason to pay this special part of the world a visit.
Llyn Teifi is over 70 acres. Surrounded by steep, almost sheer sides in places, it has many bays and points. It generally produces the most fish, although usually of a smaller average size than the others and often quite dark in colour. Abundant spawning must be provided by the many small streams that feed the lake. Half a pound would be a fair average here, although larger specimens of around the pound mark are often caught. Here the water carries a slightly peaty tinge, typical of most acidic upland waters.
The fish, while not huge by stocked fishery standards offer great sport – if you can get your head round the fact that a pounder is a good one and a two pounder is something really special, then you are going to love the place.
To the east Llyn Hir is around 20 acres and long and narrow in shape, with gin clear water and for the most part steep, rocky banks that drop off rapidly to around 20 foot depth. There are no inflowing streams, so peaty matter doesn’t get into the lake as much as the others, perhaps accounting for the crystalline water. The trout here tend to be larger and of better quality than the others, probably due to limited spawning grounds, which means there is less competition for food. Due to its clarity and low stock density this lake is always the most challenging, but if you can catch one, it’s usually a spectacular golden specimen of over a pound in weight.
Llyn Egnant is approximately 50 acres and has quite dark, peaty water. In places shallow submerged beds of peat extend out into the lake with surprising drop offs. Marginal rocks and boulders are stained black, giving an almost volcanic feel especially if the water level is low. On one occasion I used a portable FishSpy Echo Sounder and found Egnant to be over 60 feet deep. The surroundings are a bit less rugged, with rolling hills enclosing the lake. Here a good compromise can be found between average size and fish abundance, making it the best all-round lake in the complex. Fish from nine to 16 inches are common.
The trout here are typically very dark specimens, with large black velvety spots. There is a lighter colour morph, said to be introduced by the Monks in medieval times. These tend to be silvery with more red spots. The contrast may in fact be due to bottom substrate differences; the far side of the lake has more gravel, which is paler.
Two Decades On The Teifi Pools
I usually visit the Teifi Pools at least once a year and have done on and off over a period of two decades. These lakes follow cycles; some years there are lots of smaller fish, and at other times they are few and far between but all relatively large. One thing I have noticed in recent years is a noticeable improvement in fish numbers, quality and average size. Importantly fly life seems to have improved drastically. This could be down to improved farming practises and a change in the usage of sheep dipping chemicals from extremely toxic organo-phosphates. Acid rain has also been a factor in the past – thankfully coal burning for electricity is being phased out and we are now seeing the upland areas recover. Whatever the cause of the improved fishing, there has never been a better time to visit the pools and enjoy the fine scenery.
This year, I ventured up to the pools in early May, along with Airflo Fly Line Production Manager Mike Morgan. Our intention was to enjoy a full day on the water, fishing from dawn till dusk. The float tubes were packed, with this method being the most enjoyable way to fish these pools. The tubes have many advantages; firstly you are able to cover water efficiently and reach spots that never see an angler, secondly your movement is silent and your profile low to the water, allowing you to approach spooky fish, thirdly you can present your flies tight to the bank; right over the drop offs and rocky reefs where the trout lie in wait.