Fishing on the
In the 15th/16th centuries, there's a report that
herring boats met in the estuary and:
"...there is a wonderful great
resorte of ffyshers assembled from all places...and there is of the said
companye there assembled, one chosen to be their admiral...".
has a fine heritage as a salmon and sea-trout river (sea-trout are known
locally as sewin). They appear from May onwards, and those who know about such
things say that the best months for fishing are Aug-Oct for salmon and Jun-Sep
The earliest references I can find to Dyfi and its fish occur
in the Tales of Taliesin, translated from a 16th Century manuscript, but
probably far older, and relate to a prince called Elphin, son of Gwyddno. One
year, Gwyddno granted Elphin the salmon catch from his weir, which was situated
on the strand between the Dyfi and Aberystwyth. This must have sounded a like a
pretty good proposition to Elphin, but when he checked it out there was nothing
trapped in the weir but a leather bag on a pole. On opening the bag he found a
young boy inside, whom he named Taliesin, and that was the start of a long and
complicated story which has nothing whatsoever to do with fishing.
fear that a lack of salmon might be an all too common experience these days, as
the river seems to be suffering from our country-wide dearth of such fish.
Figures for 1999 indicate that only 106 salmon, compared with 2070 sewin, were
caught in the Dyfi by rod and line, and I can't help wondering whether netting
in the estuary continues unabated. I'd welcome any information from anyone who
lives locally please.
Where there are fishermen, then of course you'll
find poachers, and poaching on the Dyfi has a fine tradition as well. Way back
in 1778, Thomas Pennant wrote that the Dyfi "abounded with salmon, which were
hunted in the night by an animated but illicit class, by spearmen, who were
directed to the fish by lighted whisps of straw". Twenty years later, a Rev
Bingley noted (in "A Tour round North Wales performed during the Summer of
1798") that coracles were working on the Dyfi, but netting from coracles was
banned by the Dovey Fishery Association in 1861. Poaching continued, however,
and just a year later, in 1862, George Borrow described a court hearing at
Machynlleth petty sessions, where a man was convicted of spearing a salmon in
There was once an ambitious scheme to export Dyfi salmon eggs
to Australia: in 1861 six Australian Salmon Commissioners were appointed to
"oversee the acclimatisation of salmon into Tasmania". An undated report
lurking on the Web, taken from The Illustrated London News, tells how Sir
Watkin Wynn and Mr. Edmund Buckley gave permission for 30,000 salmon ova to be
taken from the Dyfi and transported to Melbourne. The sailing ship
Curling left Liverpool on the 25th (month unknown, but the year possibly
1859/1860), with the eggs carefully deposited in gravel boxes and with
ice-cooled water continuously running over them. I believe this endeavour
failed, because another source tells of a third-time-lucky attempt in 1864. The
Norfolk, a 3-masted clipper, left Britain for Australia with a cargo of
90,000 Salmon eggs taken from the Dyfi and the Severn, and - some say purely as
an afterthought - 2,700 Brown Trout eggs, obtained elsewhere. 80% of the eggs
survived the journey, wrapped in moss on large blocks of ice, and they were
then transported to the Plenty River in southern Tasmania, the site of the
first salmon and trout hatchery in the Southern Hemisphere. They successfully
hatched "on 4 May 1864" and the trout thrived, being transported in billies on
horseback to other mountain rivers to be released for sport fishing, and
forming the basis of the industry in Australia today. The carefully-reared
young salmon fry were released into the Derwent River, and the people at the
hatchery must then have waited in the hope of seeing them return as magnificent
salmon the next year. But they were never seen again - they never found their
However, the trout were a resounding success, and the Salmon
Ponds Hatchery is still operating today.
Faraday and his companion, Magrath, stayed overnight in Machynlleth during a
walking tour through Wales in 1819, and commented on the Dyfi's "pellucid
current" (yes, I had to look this up as well - it means admitting the maximum
passage of light) and that there were "trout sparkling beneath the
These days, much of the fishing on the Dyfi is controlled by
the New Dovey Fishery Association, based in Machynlleth. It controls about 15
miles of the river, from Llyfnant stream to Nant Ty-Mawr (where?) on one bank,
and from a point opposite the mouth of the Llyfnant to Abergwybedyn brook on
the other. Fishing is allowed from 1 Apr-17 Oct, and they have very strict
So there - just you behave yourselves when fishing the Dyfi.
- No sewin under twelve inches to be taken; even if badly hooked they
must be returned to the river.
- No angler is allowed to take more than three sea trout or more than
two salmon or grilse in any one day.
- No mature sea trout to be taken after 14th Sept. Catch returns are
required on all tickets.
- Season Ticket (residents), Season Ticket (non-residents). There is a
long waiting list. Season Ticket (upper reaches; no guest permits).
- Visitors (limited number): Weekly Ticket (Mon., Tues., Thurs., Sat.
of one week). Fishing is allowed on Wednesdays at no extra charge if the
association's 'flag' is flying.
- A maximum of two visitor permits per season per person. No visitor
tickets are issued after the last Saturday in August.
- Permits are not issued to any person under the age of 16 years.
- Season rods available £55 when vacancies occur (long waiting
list - contact Hon Sec).
- Upper reaches Season Ticket £150 from Hon Sec. Limited visitors
Weekly Ticket £95. Day Ticket £10 for upper reaches.
- No Sunday fishing.
The fishing reaches controlled by the New Dovey Fisheries
Association all have names, most of which are quite ancient in their origins.
I'm still trying to find out the significance of some of the names but, in the
meantime, click on this link to bring
up a map of this stretch of the river.
addition to the area controlled by the New Dovey Fishery Association, short
stretches of river are privately owned. Plas Dolguog has a 250 yard stretch of
water; Brigands' Inn at Mallwyd has 2 miles of fishing; the Dolbrodmaeth Inn,
the Buckley Pines Hotel and The Coach House - all at Dinas Mawddwy - also have
short stretches. The Prince Albert Angling Society of Macclesfield controls the
rights to a 2½ mile stretch of Dyfi at Gwastad Coed, nr Aberangell; at
Gwernhefin, further upriver towards Mallwyd; and at Maescamlan, between Mallwyd
and Dinas Mawddwy.