The Carmarthenshire Fishermen’s Federation
Carmarthenshire is a Welsh county that is blessed with endless fishing opportunities not to be bypassed by any angler. From the undiscovered beaches and rocky coves, scenic lakes and miles upon miles of stunning rivers and streams.
For the game angler, the County is of specific interest as it boasts some of the best mixed game fisheries in the UK, with it’s most renowned river, namely the Towy, being one of the best Sea Trout (known locally as Sewin) rivers in the UK and arguably Europe. All of the rivers in the county have the reputation of regularly producing specimen Sewin well into the teens of pounds each season.
There is a saying that one never steps into the same river twice. Rivers are always on the move, conditions are forever changing, activities on one stretch can influence neighbouring stretches or even the whole length.
This is especially true of the Towy, known locally as the Tywi, and its tributaries which, from sources in the mountains of South-West Wales to the estuary in Carmarthen Bay run through a number of geological systems – old red sandstone, alluvial gravels and soils, Cambrian and pre-Cambrian strata – each having its effect on the character of the river, the water quality, the natural vegetation and the wildlife. Thanks to this varied geology the Towy is highly mobile – in terms of undulations per mile, it is believed to be the second-most undulatory river in the world, exceeded only by the Mississippi. And beyond all these, there is the impact of human activity on the lands of the river basin – farming and forestry, impoundments and extraction.
The outcome is a river system which, though no more than some 75 miles in length, offers the angler a wonderfully diverse range of challenges and opportunities, and records show that it has been fished enthusiastically for hundreds of years. Sea trout, known locally as sewin, are the main game species, but salmon and brown trout are also abundant. Of interest to conservationists, too, there are some twaite shad and a small population of otters, which have justified the designation of the river as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under European legislation. Lampreys, eels and allis shad are also to be found, contributing to a wonderfully diverse set of ecosystems.
The Towy, which runs through the heart of the Carmarthenshire, naturally receives a lot of the attention locally and nationally but there are also other little gems which flow through the county which offer some magical game fishing, including the Teifi, Taf, Loughor and Gwendraeth Fach and Fawr. Each of the rivers have their own unique personalities and challenges to the angler but they have a couple of thing in common – they play host to the species fish that all river game anglers love and strive to catch.
In more recent times, however, interests other than angling, in particular a growing (and constantly changing!) range of official and semi-official bodies concerned with water management, forestry, agricultural, environmental and conservation issues have had an increasingly important influence on the river catchment, and it was recognised that it would be sensible for the angling interests to be able to speak with a common voice.
Some forty years ago, therefore, the Carmarthenshire Fishermens` Federation, usually referred to as the CFF, was formed as a representative body for the clubs, associations, private owners and all having fishing rights and interests on the Towy, its tributaries and neighbouring rivers in South-West Wales, including the Teifi, Taf, Loughor and the two Gwendraeths. From relatively small beginnings membership has grown to some 2,000 individuals, many of whom come from outside the area, and indeed from outside Wales, bringing together a wealth of knowledge and practical expertise.
Conservation of the fishery, with all that implies, has from the beginning been a key role for the CFF, when it took on the responsibilities of the long-standing Board of Conservators. Clearly if a river is not in good health the ecosystems it supports will suffer, and as fish are at the summit of many of the systems, it follows that the population will fall and the quality of fishing deteriorate.
But while maintaining and improving the ecological health of the county’s river catchments must command a high priority, it is no less important to ensure the responsible use of the rivers for leisure and recreation, with “responsible” being the keyword. It needs to be remembered that fishing rights and much of riparian land are private property, and need to be respected accordingly. With the effective withdrawal of official river bailiffs following changes in Government policy, the task of monitoring the behaviour of river users falls largely to amateur bodies such as the CFF who, while having no powers to control, can report unsuitable actions to the authorities.
In all these activities, the CFF works closely with the relevant official bodies, especially the newly-formed Government agency, Natural Resources Wales, which has now assumed the powers and responsibilities in Wales of the Environment Agency, the Forestry Commission and the Countryside Council.
Managing a fishery is clearly not a trivial task, but for all involved the rewards of success are great, and the commitment of the CFF is unconditional.