Salmon at Gilfach

Salmon at Gilfach

Marteg Waterfall at Gilfach by Sam Perkins

Life cycle of atlantic salmon at Gilfach

Radnorshire is a land–locked county but the salmon is our link with the sea. They return from an epic journey across the Atlantic Ocean to spawn in the gravels of the River Marteg where they were born. They migrate up the Bristol Channel, under the Severn Bridge and then into the River Wye, through Herefordshire and then into Wales, gradually working their way upstream to here in mid Wales.

In mid-November, when the River Marteg is swollen with rain, the salmon use all their power to leap up the waterfalls and swim onwards upstream to calmer waters where they swish out a hole with their tails in the gravelly beds, and lay their eggs. Otters can often be seen near the waterfall at this time of year.

In summer look out for the next generation of salmon in river pools, feeding on aquatic insects and small fish, growing in readiness for their incredible journey. Young salmon live in the river for 1-4 years until they are large enough to head out to sea.

These are tricky years as the young salmon are ideal prey for otters, herons, kingfishers and other fish. About 10% of the young salmon survive their time in the river and these head downstream to the Severn Estuary and out to the Atlantic Ocean. They spend a few years in the ocean, growing in size until they’re sexually mature. Then they navigate all the way back up the Wye to the Marteg, to spawn where they hatched.

People on salmon platform at Gilfach by David Woodfall

People on salmon platform at Gilfach by David Woodfall

Where can I see salmon?

The salmon can be seen in the River Marteg along the Marteg Valley Nature Trail at our Gilfach Nature Reserve. Many people try to catch a glimpse of salmon leaping up the waterfall from our viewing platform, located along the same path. Patience is key! Please take care when walking as the natural pathways are uneven & often slippery.  

When is the best time of year to see salmon?

Atlantic salmon are usually seen swimming up the River Marteg from late October to the end of November. Every year is different due to a number of factors, but mid-November is often the best time.

What time of day is best to see salmon?

Early morning and late evening.

What river conditions will make it unlikely to see salmon?

When the river is in flood and the water level is very high, it's rare to see any salmon. This is because they'll be swimming up river and will not surface, as there's no need to jump up the waterfall. 

When the water level is very low, the salmon will not be seen as there's not enough water for them to jump up the waterfall.

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