Lough Sheelin

By Brenda Montgomery, IFI

A freshly hatched Mayfly on the surface of Lough Sheelin

May 27th – June 2nd

“The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.” – John Buchan

Gene Brady, Ballinagh holding a superb trout estimated to be near 6 lb.
Gene Brady, Ballinagh holding a superb trout estimated to be over 9 lb.

This week Lough Sheelin flexed its muscles and began to show anglers the reason why it is one of the best wild trout lakes in Europe. There were some fantastic trout landed this week with the bigger fish ranging from 4 to 7 lb.  with the heaviest weighing in at almost 10 lb.  By the end of the week Lough Sheelin had soared into the realms of every trout fisherman’s fantasy and undoubtedly has become Ireland’s “jewel in the crown” and one of best brown trout lough fisheries in the world

The mayfly is a tense time on this lake, anglers pre mayfly would be relaxed and talkative but when the mayfly is ‘up’ a much more serious element creeps in and all these anglers want to do is to be left alone to fish, it’s like a kind of tunnel vision where the mundane of work and life is put to one side and the only focus is on catching a trout.  But it is also like a mania where the desire to get out there overwhelms everything else.


On Sheelin fishing is governed by wind and temperature for it is these two elements that dictate whether there are hatches of fly, falls of spent and rises of fish.

The week started off slowly with cool conditions on Monday reducing mayfly hatches but then as the weather got warmer things improved considerably with good hatches in certain parts of the lake. Tuesday was warm during the day but then the evening was cold with a heavy sky and a shower of hail which chased any mayfly back to the bushes and trout were reluctant to surface. The mayfly hatches were inclined to stick along the shoreline until things got warmer, Wednesday and Thursday were bright and hot and those who ventured out during the day got a suntan while those who went out in the evening got trout.

There was little or no buzzer in the evening on the bright days but this was probably due to the clear sky also in very bright sunlight although there were lots of hatches of mayfly, they had a tendency to stay high.

Taking a fishing break – Brenda Montgomery with ghillie Ned Clinton at Crover

On Friday a strong cold wind blew up from 6 pm onwards and swept across the lake giving calm still conditions along the western and northern shores whereas it was a totally different ball game heading towards the southern side around Rusheen and Derrysheridan where conditions were stormy and difficult to manage.  The lake became lopsided around 9pm that evening with a large number of boats along Orangefield, out from Kilnahard and along by Arley and Holywell where the water was calm and there was a good fall of spent and in contrast on the lake’s stormy section boats were scattered usually tucked in behind islands and in sheltered bays and fly life was poor.  A few brave souls took on the turbulent middle.

Fishing on Sheelin in hard or easy conditions has been good this week and every day saw good catches of trout being recorded and most were released. A lot of fish around the 1 ½ to 2 ½ lb weight were being caught.

The bar is set high for Sheelin in that in other lakes a 2 or 3lb trout would be considered a great fish but for this lake that type of weight is almost dismissed as small and nearly too insignificant to mention.  Sheelin anglers have high expectations and are striving for weights of 5 lb and upwards and Sheelin delivers and meets those expectations with a regular number of catches each week featuring these weights and upwards.

The news of the catching of a heavy fish always spreads like wild fire and the renewed determination and enthusiasm runs like a blood transfusion through the angling fraternity here.

The wulffs featured heavily on the lake this week – grey, green and royal as did a variety of mayflies fished both wet and dry – mosley, green drake.

The wulff is an old favourite for here, a sort of basic amid all the other variants of mayflies, dabblers and other devised concoctions.

The secret to this lake is to study what’s happening on the water’s surface because after all that’s what the fish are naturally feeding on.  Fishing is called fishing and not catching so a good dollop of patience is what’s needed too……..Dry fly fishing is regarded as purist fishing because it requires a lot more skill than its counterpart fishing the wets.  Wet fly fishing has definitely got its place on the lake however dries require much more precision and effort on the part of the angler so a trout caught on a dry really can’t be topped.

There are a lot of flies on the market but most are being sold to catch fishermen and not fish.  In these recessional times it is important not to end up with a box load of ‘telephone wire’ flies – useful for practicing on dry land and getting wrapped around everything and anything in the process but no good at attracting anything on the water.

Dutch man Geert Verdonk with his trout of over 4 lb.

Lough Sheelin with the onset of the mayfly season is attracting large numbers of anglers, this is a big lake and can easily and comfortably cope but those fishing this lake should be mindful of others accessing as well as fishing the lake.

It is illegal not to wear a lifejacket or flotation device but still some anglers are taking risks and unnecessary and fool hardy chances are being taken.  It is important to respect this great lake and in good weather as it stretches out majestically and enticingly in front of us it is easy to forget the danger.  Lough Sheelin is temperamental and rough water can suddenly erupt out of nowhere and then nature takes over and we are at its mercy.  Some anglers have ventured out recently in little more than a rubber ring, well sunk in stormy water, no lifejacket, a language barrier and something stronger than water to drink with them and the element of fear for their safety is strong.

The holiday mood, good weather and good fishing should never push safety measures into second place.

On Friday May 31st seventeen 10 – 11 years old pupils from the local national school – Ballynarry, along with their boatmen and teachers headed off for Church Island where a mass was said by Fr. Gray.  This island which is a landmark on the lake has the remains of an early Christian oratory dating from the 400s and it has now become a tradition to say an annual mass here.  Let’s hope this enthusiastic group and Fr. Gray included a small prayer for a clean lake, good fishing and a warm dry summer.

The Gathering is coming to Crover House Hotel, Lough Sheelin on the weekend June 7th, 8th and 9th and as part of this the local angling club – The LSTPA in conjunction with Cavan County Council and Crover House Hotel are hosting an angling day primarily to attract anglers and would be anglers from outside the state and overseas.  Local ghillies will be giving their day free to bring anglers out fishing on the lake and there will be fly tying, casting, a competition with prizes finishing up with a Bar B Q at Crover House Hotel.  This not to be missed event will be free but places are limited and those of you from Northern Ireland or from overseas should contact Eamon Ross @ 087 9436655 or Thomas Lynch @ 087 9132033

Only pre- booking is accepted.  This event starts at 11.30 from Kilnahard pier.

Those that take part in this ‘Angling Gathering’ can avail of a 10% entry discount on the Lough Sheelin Classic Fly Fishing Competition on June 9th.

The popular Sheelin Classic trout competition now in its 9th year will be run on Lough Sheelin on Sunday June 9th 2013 – 11am to 6 pm.  This is a heaviest fish competition with a strict 15” size limit and only 2 fish per competitor.

This competition will involve an open draw for partners and entries must be in by Wednesday June 5th .  Entry fee is €70 for a boating angler and €90 a non-boating angler.  Entry fee includes a meal in Crover House after the competition

This years prize fund will be in excess of €12,000

1st 19ft Sheelin boat & trailer & crystal & the coveted Davey O’Connor perpetual cup

2nd 5 hp 4 stroke outboard engine & crystal

This is a competition well worth marking in your diary and because of the popularity of the Sheelin Classic and to avoid disappointment, it is advisable to secure your entry sooner rather than later by contacting Noel McLoughlin at 087 2179460 for further information

A catch & release policy is actively encouraged on the lake at all times

“The finest gift you can give to any fisherman is to put a good fish back, and who knows if the fish that you caught isn’t someone else’s gift to you?”

Lee Wulff

Please remember anglers to abide by BYE-LAW 790 – we need to keep our small fish alive……………

Heaviest catch for the week was a trout estimated to weigh nearly 10 lb. was caught by Gene Brady, Cavan

Total number of trout recorded: 1089 (most of which were released in keeping with this lake’s strong Catch & Release policy)

Sheelin is fishing exceptionally well and if you don’t know the lake but love fishing and want to experience the magic of this superb lake a ghillie service well worth a try is the Lough Sheelin Guiding group (www.loughsheelinguidingservices.com) which is made up of a group of local anglers.  Here is a quote from a recent English angler who visited the lake which speaks for itself.

‘Just returned from 4 days fishing with Lough Sheelin Guiding, many things to Gary, all four of us broke our personal bests for wild brown trout, me twice with a 3 ½ lb. trout then a 4 plus one, Hugh Frew with a 6 lb plus and Steve Collins with a 7 lb. plus and John Hancock with a 4 pounder on dries and wets’

Jim O’Reilly with his 6 lb trout caught on a green wulff

Selection of Catches

Thomas Lynch, (www.loughsheelinguidingservices.com) – Monday May 27th 4 trout ranging from 2 to 6 lb.  6 trout on Sunday, heaviest was 4 ½ lb. all on the spent.

Fishing with Denis Moss, Galway – 16 trout with the heaviest over 6 lb. using the green mayfly and the spent gnat.

Eamon Ross and Paul Lunny, LSTPA – Saturday June 1st 8 trout heaviest was 3 ½ lb.  On Sunday these two landed 7 fish heaviest at  4 ½ lb.

Vincent Clarke, Baileborough – on Sunday June 2nd 6 trout heaviest was over 6 lb. on a spent.

Trevor McKenna, Monaghan – May 29th on a spent 1 trout at 3.5 lb. using a stimulator.

Ken Kearns, Dundalk – on Monday May 27th 2 trout at 2 ½ and 4 lb. on a dry green mayfly.

Jim O’Reilly, Mountnugent, Co.Cavan – 1 trout at 6 lb. on a green wulff fishing at Rusheen.

William Martin, Belfast – 1 trout at 3 lb. on the dry green mayfly, caught and released – 7.30pm.

Peter McArdle, Dundalk – fishing with Ken Kearns Tuesday evening 5 trout averaged 1 ½ – 2 lb.

Eamonn Ross, LSTPA – 6 trout on May 29th best was 3 ½ using a green dabbler. 2 trout on May 30th using a spent gnat, best was 5 ½ lb.

Gene Brady, Ballinagh,Cavan – 1 trout at 6lbs on Wednesday May 29th and 1 averaging 9 – 10 lb. on Thursday evening May 30th.

Frank Kelly, LSTPA – on Monday May 27th 3 trout at 5 ½ , 4 ½ and 3 lb., 2 caught on a dry green and 1 using a buzzer.  Wednesday May 29th 2 trout heaviest was 2 ½ lb.

Tony Harton & Frank Kelly – between them caught 10 trout averaging 1 ½ – 4 ½ lb.

Declan Young, Cavan – 1 trout at 3 ½ lb. using a French partridge mayfly pattern.

Ronan Meegan, Wicklow anglers – 1 trout at 4 lb. on May 29th on a dry green.

Harry McDonald, Wicklow anglers – 1 trout at 6 lb. using an intermediate line on an octopus.

Bill Chapman, Belfast – 1 trout at 6 lb. on May 29th.

JF Corrigan, Monaghan – on May 25th 1 trout at 3.6 lbs at Orangefield using a stimulator.

Trevor McKenna, Monaghan – May 29th at Holywell, 1 trout at 3.5 lb. using a spent gnat.

Pat Smith, Navan – 3 trout 1 – 1 ½ lb. on May 29th.

Eugene Fagan, Naas – 1 trout on May 29th on the green mayfly averaged 3 lbs.

Aidan and Cahill Rush, Armagh – May 27th 9 trout (all released) on the wet green mayfly at Orangefield.

Gerry McShean, Cornafean, Cavan – May 27th 5 trout on the dry greens heaviest was 3 ½ lb. all released.

John Brennan, Longford – on May 28th 3 trout weighing in at 6,5 and 3 lb., caught using wet and dry green mayflies.

Stephen Collins, England – May 28th 1 trout at 5 lb.

Vinny and Gerry Hughes, Clones – May 28th 5 trout on the dry mayfly.

Patrick Burger, Wexford – 1 trout at 3 lb. fishing the dry green mayfly.

Henry Keating, Cavan – 1 trout at 4 lb. using a grey wulff.

John Mulvaney, Kells – 1 trout at 3 lb. on the dry green mayfly.

Anthony & Dan McLoughlin, Derry – 20 trout between them (all released) heaviest was 6 lb., rest averaged 1 ½ – 3 lb.

Stevie Munn, Belfast with his Sheelin trout of over 3 lb.