Lough Sheelin Angling Report by Brenda Montgomery, IFIJuly 29th – August 4th 2013

“Soon after I embraced the sport of angling I became convinced that I should never be able to enjoy it if I had to rely on the cooperation of the fish.” Sparse Grey Hackle

Reaping the benefits of fishing at unsocial hours – Peter McArdle, Dundalk with his lovely Sheelin trout.

Fishing was frustrating and more than challenging on Sheelin this week and catches of trout were nearly as rare as hen’s teeth.  Anglers are verging on despair as trout feed persistently and seemingly exclusively and endlessly on the perch fry regardless of the abundance of fly food alternatives in the form of sedges, murroughs, green peters, daddy long legs, buzzer and reed smuts.  Every year after the Mayfly the Sheelin trout traditionally ‘go on’ the perch fry and it is generally accepted that for a few weeks that this is the case and then  the trout’s choice of diet changes and the sedge fishing really kicks in.  This year things are different but then this has been a late year so maybe the trout’s feeding habits will be late as well and we should be more patient as the perch fly feeding seems to be a lasting an eternity.

Sedge on night water

It’s all about fry on Sheelin at the moment and for anglers to negotiate around this tricky fishing time, they must have some kind of understanding as to what is going on, for understanding should dilute some of the present frustration.
Trout learn how to deal with shoal fish as a group. They learn how to lash violently with their tail making a shockwave that stuns small fish. This method is a favourite when hunting a shoal of fry. They deal with the shoal using shockwaves. One moment the shoal of small fry is there, and then they are panicking trying to get away. Suddenly a dark fry-free corridor opens up, parting the fleeing shoal where the trout is powering in underneath it, lashing a spade-like tail from side to side as it does so. A few seconds later dozens of little white bodies float up to the surface right above where the dark corridor was. The trout comes back sipping down the injured individually, taking them almost like spent. Brown trout become piscivorous at about 4 lbs and meat dinners is the way to place your bets. It seems that when a trout is over 5lbs the small fly loses its pulling power even on fly rich lakes like Sheelin.
On Lough Sheelin which has an extensive fly hatch, experienced old hands get fish from 5lbs upwards occasionally by stalking with floating flies. So it can definitely be done when the fish are feeding on top. These large trout get big by feeding down below were vast numbers of small crustaceans like shrimp, hog louse, and sedge nymphs are key items in such lakes. Also an interesting development particularly this year is the Sheelin’s trout inclusion of the zebra mussel in its diet and Sheelin has huge numbers of these mussels since their first arrival in the lake around 2002/2003.
Anglers have to look to what is the most significant food item at the moment in numbers and size, and figure out what the big browns will do about it. By day an eye or centre of mass flash from the chest area of a prey fish all are important and help a predator to “lock on”. Also the different species of prey fish have identification features that predators zone in on, for instance young perch have orange fins and bars on their sides that a grizzle hackle imitates well.

The humungus                                                                 The Muddler

In the daytime the bigger trout move out of the shallows towards deeper water (and the best areas over the past weeks have been the middle deeper area of this lake) or into good cover like wave and weeds. So usually a sinking line gets the fly closer to them in daylight and increases the chance of an attack.
Night time and very early mornings (from 4.30am onwards) are the most successful fishing times for now. At night it is important to get the fly high in the water so they can see it against the sky, so good advice is to make sure to have a floating line set up within 1 hour after sunset. Dark colours show well against the sky. Increasing the size adds visibility too.
The trout will often pick out a slightly larger fly from many similar natural food items that are otherwise similar and therefore anonymous. But it is not good to go too large relative to the local food however in case the illusion is broken.
All the factors by which the trout recognizes food must be carefully drawn together – matching the natural hatch, the fly size, movement pattern – is it jerky, smooth or sinuous and visibility (colour and contrast between bright or dark).  An interesting factor also which anglers may forget about is smell eg filling the car on the way fishing, if hands are not washed and there is a smell of petrol off the fly or line, trout will stop taking and will often follow and turn away instead – all these things add up when trout are being pernickety.
Enough factors must be in sync with the food that is usually eaten in this local area in order to make the anglers particular offering acceptable. But we can alter a few features, enhancing them, like a cartoon, so that our food item gets noticed, and picked out.
But remember: colour fades as depth increases and light gets dim. So daytime fishing near or on the surface requires more care in colour choice. BUT deeper in the water, or in darker conditions like morning/evening, movement, size, outline increase in their relative importance.  Basically fishing at night on the surface is in many ways comparable with fishing during day in the deeps. Size and colour matter less, other factors matter more.
It’s all hard work and a delicate operation but this sport is called fishing and not catching!

Neil Dockerty, Scotland heading out for some late night fishing

The weather has not helped the fishing either with continually changing wind directions and deluges of thunderous rain. After a thunder storm there is guaranteed to be a spectacular rise of trout and when that happens disappointingly but predictably it is only the fry that the trout want to feed on.  We had a number of weeks of very hot weather –  our ‘absolute drought’ and then a sudden change to rain so maybe the trout haven’t caught up with the weather and there needs to be a further cooling down of the water and more normal Irish conditions in order for everything to fall back into its usual fishing pattern.  Fish are pitching but few are feeding and even in the early mornings when there are good rises of fish they are all ‘sipping’ on the fry without the faintest interest in anything else regardless of what fly imitation concoction is presented hopefully to them. Older and wiser anglers believe that when trout are bottom feeding it is then that they will pitch every now and then, the reason for this hasn’t been quite ascertained. All this would try the patience of a saint but it things will change and the trout will switch on to the sedge and other flies and the fishing will get easier again.

The Daddy Long Legs are present in patchy amounts throughout the lake

A Sheelin Sedge

Cinnamon Sedge (Limnephilus lunatis ):

The Cinnamon Sedge is slimly built sedge with wings of fourteen to sixteen millimeters long. Its colour can vary between rich yellow to a cinnamon brown with black markings. It makes a first appearance in June with sparse hatches continuing up to August. They often hatch throughout the day or early evening. A useful imitation would be the Elk Hair Caddis.

Cinnamon Sedge (Limnephilus lunatis ):

The Alder Fly and its imitation

Sheelin’s Alder fly is Sedge like in appearance with its roof shaped wings when resting. It has a dark almost black head and legs, and its wings are similar to those of the Stoneflies shiny and hard. A wet imitation can work best with the exception of perhaps windy days when a dry sedge imitation will work better when the Alders are being blown on to the water. The Alder is a difficult fly to fish as it mainly sticks to the shoreline and inland and along with this the Sheelin trout are never that fussed about this fly and only feed sporadically on them.

Sheelin’s water beetle –   Donacia species

Michael Harten with his 3 ½ lb trout at Kilnahard, Lough Sheelin, July 2013

The best flies used this week were the small brown sedges (size 14), the Buzzer, the Murrough, variants of the Green Peter, the Jack Flash, Greenwell’s Glory, Wickhams Fancy, the Dunkeld, the Alexandra, the Grey Duster ,the Blae & Black, the humugous and the muddler.

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

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

The LSTPA will be hosting The McDonald cup on Lough Sheelin on 10th August.  Fishing is from 12noon-6pm from Kilnahard pier with an entry fee of €20.  The competition was held on a catch and release basis last year and was judged as being a very successful event so because of that will continue to be a catch & release competition. Measures will be provided for all boats competing.  The cup will be awarded for the longest fish and all other prizes will be allocated on the basis of an open draw to be held at the end of the competition.  The LSTPA will have a number of prizes on the day and they view this competition as a means to recognize and thank members for their support during the year.  for further information contact Eamon Ross @ 087 9436655 or Thomas Lynch @ 087 9132033

There are a good selection of Sheelin ghillies/guides available and they are well worth investing in if angling visitors are unfamiliar with the lake, or perhaps haven’t that much fly fishing experience or maybe are a little ‘cut for time’ due to work or other commitments.  If one guide is unavailable it’s an absolute certainty that there will always another capable one to step into the breach.
The main ones are:
Lough Sheelin Guiding Services (www.loughsheelinguidingservices.com) – a group of local anglers who were all practically reared on the lake.

Michael Kelly @ 087 2608068
Michael Farrell @ 087 41941456
Damien Willis @ www.Loughsheelinbuddies.com

The trout of the week was a 6lb trout caught by Peter McArdle, Dundalk using a Murrough
Total number of trout recorded: 19

Selection of Catches

Trevor Fox, Yorkshire – 1 trout at 3 lbs using a humungus fishing on the Western Shore on Saturday August 3rd, 1 trout at 1 ½ lbs on a sedge around Holywell.
Italian brothers – Francesco and Antonio Russo – 4 trout each averaging 1 ½ – 3lbs using a mixture of Murroughs and sedges and the Dunkeld, all released.
Fabiano de Luca and Rafaello Moretti, Italy – on August 3rd and 4th using a variety of floating flies, 3 trout averaging 1 ¾ – 3 lbs, fishing the centre and western areas of the lake.
Martin Smith, Cavan – 1 trout at 1 ½ lbs on a murrough around Church Island.
Jack Earnshaw, England – 1 trout at 2lbs using a Murrough, fishing along Holywell and Crover on August 3rd.
Harry Bravendar, England – 2 trout at 1 ¼ and 2 ¾  lbs on a sedge and minkie, fishing around Church on August 1st.
Brenda Montgomery IFI