Brenda Montegomery, based on the shores of Lough Sheelin, reports on the first week of the trout season there. She begins by calling to mind a line from Arthur Ransome…

Kilnahard, Lough Sheelin March 2015
Kilnahard, Lough Sheelin March 2015


“…Perhaps the greatest satisfaction on the first day of the season is the knowledge in the evening that the whole rest of the season is to come … Arthur Ransome”

Lough Sheelin’s brand new fishing season opened on March 1st in near artic conditions. Temperatures remained at a chilly 3 degrees, sometimes lower, combined with frequent snow, rain and hail showers and for good measure a bitter westerly wind tore mercilessly across Sheelin’s dark and choppy waters. A most uninviting mixture but the anglers who fish this lake are made of strong stuff and it has been a long and tedious wait over those 18 winter weeks of the closed season, too long a wait to shy away just because of the unappealing weather.

In the preluding weeks to March 1st, boats have been reappearing back along Lough Sheelin’s shorelines, at piers and bays, when suddenly it seems that after months of blankness now ever space and gap is filled with freshly painted boats as well as some new comers.

‘I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips, straining upon the start. The game’s afoot: follow your spirit..’ Shakespeare’s Henry V

Martin Connor with his 5 ¾ pounder, March 1st caught using a White Humungus
Martin Connor with his 5 ¾ pounder, March 1st caught using a White Humungus win Catch of the Week

Over thirty anglers made their 2015 debut out on to this great lake seemingly oblivious to the cold and Sheelin did not disappoint with a respectable number of fish being landed that first day. There were a number of pulls and with the top trout of 5 ¾ lbs caught by Martin Connor of D.C Angling And Guiding Services there were few complaints.

A blast from Canada - 3 inches of snow at Mullaghboy, Lough Sheelin, March 2nd 2015
A blast from Canada – 3 inches of snow at Mullaghboy, Lough Sheelin, March 2nd 2015

The freezing conditions stubbornly persisted for most of the week courtesy of a band of weather coming in from Canada which brought with it deep falls of snow and harsh winds which in turn made things more than challenging for the anglers. When temperatures increased the fishing picked up and a number of fish were landed on Thursday and Friday, averaging 2 – 3lbs.

Thomas Lynch, Kilnaleck with one of two trout which he caught on open day – ‘worth the cold and snow’
Thomas Lynch, Kilnaleck with one of two trout which he caught on open day – ‘worth the cold and snow’

We are in the very early stages of the fishing season here and most of the trout will be feeding hard to regain condition after the rigours of spawning and the restricted food supply of the winter months. Deep in the inky depths of the lake, where the eye cannot penetrate, a whole community of bugs and nymphs go about their business. Species like shrimp and freshwater louse (assellus and gammerus) with a smattering of snails, nymphs and zebra mussels thrown in are entirely aquatic in their habits living on the bed of the lake providing a good food source for the hungry trout.

Blae Wing Sooty Olive
Blae Wing Sooty Olive
The Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear – The best known wet fly pattern ever tied. Good to fish in early season in a size 8 on a sinking line

At this early stage, lures take their share of the spoils but patterns like the Pheasant Tail Nymph and the Hare’s Ear Nymph can prove to be very successful according to Dublin angler Mark Farhing who landed two trout at 2 and 2 ½ lbs later in the week. The Pheasant Tail Nymph is good at representing darker aquatic species and is considered an especially good match for the nymph of the Blue-winged Olive. To imitate lighter nymphs a Golden Ribbed Hare’s Ear is excellent and great for Caddis imitations.

Gary McKiernan ( starting as he means to go on, with his first 2015 trout, a beautiful 56cm fish
Gary McKiernan ( starting as he means to go on, with his first 2015 trout, a beautiful 56cm fish

Flies and tactics

Ted Wherry’s Silver Dabbler as tied by  Ryan Houston
Ted Wherry’s Silver Dabbler as tied by Ryan Houston

“The Dabbler is one of the great Irish wet fly patterns of recent times and has several variants as well. It was invented by accident when Donald McClarn of Co.down phoned a friend for the dressing of the Gosling. The fly took the trout angling competition by storm in the early 1990s and was the cornerstone of the success of the Dromore trout-fishing teams. It is without doubt a great killing pattern when stripped fast and then dibbled, on an intermediate, sinking or floating line in a good wave. It, and its variants, have accounted for numerous big wild lough brown trout, many into double figures” (O’Reilly, 1995;).

For Sheelin’s first week the so called ‘killer flies’ were the Fiery Brown Dabblers, Humungus, Hare’s ear, Connemara black, March Brown, Claret Dabbler, Gold Olive Bumbles. Bibios, Silver Dabbler and the Minkie. The Dabblers, Minkies and Humungus take top position for Sheelin in early March. The Golden Olive Dabbler is a great all season fly and good in the very early season on this lake. The Golden Olive can be used as a shrimp or water louse imitation and is best used as a point fly in a team of three wets.

Fiery Brown Dabbler Variant
A Fiery Brown Dabbler Variant – the Fiery Brown is renowned in general to be a very versatile fly throughout the lake angling world. It can represent fresh water shrimp in the early part of the season and duck fly in the spring.

A Claret Dabbler in a size 6 and a rainbow Humungus can work well and but then of course there are a million and one Sheelin ‘secret’ flies that as yet have to be winkled out of their tight lipped creators. According to one very experienced Sheelin angler ‘if you are lucky to come across a fish anything will do’.

Mini White humungus
Mini White humungus

The di 3 was the preferred line with some anglers even chancing a di 5 for the deeper water but at this early stage it’s best to stick to the shallows and the slower sinker. The lake on this first week seemed to fish better in the morning and depending on wind direction, the Western shore and around Kilnahard and Chambers Bay yielded the highest results.

Gregs Buzzer
Gregs Buzzer

In early season for Lough Sheelin the best trout fishing is mainly along the rocky shores, the shallows and exposed points, areas worth trying (depending on wind direction) are Sailor’s Garden, Merry Point, Gaffney’s Bay, Inchacup, the south shore of Derrysheridan and Ross Bay and along the north shore of the lake from Chambers Bay to Crover.

For this first week Chambers, Kilnahard and Lynch’s point were the areas that caught the most fish.

Selection of Catches

Total number of trout recorded: 22

The heaviest fish for the week was a 5 3/4 pounder caught by Martin O’Connor using a White Humungus.

  • Thomas Lynch, Kilnaleck – Sunday March 1st, 2 trout at over 2 lbs each using wet flies.
  • Harry Graham, Belfast – 1 trout at 4 ½ lbs on a Claret Dabbler (caught at 10am on March 1st).
  • Gary McKiernan (Lough Sheelin Guiding) – 1 trout at over 5 lbs pulling wets, March 5th.
  • Dessie MacLough, Belfast – 1 trout at 3 lbs using a Humungus.
  • William Craig, Newtownabbey – 1 trout at 2lbs, March 1st using a Silver Dabbler.
  • Martin O’Connor, Armagh – 2 trout at 5 ¾ and 3 ½ lbs using a Humungus.
  • Jack Breslin, Donegal – 1 trout at 3 lbs using a Fiery Brown Dabbler in Chambers Bay.
  • Andrew Brown and Garry McKiernan – 5 trout in total on March 1st, heaviest was 4lbs, the rest of the fish ranged in weight from 1 ½ to 3½ lbs, caught using bibios, golden olive bumbles and a glister Ollie (all released).
  • Michael Gillespie, Donegal – 2 trout on March 1st, heaviest was 3 ½ lbs both caught on a midnight stalker.

Other news

During the winter months the local angling club – the LSTPA were not idle and held a series of fly tying classes at the IFI offices at Kilnahard.

3 year old Erin
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree
3 year old Erin McShane tying her Sheelin flies – ‘she loves it as long as everything is in pink’ reports Dad Mick.

These classes were very popular and were enthusiastically attended weekly by a large number of anglers varying from ten to seventy years of age. As well as a lot of fun some master flies were created and will no doubt be used in the forthcoming season.

Lawrence Finney letting his artistic fly tying talents run free with this interesting creation
Lawrence Finney letting his artistic fly tying talents run free with this interesting creation

Lawrence Finney, advanced fly dressing instructor and creator of many a successful Sheelin fly, has been invited by the organizers of the Simms Fly Festival in Italy to travel over to them in June to promote fishing in Ireland and in particularly Lough Sheelin. He has also had an invite from the FFF in the USA to travel to Missouri in September to do some workshops, demos and talks about fishing in Ireland and he reassures me that Lough Sheelin will be top of his agenda. Well done Lawrence and we will all look forward to an increase of Italian and American anglers on the lake in the coming years.

Fly fishing and Fly Tying
Lough Sheelin will feature in March’s Fly Fishing and Fly Tying

This won’t be the only boost the lake gets this year -an article about Lough Sheelin written by Mark Wilson will be published in the March edition of the  Fly Fishing & Fly Tying.

Keep reading for competition announcements, guide contact details, club membership, fishery rules and more.

Brenda Montegomery
Inland Fisheries Ireland

Go fishing…

A permit is required to fish Lough Sheelin. Buy your permit online at: or from any of the permit distributors listed here.

Guides and ghillies

Grey Duster Guiding
Kenneth O’Keeffe
086 8984172 Email:

Lough Sheelin Guiding Services
Tel: 087 1245927 Web:

D.C Angling & Guiding Services
contact David @ 087 73946989

Michael Farrell
Tel: 087 4194156 or  +353 43 6681298

Michael Flanagan,
Trout and Pike Guide.
Email: Web:

 Lough Sheelin Trout Protection Association

On Friday last March 6th the LSTPA held their AGM in Crover House Hotel. This well attended meeting epitomized the enthusiasm and dedication this 200 member strong club have for Lough Sheelin. As well as the normal AGM format, the club made a number of presentations to newly retired IFI research officer Dr Martin O’Grady in genuine appreciation for the work and commitment he has given to this lake and its catchment rivers over the past 40 years. Retirements can be sad affairs for both parties – those leaving but also for those left behind but in this situation it wasn’t the case as Martin has recently moored his boat down at Lough Sheelin in anticipation of fishing this lake frequently during this season so in a way he has moved closer not further away from Sheelin.

For anyone who is interested in joining this club, please contact Thomas Lynch @ 087 9132033.

Competition Notice

The first competition of the year – The Lough Sheelin Trout Protection Association will be hosting The Kilroy Cup on the lake on Saturday March 21st from 11.0 am – 6pm, starting from Kilnahard pier (members & new members welcome). Please contact Thomas Lynch @ 087 9132033 for further details

The popular Sheelin Classic trout competition now in its 10th year will be run on Lough Sheelin on Easter Monday April 6th. The kick off time is 11am with a finish at 6pm. All boats should be on the shoreline and ready to go by 10.50am. There is a strict 15” size limit and the individual with the heaviest fish wins. There comes an impressive list of prizes with this competition with a 19ft Sheelin boat as a first prize.

This competition has always been successful and very much a feature on the Lough Sheelin angling calendar, the money made from this event normally is ploughed back into the angling clubs for river enchancement and to improve angling but this year is different as all proceeds will be donated to the Pat McLoughlin Cancer Development Fund. Pat is well known in fishing circles in Ireland and abroad and passed his skills on to many. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2014 and although always positive has a fight on his hands so in order to help him as much as possible, the hosts of this competition – the Kells Angling Club are appealing to all anglers to please support this competition.

For further details please contact Noel McLoughlin at 087 – 2179460

House Rules

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

All anglers are required to have a Fishery Permit to fish Lough Sheelin which must be purchased before going out on the lake.

Please remember anglers to abide by BYE-LAW 790 which strictly prohibits

  • All trolling on the lake from March 1st to April 30th (inclusive).
  • From May 1st to June 15th – no trolling between 7pm –6am and no trolling under engine between 6am – 7pm and
  • June 16th – October 12th – no trolling under engine between 7pm – 6am.
  • No trout less than 14 inches should be taken from the lake

Life jackets are required by law – SI No 921 of 2005 – Pleasure Craft (Personal Flotation Devices and Operation) (Safety) Regulations 2005.

Please put on and keep on that life jacket until you are back on dry land. It won’t work if you are not wearing it.

Water rarely gives second chances and a life jacket is just that – it saves your life, so we would implore anglers and all other users for their own safety as well as it being the law.

Holywell Bay
Sun sets on Holywell Bay