Brenda Montgomery is back again with a round up of the angling on Lough Sheelin where spring and winter are competing against each other day by day…

“The angler forgets most of the fish he catches, but he does not forget the lake in which they are caught.”
Charles K. Fox

Windy day
‘It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold. When it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade’ Charles Dickens.

Nothing was easy this week for the Lough Sheelin anglers.  The weather held fast and maintained a cold face with a mixture of searingly bitter north easterly to westerly winds coupled with hard subzero frosty nights. It cannot be said enough, that Lough Sheelin is an unpredictable lake, calm at the shoreline is no guarantee of calm in the middle or the far side of this great expanse of water.  Conditions can change very rapidly with last Thursday being a case in point with an early morning of mirror calm being replaced within the hour to high winds which whipped the lake’s surface to dangerously high proportions.

Another one for the record – Gary McKiernan of Lough Sheelin Guiding services with his 2 lb plus trout

Fishing, trout rises and fly hatches on Lough Sheelin are all irrevocably intertwined and determined by the weather and for the bulk of this week, the weather did its best to suppress everything.  But regardless of the harshness of the elements there is rarely a day where the lake fails to accommodate fishing, there will nearly always be a gap of an hour or two or the odd morning or afternoon where an angler can fish and that’s what happened this week with some satisfying catches for a number of angling enthusiasts.

Larry McAlinden’s (Newry) Sheelin trout

IFI recently retired biologist Dr Martin O’Grady effortlessly made the top weight of the week with his 5 ½ lb trout using a sinking line on a Sooty Olive fishing around Kilnahard and Chambers.

Peadar McAvinney, Clones with his trout of over 3 lbs caught on a Humungus at Crover

The angling numbers however were sparse over the past week so therefore it was a bit of an uphill struggle to get a good picture as to how the lake was fishing until I came across English angler David Marshell at Finea on Friday last where he raised my spirits and enthusiasm by introducing me to ‘the little red devil’ or The Diawl Bach with which he’d had some good hits over the past few days.  This smooth little operator with JC cheeks and a red head was responsible for David’s 4 and a 3 ½ trout. The Diawl Bach is a classical Welsh pattern and imitates an emerging buzzer but can also be taken for a host of other nymphs. It is a great early season fly to use when trout are just starting to feed on the buzzer and despite the inclement weather Sheelin has had some good buzzer hatches in sheltered areas on the lake with a tentative interest from the trout.  Typically a point fly but teams of two or even three Diawl Bachs can be used, with endless variations.

Joe Foley, Trim with his Sheelin trout (caught & released)
Joe Foley, Trim with his Sheelin trout (caught & released)

The two that David was using were the JC Diawl Bach which is the same as the original but with JC cheeks making it abit more visible and also maybe abit more imitative as the JC can represent wing buds.  The second one was the Flashback Diawl Bach with a strip of flash straw along the back under the rib which can be good for murky waters.

playing a fish
A late in the day fish

With small scattered hatches of duckfly in sheltered bays and close to islands, some skinny buzzer patterns imitating the pupa stage of the fly were used.  These imitations look uncannily like the real thing.  These tied flies are finished off with a covering of epoxy resin which gives them a durable slick coating which resembles the exoskeleton, making for an excellent imitation of the real thing.  The smooth epoxy covering also helps them to penetrate the surface film and gives that little bit of extra weight, helping them to sink faster.

A gentle wave
A gentle wave

The trout are still hugging the lower regions of the lake, grubbing on the bottom regions and feeding on freshwater shrimp, freshwater louse and small snails.  While imitations of the first two are well covered snail imitations are inclined to be dismissed which is a mistake as ‘despite angler’s lackluster enthusiasm, snails can be a significant food resource for trout’ (Gary Borger)

John Mulvaney, Kells with a trout of 3lbs
John Mulvaney, Kells with a trout of 3lbs

 Flys and patterns

The most successful flies for this week were the Humungus, Minkies, Golden Olive Bumble, the Hare’s Ear, the Silver Dabbler, the Fiery Brown Dabbler, the Claret Dabbler, the Claret Bumble, Bibios, the Connemara Black, Black Pennell and the Sooty Olive.

The best areas for fishing was along the Western shore, around Chambers and Kilnahard and down along Crover depending on wind direction.

An interesting extract out of a feature written by angler Jeff Morgan about snails reads…

“Snails don’t move fast.” This factoid has been pounded into us all since we are children, right? Why then do some fly tiers construct weighted snail patterns that require a steady retrieve to keep them from hanging up on the bottom?

When fishing snail patterns, the best thing you can do is leave them alone. Often, this calls for buoyant patterns, regardless of whether you are fishing them deep or in the surface film.

The most common snail imitations utilize a single body material-chenille, deer hair, or foam-with a soft hen hackle, to create a simple pattern. There is nothing wrong with simple patterns, especially for snails, but they must be in the right location.

For floating snail imitations, I have found that patterns that hang just under the surface–imitating a snail with its foot in the meniscus and shell hanging down below–are most effective. All-deer hair or all-foam patterns float high, often partially above the surface. But when saturated with water, or after they catch a fish, these patterns slowly sink. I prefer a combination of materials, so one part sinks, and the other part has enough buoyancy to keep the fly tight to the surface film.

There is a time and place for weighted imitation: when trout are clearly grubbing the bottom for snails. When pursuing these kinds of fish, it is important to pick out a fish slowly cruising along the bottom, sucking up all the snails in its path. Cast a pattern about ten feet ahead of a fish, let the fly sink to the bottom, and leave it be. If the trout is actually feeding on snails, then the trout will almost certainly consume your imitation. If the fish isn’t feeding on snails, your fly won’t even get the dignity of an inspection.

If fish aren’t immediately interested, do not twitch or swim your pattern. Besides spooking the fish on that cast–if you saw a snail dart off in six-inch spurts, you may also think it possessed–you will likely make the fish warier to future presentations.

Weighted patterns can be as simple or as complex as you prefer. A simple pattern, like the Raggedy Snail, is created out of a ball of Woolly Chenille over a lead underbody. The chenille provides an excellent segmented shell look, even though it is easy to tie. If you want to add a “foot “to the pattern you could easily superglue one on, though I would assume that a snail remains in the shell when drifting’.

See below for details of upcoming competitions, events and more for Lough Sheelin.

Brenda Montegomery
Inland Fisheries Ireland

Go fishing…

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

Guides and ghillies

Grey Duster Guiding
Kenneth O’Keeffe
086 8984172 Email: [email protected]

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
Email: [email protected]

Michael Flanagan,
Trout and Pike Guide.
Email: [email protected] Web:

Competition and events notices

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. For further details please contact Noel McLoughlin at 087 – 2179460

The River Inny at Finea bridge, March 27th
The River Inny at Finea bridge, March 27th

Youth angling day

The LSTPA will be holding a youth angling day out to Glennkeen trout fishery, Aughnacloy on Friday April 3rd, leaving Kilnahard pier at 9am sharp..  This great day out is open to any age catergory and is generously paid for by the LSTPA and RAI so for anyone interested in going please contact Thomas Lynch @ 087 9132033 for further details.

House Rules

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

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

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
Jonathan Peppard, Dublin all set to go fishing
Jonathan Peppard, Dublin all set to go fishing



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

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.

It won’t work if you are not wearing it.

Please put on and keep on that life jacket until you are back on dry land.

Blast from the past

Kilnahard 1960
Kilnahard 1960