The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials


This week saw Sheelin battling with the elements once again as gusty gale force winds, showers of hail and rain and nightly temperature drops to 2 degrees, suppressed what should be the most exciting and exhilarating time in the trout fishing calendar here – the mayfly season.

The Dance
The Dance – Aerial acrobatics by Lough Sheelin’s Spinners, June 3rd

The first day of June – bank holiday Monday, hit in with a particular vengeance with strong bitter south westerly winds battering the lake from one end to the other, making venturing out on its surface an impossible or else rife with dangerous task.

John Horsey, England with his 5lb Sheelin beauty fishing with Lough Sheelin Guiding
John Horsey, England with his 5lb Sheelin beauty fishing with Lough Sheelin Guiding

June is the month of the summer solstice (June 21st) and the longest days of the year with sunrise around 5am and sunset 9pm so it is difficult for anglers not to panic and get a little despondent at this stage with the seemingly continuous onslaught of terrible weather and with the constant necessity of trying to judge what conditions will be thrown at them next.

Gary Houston, Northern Ireland with his Sheelin beauty
Gary Houston, Northern Ireland with his Sheelin beauty

But despite another challenging week, Lough Sheelin still gave its anglers a window into why it is one of the most spectacular wild brown trout lakes in Ireland and Europe.

The hatches…

For a start the mayfly hatched throughout the week – in their millions, resting on the water, wings upright looking like vast numbers of minute little green sailing boats clustered across the lake, an elapsed time that can be measured in seconds.  The trees especially at Crover and Stony Islands were crammed with fly just waiting to get back out on the water.  After the second shedding, the spinners returned to perform a dance akin to a scene from Tchaikovasky’s Sugar Plum Fairy.

Mayflies are among the most beautiful and delicate creatures of the natural world and sometimes they seem almost to belong to an unnatural one.

Around Church island in particular, the dancing of the mayfly was amazingly spectacular and sometimes with the distinct dancing up and down ritual in the evening gloom you couldn’t help but be reminded of an extract  from Alfred Hitchcock’s film ‘The Birds’.

However, their very real bodies provide the bulk of the trout food during May and early June.

Dublin angler, Andrew Brown experienced and photographed a wonderful combination of a gold finch singing in a tree on Church Island accompanied by thousands of mayfly dancing in apparent harmony to it all.

Time for tea – Brewing up on Church Island’

It was a tough week for angling(all due to the inclement weather) despite the fact that spent went out every day, but there was a break in the middle of all the hardship where Sheelin rose up like a phoenix out of the soggy and weather battered ashes of the mayfly season and this was on June 3rd when from 2pm onwards the lake boiled and it seemed as if every fish in the lake was rising up to feed on the spent gnat which covered the lake, the spinner’s wings spread flat against the surface water.

A moody and temperamental Lough Sheelin – June 6th
A moody and temperamental Lough Sheelin – June 6th

It was no coincidence that Wednesday shone out as being a day to remember because this day was the only day in the week (if not the season) which had a warm feel about it and a calmness that alerted all trout anglers to get out on the water as soon as was physically possible.

Mark Lough, Scotland with his 55cm trout
Mark Lough, Scotland with his 55cm trout

It’s a hard thing to describe, that perfect day, when the usual underlying cold has been replaced with a soft enduring warmth that runs through the daylight hours into darkness, with no dipping evening temperatures and a ripple moving a surface water that is covered with spent, their death throes sending out enticing ripples proving irresistible to the trout.  Wednesday worked for most anglers and large numbers of trout were reported, many weighing over 6lbs and a number in the 8 – 9lb range.  The mayfly has a reputation of exclusively bring the heavy weights up from their lower feeding regions and for this day, the perfect fishing day, this was certainly the case as the surface water bulged with some beautiful trout.

Keith Lough, Scotland enjoying Sheelin
Keith Lough, Scotland enjoying Sheelin

For this day Lough Sheelin was gracious and giving and anglers were reminded of why Sheelin remains at the top in the fishing world.

The white thorn now is heavy with may blossom which all the old timers who fish this lake reassuring tell us is an indication of when the mayfly will be at its peak, in the next week this thick heady blossom will start to fade and with it the hatching of Sheelin’s mayfly but if we get the weather that is forecasted for this week and the evenings are calm and warm then Sheelin is guaranteed to swing into action and who knows we might cross that elusive 10lb mark.

A Sheelin Classic – June 3rd
A Sheelin Classic – June 3rd

David Warner in the Irish Examiner on June 5th commented that Mayflies can emerge at any time from April through to the autumn but the principal hatches are normally May and early June.  The reason the name doesn’t coincide with the month is because they were named before the Pope changed the calendar and at that time May was a couple of weeks later in the year so there is still time…

The catches…

Lough Sheelin isn’t the only lake that is having a difficult ‘fishing’ time, most lakes in Ireland are because there are few anglers that only fish one lake exclusively and so visiting Sheelin anglers have usually cast a line on most of the other big trout lakes.  One such angler informed me that he had taken his full entitled 4 weeks annual leave and was now returning to work ‘broken hearted’ because of the miserable fishing and the daily freezings he had experienced but still he concurred that ‘real anglers’ are prepared for the odd hiccups in angling years and so he continued on his way after first of all mending his ‘broken heart’ slightly with the catching of two 2 ½ pounders on Sheelin……..there, but for the grace of god, go I.

Wind direction and strength again dictated where anglers fished and most days boats were forced to stick to the sheltered areas, along shorelines, in little alcoves and bays and behind islands.  The ideal place to fish is where the calm meet the wave.

The heaviest fish for the week was a 9lb trout caught by Donegal angler Nigel O’Shea using a spent pattern fishing at Church Island on June 3rd. The total number of trout recorded was 405.

Selection of Catches             

  • Russell Owen, Wales – June 3rd, fishing with the Grey Duster Guiding Services 11 trout to the boat, heaviest over 3lbs, fished on Spent patterns around the Inchacup area of the lake.
  • Lawrence McAlinden, Newry – 1 trout at 52cm
  • Mary Harkin, Dublin – June 4th, five fish to the boat, heaviest 4lbs.
  • Peter McArdle & Ken Kearns, Dundalk – 8 trout on June 3rd averaging 2 – 6lbs, all caught on spent patterns.
  • Declan Young, Cavan – fishing at the back of Church Island on June 3rd, 1 trout at 50cm weighing in at 5lbs (released) on a Spent Gnat.
  • Aidan Heffernan, Dublin – June 4th on a Spent Gnat, 1 trout at 6lbs 2.5ozs using a Spent Gnat, fishing at Curry pt. (released).
  • Colin Watterson, Belfast – 1 trout at 3 ½ lbs on a Spent Gnat.
  • Des McDonagh, Kilkenny and Con Murphy, Waterford – 2 trout averaging 3lbs caught on Wet Mayflies.
  • Cathal McNaughton, Antrim – 4 trout, heaviest 3 ½ lbs on spent patterns, June 3rd and 4th .
  • Oliver McCormack – 1 trout at 3 ½ lbs on a Spent Gnat, June 3rd fishing off Merry pt.
  • Raymond O’Reilly, Cavan – fishing with Darren Harten, 4 trout June 4th , top weight over 3lbs on a Spent Gnat.
  • Noel McLoughlin, Kells – 1 trout at 3lbs on a Spent Gnat June 3rd fishing in Corru.
  • Peadar McAvinny, Clones – 1 trout at 3 ½ lbs fishing off Church Island on a Green Wulff.
  • David Reilly, Tullynallen – 1 trout at 7lbs
  • Mick McShane, Dundalk – 1 trout clearing 4lbs on the Spent Gnat.
  • Emmet McWilliams fishing with his brother Mick – June 3rd 4 fish to the boat, heaviest was 5 ½ lbs caught by Mick on a Spent Gnat.
  • Peter Ffrench Mullin, Armagh – 2 trout at 1 ½ and 3 ½ lbs, all caught on spent patterns
  • Martin McCoy – 3 trout for 2 hours fishing on Wednesday night, fish weighed up to 3lbs all on the Spent, broke a few too.
  • Brian McAvinney, Scotshouse – 1 trout at over 3lbs fishing off Kilnahard, on a Stimulator.

The Flies…

Wet fly fishing was more popular than its ‘purist’ cousin the Dry Fly but still both these methods had good degrees of success.

The most popular flies were the Wet and Dry Mayflies – the Melvin May, Dennis Moss’s Ginger, Green and Gray Mayflies, the Mosley May as well as angler’s variants of the mayfly.

The Spent Gnat patterns took top position and featured very heavily for most of the fish recorded.

The Wulfs were in the line up this week though with the onset of the spent fishing their popularity had somewhat diminished but all the same were responsible for some nice 6 pounders. The Green, Gray, Yellow and Royal all had their moment of glory.  These flies were mainly fished dry.

Other flies used were the Dabblers (Peter Ross, Green, Silver and Fiery) Epoxy Buzzer, Buzzer variants, Spent Gnat, Sooty Olive, Golden Olive Bumble, CDC Mayfly Nymph, the Welshman’s Button, the Fiery Brown Sedge, the French Partridge Mayfly, the Royal Coachman, the Silver Invicta, the Cock Robin,  The Grey Klinkhammers (size 12 -14 (Emerger), the Cinnamon Sedge and Stimulators.

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:

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.

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

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

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.

We implore anglers and all other users for their own safety as well as it being the law.

Martin McCoy’s Sheelin sunset– June 3rd
Martin McCoy’s Sheelin sunset– June 3rd