Lough Sheelin Angling Report By Brenda Montgomery, IFI May 25th to May 31st 2015

‘A wild trout in its native habitat is a compact example of the Earth working well’ 

Christopher Camuto 

Cathal McNaughton releasing his 4 pounder caught on a Green Wulff dropperCathal McNaughton releasing his 4 pounder caught on a Green Wulff dropper

The words ‘far too cold’ were repeated time and time again, like some sort of a daily mantra by the Sheelin anglers throughout this week and for good reason as the temperatures struggled to rise beyond 10 degrees and stubborn north westerly winds gusted persistently across this lake.
The weather could not have been any worse for Lough Sheelin’s mayfly season and the unrelenting wintry conditions have left fly fishermen in knots as the trout refused to surface feed on the multitude of mayflies that blanketed the water.
Because of the lack of heat and changeable gusty winds, angling has been tough, challenging and difficult for the past number of weeks, effectively changing the traditional ‘Duffers fortnight’ into ‘Desperation fortnight’ as even the cream of the angling fraternity (from Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales) who have fished this lake over the past two weeks have only reported ‘a few nice trout’ but nowhere near the numbers of catches that normally come off this lake during May.

Brad Chalmers, ScotlandThe Place where dreams are made……….Brad Chalmers, Scotland with his dream Sheelin trout.

After his stay Brad said ‘If anyone wants to catch fish of lifetime get in touch with Mick Kelly, he will put you on fish and spot them rising in a big wave 100 yards away . You will also have the pleasure of his endless big fish stories that he has caught over the past 46 years on the lough.’
There is no denying the disappointment and frustration that this month has brought to the Sheelin anglers but it is all down to the weather and the weather is something to which we have no control (thankfully). I am assured by the older anglers that this ‘blip’ has happened time and time again on this lake followed by the words ‘that’s fishing, that’s nature’.
Despite the cold and battering winds, hope springs eternal within the trout angler and this has never been more true of the Sheelin fishing enthusiasts, who over the past seven days, despite the pure hardship of continually changing conditions, went out daily in substantial numbers to fish this lake, most only venturing in when the day melted into night.
Although the levels of the lake are gradually lowering, little has changed with the water temperature, which still remains cold.  There are very few natural rises and surface feeding simply because the top region of the water column is still too cold and therefore unappealing to the trout particularly when they have an abundance of food in lower warmer sections.  The Sheelin trout for now are quite happy to feed deep and more recently gorge themselves subsurface on the mayfly nymphs.  These nymphs are terrible swimmers and the trout are feasting on them as they struggle to the surface to emerge.  The occasional trout that was spooned this week was stuffed mostly with nymphs and some buzzers which is a good indication of the trout’s preferential food.
There have been a number of splashy rises but these rises are not usually a fish coming up to take a surface fly, more often it is a trout zooming in on a nymph and breaking the surface with a tail head rise as it returns to the lower levels once again.

Mayfly on May blossom

The weather may have let the anglers down but the mayfly hatch on this lake certainly hasn’t.  There were some spectacular hatches of this reverend little insect this week particularly on Wednesday from 5pm onwards, when a massive hatch literally carpeted the water from Rusheen to Church Island and half way across towards Crover House Hotel.  In other areas of the lake it appeared as if the shoreline was stretching out towards the middle of the lake, this illusion being created by the billions of freshly hatched greens dotted over the surface.  But despite this amazing amount of mayfly and akin to the Marie Celeste there wasn’t a trout to be seen.
One angler effectively used this analogy as his way of explaining the Sheelin’s trout lack of interest in the freshly hatched duns.  He equated it as having a Bar B Q in the depths of winter, in that although the food is new and enticing, the appeal is seriously diminished by the cold, so too with the trout – the appeal to surface feed is almost nonexistent due to the bleak weather.
The mayfly of course is perhaps only interesting and exciting to the angler because of its ‘eventual’ ability to bring up the big trout, perhaps only annually from the sleepy depths of the lake but putting the fishing connection to one side, the mayfly is one of our loveliest insects, a natural phenoneum made extra special by the fact that it is an indication of good quality water.  It is the largest of the upwing flies, or Ephemeroptera, and with its pale translucent wings and long, slender, creamy-yellow body it is bigger than some of our butterflies.  But Ephemera danica is notable not only for its beauty but also for its life cycle, spending two years in the water as a larva or nymph, then hatching in thousands, hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions – indeed, ephemeral, hence the name – day or so, of mating, egg-laying and death.  The mayfly hatch on Lough Sheelin is one of the few natural spectacles here and in Ireland and contributes to the glamour and intricate magical beauty which attaches itself to this little lace winged creature.

Paul Lunney with his 6 pound plus Sheelin beauty

Regardless of the elements, Lough Sheelin still managed to maintain its reputation by producing magnificent heavy well-conditioned trout, albeit not as many as in more settled times, but nonetheless stamping its mark and reminding us that this is one of the best wild brown fisheries in Europe.  Lough Sheelin this week succeeded in mesmerizing and enthralling its anglers through the storms with beautiful trout, many tipping the scales at over 6lbs, with the heaviest recorded at a hefty 9lbs 2ozs caught by Belfast angler Malcom Dwyer.

Jim Crawford with his first catch of the day on Sheelin, May 29thJim Crawford with his first catch of the day on Sheelin, May 29th

Wind directions dictate where anglers fish on this lake and most of the time boats hugged the sheltered areas, along shorelines, in little alcoves and bays and behind islands.
The numbers fishing the lake where high and this was reflected in the number of fish recorded which exceeded the 400 mark (mostly released).
Goreport, Bog Bay, around the Stoney Islands, at the back of Church Island, along by Holy Well and tight to the Western shore reported good trout catches.
Wet fly fishing had a slight lead on the dry flies due to the turbulent water surface.
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 Wulffs featured heavily and were successful in landing fish up to 7lbs in weight.  The Green, Gray, Yellow and Royal all had their moment of glory with the Gray landing Denis Liston of Wicklow a fine 6lbs 5ozs trout on Saturday May 30th.  The Gray wulff, one of a series, invented by the famous US trout man, Lee Wulff, aroundabout 1930, is a very good imitation of a Mayfly dun. The silhouette of this trout dry fly on the water is certainly good enough to foul most trout on an Irish Lough.
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, Klinkhammers and Stimulators.

Anthony Lowe with his sizable Sheelin catch

Anthony Lowe with his sizable Sheelin catch (guided by The Grey Duster Guiding Service)

The allure of Sheelin is that this lake promises and delivers the heavy weights and this factor draws its devotees from all over the world, time and time again.  A 2 – 3 pounder would be a great fish in other lakes but for Sheelin it would be dismissed as being a small trout.  Lough Sheelin is refuted to be Ireland’s jewel in its fishing crown and for this week despite everything, this jewel shone strong and bright.

Sheelin Shadows

Stephan Preiss with another success on SheelinStephan Preiss with another success on Sheelin

A delighted Brad Chalmers, Scotland last week on SheelinNo complaints here…. A delighted Brad Chalmers, Scotland last week on Sheelin

Colin Watterson, Belfast into a big oneColin Watterson, Belfast into a big one

Peter Driver’s Cock Robin DabblersPeter Driver’s Cock Robin Dabblers

Martyn admiring his catchMartyn admiring his catch

The Real and The UnrealThe Real and The Unreal – Lough Sheelin’s Mayfly – May 2015

An extract from Dennis Moss’s article Lough Sheelin – A love hate relationship reads –  ‘Lough Sheelin is a rich limestone lough with a surface area of around 4,500 acres (1855 ha), which has a capacity for producing some of the finest quality brown trout to the fly in Ireland. It is a moody water, but then lakes such as Sheelin which have the potential to produce quality fish, usually are. Such is the moodiness of the water that anglers form with it a love-hate relationship. Some have remained faithful to the fishery throughout its ups and downs but there are those who will knock it. Why? I do not know. I will always hold it in the highest regard. Sheelin has provided me with wonderful days of quality fishing. But I never visit the lough expecting to catch
numbers of fish, or even one trout. But I know of no other fishery where I can go, where there is a distinct possibility that the trout will be more than 4 lb. Wild brown trout of this weight and more have been the hallmark of Sheelin since I first fished the water, such is its pedigree’.

A moody and mystical lake – Lough Sheelin May 2015A moody and mystical lake – Lough Sheelin May 2015

Rocking & Reeling, Colin Watterson’s playing a 3lb plus fishRocking & Reeling, Colin Watterson’s playing a 3lb plus fish

Colin Watterson, Belfast with his 3lb beauty caught on a yellow WulffColin Watterson, Belfast with his 3lb beauty caught on a yellow Wulff

Emmet McWilliams Sheelin May 26thEmmet McWilliams Sheelin May 26th

Emmet McWilliams with one of his 4 fish – May 26thEmmet McWilliams with one of his 4 fish – May 26th

Paul O’Reilly, Dublin Paul O’Reilly, Dublin with a trout tipping the scales at over 3lbs caught on a dry sedge

Fly on handFly manmade

A touch of class A touch of class – a beauty from Welsh angler Mark Thomas, fishing Sheelin last week

Ready for take-off!Ready for take-off!

Hawthorn Hog tyed

Darragh Browne with a 2lbDarragh Browne with a 2 pounder carefully released to become a much heavier Sheelin beauty

Paul Lunney’s Sheelin supreme of over 6lbsPaul Lunney’s Sheelin supreme of over 6lbs

Casting out – 6 year old Jack Fox, RatoathReleaseCasting out – 6 year old Jack Fox, Ratoath


Jonathan Kerr, Lisburn

Mick McShane, Fly-tying with his classic Sheelin collection

Gary Houston, Northern Ireland with one of him Sheelin catches (caught and released)

Gary Houston, Northern Ireland with one of him Sheelin catches (caught and released)

Mayfly on sack cloth
Thinking of God
Trout Flies Tyed

Lough Sheelin Guiding Services (www.loughsheelinguidingservices.com)  087 1245927
D.C Angling & Guiding Services – contact David @ 087 73946989
Michael Farrell @ 087 4194156  Telephone: +353 43 6681298  Email: [email protected]
Grey DusterKenneth o Keeffe                    Grey Duster Guiding 086 8984172
[email protected]
For anyone interested in joining Lough Sheelin’s Angling Club – The Lough Sheelin Trout Protection Association please contact Thomas Lynch @ 087 9132033.
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 

It won’t work if you aren’t 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 under
Jonathan Peppard, Dublin all set to go fishingSI No 921 of 2005 – Pleasure Craft (Personal Flotation Devices and Operation) (Safety) Regulations 2005
Jonathan Peppard, Dublin all set to go fishing

Raymond Leddy’s SheelinRaymond Leddy’s Sheelin

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

Keith Lough, Scotland letting his Sheelin catch backKeith Lough, Scotland letting his Sheelin catch back

Please remember All anglers are required to have a Fishery Permit to fish Lough Sheelin which must be purchased before going out on the lake.
Azim caught this impressive fish on a spent MayflySheelin beauty – from Guide Fishing Ireland.  Richie was on Sheelin last week and his guest Azim caught this impressive fish on a spent Mayfly

A Blast From The Past

Kit Rooney, Crover

The heaviest fish for the week was a 9 lb 2 oz trout caught by Belfast angler Malcom Dwyer on a Dry May fly.
Total number of trout recorded: 416
Selection of Catches             
CartoonIan Kelly, Mullingar – 9 trout on Tuesday May 26th heaviest weighed in at over 5lbs.
Denis Liston, Brady, Co.Wicklow  – 1 trout at 6lbs 5ozs on a Gray Wulff on Saturday May 30th.
Anthony Lowe, England – guided by Lough Sheelin Grey Duster, 1 trout at 6lb on a Grey Wulff.
Dave Passmore, Chester – 7 trout averaging 2 ½ – 3 lbs, heaviest weights were 4 ½ and 6 ½ lbs dapping and on the Grey Wulff
Paul O’Reilly, Dublin – 1 trout at just shy of 4lb on a Sedge landed May 25th.
Peter McArdle, Dundalk – May 22nd 5 trout, 4 on dry Mayfly and 1 on Buzzer, averaged 2 – 4 lbs.
Keith Lough, Scotland – guided by Lough Sheelin Guiding Services, 5 trout averaging 2 ½ – 5 ½ lbs.
John Murphy, Crover – 2 trout at 6lbs plus fishing a green Mayfly.
Paul Mc Menamin, Northern Ireland – 2 trout averaging 2 ½ – 3lbs on a Dry Wulff.
Emmet McWilliams
Jim Crawford – 1 trout at over 4lbs on a wet Mayfly, May 29th.
Cathal McNaughton, Antrim – 3 trout at 2 lbs 8ozs, 4lbs 1oz and 4 lbs 10ozs (all released) using a Grey and Royal Wulff.
Gary Houston, Northern Ireland – May 26th 2 trout at 5lbs and 6lbs.
Harry Graham, Belfast – 1 trout at 3lbs on wet Mays.
Cian Murtagh, Cavan – 3 trout averaging 2 ½ – 3lbs fishing wet Mays.
David Forde, Cork – May 29th 6 trout heaviest was 3 ½ lbs on a Gray Wulffe and dry Mayfly (guided by Ned Clinton).
Ken Kearns and Peter McArdle, Dundalk – 6 trout over two days, 3lbs up to 6lbs, all caught on the Spent Gnat.
Brenda Montgomery IFI