‘Heaven seems a little closer in a boat beside water’

Tranquility at Sheelin,  31st March 2016
Tranquility at Sheelin, 31st March 2016

This week (March 27th to April 3rd 2016) saw the end of March with this month not quite substantiating that old familiar saying ‘March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb’.

Now four weeks into the fishing season here, weather conditions have made it difficult for the Sheelin anglers, cold ‘below normal’ temperatures dominated throughout the month with little or no reprieve, surface fly life was non-existent and the trout lay deep, feeding in the lower water regions of the lake.

Gary McKiernan (www.loughsheelinguidingservices.com)  holding a Sheelin beauty of 65 cm (released)
Gary McKiernan (www.loughsheelinguidingservices.com) holding a Sheelin beauty of 65 cm (released)

Regardless of what the weather throws at us, there will always be anglers out fishing Lough Sheelin and now into a new month and with the prospect of milder weather the number of anglers are increasing, albeit gradually.  Catches were however, small this week and it can be discouraging and frustrating, I happen to agree with angler Tom Rosenbauer‘s view (from his article Best Bet for Early-Season Trout) that ‘I always mistrust fly anglers who mouth the platitude “I don’t care if I catch any fish or not, it’s just nice to get out there”.  Sure.  Then why don’t you leave the rod at home and save yourself the trouble of freezing to death out on a lake with a 9ft stick?’.  The reality is that if you’re out there you want to catch fish or at least see some sign of them.

Sunrise at Crover, Lough Sheelin
Sunrise at Crover, Lough Sheelin

Early season fishing is no walk in the park on any trout lake and Lough Sheelin is no exception.  For this week the status quo more or less remained the same, where the lures featured heavily as achieving the highest number of catches.  There are many anglers who stay away from Sheelin in early season as they do not consider lures as ‘proper’ fishing and rigidly stick to the traditional wet and dry fly fishing patterns but it seems a pity to miss out on some good heavy fish because of this purist attitude.

 Careful releasing of a trout back into Lough Sheelin

Careful releasing of a trout back into Lough Sheelin

Spring or early season trout are feeding hard to regain condition so although they are not as wary as they will be in the weeks to come, they are not of course about to commit suicide either but a good attractor pattern fished with a di3 around the shallows of the lake can bring up some of Sheelin’s reputation trout – a 7lb plus or perhaps a 3 or 4 pounder, weights which our overseas anglers only dream about.

The Catches

The best areas for fishing was along the Western shore, around Chambers and Kilnahard and down along Crover depending on wind direction.  The shallows in sheltered bays and inlets, as close to the shore as possible were the best places for fishing this week.

Selection of catches

The heaviest fish for the week was a  4 ½ lb trout caught by Martin Allen, Derry on wets.  Total number of trout recorded: 31

  •  Shane MacNamee, Dublin – 1 trout at 2 lbs on wets
  • Andrius Brivaulies, Dublin – Sunday April 3rd 3 trout heaviest at 4 lbs using a golden headed Humungus.
  • Edgars Liejuks, Dublin – 2 trout at 2 ½ and 3 ½ fishing around Chambers, on Black Minkies.
  • Juris Kiploks, Navan – 3 trout, heaviest 4 ¼ using Humungus and Minkies.
  • Janis Kergalvis, Dublin – April 3rd fishing Bog Bay, 4 trout heaviest at 4lbs using Cats Whiskers and Minkies (all released), sinking lines (all released).
  • Hermanis Gratkalns, Dundalk – April 2nd 2 trout at 2 and 2 ¾ using wet flies – Sooty Olives and Nymphs, fishing in Holywell.
  • Kazimirs Paladzins,  Dundalk – March 31st, 1 trout at 3 ¾ using weighted nymph patterns.
  • Pat Brady, Cavan – 1 trout at 2 lbs using a Claret Dabbler on the bob.

The Hatches

There were good hatches of duck fly in sheltered areas around the lake but with no apparent interest from the trout.  It is easy to think that nothing is happening but just because there is no action on the surface doesn’t mean that the fish aren’t feeding below the surface.  Trout often ignore adult flies and instead feed voraciously on the easy pickings subsurface which was proved by David Drew, Cork drifting an emerger pattern just under the surface landing him a 3 pounder and for his Wexford born companion John Devereux using a weighted nymph his reward was a 2 ¾ Sheelin beauty – two great fish and not a lure in sight.

An early Sheelin olive
An early Sheelin olive

The Sheelin trout have an abundance of food on the bottom layer of the lake – asellus and gammarus, the fish don’t move very much at this stage so a Minkie or Humungus in natural and dark colours, weighted preferably with a beaded head to get the fly down quickly, using a slow retrieve is more than likely taken out of aggression rather than as a meal but regardless of the reason these lures work on this lake.

Early morning, Kilnahard Levels are well down on the lake and it is reputed that if the lake levels are low for April it bodes for an early Mayfly season
Early morning, Kilnahard
Levels are well down on the lake and it is reputed that if the lake levels are low for April it bodes for an early Mayfly season

The Flies

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 Silver Invicta, the Connemara Black, Black Pennell and the Sooty Olive.


But truth be told four weeks of lures has brought a certain longing for those familiar Sheelin wet fly patterns – the Bibios, Bumbles, Black Pennell, Connemara Black, Sooty Olive, the Dabblers, the Dunkeld and the Claret & Mallard to name but a few.  They appear every now and then for catches but it’s few and far between and the lures are still in the strong top position on this lake.

Go fishing

Lough Sheelin
Lough Sheelin

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

For anyone interested in joining Lough Sheelin’s Angling Club – The Lough Sheelin Trout Protection Association please contact Thomas Lynch @ 087 9132033.

Guides and ghillies

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

Lough Sheelin Guiding Services
Tel: 087 1245927 Web: www.loughsheelinguidingservices.com

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: www.midlandangling.com


On Saturday April 16th The Ulster Fly Fishing Competition will be hosted on Lough Sheelin.  This prestigious event was last hosted on this lake in 2014 so we welcome its return.  The Ulster is normally run on a rota system between Lough Erne, Lough Melvin and Lough Sheelin.  To enter anglers must be a member of the Lough Sheelin Trout Protection Association or be affiliated to a Northern Ireland trout angling club.  The winner of this competition will be officially the best fly angler in Ulster for the year and will be awarded the Ulster cup.

This will be a Catch & Release competition

For further information please contact Thomas Lynch @ 087 9132033

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


5 year old Noah Breen Johnson isn’t taking any chances on the water this season and neither should you
5 year old Noah Breen Johnson isn’t taking any chances on the water this season and neither should you

Water rarely gives second chances and a life jacket is just that – it saves your life.Life jackets are required by law – SI No 921 of 2005 – Pleasure Craft (Personal Flotation Devices and Operation) (Safety) Regulations 2005.

We would implore anglers and all other users to wear life jackets for their own safety as well as it being the law.

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

Catch and Release

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

A comment worth some thought was one which was made recently on facebook by well known Scottish and Sheelin angler Stan Headly in which he said

‘I’m seeing a lot of catch & release photos on here these days.
There are some guys out there who seem to think as long as a fish is returned it doesn’t matter what happens to it between capture and release. As long as you don’t actively kill the poor bugger you can do whatever you like, and you’re sure to go to heaven.
Amongst the worst are fish lying amongst stones and gravel, or several feet from the water. Fish being passed around so everybody gets in on the photo action is also disgraceful.
The Yanks are a whole lot better than us at C&R. The angler kneels in shallow water; the fish stays in the water until the cameraman is ready; the fish is gently lifted out of the water, pic taken, fish back in the water.
Can’t do that from a boat, of course, but the plan can be modified to suit the circumstances’.

Sunset over Lough Sheelin
Sunset over Lough Sheelin