Lough Sheelin Angling Report – March 7th to March 13th 2015

“Fishing… it makes us participants in nature instead of spectators, a crucial distinction because participants tend to become passionate and protective and spectators tend to become indifferent.” – Jerry Dennis

‘The line up’ early morning at Kilnahard, Lough Sheelin 2016
‘The line up’ early morning at Kilnahard, Lough Sheelin 2016

During a recent ‘Sheelin’ conversation with an avid fly angler from Belfast, I enquired whether he intended to come down to fish the lake soon to which he immediately replied ‘no, not for me, March is Minkie and di3 time’.

Few things about a trout season beat the anticipation that precedes it but March is a strange time of the year for the fly angler. It seems to be neither winter nor spring and so it was on Sheelin this week as cold dry days were interspersed with snatches of heat from a reluctant sun in sheltered areas giving a glimpse of an almost forgotten warmth.

William Craig’s beautiful 4 lb Sheelin trout caught on Tuesday March 8th on a Gold Humungus
William Craig’s beautiful 4 lb Sheelin trout caught on Tuesday March 8th on a Gold Humungus

My fly angler friend was in a way correct for very early season on Lough Sheelin i.e. the first two weeks in March is all about sinking lines and large lures and true to form this early season is no different as some fine catches were landed this week using the Humungus and Minkie and their variants somewhere on the line, usually on the bob and in various colours.

Lough Sheelin
Gary McKiernan (www.loughsheelinguidingservices.com) with the weight of the week a 62cm beauty – reminding us of what Sheelin is capable of in early season

The Catches…

Each day this week saw a respectable number of anglers fishing this lake with a predictable increase at the weekend but angling was reported as ‘tough going’ and ‘not easy’ for most days. The best areas for fishing was along the Western shore, around Chambers and Kilnahard and down along Crover depending on wind direction. Stony Island down to Inchacup also featured with some of the heavier catches, particularly in and around Gaffney’s Bay.

Anatolijs Sulims with his Sheelin trout
Anatolijs Sulims with his Sheelin trout

Anglers who were catching were using di3 and di5 lines and sticking to the shallows, rocky shores and around the lake’s bays, inlets and exposed points and for good reason, because within Lough Sheelin there is a natural post spawning movement that is repeated every year. The inherent need to gain condition rapidly will drive the trout in search of food. Shallow water warms quickest, and this is where the trout will find the abundance of food. Extensive areas of shallow water and along shorelines and in around islands are the areas that are most attractive to the trout in their search for food, typically freshwater shrimp and hog louse. With an absence of surface fly life the trout forage in the lower regions of this lake, scooping up other bottom-feeding organisms such as chironomid (buzzer) larvae, snails and caddis which are also included in their daily diet.

Claret nymph
Claret nymph

The Caddis larvae never fails to fascinate with their protective armour of minute sticks, stones and sand grains, bound together by silken threads but it’s a hard one to imitate for the angler with the Tungsten Brown Caddis perhaps coming the closest.

Craig William’s 5 lb plus trout caught using a Claret Dabbler, March 7th 2016
William’s 5 lb plus trout caught using a Claret Dabbler, March 7th 2016

Northern Ireland angler William Craig landed a trout of almost 6lbs, a long lean dark fish, who had a lot more fattening up to do. William caught this fish on a Claret Dabbler which broke the mould from the usual lure successes. The Dabbler is an old favourite for Sheelin and featured strongly throughout the 2015 season so last Monday it was like welcoming an old friend back again.

Interestingly enough William landed another good fish and despite being a good 1 ½ pounds less this fish surpassed his previous heavy weight in both depth and condition.

The heaviest fish for the week was a 7 lb plus trout caught by Gary McKiernan of   www.loughsheelinguidingservices.com

Total number of trout recorded: 35

Selection of Catches

  • Aleksandrs Trifonovs – 2 trout at 1 ½ and 2 ½ lbs on lures.
  • William Craig, Northern Ireland – 4 trout at 2, 2 ½, 4 and 5 ½ lbs caught on Humungus and Claret Dabbler fishing between Stony and Gaffney’s Bay.
  • Mark Ceeland, Antrim – 1 trout at 2 ½ lb on a Fiery Brown Dabbler.
  • Ian Reilly – 1 trout at 4lbs on a Nymph Pupa
  • Andrejs Jansons, Dublin – 2 trout at 3lbs and 3 ½ using a Gold tipped Humungus.
  • Fricis Sarfas, Navan – 1 trout at 5 lbs using a Black & Silver Minkie on the bob.
  • Gabriels Vanags, Dublin – 3 trout heaviest at 4lbs using a White Humungus and a Silver & Red Humungus.
  • Markuss Dukurs, Dublin – 2 trout at 3 and 3 ½ lbs using a Cats Whisker and a Black & Gold Humungus.

The Hatches…

The catches of trout this week all reflected their bottom feeding lifestyles, all sporting various shades of brown, of iridescent spots set on a rich yellow background, there wasn’t much silver in evidence.

A Black & Gold Humungus
A Black & Gold Humungus

For successful early season fishing on Sheelin, anglers must understand nature’s rules – the trout go deep and stay down because as yet there is little or no food to entice and keep them in the upper layers.

Gold head Minkie
Gold head Minkie

The success of the large strangely named lures like the Humungus, Minkie, Orange Bugger, Cat Zonker, Black & Green Booby and Black Goldhead Tadpole, which represent nothing remotely like the trout’s natural food can be attributed to the trout’s territorial aggression and perhaps at times are taken out of curiosity.

The Bibio (KsG Flies) –
With little surface fly there aren’t many clues as to what artificial an angler might use on Sheelin so when this happens it is sometimes best to look to the favourites and one of the ‘go to patterns’ for Sheelin is the Bibio.

Anglers reported a dusting of duck fly hatches particularly around the Stony Islands and into Gaffney’s Bay and although there was some promising surfacing of fish to meet these hatches, the window of opportunity was narrow and random and depended on that very undependable Irish factor – the sun.

Ted Wherry’s Duck Fly pattern
Ted Wherry’s Duck Fly pattern

The duck fly is the generic name in Ireland for the dark, early season, chironomids or buzzers and for some many fly anglers it heralds the real start of the trout fishing season. Duck fly patterns were used tentatively by a few anglers with only sporadic degrees of success.

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.


The Humungus

Silver Angel Hair Humungus (KsG)
Silver Angel Hair Humungus (KsG)

Reputedly a devastating lure that will catch you more and bigger fish! There is a whole lot of history and indeed controversy behind this deadly pattern, which was first spawned on the mighty Loch Leven. Dave Downie is the man credited with coming up with this pattern although others would say it was the late Jock Hodge. The battle rages on!

Designed to extract ridiculously tricky trout from a lake, this fly is a more beefed-up version of another Leven classic, the Black & Silver, a fly that has taken more than its fair share of trout. The Humungus is a pattern that travels well and has caught consistently on its travels around various Irish lakes including Lough Sheelin. The colour combination is one that has attracted fish for centuries. Add the long marabou tail and the chain bead eyes as well as body hackle and you have a very mobile and versatile pattern.

The Humungus is best fished on a sinking line with a slow pull, letting the fly sink and rise in the water as it is retrieved. Just because it’s a big fly doesn’t mean that you can whip it back at a rate of knots, a slow figure of 8 retrieve can often bring the best results when using this lure.

It can be tied in either black & gold which is good for when it’s bright and silver which is best fished when it’s dull.

The Dabbler

A reminder to those of us who think that the Dabbler is a new fly, Peter O’Reilly’s book reads –

“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; p.16).

Seals Fur Minkie (KsG flies)
Seals Fur Minkie (KsG flies)

Go fishing…

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

Public Consultation

Lough Sheelin Angling Season Byelaw

Inland Fisheries Ireland are seeking submissions from interested parties in relation to a proposal to introduce a byelaw defining a closed season for angling for any species on Lough Sheelin in the Shannon River Basin District, No.8 District.

The proposal currently under consideration is to seek the Minister to introduce a byelaw on Lough Sheelin to close the lake to angling for any species from 13th October to end of February in the following year.

Inland Fisheries Ireland may, as part of the process, arrange a public consultation meeting if deemed necessary, but all submissions must be received in writing and will be published on the Inland Fisheries Ireland website at www.fisheriesireland.ie.

Submissions to be sent by post to the Director, Inland Fisheries Ireland, Ashbourne Business Park, Dock Road, Limerick or alternatively by email to: [email protected].

The Public Consultation period will run for 4 weeks and the closing date for receipt of submissions is 5pm on 16th March 2016.

Crover pier, March 2016 (K.Sweeney)
Crover pier, March 2016 (K.Sweeney)

Upcoming events

The Kilroy Cup

The first competition of the year – The Lough Sheelin Trout Protection Association will be hosting The Kilroy Cup on the lake on Saturday March 19th from 11.0 am – 6pm, starting from Kilnahard pier (members & new members welcome). Please contact Thomas Lynch @ 087 9132033 for further details

Sheelin Classic trout competition

The popular Sheelin Classic trout competition now in its 11th year will be run on Lough Sheelin on Easter Saturday March 26th. 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 16” size limit and the individual with the heaviest fish wins. This competition comes with an impressive list of prizes with a 19ft Sheelin boat & trophy as first prize.

All proceeds of this event go towards the protection and enhancement of rivers within the Kells and Sheelin catchments

For further details please contact Noel McLoughlin at 087 – 2179460

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


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

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 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.

Farewell Sean McCaul…

It is with much sadness that we record the death of one of the oldest of Lough Sheelin’s anglers – 96 year old Sean McCaul from Redhills, Cavan. To say that Sean loved fishing would be an understatement and that love was doubled when he was out on Lough Sheelin. I had the pleasure and honour of knowing Sean and as he entered his nineties all the worried him each year was whether he’d live to fish another mayfly. He was president of The Lough Sheelin Trout Protection Association for many years and his good humour and dedication to this lake will be sorely missed.

Requiesce in pace

Sunset at Crover, Lough Sheelin 2016
Sunset at Crover, Lough Sheelin 2016