Lough Sheelin Angling Report By Brenda Montgomery, IFI – March 1st to March 6th, 2016

‘When the blood in your veins returns to the lake, and the earth in your bones returns to the ground, perhaps then you will remember that this lake does not belong to you, it is you who belong to this lake’


Lough Sheelin 2016

On Lough Sheelin, the first day of the open fishing season, March 1st was heralded in by a biting artic cold along with storm Jake, at gusts of up to 70 mph slamming in across the water on March 2nd followed by a week interspersed with hail, snow, sleet, frosts and a difficult North Westerly wind all courtesy of polar maritime masses coming from Canada and settling across Ireland.
It seems that spring has not yet sprung for Sheelin.
This past winter has seemed like an endless and unforgiving mixture of heavy rainfall, high winds and a stubborn and persistent cold, so for the average Sheelin trout angler who usually finds the winter and therefore the close season far too long at the best of times, this one has felt like an eternity. Confidence ebbs as you don’t really know how to cast a proper line after all those months of abstinence.
Boats have been cleaned and painted and flies have been tied or ferreted way from ‘reliable sources’ and are sitting in their boxes, all waiting to be tried and tested.
Then the first of March comes along, like an angler’s messiah, but tragically, it is mostly too cold, much too windy, much too wet, or a most complicated mixture of everything.
Lough Sheelin has been shut for 18 weeks, shut to the anglers but not to the constant march of environmental change. The weather with its unprecedented rainfall and storms dominated those weeks causing this lake’s water levels to rise beyond any previous records resulting in piers being eaten away, break waters becoming futile, access roads disappearing and mobile homes capsizing into the insidious flooded depths.  Boats that had not been previously removed sunk, their bows sticking up through the surface water like some sort of extract from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.  Lough Sheelin’s surface area increased dramatically until its shoreline became backyards and fields.
Nine storms have hit Sheelin over the close of the season with storm Gertrude on January 29th producing the strongest gusts at 105mph.  Environmentalists predict that this weather will become a pattern of the future and the appearance of polar stratospheric clouds over the catchment in early February of this year, beautiful as they were, have not been seen in Ireland for over 21 years and are a strong indication of climate change.

Polar stratospheric clouds over Sheelin, February 2016

Moving away from these grim reaper thoughts Sheelin’s fishing season is now open and with the reassurance from an angler once some years ago that it ‘usually picks up after St. Patrick’s Day’ global warming with greenhouse effect have obviously not changed the fundamental wisdom one bit regarding the Sheelin trout as regardless of difficult weather this lake produced some beautiful well-conditioned trout for its anglers during the first week.

Gary McKiernan (www.loughsheelinguidingservices.com) starting as he means to go on, with his first 2016 trout at 50cm, March 1st

March is not the time to expect many rises simply because there is no fly life to tempt these normally sub surface feeders up to the top. Trout will be feeding hard after the rigors of spawning and the restricted food supply of the winter months.  The trout stay deep and feed on the copious amounts of shrimp and freshwater louse (assellus and gammerus) which adorn the lake bed.  Snails and nymphs with the odd zebra mussel also feature on their menu.
Early season for the angler on this lake is all about sunken lines and lures, not flies as such except perhaps fish flies on droppers but it’s mainly large lures – things that look more like little fish than anything else. One pattern, now over 170 years old, does exactly that and that is the Butcher.  The standard Butcher that is, with the red tail, silver body and rib, black iridescent duck feather and black hen hackle.
Dublin angler Mark Farthing blanked with his usual weighed nymph but came up trumps by using a two fly set up with a Bibio as a top dropper.  The Bibio which is an attractor fly is a great entire season fly and the trout seem to love it, because it somehow represents perfectly something and nothing.  The combination of a Bibio on the bob with a Butcher at the end, fished slow and deep can work wonders and Mark’s resulting fish did look wonderful.
Sheelin was difficult to fish on the days on and after storm Jake because the churned up waters resulted in a persistently residing brown discolouration which made visibility very poor and fishing extra difficult except along the western and northern shore.
The Humungus and Minkie’s in various colours were the favourites particularly those patterns which had silver threaded through them. Some anglers did try some of the old Sheelin favourites like the Hare’s Ear, Black Pennell, the Dabblers and the Connemara Black but the large lures ruled for this week and landed the catches for this first week of the season.

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

Sheelin’s traditional early season – The Black Pennell
Sheelin’s traditional early season – The Black Pennell

The Golden Angel Hair Humungus (KsG)
The Golden Angel Hair Humungus (KsG)

Deep and slow is the rule of the day. The di3 was the preferred line with most anglers and those that headed for deeper water even chanced a di5 but at this time of the year it’s best to stick to the shallows and the slower sinker.
The best areas for catching this week was the north shore of the lake from Chambers Bay to Crover into Merry pt. and picking out the most rocky shores, shallows and exposed points.
Fishing anywhere on this lake is always weather dependent so particularly at this time of the year it is best to stick to the sheltered bays and behind islands.

This beautifully marked 3 lb plus Sheelin trout was caught using a Minkie on the top dropper March 2nd by Peter Boyle, Monaghan in Holywell.

image019Freddie Boyd’s Fiery Brown Dabbler variant
The Fiery Brown is renowned in general to be a very versatile fly throughout the lake angling world. It can represent fresh water shrimp in the early part of the season and duck fly in the spring.

The breakwater at Crover, Lough Sheelin struggling with the continuous onslaught of storms. Heavy discolouration of the water made fishing very difficult as visibility was very poor.


Larry McAlinden, Derry holding his first catch of the season on Lough Sheelin. 01/03/16


The Connemara Black – an early season and old timer fly for Sheelin


‘Reflection’ – Crover, Lough Sheelin (K.Sweeney)


Jimmy Tyrrell’s Blae Winged Sooty Olive – a good early season fly

Public Consultation
Shannon River Basin
District – 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 March2016.



image033The Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear – The best known wet fly pattern ever tied. Good to fish in early season in a size 8 on a sinking line
For Sheelin’s first week the so called ‘killer flies’ were the Fiery Brown Dabblers, Humungus, Hare’s ear, Connemara black, March Brown, Claret Dabbler, Gold Olive Bumbles. Bibios, Silver Dabbler and the Minkie. The Dabblers, Minkies and Humungus take top position for Sheelin in early March.  The Golden Olive Dabbler is a great all season fly and good in the very early season on this lake.  The Golden Olive can be used as a shrimp or water louse imitation and is best used as a point fly in a team of three wets.
A Claret Dabbler in a size 6 and a rainbow Humungus can work well and but then of course there are a million and one Sheelin ‘secret’ flies that as yet have to be winkled out of their tight lipped creators.
According to one very experienced Sheelin angler ‘if you are lucky to come across a fish anything will do’.

Early morning on Sheelin

During the winter months the local angling club – the LSTPA were not idle and held a series of fly tying classes at the IFI offices at Kilnahard. These classes were very popular and were enthusiastically attended weekly by a large number of anglers varying from ten to seventy years of age.  As well as a lot of fun some master flies were created and will no doubt be used in the forthcoming season.

Epoxy Buzzer Pupae (KsG Flies)

image040Paul Watkin’s Epoxy Buzzer

On January 22nd 2016 the LSTPA held their AGM in Crover House Hotel.
The attendance, larger than normal, was requested primarily to bring members up to date with important angling developments relating to Lough Sheelin. Following protracted bilateral meetings between IFI and LSTPA representatives, an agreement was reached, in principle, to adopt a suite of new byelaws for the lake.
The main talking points centered on four fundamental changes aimed at further improving the high standard of angling conditions that pertain for tourists and recreational anglers.
The four changes were:

  • The daily bag limit, which will be set at two fish.
  • A minimum size limit would see an increase from 35.56cm (14in) from 30cm (11.8in).
  • Trolling will be curtailed and allowed only from June 16th to October 12th.
  • The fourth and easily the most important change concerned the close season. From this year’s season the lake will be closed for angling from October 12th to March 1st. However, five days will be designated for fishing for pike under strict control by the IFI. Pike caught may be removed to more suitable waters.

An overwhelming majority of the members were in favour of the new proposals and the meeting concluded with the usual election of officers.
For anyone who is interested in joining this club, please contact Thomas Lynch @ 087 9132033.
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
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
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 are not 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 SI No 921 of 2005 – Pleasure Craft (Personal Flotation Devices and Operation) (Safety) Regulations 2005

Please put on and keep on that life jacket until you are back on dry land.
 ‘Getting it right’
 Noah Breen Johnson all togged out for some fishing
Lough Sheelin Guiding Services (www.loughsheelinguidingservices.com) 087 1245927 
D.C Angling & Guiding Services – contact David @ 087 73946989 
Michael Farrell @ 087 4194156Telephone: +353 43 6681298 Email: [email protected]
Guide Fishing Ireland   www.guidefishingireland.com

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

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.
The heaviest fish for the week was a 3 lb plus trout caught by Peter Boyle, Monaghan using a Minkie at Holywell

Total number of trout recorded: 25
Selection of the catches… 
image052Gary McKiernan (www.loughsheelinguidingservices.com) – 2 trout at 50cm and 2 lbs caught on Minkie’s and a Black & Silver Humungus.
Mark Farthing, Dublin – using a Bibio and Butcher, 1 trout at 2 ½ lbs in Chambers Bay.
Larry McAlinden, Derry – 1 trout at 2lbs, March 1st
Harry Graham, Belfast – 2 trout at 1 ½ lb and 2lbs using a Minkie and Black & Silver Humungus.
Peter Boyle, Monaghan – 2 trout on March 2nd, 1 at 2lb using a Humungus in Chambers Bay, 1 at 3lb plus using a Minkie as a top dropper in Holywell.
Valdis Vindigs, Balbriggan 2 trout at 1.7 and 2.2lbs on lures, March 5th.
Laimonas Stoskus, Dublin 2 trout at 1.2 and 1.3lbs on lures, March 5th.
Saulius Juleneuicius, Dundalk 1 trout at 45cm (2.2lbs) caught using a lure, March 5th

‘After sunset’ Derrysheridan, Lough Sheelin

Brenda Montgomery IFI