May 14th – June 17th 2018
‘We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope’
Martin Luther King
This year’s mayfly season on Lough Sheelin has undoubtedly been fraught with a mixture of disappointment, frustration and despair. Dubbed ‘the heart breaker’ these hallowed trout waters have submerged its anglers into an entomological and piscatorial confusion.
2018 saw record breaking mayfly hatches on this lake, many would say that it was the biggest number ever, with the plume of mating masses taking to the evening air akin to an extract from Tchaikovsky’s ‘Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy’. The eventual falling of spent covered the water’s surface, each evening, like a large and elaborate carpet spreading out over the lake.
You didn’t have to go to any exotic country to encounter such a gripping natural and very beautiful spectacle.
May is the month which is marked firmly in most trout angler’s diary – duffers’ fortnight, a time of racing pulses, of easy pickings, when trout supposedly rise in abundance to feed on the surface food of emergers and freshly hatched greens, culminating in the spents lying prostrate on the surface in the last throes of life, offering an irrestible meal to hungry trout. It is a month synonymous to easier fishing.
It is safe to say that the word ‘easy’ hasn’t been used in any angler’s vocabulary over the past number of weeks here – other words have been used frequently but easy has definitely not been one of them.
Sheelin since mid-May attracted the predictable influx of anglers, mostly from Ireland but with a respectable representation from England, Scotland, Wales, Holland and France as well as a few from America, Australia and Italy.
Traditionally it takes a few days for the fish to get locked on to the freshly hatched mays and then, when their suspicion abates, the best time seems to be when feeding initially begins on this new food, as the month progresses and with it the fully blown hatches of mayfly, the trout seem to go off the boil with the copious quantity of daytime hatches and instead latch on to the spent in the warm evenings. This sequence of events is what customarily happens from May into June but for this year it didn’t, Lough Sheelin’s trout refused to co-operate and duffer’s fortnight was thrown out the window. The trout stayed down deep and there was a very poor rise to the abundance of surface food.
A visible surface feeding fish was something of an anomaly and this revered time in the fishing calendar came crashing down.
So what happened? there is no one particular explanation but perhaps a combination of a number of factors as to why our trout refused to do what they were supposed to do, but whatever personal conclusion we come to we must remember that nature sometimes cannot be compartmentalized and that there will always be a certain element that cannot be explained.
Firstly, no trout lake in Ireland had a good mayfly season this year, most reports mirrored Lough Sheelin’s frustrations, in that there was plenty of surface food but not good surface feeding by the trout.
This was a peculiar year, in that, somewhere down the line we seemed to have lost spring and dived straight from winter into summer. The blackthorn blossom overlapped the may blossom when normally these two blooms are weeks apart.
The weather particularly the wind direction has always had a big influence on how the trout behave. East and North Easterly winds predominated for weeks and both these wind directions play havoc with feeding fish with some anglers forcefully adamant that trout will never surface feed in an east wind. The desired winds for this lake are south to south westerly’s which didn’t happen very often.
Water levels were high and temperatures were consistently low until we reached May and then we were treated to barometer bursting Mediterranean temperatures hitting the 28 degrees. Trout, with their absence of protective eyelids and natural aversion to warm low oxygen areas will automatically stay in the lower cooler regions during a hot spell.
Perhaps the biggest problem, to the angler anyway, is that Lough Sheelin is stuffed with fish food, 80 – 90% of the time trout are sub-surface feeders so their natural preference is to stay under regardless of what the menu is like on the top. This year as well as having a plethora of food in the lower water regions, there were vast quantities of mayfly followed by the subsequent dense covering of spent on the surface coupled of course with all the other seasonal flies – hawthorn, the terrestrials and the appearance of the sedges which of course meant for the angler that there was little or no hope of a trout going for an artificial, except by accident. Trout that were spooned in May were stuffed to the gills with nymphs.
Buzzer fishing pre May fly was excellent this year, with billions of buzzer all over the surface in certain areas and unlike the spent, the trout rose in huge numbers to feed on them. Buzzer fishing lacks appeal to many anglers because of its dusk and nighttime preference. Anglers reported hearing large rises all around boats but were forced to fish blind because of the dark. Successes were good using dry buzzers and targeting fish as they came on to the water at dusk. The southern reedy areas of the lake worked best.
Sheelin arguably experienced its biggest hatch of mayfly on record and this is something to be celebrated as this graceful transitory insect is a vital component of the overall ecology of a freshwater system. Mayfly nymphs are particularly sensitive to water pollution so the vast quantities of adults exhibited this year on this lake is an indication that for a water that hangs in the balance from a nutrient loading point of view, ecologically for this period of time things are very good.
Now, into mid-June there are still hatches of the greens and with the colder weather and cooling down of the water the trout are finally surface feeding on them. There was good fishing using teams of wet mayflies last Friday June 15th with Cavan angler Cian Murtagh catching a number of fish around the Long Rock area, heaviest at over 4lbs.
The number of boats have dropped dramatically in the past week and coinciding with this falling off in numbers the trout have now started to surface feed on the mayfly – this capricious, moody and premier wild brown fishery puts manners on us all…
On the positive side of things and regardless of all the above obstacles there were still some great trout caught during May and into June. Most of the returns weighed in at over 4lbs with a top weight of 9 ½ lbs for Dublin angler John Moloney using a French Partridge. These fish were all in great condition, plump and well fed which supports the theory of plenty of sub surface feeding. A variety of mayfly patterns were used predominantly in yellow with hints of brown, grey and claret threaded through. The Wulffs – grey and royal featured in the evening time with spent gnat patterns in white and black with a small piece of red at the butt being the most successful.
Hatches of mayfly were prolific all over the lake so really no area shone out as being more successful than the other. Fish were caught mostly in Holywell and down to Crover, Merry pt, Stony Island, at the back of Church Island, Wilson’s pt. and down along the Long Rock.
For Buzzer fishing it was all along the weeded silted areas – Bog Bay, Goreport and the Sailors Garden.
The biggest fish for the week was a 9 ½ lb trout caught by John Moloney, Dublin using a French Partridge fishing off Holywell.
Total number of trout recorded: 280
Selection of Catches
- Cian Murtagh, Cavan – June 15th, 3 trout heaviest at 4lbs using wet mayflies, fishing off the Long Rock
- Gerry Taggart – 1 trout at 4lbs on a wet mayfly.
- Mark Lough, Scotland – 1 trout at 55cm.
- Keith Lough, Scotland – 4 trout at 60, 55, 52 and 49cm, fishing with Lough Sheelin Guiding Services.
- Willem van der Wal, Holland – 2 trout at 50 and 52cm on mayfly patterns.
- Thomas Lynch, Cavan – 2 trout May 20th 5lbs and 4 ½ on Buzzer and wet May fly patterns.
- Cathal Rush, Tyrone – 2 trout, both at 4lbs on balling buzzers.
- Ben McKay, Scotland – 1 trout at 3lbs using a nymph pattern, May 18th at Arley.
- Barry Harton, Cavan – 1 trout at 4lbs fishing a wet Mayfly pattern.
- Peter McArdle, Dundalk – 4 trout for 19lbs (heaviest 5 ¾ lbs), 1 trout at 6 ¼ lbs, all on Buzzer patterns.
- Gary McKiernan (lough sheelin guiding services) – 6 trout heaviest at 6lbs using mayfly, nymph and buzzer patterns.
- Nigel Gibbons, England – 1 trout at 50cm
- Jeremy O’Brien, England – 2 trout at 59 and 60cm on Buzzer patterns.
- Tim Brown – 1 trout at 4lbs on a Grey Wulff fishing off Stony, May 17th.
- Paul Fingleton, Dublin – 1 trout at 1 ¾ lbs on a Spent pattern
- Paul O’Reilly, Dublin – 1 at 4 ½ lbs on a Spent
- Cian Murtagh, Cavan – 1 trout at 4lbs on a Spent Gnat pattern, May 29th.
- Declan Young, Cavan – 1 trout at 4½ lbs fishing at Holywell on a Spent Gnat, May 21st.
- Tom Walsh, Mayo – May 29th 1 trout at 4.3lbs.
- Thomas Harten, Cavan – 1 trout at 3lbs on a Spent Gnat, June 12th.
- Gerry Gannon, Kells – 2 trout at 4 and 5lbs using a Spent Gnat pattern, June 12th.
- Frank Kelly, Cavan – 3 trout June 11th, heaviest at 6 ½ lbs on a Spent Gnat, 2 trout on June 10th heaviest at 5lbs, 1 trout on June 9th at 3lbs on Spent Gnat pattern at Merry pt. 9 trout on first week of Spent, heaviest at 6.2lbs.
- Gerry McSean, Cavan – 1 trout at 4.5lbs on Spent Gnat pattern, June 12th.
The most successful flies this week were the Mayfly nymph patterns, wet Mayfly patterns in greens with mixes of brown and white mingled through, the Mosley Mays, the French Partridge, the Goslings, Dennis Moss’s Ginger Mayfly, Soft Hackle Mayfly Emergers, CDC Mayfly Emergers, the Wulffs (grey and royal), the Spent Gnat patterns (a predominance of black worked best). Other patterns catching fish were the Dabblers (Claret, Green and Silver), Stimulators and Bumbles (Golden and Cock Robin).
The McDonnell cup will be held on Saturday August 11th on Lough Sheelin, fishing from 11am till 6pm from Kilnahard pier… This competition has been fished catch & release for the last five years, which proved to be very successful. Measures will be provided for all boats with the cup awarded to the longest fish. This competition is open to members of the club only but membership is available on the day
There will be lots of prizes on offer and this day is generally viewed as a great day out.
For further details contact Thomas Lynch @ 087 9132033.
The Lough Sheelin Trout Protection Association will be hosting a Youth angling day on Saturday July 21st. For further details contact Thomas Lynch @ 087 9132033 .
Catch and release
BYE-LAW 949 strictly prohibits:
- The taking of any brown trout of less than 36 centimetres.
- For a person to fish with more than 2 rods at any one time.
- To fish with more than 4 rods at any one time when there is more than one person on board the boat concerned.
- For a person to take more than 2 trout per day.
- All trolling on the lake from March 1st to June 16th (inclusive).
- To fish or to attempt to take or to fish for, fish of any kind other than during the period from March 1st to October 12th in any year.
Join the Club…
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
Tel: 086 8984172 Email: [email protected]
Lough Sheelin Guiding Services
Tel: 087 1245927 Web: www.loughsheelinguidingservices.com
D.C Angling & Guiding Services
contact David @ 087 3946989
Tel: 087 4194156 or +353 43 6681298
Email: [email protected]
We would implore anglers and all other users to wear life jackets for their own safety as well as it being the law.
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.
Please put on and keep on that life jacket until you are back on dry land.