Lough Sheelin Angling Report May 9th – May 22nd 2022


‘The lake, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever’

 Jacques Yves Cousteau


The best way to epitomize the anticipation of the mayfly season here on Lough Sheelin is to read this extract from A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh.

“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.”

The expectation from this lake at this time of the year is enormous, the bar is set high long before boats even go out so when things don’t go according to plan then the fall is harder and more painful.  This report covers two weeks due to computer issues which nearly stretched this author’s temper to break Hooke’s law of elasticity, all is resolved now and happily a season of writing stretches gloriously ahead.

Hope springs Ephemeral

This is mayfly time, mythically named ‘Duffer’s Fortnight’ an apparent magical time when even a duffer can catch a monster trout.  It is known as Duffer’s Fortnight because, for a blessed window of time between mid May and early June, the allegedly ‘educated’ Sheelin trout become so easy even a duffer can catch them.  The word ‘duffer’ unattractively comes from the Scots word dowfart, meaning stupid. Time and time again the mayfly season here has proved this old saying irritatingly wrong and although there have been some good mayfly successes, most of the time the trout have been spectacularly difficult to catch.

Spotted dream

The mayflies normally start appearing from the 16th onwards but this year they have made a slightly earlier debut – May 9th.  Huge hatches have already occurred with large numbers twirling upwards around the shoreline bushes, like little spinning tops, waiting to go out on the water.  The fishing has been capricious, difficult, challenging or whatever similar word you can think of, and this is mostly down to ‘rough winds do shake the darling buds of May’ but also due to the fact that this lake is stuffed with aquatic food and there is only so much a trout can fit in its belly.

Gary Houston with his mayfly magic

Over the past fortnight the weather has been a disaster, strong and gusty south to south westerlies ripped across the lake on most days with very little respite.  Last Wednesday was particularly bad with 8-foot waves focussed on the centre of the lake making a crossing over very dangerous and at times, nigh on impossible.  Several boats had to be rescued, some anglers were marooned on Church Island for the night and a few boats broke their moorings and had to be recovered from other areas of the lake.  Regardless of the excitement and anxiousness to get out on the water, safety should be of paramount importance.  This is a dangerous lake in windy conditions and Sheelin seldom gives second chances.

The surface water temperature hit in at 14.42 degrees with the bottom of 12.5metres reading 14.4 so the wind has given this lake a thorough mixing.

Large trout were caught but they didn’t give themselves up easily and most put up a hard fight.  The total catches recorded are over hundred but this, as stated before, covers the two weeks.  The heaviest catch for the week was a 9.1 pounder with a few contenders in second place at 8lbs and over.  Fishing successes have been mainly down to nymph fishing and wet flies.  The choppy water has not been conducive to the dry flies although a smattering of fish have been caught on dry Mays and spent patterns. 95% of the time it has been sub surface feeding.  Emerger, nymph patterns and a selection of the wet mays worked well.

John Shevlin’s mayfly

The best day of the week was last Tuesday when there was good movement of fish and some lovely trout were caught at Plunketts Point, Corru, Lynch’s Pt and Gaffney’s Bay.  A deluge of rain killed off the fishing for that afternoon but later in the evening, from 7 to 9pm when most boats had disappeared off the lake there were patches of feeding fish in the around Derrysheridan and Bog Bay which were taking balling buzzer and Murrough patterns.

Stephen McKenna with his 71cm trout

In Mayfly season, when supposedly the trout are leaping into the boat, a piece of old carpet might do at the end of your hook, even if that might kill the romance of it all.  Conversely, most shop-bought mayflies are massively overdressed, they spin the leader in piggy-tail coils, get soggy and sink.  Tying your own if you can do it is the best way to go but alternatively head for the shop, think soft and fuzzy and don’t be tempted by the toy aeroplanes.

Mayfly collection

Flies that worked best were the Bits-type patterns in claret, fiery brown, black, ginger, orange, hare’s ear, olive and grey, the Klinkhammer, Mick Kelly’s Joe Mac,  a Griffiths Gnat, Grey Duster, Nymphs – Pheasant Tail, Diawl Bach, Hare’s Ear and Olive in sizes 12 and 14, Mini Muddler as a top dropper, Epoxy Buzzer, Shipmans Buzzer (the scruffier the better), Flashback Buzzers,  Black & Peacock Spiders (good snail imitation), CDC Emergers, Greenwell’s Glory, Wickhams Fancy, Bibios and Dabblers (Claret, Olive and Green), French Partridge Mayfly, Golden Olive Bumble, Spent Gnat and Buzzer patterns, sizes 8-12.

The best areas for fishing (wind dependent) were the back of Church Island, Corru, Derrysheridan, Inchacup, Stoney Island, Chambers, Lynch’s pt and Plunketts point.

Although time is moving on, with June in sight, it is still early in the mayfly season. It is said that the peak of the mayfly coincides with the peak of the may or whitethorn blossom and although these bushes are cascading with flowers, they are still not quite at their maximum bloom.

The lifecycle of the magical mayfly is a fascinating one and worth knowing from an angling point of view.  The molting of the nymphs is dedicated by temperature and as the temperature rises the nymphs start molting.  Air and gases start collecting under their protective shell (exoskeleton), increasing their buoyancy, which pushes them to the surface.  They start fighting the upper pull forces where a large percentage dies in the process, not having enough energy for the transformation.  During molting, nymphs don’t breathe.  They start coming out of their exoskeleton either while still subsurface or when they float to the surface.  Mayflies that are in the molting phase are called emergers.  Their exoskeleton splits along the back and they pull themselves out and lift up their wings.

Breaking free

When the nymph emerges as an adult – a dun, it has dull coloured wings, they float on the surface waiting for their wings to fill with fluid and their veins to harden, as opposed to the common belief that they are simply drying out their wings before flight.  They are super vulnerable to the trout at this stage, and many become a meal for a cruising fish. They then undergo a second molt which is quite unique in the world of insects.  The final transformation is from the dun to a spinner which have clear wings, short antennae and huge eyes.  After mating the female returns to the water and drops the eggs while still in flight or dips the back part of the abdomen to deposit them in the water.  This is a beautiful and ancient cycle, not to be missed by angler or non angler.

Mayfly is undoubtedly the time when the majority of ‘occasional anglers have a dabble for trout.

Rhithrogena semicolorata

And now back to our survey – Inland Fisheries Ireland is asking anglers to fill in a survey which plans to capture anglers’ knowledge and hands-on experience to help track changes in fish stocks and ecosystems. The new method is called FLEKSI, which stands for Fisher’s Local Ecological Knowledge Surveillance Indicators.  The results of this survey could shape future plans for this lake, but we cannot do it without the anglers who fish these waters.

This survey is easy to do, takes a maximum of 10 minutes (unless you want to add extra in on the comments section) and is important.  We are asking anglers to have their say by taking the time to complete this survey.  The link is included in this report and if contact details are submitted that person will be automatically entered into a draw for angling tackle (one voucher at €200 and two for €100) but this is entirely optional.  If anglers are having difficulties with the online version, please contact IFI where the local staff at Sheelin are more than willing to help out.

Sunny side up


McDonald Cup 13th of August

LSTPA Stream enhancement competition 2nd of October

Interprovincial Championships 20th of August


Please remember anglers to abide by BYE-LAW 949 which strictly prohibits from June 14th, 2017 onwards:

The taking of any brown trout of less than 36 centimeters.

  • 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.

Sheelin Guides

Lough Sheelin Guiding Services:
Tel: +353 87 1245927
Web: www.loughsheelinguidingservices.com

Christopher Defillon:
Tel: +33 685964369
Email: [email protected]
Web: evasionpecheirlande.net
Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/christopher.defillon?refid=0&fref=seaperch#

Michael Farrell:
Tel: +353 87 4194156 & +353 43 6681298
Email: [email protected]

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

John Mulvany:
Tel: +353 86 2490076
Email: [email protected]

A catch & release policy is always actively encouraged on the lake

Catch & Release – 5lbs 3oz return


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 biggest fish for the week was a 9.1 lb trout caught by a Dublin angler on a Gosling at the back of Church Island

Total number of trout recorded: 104

Selection of Catches             

Colin Cahill, Killucan – 4 trout, heaviest at 5lbs 3oz, 5lbs 6oz, 4lbs 10oz and 4lbs 12oz, all returned.

Gary Houston – 2 trout at 5lbs and 8lbs on a very rough day.

James Cahill, Killucan – 1 trout at 5lbs.

Melvyn Wood – 1 trout at 3lbs 6ozs on wets.

Gerry McCarthy, Castleblayney – 1 trout at 4lbs.

Thomas Harten, Kilnaleck – 1 trout at 4 ½ lbs on mayfly nymphs.

Des Elliott, Dublin – 2 trout heaviest at 2lbs on wet flies around the ring of rushes.

Damhnaic MacCiaragain – 1 trout at just over 4.5 lbs.

Storm clouds