Lough Sheelin Angling Report March 1st – March 6th  2022

‘Just ‘cause things are different, don’t mean anything has changed
And I know the world’s on fire, but there’s beauty in the flame’

Picture This

Lough Sheelin opened its waters to a brand new fishing season on Tuesday, March 1st, sharing this date with the start of meteorological spring. It feels good to be shaking off the shackles of a winter that seems to have clung on for far too long, its dreariness exacerbated by the tenacious and unstoppable Covid variant, Omicron.

I remember reading somewhere that there are three things that can ground a person mentally, make them strong as such – religion, their past and nature. Whatever about the first two, nature is always available to us and from November to February the Sheelin trout were mentally uplifting as they spawned impressively in almost all the rivers feeding into this wild lake, producing over 1,500 recorded spawning redds (and most likely many more not recorded). For the uninitiated, redds are mounds of gravel covering trout eggs, and Lough Sheelin’s piscatorial future.

Three successive storms, like the three witches that gave prophecies to MacBeth – Eunice, Dudley and Franklin churned Sheelin’s waters in the weeks preceding our kick off date.  Franklin had the biggest impact causing water levels to rise and substantial waves to crash along the Crover shoreline.

Shipwreck – the wrath of Franklin

IFI installed a data buoy in 2021, which sits like a regal ‘yellow man’ in the deepest part of the lake (13 – 14 metres). This buoy will constantly monitor water temperature throughout the Sheelin water column and will allow IFI scientists to examine how the lake responds during climatic events such as heatwaves, droughts, storms and floods and the effects these have on fish thermal habitat. Interestingly, to date, it is showing us that there is very little temperature difference between the surface layers and the bottom layer, registering for February at 6.17°C at the top and 6.14°C at the bottom (12.5 metres). This lack of stratification would probably be down to the fact that Sheelin is a shallow lake and winds are obviously stirring the waters up a great deal.

Lough Sheelin’s Data Buoy

Conditions on the first day of the season started off cold, at a chilly 3°C, progressing on to blue skies and bright sunshine with temperatures climbing to 10°C triggering off a scattering of buzzer and duck fly hatches in some sheltered bays – Chambers, Crover and Rusheen. Early season trout fishing can be rigorous when the weather doesn’t cooperate and for this first week with nightly dips of -2°C and bright cold days, Sheelin took no prisoners and fishing was extremely challenging.

At this early stage, I share angling author, Tom Rosenbauer’s distrust of fishermen who mouth the platitude “I don’t care if I catch any fish or not, it’s just nice to get out there”,  sure if it’s a balmy day but this is early March and it is cold, so anglers who flog Sheelin’s mercurial waters for hours on end in freezing conditions are out to catch trout. These are the anglers who were attracted to Sheelin over the past days – doggedly determined individuals, in search of trout, not fresh air.

Early season magic

Four to six boats were out each day during the week with an increase into the double figures at the weekend. Anglers reported that, in general, fish were hard to locate and it was even harder to find anything that worked. Di7 replaced the favoured Di3 and 5. Traditionally early season is a time to fish close to the shore where trout will be feeding on their preferred meals of shrimps and hog louse and where the sheltered coves might bring on a hatch of buzzer or duck fly but for this week at least things appeared a bit different from the norm in that the trout seemed to prefer the deep and although anglers did report trout surfacing, this happened much further out in the lake than is usual for March. No area favoured another for catches and returns reported were literally ‘here and there’ all over the lake.

Early season successes always favour the large lures – minkies, humungous, woolly buggers, snakes etc. and this week was no exception with the biggest trout being caught on the biggest and more colourful lures and generally fished in the deep.

Trout were notoriously hard to locate but with the absence of surface fly life there was little to attract them up.  Our ‘absent’ trout are presumably glued to the bottom of the lake for their food and Sheelin has a full larder for them there in the form of freshwater shrimp and louse and bottom-feeding organisms such as chironomid (buzzer) larvae, snails and caddis. As one angler put it to me ‘sure it’s an anchor fly you have to use at this time of the year’.

I would like to be able to talk about successes on teams of wet flies and the occasion dry fly, old familiar and comfort blanket names like the Sooty Olive, Black Pennell and Connemara Black but this wasn’t a week for the purist fly angler and although a few smaller fish were caught by anglers using di3 and di5 lines and sticking to the shallows, rocky shores and around the lake’s bay results were poor. Traditionally shallow water and along shorelines and in around the islands are the areas that are most attractive to the trout in search of food, typically freshwater shrimp and louse. The best place to target fish is to work the edges of the shallows just at that point where it drops to the deep, also anywhere with stones as this is where the most trout prey hang out but as yet this really hasn’t happened but it will. This location advice will come into play soon but for the first week of this season these weren’t the places to go.

Things will get better and as the weeks move on the traditional fly angler will have plenty of chances. To quote the first two lines from Dermot Kennedy’s song Better Days – ‘Better days are coming, if no one told you’.

The Humungus is an excellent lure to use on this lake in early season.  This one is a beefed up version of the Lough Leven classic, the Black & Silver; the colour combination has caught a lot of fish, and add in the long marabou tail and the chain bead eyes as well as body hackle and you have a very versatile and mobile pattern. A slow figure of eight retrieve will bring results if the fish are in the vicinity.

The Humungus

The lures that worked this week were the Humungus (in black with a thread of silver, gold and rainbow with a bit of red mixed through the black marabou tail), Minkie’s in grey, silver, black and white, black and green Snakes, Boobys and Zonkers.

A few trout and that is literally a few as in two fish were caught on teams of wets, the most popular set- ups included Black Pennell’s, Connemara Black (size 8), Sooty Olives, Claret Bibios, Golden Olive Bumble, Silver Butcher, March Brown and the Glister Ollie.

Making it look easy – Christopher Defillon


The Kilroy Cup will be fished on Saturday 18th of March from Kilnahard pier from 11am to 5.00pm. Prizes will be for the heaviest fish and entry is €20. This competition has been set at a 16 inch size limit with a 2 fish bag limit. There will be no permits available for sale on the pier on the morning so please buy your permit online beforehand or from the IFI office at Kilnahard on the morning.

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.

Guides & Ghillies:

Fish sustainably – Catch and Release

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.

This week:

The biggest fish for the week was a 5 1/2  lb caught by Dublin angler Krystian Nowak, Dublin using a Gold Humungus on a Di7

Total number of trout recorded: 26

Selection of Catches:              

Artur Sztejno, Cavan – 1 trout at Kilnahard, 3lbs on a Woolly bugger.

Janis Berzins, Dublin – 2 trout, heaviest at 5lbs fishing Minkies and Snakes, Rusheen, March 2nd.

Andris Kalnins, Kildare- 2 trout at 4 and 3lbs using Humungus and Snakes, March 3rd.

Jakub Dabrowski, Dublin – 1 trout at 5 lbs fishing on a lure

Edgars Jansons, Kells – 2 trout heaviest at 4lbs using Minkies and Humungus (gold).

Crover, Lough Sheelin