Home Lough Sheelin, Co. Cavan

    Lough Sheelin, Co. Cavan

    Tropical Tonagh, Lough Sheelin

    OPEN SEASON: March 1st – October 12th

    Lough Sheelin is a little more than 4 miles long and over one mile wide. It has an area of approximately 4,000 acres (1,800 Hectares) The Lough is situated in the North Midlands on the borders of Cavan, Meath and Westmeath and is part of the River Inny system. This is a rich limestone Lough with a capacity to produce and maintain a large stock of large wild, pink fleshed trout. The high pH factor of the water, combined with its low average depth profile gives it a unique trout producing potential. Fishery scientists have calculated that it has a capacity to carry a bigger stock of brown trout than any Lough in Ireland. Over past years the stocks reached over 100,000 trout over 8 inches long, and at least 40,000 of these trout were between 2lbs and 4lbs with some of much greater size than this. Frequently anglers report catching fish in the range 4 – 7lbs. The average weight based on catch statistics in recent years is about 3lbs.

    The view from Sheelin Airfield looking west, with Inchacup Island in the middle distance and Church Island in the background


    The season begins in March at which time the trout are feeding mainly on freshwater shrimp and freshwater louse. Fishing a team of wet flies along rocky shores can take a fish or two, especially if the day is faintly mild. Useful fly patterns are Hares Ear, Claret & Mallard, Sooty Olive; even a large black lure e.g. Sweeney Todd, fished on the point on a sink tip line.

    Areas worth trying, depending on wind direction, are Sailors Garden, the south shore of Derrsheridan, Ross Bay and all of the north shore of the lough from Chambers Bay to Crover.

    The Duckfly – a large chironomid – gives the first major fly hatch and this generally commences around April 15th, peaks around April 25th and continues into early May. This Hatch of flies is mainly confined to that part of the lake east of a line from Merry Point to Inchicup Island. The daytime hatch begins around 11a.m. and may continue into early afternoon. The feeding habits of the trout are very unpredictable at this time and seem to be governed by weather conditions and water clarity. Under conditions of mild weather and poor water clarity, the trout feed on pupae at the surface. In cold weather and clear water, they feed deep and are difficult to locate. By far the best fishing at this time of year takes place at dusk. The conditions must be right with a gentle ripple or calm waters and the evening must not turn cold. Even the hint of a cold breeze can put the trout down for the night. Surface feeding fish will take a duckfly Pupae, or Sooty Olive (Size 12). A small Claret & Mallard, Fiery Brown or Dunkeld may also take fish.

    For the evening rise the angler must determine if the trout are feeding on adult flies as they return to the water to lay their eggs, or if they are taking a pupa as it emerges. For feeding fish on adult flies returning to the water, fish a Sooty Olive size 12 on the bob, a Duckfly on the middle and an Olive Variant on the point. For those fish feeding on pupae as they emerge, fish a Sooty Olive and a couple of Duckfly pupae. In either case, the flies are fished on a float line and cast in the path of a feeding trout. The line is not stripped back. All that is required is an occasional twitch of the rod tip to give the flies life.

    Sheelin Duck fly, April 11th 2017
    Sheelin Duck fly

    The Lough gets two hatches of Lake Olives each season and occasionally the trout feed on them. The first hatch occurs in early May and the second in late August and September. The body colour of the Autumn insect is a lighter shade of green than that of the May time hatch. Trout feeding on Lake Olives are difficult to catch, though some anglers have a measure of success with an Olive nymph pattern. The area of the lough producing Lake Olives stretches crescent – like from Rusheen Bay via Derrahorn to Watty’s Rock. Chambers Bay gets a small hatch in the south west corner.

    THE HIGH SEASON (May – June)

    This point of the fishing season is the period from about the 15th May to the Middle of June. The major angling activity is located in an area south and west of a line from Curry Point to Wilsons Point.

    The Mayfly Season

    The middle of May usually sees the start of the Mayfly season with the first flies appearing  between May 7th and 12th, depending on weather. There can be good daytime dry fly fishing during May and early June using a selection of dry flies like the Wulffs (Royal, Grey and Green), Dry Melvin Green and Ginger Mayfly. Trout will also feed on the ascending nymphs; try a wet mayfly or Golden Olive. Success is all about careful covering of a fish after watching for surface movement.

    Mayfly patterns

    The cream of the Mayfly fishing on Sheelin begins when the large falls of Spent Gnat (dying Mayfly spinners) occur, normally a week after the Mayfly hatch has begun. During the daytime, clouds of the smaller male spinners dance over the trees and bushes and if conditions come right, (dry, warmish weather with a light breeze) the larger females fly up into the swarm of males to mate. They then fly out over the water, carried along on the breeze  and proceed to lay their eggs, dipping and touching the water, eventually settling in the surface film to die.

    Mayfly dancing on the shores of Lough Sheelin

    When Spent Gnat fishing, most boats sit on the lee side of the shore where the flies are dancing, and wait. When the flies start moving out over the lake, the boats follow, often moving along wind lanes or slicks where the Gnat become concentrated. On a reasonably calm night, the slicks may stretch out far into the lake. They might even cross it. Experienced Sheelin anglers do more watching and waiting than casting and fishing. When the rise comes ‘on’ trout can be seen cruising and gulping down the stranded Gnat. Any fish moving within casting distance should be covered with a well presented fly. In a gentle breeze a two fly cast will work but if the wind drops a single fly gives better presentation. Stealth is critical and boat noise must be kept to a minimum to avoid spooking rising trout. Oars or electric engines can be used to gently manoeuvre the boat to cover rising fish but use of petrol engines should be avoided.

    Other hatches

    The two major chironomid hatches occur during day time. The species concerned are Campto chironomids and the Blagdon Green Midge – called the ‘Apple Green Midge’ locally. Trout feeding on the Apple Green Midge can be taken on a green nymph (size 12 or 14) or a small Greenwells Glory dressed with a pale olive body and a very pale Greenwell’s hackle. The trout will also occasionally take a dry pattern dressed on a size 16 hook. The body of this dry fly can be of pale olive floss silk or pale insect green seals fur and a hackle is a cream cock hackle tied full circle.

    'Two's company' - Lake Olive and Apple Green Midge
    ‘Two’s company’ – Lake Olive and Apple Green Midge

    The other major chironomid hatch – the Campto Chironomid and other related, mostly olive coloured species are present at this time. The Campto is recognised by its distinctly yellow head with black markings and olive body. The trout take them as pupae, as adults after hatching and as females when they return to lay their eggs, (which can occur sometimes during the day but mainly at dusk). Nymph tactics with olive, claret and black and red nymphs will work sometimes. Alternatives, it will be found that small wetflies score well and the Sooty Olive, Olive Variant and Greenwells Glory are most popular.

    In high season, if the water is clear, the majority of successful anglers recommend using clear monofilament and mainly claim that the darker coloured monofilament definitely scare trout. When the trout take the adult or egg laying Campto, a dry Buzzer or Grey Duster, size 12 or 14 can get a response. If the Campto roll into clumps, then a balling buzzer fished dry can take a very big fish. The main areas for this activity are from the Long Rock through Church Island, Derry Point, Goreport and Corru Bays, also Chambers Bay and sometimes from Derrahorn to Watty¹s Rock.

    Reed smut can be so prolific that trout often go into a frenzy of feeding in in quiet corners on hot sultry June days. They will take any small Black Gnat imitations, providing it is small enough, preferably size 14 or 16 and is presented delicately on a very fine leader. This is a very exciting fishing, stalking big trout on such fine tackle.

    The Murrough – the Great Red Sedge – hatches at dusk from late May well into June. The hatch can last for up to six weeks. Some anglers only fish a single Murrough dry while others the Murrough and a balling buzzer on the dropper. It is claimed that the balling buzzer takes most trout. Some of the largest fish of the season are taken on the Murrough and the most likely places are behind the Stony Islands, Gaffney’s Bay, Ross Bay, Rusheen and the bottom of Goreport Bay and Bog Bay.

    Nearly there – a hatching Sedge

    Small hatches of Alder take place and they are especially visible as they sit motionless on the water near the shore on calm sunny days in May and June. Occasionally a trout may be seen to take one and it just be possible to tempt a fish with a natural artificial fished dry.

    June and July bring big hatches of Caenis, often referred to as the fisherman’s curse. When conditions are right, the trout feed extensively on these hatches and are difficult to catch at these times. The best time to fish the Caenis is in the early morning – 5 a.m. – 7.30a.m. Fishing conditions must be calm and mild and the angler should seek out quiet sheltered corners with a patch of calm water close to the shore. Goreport Bay, Sailor’s Garden and around the islands in Chambers Bay are particularly good locations. A small nymph will sometimes work, but most success is achieved with an imitation fished dry on a fine leader.

    The Fisherman’s curse – Sheelin’s Caenis

    Perch fry make their appearance around mid June and can become an important food item on a trout’s menu. The trout appear to feed exclusively on the shoals of small fry and the anglers attention is generally attracted to the scene of the action by a succession of noisy, splashy rises, as the trout lash the fry with their tails in an apparent effort to stun the tiny fish. They then feed on the dead fry lying on the surface. This activity usually occurs early in the morning about 8a.m. and again in the early afternoon. The areas noted for it are from Plunkett’s Point to Kilnahard Point, and along the Derrysheridan Shore and into Goreport Bay. Silver and gold bodied flies or white lures fished very slowly or even stationary can get results.

    The roach population has increased significantly in the lough over the last decade. The fry of these fish will provide an additional fodder fish and this something that anglers should be aware. Silver bodied flies should prove attractive to trout feeding on roach fry and white lures tinged with orange may prove effective also.

    The view across Gaffney’s Bay and the Stony Islands


    The dapping season begins in early August and a Grasshopper or Daddy dapped during the day can often take a few good trout, right through the season to October 12th.


    The lough gets hatches of Silverhorn sedges and small dark sedges in August and early September. A small size 10 or 12 fished dry close to the shore especially towards dusk can often take a good trout. The best daytime fishing in August and early September is usually got by dapping the Grasshopper and sometimes the Daddy. Supplies of Grasshopper can be obtained at the old Ross Quarry and up to closing day on the 12th October. Useful fly patterns are Green Peter, Murrough, Daddy, Bibio, Fenian, Sooty Olive, Connemara Black and Watsons Fancy. To get the best fishing at this time of year, it is best to seek local advice because the best of the action can often be confined to specific areas at any given time.

    The angling tactics set out above are intended as a guide only. Trout will be caught by various other methods and using flies not mentioned above. Trolling and spinning can get good results too. The fly angler should bear in mind two points:

    • Best results are generally obtained along sheltered shores.
    • Fishing the evening rise into the night usually gets better results than day time fishing. Be careful and get to know your lake. Wear a suitable lifejacket.

    Angling regulations

     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.


    Good around the lake


    This fishery is part of Inland Fisheries Ireland’s ‘Midland Fisheries Group’ of managed waters and anglers require a fishing permit (ticket charge) to fish here.

    Permits can also be purchased from the following outlets – please click this link.


    • Anglers can only fish one rod per angler.
    • Rods must not be left unattended.
    • All under sized fish must be returned to the water with as little injury as possible.
    • The Management reserve the right to refuse and revoke a permit to anyone violating, these regulations or acting in a manner detrimental to the fishery, fishing or the surrounding countryside.
    • Anglers who are found to have acted in an ‘unsporting manner’ may have their permit revoked

    Other useful information

    You can download our full Lough Sheelin Angling Guide here.


    Good public access to the lake is at several points with piers and jetties. Private berthage by permission can be organised by contacting Sailors Garden and also Ross Shore. Public access points are at Inny Bridge, Finea, Rusheen Bay, Crover Pier, Kilnahard Pier.

    Guides and Instructors in the Shannon Region

    Tackle shops in the Shannon Region