About Lough Sheelin
Lough Sheelin (from Irish: Loch Siodh Linn meaning "lake of the fairy pool") is a limestone freshwater lough (lake) in Ireland located in County Westmeath, County Meath and County Cavan near the village of Finea and the town of Granard County Longford.
Some people would say that Sheelin is the best trout lough in Ireland, some might say it is the best anywhere, the statistics tend to bear this out. In a recent study the lough, which is only 4 miles long and 1 mile wide (4654 acres), was found to hold over 100,000 fish over 8 inches of which 40,000 were between 2 and 4lbs. Now that is phenomenal. The average for the lough is 3lbs with fish up to double figures taken every year.
What makes Sheelin so productive? As with many of the famous loughs, Sheelin lies on limestone giving the water a high Ph. Alkaline water ensures fertility which means everything grows fast, there being so much to eat that the lough sustains a fish population way above what its size would suggest. The lough doesn't just hold trout, there are substantial pike and a large population of coarse fish which becomes important to the trout angler later in the season. Off course there is the fly population which is plentiful making Sheelin a top dry fly venue, then there is the Mayfly which brings the lough to the boil.
March signals the start of the fishing on sheelin, during this month fishing can be enjoyed in isolated areas of the lake. Given favourable conditions the trout can feed hard on fry and shrimps and some quite large trout can be caught. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced angler, our guides will ensure you get ample opportunities to catch these fish.
April and May
These are probably the two most popular months on the fishing calendar. April signals the start of the olive and buzzer fishing. These sturdy little flies are a pleasure to fish whether wet in small sizes or dry on top of the water to many free rising fish. May and the Lough is alive with the largest mayfly hatch in Ireland There is nothing as exciting as chasing a large wild trout with a dry mayfly imitation. The last week of May see's the murrough appear and huge fish can be caught, we fish till after midnight for these monster fish.
June and July
The first two weeks of June are regarded as the best for the spent gnat fishing depending on weather conditions Many people think that these two months are most difficult, how wrong can they be? Some mornings the lough experiences a magnificent hatch of caenis. This type of fishing is difficult, needs patience but is hugely rewarding. From mid June on, the lake gets good hatches of sedges and if conditions are favourable great fishing can be had.
August and September
In August we spend our time sedge fishing, usually with dry fly. During this month the daphnia appear and a lot of trout move to deeper water to feed on this plankton-like organism. Pulling wet flies through these large scholes of fish can be most exciting where two or three fish on at the same time is not unusual. The back end is a noted time for catching large trout as they feed hard for the long winter ahead
Catch and Release
In order to preserve the stocks of these fantastic trout we try to observe a catch and release policy, however that is just our personal choice and we do not choose to enforce our views on others and if you wish to take your catch home with you it is not a problem.
The Magic Of Sheelin
Once described as the finest wild brown trout lough in Ireland, Lough Sheelin (from Irish Loch Siodh Linn, meaning "lake of the fairy pool") is a limestone freshwater lough covering an area of approximately 1,900 hectares located on the borders of County Westmeath, County Meath and County Cavan in the Irish Midlands
Sheelin has extensive shallows, rocky shores, islands and wooded shores. Even though the lake is classed as a mainly trout fishery, it boasts some fantastic coarse fishing with stocks of roach, perch, bream, tench and pike. However, it is worth remembering that all angling on the lake starts on March the 1st and closes on the 12th of October.
The lake is naturally populated by brown trout whose native stocks were heavily depleted in the past. During the early 1980's, Trout stocks were estimated at below 100,000. Phosphorus originating from intensive agricultural developments had caused a progressive enrichment of the Lough's waters which led to a substantial decrease in the number of trout. The level of phosphorus in the lake is currently being monitored and is decreasing and the pollution problem has been brought under control but despite these problems, the lake has demonstrated an amazing ability to recover and heal itself from the years of pollution it had to endure in the past.
After coming through some very dark times it is now again one of the top brown trout fisheries in the world. This is due mainly to the work of the Inland Fisheries Ireland along with the work of The Lough Sheelin Trout Protection Association combined with the steady growth of more anglers practising "a catch and release policy" within recreational fishing, not just on Sheelin but on all fisheries as a method of conservation.
The stream enhancement programme that has been carried out over the last fifteen years is now paying dividends, with funds raised from a number of annual events being invested back into the rehabilitation and enhancement of the rivers within the Lough Sheelin catchment area. We are now reaping the rewards with more and more juvenile fish showing up in the lough year after year. If things continue the way they are going the future is looking bright for Lough Sheelin.
Lough Sheelin is considered by many an extremely attractive lake to visit because of the size and quality of the trout that are caught there, and the large range of fly fishing techniques that may be used to tempt these stunning fish. It is now estimated that Lough Sheelin has the largest trout carrying capacity of any lake in comparable size in Ireland. It is thought to have well in excess of 100,000 trout with at least 40,000 of them between 2lb and 4lb. Frequently anglers have reported catching fish in the range from 4lb to 7lb
A Day Spent with Lough Sheelin Guiding Services
It was a sunny morning when I arrived at Kilnahard pier and took my first look at the magnificent Lough Sheelin. I was greeted by Gary of Lough Sheelin Guiding Services who was busy loading all the gear into the boat in preparation for our trip onto the lake. We headed off to the northern end of the lake towards Crover. The wind was blowing east by northeast with some cloud coming over and it looked like it was going to be a great day.
We did a few spelt drifts in Holywell bay pulling some wets and saw a few fish move around us but had nothing come to our flies. We took a lunch break on the shore in Walkers Bay. Gary had his kelly kettle with him and after meeting up with a couple of his friends Andrew Brown and Bob Priestly we settled down to a well earned cup of tea and a chat about the ones that got away.
Lunch over it was time to hit the water again, the wind had dropped to a light breeze and Gary suggested that we try some dries, so he put up a dry sedge. We saw a few great fish pitch into the air one of which must have been into double figures. Just at that moment Gary saw a fish move and covered him , after a slight pause I saw a boil and Gary lifted.
The rod doubled in two and the fish took off for the depths, after a titanic battle of about six or seven minutes Gary managed to get the net under a lovely fish of about four or five pounds. After unhooking the beautiful fish a quick photo was taken and it was released back into the lough to fight another day. What a beauty, this is what Lough Sheelin is all about.
We dried up the flies and tried another drift but after a short while the wind started to pick up again so we changed back to the wets for another few drifts. We moved a few more fish then picked up another beauty, of about three pounds. Gary thought we should move up nearer Kilnahard to try a last few drifts. The conditions were near to perfect, lovely waves on the lough and beautiful light.
We were about three hundred yards off the shore when I saw a massive bow wave behind the flies. I paused the retrieve and saw the line move on the surface. As I lifted the rod bent over double and the fight was on. I saw a massive flash of silver, the fish ran round and round the boat and bored deep into the water.
After what seemed an eternity the net was slipped under the specimen trout of almost seven pounds. A few photos for the album and the fish was released back to where he belongs, to fight again and give pleasure to other anglers.
What a fish, what a day it was, with three lovely wild trout caught several moved and a lot of fish pitching.
As we made our way back to the jetty I paused and thought to myself about the wonderful place Sheelin is. With the day drawing to a close we unloaded the boat and tidied up our gear, I thanked Gary for a fantastic days fishing, and promised to return.
Lough Sheelin is definitely the jewel in the crown, and without the services of someone like Gary of Lough Sheelin Guiding Services I may have missed what the lough has to offer and spent the day without having seen any of the fabled Sheelin trout.