Lough Sheelin May 2019

Day 1

For the past few years I have spent a few days on Lough Sheelin with Aidan Rush. This year we again made plans and we were looking forward to some Green Fly and Spent fishing. Normally we would boat 3-7 fish on an average day on Sheelin and up to ten fish depending on weather conditions. Lough Sheelin can be a very moody lake but that always adds to the challenge. Flies were tied and we were full of expectation for the few days ahead. But to be totally truthful we could never ever of imagined in our wildest dreams what would take place on the lake during those two days.

Reports were that the fly was hatching early, so we made plans to fish mid-week and to be out on the water between 8.30 and 9am. The great thing about Sheelin is that there are rarely boats out before 10 am mid week and most of the time the anglers  that go out mid week really only fish the spent in the evening due to work commitments

At 8.45am we headed out of Chambers bay and up to Stoney, as we travelled to our chosen spot we could see fish feeding in the flat calm in most directions. There were Spent and Greens on the water along with thousands of shucks from the hatch that had been going on for 2 weeks at this stage

Thankfully Stoney was deserted and we pulled in close to the shore to start the first drift. We were both set  up to fish dry Mayfly’s in the calm. Fish moved sporadically in front of us as the fly began to hatch. Most of the fish rose way out of our reach and were only rising once and then disappearing. A fish turned some thirty yards in front of the boat, casting towards the fish Aidan more in hope than anything else, tried to guess where the fish would appear next. He did not have to wait long as his fly was sucked down from the surface of the lake. The fish exploded on the water as Aidan set the hook. To be honest I do not like playing fish in the flat calm as no matter which way they run, they are towing the boat putting extra pressure on the leader and the hook hold. Thankfully the fish behaved and plodded deep in front of the boat. After a powerful but short battle the fish  came to the surface and the first fish of the trip was in the net. A fish of over 4lbs proved the roll over mayfly had not lost its magic charms.

Shortly afterward a fish head and tailed on my Mosley and again after a Spirited battle another mint Sheelin fish of about  4lb graced the net. Unfortunately the hatch never came on  in the area and after catching a few very small fish which was great to see, we decided to head to pastures new. We met Aidan’s Brother Cahill and Stephen Collins for Lunch. They had done very well that morning, with 7 fish landed to nearly 6lb. During lunch they told us that there were s fly hatching for most of the morning but in small numbers and the fish were feeding well.

Looking out from the shore I could see fish rising so after a rushed lunch we headed back out.

The lads were right dead right, by 5 pm Aidan and I had managed another 10 fish, on Mosley’s and the Roll over Dry Mayfly, most of the fish took the Green Roll over. I did pick a few up on a slow intermediate and wet mays  fished really slowly but the dry’s were king.

By now the hatch had stopped and we turned our attention to the Spents. Driving up the lake to Orangefields we could see a few spents on the water. Again we went to shore for a quick break as we were hoping  we wouldn’t get another chance that evening as we would be too busy.

Spent fishing

Spents were flying continuously over our heads out on to the lake as we had our coffees. But there was not a sign of a fish.  At 6pm we ventured back out and for the next three and a half hours we had the most exciting yet tormenting evenings fishing. The fish fed on the spents out in the distance and literally ate they way through the black carpets of spent towards us. The fish would take a fly every 20-30 foot as they made there way towards the bays. It was pot luck firstly to get the direction of the feeding fish right and secondly even luckier if the trout would pick out your fly among the 100s of spents around your fly. As normal I had Aldan’s spent up, I rarely use …nope, sorry, I don’t use anything else on sheelin just his spent, it’s that good. I attached his fly to a 15ft nylon leader of about 10lb, I prefer one fly in the spent as you will not get into tangles and you are concentrating on just the one fly, as sometimes the takes are very subtle and if your watching two flys you can miss the takes.

As I said it was annoying fishing but we found if we moved further out into the lake with less spent on the water, that we would increase our chances and that we did. A further 7 fish came to the boat that evening, we missed a few too and I lost a beast. This particular fish had taken two fly’s in the distance and had started to feed its way towards us. I watched the fish for 5 minutes as it got closer and closer, taking a fly here, then another there. Staring out it front of me I waited for the fish to show again, 30 yards then 20 yards. I cast where I thought he would appear next, nothing not a sign, then out of the corner of my eye I saw a fin break the surface  to my right some 25 yards from the boat. I steadied myself and cast towards the fish reaching out over the bow to gain as much distance I could. The fly landed about 10 foot from the fish. Seconds later a big black head appeared as it swallowed my fly, I gave it a second and set the hook. The fish hurtled away from the boat and thirty odd yards from the boat the fish threw itself in the air, shaking its whole body violently. I was in complete awe of this creature I was attached too. It Jumped  again and tore off out into the lake.  It never ran far but short powerful runs, I gained line and put all the backing onto the reel. The rod was doubled over, I got the fish within 15 yards of the boats , not giving the fish an inch and stripping line back when I could. This leviathan had other ideas though and it ran with such power that  the fly line in the bottom of the boat shot up in the air over my head as it took line. The main line fell on my arm and I lifted it ever so gently off my arm but the fish kept going and that slight pressure was enough to break my line. I was distraught. I couldn’t of done anything else, if the line was on the reel with any drag on it I would have been busted, I won’t forget that fish for  a long time.

About 9.30pm the lake went dead and we headed for home. It was great day and I was so looking forward to the following day.

Day 2

Once again calm conditions greeted us as we arrived at the lake, it was 8.30am and there was not a  sign of life on the shoreline or out on the lake. Calm conditions often stop anglers for venturing out, but I love fishing in the calm. Grant it sometimes it makes fishing more difficult as regards presentation, but if there is any kind of a hatch on the lake be it Buzzer, sedges, Olives or Mayfly you can see the insects hatching off and the fish are normally not too far away.

Again we were in our spot at 9am, we decided to fish around Orangefields. I opted for an intermediate and small wets this time and so did Aidan just to see if we could do any better than the previous morning. Shortly after we started our drift, if you can call it that, I had an arm wrenching take that resulted in a 3lb+ fish, a  great start. We were both getting subtle takes but  it would not go solid. I think I had 4 takes before I decided to hit the fifth one, this resulted in a silver 6 inch trout. It looked like the big girls were not in the mood. Cahill Rush , Aidan’s brother had 4 quick takes also but one of them was a solid fish just shy of 6lb, we saw him land another two before the action died. There were very few fly hatching so we decided to make a move instead of waiting around. The previous Day we stuck to certain areas but today we decided to just go look for fly hatching. Our next port of call was Church, a few fly hatched and Aidan briefly hooked a fish, then nothing, not a sniff. We moved again and again and again. We headed back up the lake to Stoney and found some fly, but not many. We moved back to DerrySheridan point and this time we found fly. Aidan positioned the boat close to the shore. On this third cast everything went solid as a big fish took line from his reel as it headed out into the deep. Once the fish got out into deep water it stopped running,  it just stopped. Aidan retrieved his line as the fish sat deep. It made a few short runs but mostly plodded along towing the boat in the flat. After ten or so minutes we had been towed back to where the fight began. The fish sat 6 or seven  feet below the surface and continually swam in deep circles. Aidan applied the pressure gaining inches at a time, you could see by the expression on his face that this was the one he had waited for all his life. Slowly the fish came up drained of its power, the fish wallowed on the surface as I held the net. Every time Aidan eased the fish towards the net it turned and defiantly kicked its tail two or three times to avoid the net. It was crunch time, if we did not get the fish close soon the fly would pop or the line would break. You could see it was an old warrior with scars on its mouth and back and it was not going to give up. Aidan applied as much pressure as he could and somehow got it over the net . He was ours. The relief, the shock and the joy all at once knocked Aidan for six. He was dumbfounded. I kept the fish in the water until all the cameras were ready. Unfortunately his scales were not functioning but it did not matter. After a quick photo session we held the fish in the water till it regained its strength and off he went back out into the murky depths. Yes we had a big hug, I was delighted to witness my friend catch the biggest fish of his life and then let it go without hesitation.

As Aidan calmed down we positioned the boat at the next point as the wind had changed. One cast later I had 5lb+ fish. The wind changed again. And as we positioned the boat again, I cast and sure enough another 3lb fish took the wets on the swing. It was too much for Aidan, he cast from the same spot he had the 8lb+ fish earlier and sure enough everything went solid. This again was a big fish and Buttery Gold every ounce of 6 lb. A few casts later he had another one close to 7lb. Three fish for over 20lb , where on earth would you get that sort of fishing.

A small ripple came on to the lake and the fly started to hatch once more. It was surely my turn, as I slowly retrieved the flies I  got a little knock, small fish I said to myself, then it felt like I hooked the bottom, but the bottom was moving.  After some time a  fish close to if not over 7lb graced my net , a lovely female fish. Unimaginable, they were brutes of fish.

The wind increased and fish started to rise taking the mayfly off the top. We both quickly changed to dry’s and i put two more fish in the boat before the fly stopped hatching. We looked at each other and Aidan started the engine to search for fly. In the distance we could see 2 or three fish rising Aidan again positioned the boat and I covered the area with the Roll Over, Sllllurrrrp, I connected with the fish and it hurled itself 4-5 feet out of the water, and then ran out behind the boat, I asked Aidan to start the engine and to get me behind the fish , he did so. With the fish in front of me I had the upper hand, playing a fish behind the boat puts extra pressure on your leader and the hook hold. I have lost too many big fish in the past, some in major competitions,  by not moving the boat and it was not going to happen this time. The fish bore deep into the lake, straight down. The power was amazing, eventually I got the fish to the surface and Aidan did the honors. Clearly a fish in the 7lb bracket and another  clean hen fish.   Words cannot describe the emotion I was feeling, a quick photo and she was slipped back.

We continued to move from point to point, across the lake, up the lake, down the lake until we found hatchers. When we did the sport was electric. We had 17 fish we took photos of, a couple on videos and some we didn’t photograph as we were playing fish together. We actually had 3 double hook ups where we were playing fish at the same time. Again like the previous day at 5pm the lake seemed to go dead so we headed over to Orangefields for a cuppa.

There wasn’t a sign of a spent in the trees this time, so shortly after our break we headed in around Church. This proved fruitless.  A cold wind had sprung up and it didn’t look good. It was now 7pm and the boats had started to motor out of the Harbors all around the lake on mass. Aidan suggested the deep, as there would be fly out there, who was I to argue. We motored out slowly and kept our eyes on the water for spent. As chief look out I raised my had and Aidan turned the engine off, the boat settled and we could see spent in the calm slicks. I cast just 10 yards in front of me and  turned round to see where the other boats were. I heard the unmistakable smack of a fish taking a dry and struck, I was met with solid resistance. As I turned my head to see what I had hooked into, the fish ripped line from the reel  as it went straight down into the abyss. I wasn’t stopping it even if I could. Again the power was like nothing I have felt before these two days, these big browns don’t mess around. After what seemed like an age I pumped the fish to the surface and slid the net under it. A long Dark backed, silver flanked, black spotted Sheelin special lay in the net in the 5-6lb bracket. The weight did not matter anymore, it was a sheer pleasure to be graced with the presence of such  fine fish I have spent all my life trying to trick into taking my fly. Aidan caught two more that evening in the spent, not as big as the others, but fish in the 2-3lb bracket are nothing to be sniffed at,  all on his spent. It was after 9pm and there wasn’t much happening all, then all of a sudden a few fish started to  move in pods of two or three, but when we got close to them they just went down. Three fish we were watching from afar were feeding in a line heading our way, we never moved the boat this time. We waited and waited and waited. Again the fish stayed well away from the boat but I double hauled the 8 weight floater and got it out to the right in front of the three fish. The first fish was the biggest, it looked huge,  it fed five foot past my spent  and kept going, I waited. The next fish looked a daisy too it fed ten foot past my fly and kept going. I waited, it seemed like an age before the next fish showed, but it  was probably only 4 seconds. The last fish looked the smallest of the three. A  black head appeared as it  took my spent and I waited briefly  for it to go down. My heart was racing, I lifted into the fish and was met with solid resistance. A couple of head shakes and slaps of its tail and it descended down into the darkness of Lough Sheelin. The rod bent and bent and bent as the fish went slowly  down , down, down and stopped. I couldn’t budge it, after two or three minutes it slowly begrudging started to come. I am not easy on fish but this one was making we work hard. Slowly it came up to about ten feet under the boat and stopped again. I was shattered we had fished for more than 12 hours each day and I was as exhausted. The trout  slowly gave in and when it popped up on the surface I lifted the rod and slid the net under it.  An immaculate fish in every way, the dark back, silver sides with deep dark spots sparkled in the twilight of the two best days fishing I ever had and probably will ever have in my lifetime. A quick photo and I slid another brute in the 5-6lb bracket back to its home. We packed down moments later and headed in. The odd fish was still going, but we had enough.

We had boated over 40 fish in two days of fishing on various techniques, small fish, medium fish and proper Beasties.All this on a wild water. The varying size in fish prooves like Sheelin is in a healthy state at the moment and truly one of the best Irish Loughs we have.

I do like to eat fish and we both kept a few fish in the 2- 2.5lb bracket, but all the bigger fish were safely returned and hopefully they will run the streams this winter and provide sport for us all in the years ahead

I just want to congratulate Aidan on his P.B. .As I said I was honored to be the one to put the net under the fish for him. I would also like to thank him for his company, his friendship and of course giving me a fly or two. I would like to say I look forward to another trip like that with Aidan, but that seems impossible. But I do look forward to another day in the boat with him. Cheers PAL

I am off to Lough Conn this Thursday with my Dad, for four days to fish the Lough Conn and Cullin two day open and I will let you know how I get on when I get back

Tight Lines and be safe out there

Lansdale Partridge

Lansdale Partridge
Hook B175 size 10
Thread Black Uni 8/0
Tail Cock Pheasant
Rib Fine Gold wire
Body Natural raffia
Body Hackle olive clock palmered
Shoulder hackle French partridge
Lough Arrow Green
Hook B175 size 10
Thread Green Uni 8/0
Tail Cock Pheasant
Rib Natural raffia
Body Hackle badger cock
Shoulder hackles
1 medium olive cock
2 dark olive French Partridge
Head hackle English partridge dyed yellow

Green Drake Mayfly

Green Drake Mayfly
Hook B175 size 10
Thread Black Uni 8/0
Tail cock pheasant tail
1 Gold holo g tinsel
2 Globright no 3
Rib Fine Gold wire
Body natural raffia
Body hackle Badger cock
Shoulder Hackles
1 Short golden olive cock hackle
2 Olive Mallard Drake doubled

Moseley Rollover

Moseley Rollover
Hook B170 size 10
Thread Tan Uni 8/0
Tie in Mallard Drake wing in first to desired length
Tail Cock pheasant
Rib Fine Gold tinsel
Body Hares ear mixed with yellow seals fur 50/50
Shoulder hackles
1 short yellow cock hackle
2 longer blue din cock hackle
3 longer olive cock hackle
For a darker fly use a dark medium olive instead of the olive

Aidans Spent

Davy Mc Phail Spent
Hook B160 size 8
Thread BlackUni 8/0
Tail Black pheasant tail/detached foam/no 3 globright tip/two black rings ( create with tying thread and varnish)
Hackles medium badger/long black cock hackles ties spent and secured in place with uv resin
Watch Davy Mc Phail’s video


Vincent Kelly

19.05.2021 05:47

Hi Denis
Good meeting last night, and enjoyed reading your blog. Felt I was on the lake with you. Great work

Gerard Kevin Coyne

17.09.2020 21:01

Just seen your blog Denis great read , I fish sheelin get few nice fish tnks for shearing your information

Owen Mulholland

30.06.2019 22:44

What a couple of days fishing amazing

Enda Hyland

29.05.2019 21:30

Great Blog enjoyed the read, some great fishing, maybe will have the pleasure of catching a Sheelin Beast sometime.


22.06.2019 19:31

i am sure you will, thank you

chris meadows

29.05.2019 16:42

I just love reading your blog! fantastic fishing and beautiful words!


22.06.2019 19:32

thanks chris

Ewan MacGregor

29.05.2019 15:59

Hi Dennis,

What a fantastic article and magnificent fishing you had. Jeezo, colossal fish, well done. Once in a lifetime stuff.


22.06.2019 19:32

surely was , never to be forgotten. thank you


29.05.2019 14:39

Great report. Class fishing. Well done.


22.06.2019 19:32

cheers fergal

Latest comments

19.05 | 05:47

Hi Denis
Good meeting last night, and enjoyed reading your blog. Felt I was on the lake with you. Great work

02.05 | 20:42

Hi Dennis loved the article straight to the point .just wondered will the trout feed on the small buzzers all year ?

06.04 | 11:57

Cant wait to read this

01.03 | 03:03

glad u enjoy, ty, will be back when the fishing returns

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