Early Season Fishing Lough Owel.

After fishing from the bank all winter long, I was looking forward to getting back in the boat. Normally I would wait for the first hatch of the year and travel down to the west of Ireland  or not go at all until the Duckfly appears in the midlands. But after not fishing for 3 weeks I was starting to loose the plot.  So with limited time I opted for Lough Owel and  maybe chance to see the first hatch of the year, which is a small buzzer about half the size of the Duckfly which hatches just before the Duckfly itself.  The weather looked good enough in the days before my trip, but as always the weather turned. A South wind but 19 to 24km which isn’t really what I was hoping for.


Arriving early at Lough Owel I was greeted with a bare pin ripple on the lee shoreline and a balmy 10c, but as I fitted the boat out I could feel the breeze building. Two 10ft ever reliable 7 weight RS Wychwood Competition rods were both adorned with floating lines, a straight buzzer set up on one and a bung on the other.

As I travelled down the lake it was lovely to hear the hum of my 15hp Johnson, I checked every bay and reed bed but more in hope, for any sign of buzzer.  The wind was picking up all the time and after an hour or so I resigned myself to defeat and out came the di3. Fishing at this time of year in my opinion is normally shallow for hoglouse and snail feeders, whilst drifting in 10 to 20 ft of water you would be after fry feeders on the drop off with di5s and di7s depending on the wind.

The greater the wind the heavier the sinking line. At this stage I had travelled as far as the cornfield and I drifted off the shelf in nice conditions pulling dabblers and fry patterns. A three fly 16ft cast of 8lb strong leader, 6ft to first fly and then 5ft between with flys .

Just coming off the shelf I got my first fish, a lovely marked but thin overwintered Triploid Brown of about 2lb. Working up the shoreline to the neck I got two more on Black Dabblers and a big white Hummungous.

 Stomach pumping the fish is a must when fishing in my opinion, you don’t need to go mad emptying the fishes stomach, a brief pump will tell you what the fish are on. In this case snail and hoglouse were high on the menu.



I worked along the lee shorelines as it was getting very blustery picking up a fish here and there. I changed flys a few times, but it seemed whatever I put on the top dropper the fish took. The top dropper is the first fly the fish sees as you pull it by him, typical early season fishing. All fish were in the 1.5lb to 2.5lb bracket.  Its been years since I fished Owel on a regular basis, so this year I have decided to fish it a lot more and re-learn the lake. With this in mind, I kept moving, instead of repeating drifts.

About lunch time I decided to head to deep water and see if I could contact some of the larger trout Lough Owel has know become known for.

I put up the di-5, but after one drift I felt I was not staying in contact with the line or getting deep enough due to the wind. So the dreaded di-7 was taken out of the box and the cobwebs blown off it.  It took me 5 or so minutes to get the feel for the line as I hadn’t fished it from a boat in what seemed like an age.

But sure enough 10 minutes later after a count to 35, followed by a long slow retrieve the first marker went through the rod rings and I hung the flys, I thought I got slight knock, I waited and waited, nothing, continuing my long slow retrieve I barely got three more long pulls before the rod hooped over and the tip of the rod buried into the lake as line peeled off the floor then off the reel. Playing a fish alone out in the middle of the lake on a blustery day will certainly get your heart thumping.  Anything and everything can go wrong , so that’s why I keep a tidy boat( stop laughing) when fishing alone. Regaining half the line onto the reel, I began to drag the fish from the depths. At times it just hung beneath the boat and there was nothing I could do. The wind was pushing the boat along too quickly.

Eventually the fish came to the surface and at over 4lb I was gobsmacked and puzzled at its strength. Lying on its side one second, then it vanished, the penny dropped, I had two on. Now it got messy, eventually I guided the first one into the net, unhooked it, then netted the fish on the tail fly with the first fish in the net. The tail fish was about 3.5lb and the fish on the top dropper was over 4lb, they certainly stretch the di7. Both released after a little rest in my net.

When Enough Is Enough

The gusts were getting stronger and the rain had not stopped  for 2 hours. So it was back to the to the lee shore for the rest of the day and onto the di-3.

I fished all the way back to the moorings, catching an odd fish and I had another double hook up of newly introduced fish but it was pleasant.  Just as I packed up the redundant Bung Rod, a fish rose in front of me. As a wise man once said “never pass up a willing fish”. Out with the di- 3 and 3 casts later the line went tight, fish number 13 was landed. Enough was enough and in I went.

Lough Owel was kind to me on a not so kind day. It was great to be back out on the lake and I hope to be back out again next week, hopefully there will be Duckfly !!!. But knowing my luck , the wind will be howling and the rain will be coming down sideways. But as Anglers we Live in Hope.