The Magic of Lough Sheelin


About Lough Sheelin

Once described as the finest wild brown trout lough in Ireland, Lough Sheelin (from Irish Loch Síodh 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

About Lough Sheelin Guiding Services

Lough Sheelin Guiding Services was formed back in 2011 to cope with the demand of visiting anglers looking for a professional guiding service on the lough. Many visiting anglers who may only have a few days fishing in the lough did not have the time to spend roaming around looking for the perfect spot for that elusive monster trout, that is where the services of a ghillie or guide are essential.

Gary and Thomas have a lifetimes knowledge and experience between them, and have the uncanny ability to put anglers right over the fish, with the correct set up, lines, leaders, and flies to suit not just the time of day but the many different fly hatches through the season and even the changing weather conditions on Sheelin throughout the year. Whether you are a distinguished angler or a complete novice, Lough Sheelin Guiding Services will help to hone your skills and understanding of the loughs of Ireland, they offer thoughtful insights into the nature and habits of the famous brown trout. This understanding provides a solid grounding to build upon during future fishing expeditions.

During the trout season the ghillies are available seven days a week to cover daytime sessions between 10am and 5pm, evening sessions from 5pm till dark in addition to early morning sessions upon request. A packed or cooked lunch on the Island can be provided if required. Lough Sheelin Guiding Services are well serviced with public access points and car parks at Kilnahard pier on the North Western shore of the lough.

When it comes to planning a day on Sheelin, or for that matter any lake, a number of issues have got to be giver careful consideration. Every day is different and a number of factors need to be considered by the experienced guide before a plan is finalised.

Weather forecasts have to be studied and particular attention has to be given to matters such as wind speed and direction, cloud cover and temperature. Weather conditions determine the drifts that are suitable on the day. Conditions can change during the day and a change in location may be necessary, always remember that a one degree change in wind direction can close one drift and bring another into play. Extreme weather conditions also bring health and safety issues into play.

Hatches of fly can be localised and are often confined to particular areas or bays, for example the olive hatch has been concentrated in the Bog Bay area for the past few years however this has not always been the case Chamber’s Bay was also a ‘hot spot’ for olive hatchesin the past.

Water temperature and water levels can have a bearing on the location of fishstocks, trout will also move from one area to another to feed or to avoid excessive angling pressure and continued disturbance.

The tackle to be used has then to be considered whether to use dry fly or wet fly, the fly pattern, size of the fly, type and density of the fly line and the type of leader to be used. When it comes to hunting down and catching the wild brown trout that Lough Sheelin is now famous for it must be remembered that the small things and attention to detail make the difference between success and failure.

Local knowledgeis a key factor and without it those who only fish the lake on an occasional basis are starting their trip at a disadvantage. Planning a successful day’s fishing is not always as simple as it may appear and the professional services on offer from the Lough Sheelin Guiding Services dramatically improve your chances of success.

Meet the Ghillies at Lough Sheelin Guiding Services

Gary and Thomas offer fully guided trips, and be assured they know every corner and drift on Lough Sheelin. They will work hard for you to make sure you get the best opportunity to catch Sheelin's famous wild brown trout.

Gary McKeirnan

Gary started fly fishing at just ten years of age on the river erne and has been fishing Sheelin for the past  fifteen years, He is a long standing member of the Lough Sheelin Trout Protection Association. Gary qualified to represent Ulster in the 2009 championships and has caught fish of  up to 8lb on wet and dry fly. He was recently awarded the honour of Top Boatman for the recent Internationals on Lough Sheelin

Thomas Lynch

Thomas started fishing with his father on Sheelin at six years of age. Thomas has fished for Ireland and Ulster on numerous occasions , qualifying on many of the loughs in Ireland. He is a member of the Lough Sheelin Trout Protection Association and holds the position of treasurer within the organisation. Thomas is a keen fly tier and runs fly tying classes during the winter months His favoured methods are nymph and dry fly fishing .

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.