Spoilt for choice

How to fish Lough Melvin – which hosted the Ladies In­ter­na­tional this year

Trout Fisherman (UK) - - Contents -

EVEN as you’re puz­zling over the man on the har­bour wall, dressed like TopGear ’s mys­ter y driver, The Stig and wav­ing the f lag of the Ir­ish prov­inces, an­other od­dity greets you. Just east of the har­bour, the boat­man turns your boat right and it nudges its way through a nar­row chan­nel, be­tween tall grasses ris­ing boldly from the wa­ter, to­wards the main body of the lough and the dis­tant moun­tains of County Leitrim. It makes for a strange few mo­ments: par t- AfricanQueen, par t- The­Field. Should Fate deal you a bum hand and leave you with just one day’s f ish­ing dur­ing a visit to Ire­land, there may not be many venues of­fer­ing more bang for your buck than this one. Dra­matic en­trances apart, Lough Melvin is also home to salmon, char, perch and four species of wild trout, the lat­ter com­pris­ing brown­ies, ferox, gilla­roo and son­aghan. Aside from the range of fish, you could even lay claim to have ‘done’ both sides of the Ir­ish border in your one day af loat, with the lough’s north-eastern cor­ner in North­ern Ire­land, while the rest of its 16 square miles lie within the Re­pub­lic. In his de­fin­i­tive book, Loughs of Ire­land, Peter O’Reilly makes no bones about it, call­ing Melvin “… by far the most im­por­tant salmon and trout fish­ery in the

north-west”, given its sta­tus as one of the few lakes in north­ern Europe to have re­mained rel­a­tively undisturbed in the 12,000 years since the last Ice Age thawed. A Royal Ir­ish Acad­emy re­port in 2004 called for ur­gent con­ser­va­tion of the lo ugh’ st rout types( all of which are in­dige­nous to the lough) given that they are ge­net­i­cally dis­tinct, due to

in­de­pen­dent an­cestr y and sep­a­rate spawn­ing ar­eas. None of which was likely to have been at the fore­front of any­one’s mind when women an­glers of the Bri­tish Isles con­vened here for the Ladies In­ter­na­tional Fly Fish­ing Cham­pi­onships in June, hosted by the Gar­ri­son & Lough Melvin A nglers’ As­so­ci­a­tion. A fter ‘Stig’ and his fel­low f lag-bear­ers waved the com­peti­tors off in bright sun­shine, the morn­ing gave way to di­ag­o­nal lunchtime rain and an af­ter­noon be­set by winds which the Belfast

Tele­graph re­ported as reach­ing 35mph. Any­one treated more char­i­ta­bly by the el­e­ments when vis­it­ing Melvin, how­ever, will find the place at re at for the eyes. If the shores to the north and east are low and un­re­mark­able, am­ple compensation is found on the south­ern bank, where the Leitrim Moun­tains “throws its dark shadow over the deep wa­ters ”, in the words of one 19 th cen­tury writer. On this oc­ca­sion, few will have ex­pected bumper haul sin such dif­fi­cult con­di­tions and ul­ti­mately 15 fish were enough for Eng­land to take gold, a sin­gle fish ahead of their hosts, with Scot­land’s nine trout earn­ing bronze, four fish clear of Wales. There was con­so­la­tion for Ire­land’s near miss, as Co. Ar­magh’s Linda Straghan won her sec­ond Brown Bowl in four years as top rod, with three fish for 88 cm. Spare a thought, how­ever, for Scot­land’s Kath­leen Shep­pard, who caught her first-ever son­aghan and gilla­roo, a long with a stun­ning 8lb brownie, all on the same prac­tice day, mak­ing her merely the lat­est in a long line of sports­peo­ple to be painfully schooled on the sub­ject of peak­ing too soon… Once the dust set­tled on the event, we caught up with three of the day’s pro­tag­o­nists - one of the vic­tors, one of the lo­cals and one of the boat­men - to dis­cuss what con­sti­tutes a win­ning ap­proach to Lough Melvin. Read their views else­where in this article.

“...any gilla­roo have to go back, which can be tricky be­cause even I strug­gle to tell them and brown trout apart some­times, so be care­ful...”

The Ladies’ In­ter­na­tional gets un­der way, in the shadow of the Leitrim Moun­tains.

Early signs of the gales to come, as the fleet of com­peti­tors makes for open wa­ter.

The teams are piped down to the har­bour.

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