LOUGH MASK is the wilder and lesser-known neighbour of the famous Lough Corrib, but for all that it is no less productive and is rightly considered one of the great loughs of Ireland. The 20,500-acre lake holds very good stocks of wild brown trout, though it is deeper and more exposed than Corrib so weather can be an important factor in determining success.
The primary quarry of the Mask angler is the hard-fighting brown trout. This is an entirely wild fishery with no stocking. The hatches may not be as prolific as Corrib, but they are steady and follow a similar pattern. Fishing begins in March with duckfly, which continues to May when mayfly appear and its hatches often continue into June. Summer will bring on very good hatches of sedge, which skitter over the surface. Mask can fish particularly well in August and September, with spectacular hatches of caenis taking place early in the mornings. These tiny flies raise trout to the surface to feed avidly but extreme skill and stealth is required to accurately match the hatch – fly presentation must be impeccable. Water levels in the lough can change significantly between summer and winter, so much so that navigating among its rocky shoals can be a challenge even for the local rods who know the water well. There are many bays along the eastern shore, which provide a variety of habitats from shallow reefs and reedy bays to deep drop-offs. The western shore, too, can be productive – especially in a southerly wind – though it drops away to deep water very quickly. This is where, in the later days of the season, the daphnia feeders will hold. There is also excellent fishing to be enjoyed in the large bays of upper Mask, where the Maumturk Mountains provide a stunning backdrop. Anglers fishing traditional methods can enjoy some truly exceptional days with catches of more than 20 fish not uncommon. The majority of the Mask fish will weigh around 1lb but specimens of 5lb are regularly caught, and then there are the mysterious ferox which grow to 15lb and more – but these are mostly caught by trolling.
The wild waters of Lough Mask are the perfect venue for traditional loch-style fly-fishing from a drifting boat.