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Loch Meilge agus An Drobhaois: Lough Melvin and the River Drowes

One of the main attractions in the Kinlough area is the suberb angling available on two of Ireland’s premier angling locations - Lough Melvin and the River Drowes.


Drowes Fishery

Click here for latest salmon angling report from the Drowes (Inland Fisheries Ireland website - opens in new window)

Click here to view a video of the Drowes Fishery (YouTube website - opens in new window)

The Drowes Fishery is one of Ireland’s premier spring salmon and grilse fisheries. The Drowes is among the earliest opening salmon fisheries in the country and regularly claims the honour of producing Ireland’s first salmon of the season on opening day, January 1st. The river is some 5 miles in length, with over 70 named pools, flowing from Lough Melvin at Lareen Bay and entering the sea at Tullaghan, just outside Bundoran.

The Drowes has a wide variety of water suitable for all fishing methods, including several miles of good fly water and deeper slower moving pools suitable for spinning and bait fishing.  The fishery is based at Lareen Estate, where the river flows from Lough Melvin. There is a fishery office and tackle shop on the estate from where fishing permits and licences are available and boats and engines may be hired.

Also on the Estate are 11 holiday cottages, close to the water’s edge, available for rent throughout the year. The cottages may be rented on their own or as part of a fishing package which includes fishing and boat hire.  For more information click here.


Lough Melvin

Click here for latest salmon angling report from Lough Melvin (Inland Fisheries Ireland website - opens in new window)

Click here for latest trout angling report from Lough Melvin (Inland Fisheries Ireland website - opens in new window)

Lough Melvin is one of Ireland's famous angling lakes, holding Char and Perch, while offering the chance of fresh-run Spring Salmon from February to May, Grilse from May to July and Brown, Gillaroo, Sonaghan and Ferox trout from February through to September. Salmon are caught right throughout the season.  Spring fish can be caught all season, with grilse being caught from May onwards. Trout fishing can be patchy early in the season, but Kinlough Bay can fish extremely well in March and April with the sonaghan concentrated in the top of the lough early in the year. The fish then start to spread down the lough and through the rest of the year productive areas include the sunken islands, Farell’s Bay, the shores along Inishmean Island and Church Island, Rossinver and long drifts down towards Garrison.

The lake has a surface area of over 5,000 acres, making it the 10th largest lake in Ireland and is situated within the counties Leitrim (RoI) and Fermanagh (NI).  Melvin is a large Lough, 8 miles long from east to west and 2 miles wide at its widest point, and is up to 140 feet deep in places. It is by far the most important Lough in the North-West. Lough Melvin remains today one of the few examples of a post-glacial salmonid lough and it is still in a relatively pristine state.

Traditional lough style fishing is the norm, drifting from a 17 to 19 foot lake boat  The season is from 1st February to 30th September inclusive. The brown trout season is from 15th February to 30th September (Rossinver Fishery).  The minimum trout size is 10 inches. Most anglers use a team of three wet flies.  The most popular early season flies for the trout (especially during the Duck fly hatch) are a Doobry, Teal and Black, Coachman, Bibbio & Hot orange, Black Pennell and a Connemara Black, though any black fly seems to work well especially if it has a touch of orange and/or white. A Sooty Olive, Fiery Brown, and Golden Olive also produce good results. From mid May the most popular patterns are the Bibbio, Green Peter, Goslings, Green Olive, green and yellow mayflies (dry & wet). From July onwards Green Peter, Bibbio, and Claret, Fiery Brown, Bumbles (especially Claret), Dabblers, Invicta and late in the season wet and dry Daddy’s.

There is good public access, with boat jetties at Kinlough Pier, Breffni Pier and at Dernaseer. Boats, and in some cases, boatmen and outboards, are available for hire locally.  

The North East corner of the Lough lies in Northern Ireland and as such requires Northern Ireland licences and a Garrison Angler’s permit to fish. Permit: A permit from the Garrison Anglers is required which costs £30 Stg / €50 per season or £7 Stg / €10 per day. These are available at Sean Maguire's, Main Street, Garrison, Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. Tel: (048) 686 58194. Licence:You will require one of the following game rod licences: Full year - £15.50 Stg, 14 Day - £7.50 Stg, 3 Day - £3.50 Stg, Juvenile (full season) £2.00 Stg, Senior Citizens (60 years and over) £5.00 Stg. These are available from Sean Maguire’s Tackle Shop in Garrison.


Rossinver Fishery

The South Eastern quarter of the lough i.e. Rossinver Bay and the Roosky shore constitute the Rossinver fishery (see below for permit details). Most of the salmon that have run up the River Drowes congregate in this area of the lough, prior to running up the spawning rivers in December. Rossinver Bay, which comprises the red buoy on the eastern side of Ross Point to the similar buoy at the Southern end of Roosky shore, is strictly fly only. The area inshore of the marker buoys from Ross point to the Border is fly only from the 15th May to the end of the season.  

A permit is required for the Rossinver Fishery as follows: Boat and engine hire with 2 rods fishing costs €50. Boat, engine and one rod fishing costs €40. Boat only and two rods fishing €40. One rod in own boat €15 (per person). Permits are available from: Ruth Mettler, Secretary, Rossinver Fishery, Buckode, Kinlough, Co. Leitrim. Tel: (071) 9841451, Aiden O’Dare, Waterkeeper, Rossinver Fishery, Sandhill, Derrygonnelly, Co. Fermanagh. Tel:086 3026927. Salmon licences are available from Northern Regional Fisheries Board, Station road, Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal. Tel: (071) 9851435. Ruth Mettler, Buckode, Kinlough, Co. Leitrim. Tel: (071) 9841451.


Some Fish Available Locally

Salmon and Grilse

Atlantic salmon enter Lough Melvin via the Drowes river from January each year but the salmon fishing on the Lough does not start until 1st February. They are frequently caught accidentally while trout fishing and add a bit of spice to your days fishing throughout the year. Trolling with Rappallas, Tasmanians and Tobies is the preferred method for pursuing salmon and the large ferox trout of the Lough.  Salmon licences are available from Northern Regional Fisheries Board, Station road, Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal. Tel: (071) 9851435.

A Grilse is a young salmon that returns to fresh water after one winter in the sea.  The grilse run begins in June and fish are taken all over the lough from Rossinver to Kinlough, with the Rossinver Bay area being especially good. It is often difficult to distinguish a grilse from a salmon.  Grilse are smaller than salmon on average (2-3lb in May, 5-7lb in July) but when they enter the Drowes in September often attain 8-10lb and in October 12-15lb.

Salmon usually weigh over 8lb. Most have spent two winters at sea; these are returning in spring average 8-10lb, in summer 12-14lb, in autumn 16 - 18lb. Salmon tend to double in weight during each full growing period (May - Oct) spent at sea.

Brown Trout

The brown trout and the sea trout are fish of the same species. They are distinguished chiefly by the fact that the brown trout is largely a freshwater fish, while the sea trout migrates to the ocean for much of its life and returning to freshwater only to spawn. The brown is an opportunistic feeder, with a catholic taste, and can be found all over the lake.


The Gillaroo trout, a species of trout locally referred to as a “Gillie”, mainly feeds on bottom-living organisms (snails, sedge fly larvae and freshwater shrimp). The name "Gillaroo" is derived from the Giolla Rua, which in Irish means "The Red Servant", referring to the fish’s reddish colour. It has a bright golden colour on its underside with bright crimson and red spots on its flanks and back. Found along the rocky shores and the islands, the Gillie is frequently caught on a trolled fly or lure and, later in the season, will rise to a fly when feeding at or near the surface.


The Sonaghan trout is another species of trout unique to Lough Melvin. It is generally regarded as a sub-species of the brown trout, and can have a light brown or silvery colour with large, distinctive black spots. Its fins are dark brown or black with elongated pectorals. The sonaghan feed a lot in mid-water on daphnia and also take emerging insects. Though they can be found in any part of the lake, sonaghan will be most readily located close to the surface over deep water. Fly-fishing with a team of wet flies fished in classic lough style (i.e. short, snappy casts followed by a steady retrieve from a boat drifting beam-on to the breeze) gives the  best chance of success. They can be caught on a variety of flies but traditional Irish dabblers or bumbles can be very successful. Sonaghan are a wonderful fighting fish, and give a powerful and energetic fight out of all proportion to their size.


The Ferox trout takes its name from the Latin for “fierce” and is believed to be a separate sub-species of trout rather than a brown or sonaghan which has turned cannibal.  They grow very quickly due to their diet, commonly a fish of 10 lbs may only be five years old. The Ferox home to a specific spawning area and are reproductively isolated. They are also one of the oldest trout races to colonise Ireland, perhaps as old as 50,000 yrs. Ferox are cannibalistic and feed on brown trout, perch and char. They are usually grow to a significant size with fish of up to 15 lbs. not unusual.  They are difficult to catch - the best method of capture is trolling a lure behind the boat.


Perch are greenish with red pelvic, anal and caudal fins. They have five to nine dark vertical bars on their sides. Perch can vary greatly in size (though most of those caught on Melvin are small) and can live for up to 22 years.   They were introduced to Irish waters sometime after 1200.  The Irish record is 2.495kg (caught on Lough Erne in 1946). The perch spawns at the end of April or beginning of May, depositing the eggs upon water plants, or the branches of trees or shrubs that have become immersed in the water; it does not come into condition again until July. Can be caught on Melvin with worms or a small wet fly.





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