Lough Melvin, 8 miles long by nearly 2 miles wide, is by far the most important salmon and trout fishery in the north-west. It straddles the border: its north –eastern corner, from near Dernaseer Pier to the County Bridge, is in Northern Ireland, while the major portion of the lough lies in Co Leitrim. It can be reached from Sligo by the N15, turning right to the T54, or by the T54 from Manorhamilton. From Enniskillen, take the A4 to Belcoo and take the B52 to Garrison. The angling activities around the lough are centred mainly at Kinlough, Garrison and Rossinver.
Melvin is rightly famous for its salmon and trout fishing. The salmon season opens on 1 February, and spring fish are taken trolling in the Garrison area from that date and on the fly in the Rossinver Bay area from late March and especially in April. The grilse run begins in June and fish are taken all over the lough from Kinlough to Rossinver, with the Rossinver Bay area being especially good. Melvin remains today one of the few examples of a post-glacial salmonid lough and it is still in a relatively pristine state. The quality of the angling can be extraordinary and it is this, together with the unique fish fauna, the draws and attracts the anglers.
The lough holds salmon, char and perch in addition to trout, but it is the trout that are of primary interest to most anglers. It is generally accepted by fishery scientists that there are four genetically distinct races of trout in the lough. These are brown trout, ferox trout, gillaroo trout and sonaghan trout – each clearly distinguishable by coloration, size and shape. While they may share the same spawning grounds, they do not interbreed and indeed the ferox trout are found only in one particular river. The ferox trout feed mainly on perch and char, while the gillaroo diet consists chiefly of molluscs. The sonaghan feed a lot in midwater on daphnia and also take emerging insects, while the brown trout have more catholic tastes.
For all their diversity and beauty, there is one other factor of importance relating to Melvin trout – they are still present in very great numbers. In 1985, 114 anglers took 759 trout in a one-day fishing competition. The minimum trout size is 10 inches. Early-season flies include Sooty Olive, Blae and Black, Peter Ross, Golden Olive, Fiery Brown, Connemara Black, March Brown, Black Pennell. From mid-May, the Gosling, Green Olive, Green and Yellow Mayflies, Green Peter and Grey Wulff are important. From July on, the Watson’s Fancy, Green Peter, Mallard and Claret, Claret Bumble, Fiery Brown, Invicta and Kingsmill are important. It is worth mentioning that Kingsmill Moore invented his famous fly of the same name – Kingsmill – for Melvin. The Green Peter on the bob is by far the most successful pattern for summer salmon.
There is good public access with boat jetties at Kinlough Pier, Stracomer, Breffni Pier, Dernaseer and Garrison. Boats, and in some cases, boatmen and outboards, are available for hire.
Excerpts taken from "Trout & Salmon Rivers of Ireland, an angler's guide" by Peter O'Reilly.