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2018 Outlook: The Year Ahead On Lough Corrib

2018 Outlook: The Year Ahead On Lough Corrib

Tom ‘Doc’ Sullivan shares his thoughts and predictions for the forthcoming season on the mighty Lough Corrib in the West of Ireland

By Tom Doc Sullivan 

I t is upon us, finally, the 2018 trout season on the western Loughs is here. We have endured the long winter nights, driving storms and snow. While we are not out of the woods yet, the days are lengthening now and though there is no guarantee of decent weather even now, the onset of the new trout season can spur us on and give us hope for the coming year.

Looking back on Corrib 2017 I would have to say that it was not one of the better years overall, it was poor really. However, when you are dealing with large waters with a population of wild fish you have to be willing to put up with what is thrown at you. There are so many factors for these Loughs that you never can tell what your chances will be like. One of the most important variables is the weather and we had some nasty stuff in 2017.

March brings the duckfly and the chance of exceptional wild brown trout on Lough Corrib (Country Galway/County Mayo, Ireland). Tom Doc Sullivan's best fish on a duckfly is this 8lb wild brown trout.

March brings the duckfly and the chance of some good fish. Tom Doc Sullivan’s best fish on a duckfly is this 8lb beauty.

What is in store for us for 2018? Who can tell, the only thing is that we have fresh hope now and many months ahead of us where we can dream of tight lines. So, I am going to look ahead at what we have in store for the first three or four months.

Early Season

The mighty Corrib, will see me break my fast on 15 February. This time of year, is not to everybody’s liking because you really don’t know what type of conditions that you will be fishing in and you can be thrown some horrendous weather. What makes the opening day for us here in Cornamona is for sure, we won’t be hungry. The opening day always sees a load of folk from our club treating ourselves to the mother of all cook ups on one of the islands as we welcome ourselves back on to the Lough. So even if the fishing is tough, the steaks aren’t.

Tactics for the first month or so is wets and lures.

Opening day on Corrib…

…where parking is at a premium…

…hardly surprising when you see what’s on the menu!


The first real serious fishing will be the duckfly hatch at the end of March. Dooras, traditionally, is one of the best spots on the Lough for duckfly hatches however the last two seasons have been poor, one of the reasons being the prevailing north-easterly winds occurring at this time which blow into 80% of the duckfly ‘holes’ in the area. This really plays against good sport. If this happens again I will have to travel on the lake. I am however, like a gambler, I will continue to put all my money on red and back Dooras. As Beck said in his song, Loser; ‘things are gonna change, I can feel it’! So once again this year I’m hopeful that Dooras duckfly will shine and then I only have to push the boat out from the shore for my first drift.

– Dooras, Upper Corrib the place where you’ll find the early season duckfly providing the wind isn’t from the northeast.

The end of March is generally the best time for the hatch; a rough guide would be the last week in March and first in April. However here is where variables can catch you, from my own diaries my best ever day on duckfly was on March 15th where on account of a mild winter the fly was early. That year the hatch was finished by the end of March. That day in 2002 saw me have the whole of Dooras Bay to myself, and 17 trout between 1.5lb and 3lb on Emergers.

Buzzer fishing will be my go to method, however as the hatch goes on, dries come into the equation as the amount of egg laying females returning to the water increase and fish look to the surface.

Tom Doc Sullivan with a Corrib brown caught during duckfly season

Buzzers are the main line of attack when the fish are on the duckfly


After the duckfly there is generally a lull of a week or so before the next ‘bout’ and then the lake olives appear. You are generally looking at about the middle of April but once again owing to the variables here, no guarantee, if you quote me on it I will deny it! Another thing about olives, is that there is another factor thrown in. If you get bright sunshine they tend not to hatch, preferring instead darker overcast days. This can be a bummer if you have only a weekend planned and there isn’t a cloud in the sky!

Olive fishing can be absolutely fantastic and the beauty of it is you can have success on all different methods, wet fly, dry fly and nymphing. It is also worth noting that they can continue on hatching right through May during the Mayfly season and can give you good sport then while other boats head to mayfly areas.

Mid April will see the first olives appear on the lough

The Campto Buzzer

The second major of hatch of buzzer on the Lough is the Campto Buzzer. This buzzer has really shaken up the scene on Corrib and its advent has seen so many anglers take their personal best wild brown. Bigger than its duckfly cousin (size 10) it starts to appear from about mid-April and can continue on until the end of May. These boys give some phenomenal fishing! Once again tactics here are primarily buzzer fishing, a team of four with two Glue Buzzers on the end. Dries can play a role but not as much as duckfly.

The lower part of the Corrib is fantastic here, south of Collinamuck. However, it is not exclusive to these areas, myself and Mike Keady found a spot last year 20 minutes from me where we had eight trout that would have gone for 20lb weight, averaging, 2.5lb.

Mike Keady plays a Corrib trout on Glue Buzzers during a Campto Buzzer hatch.


The busiest time of the year on Corrib, its Blue-Ribbon event, world-renowned. ‘When is the best time to come for the mayfly Tom’? If I drank a whiskey for every time I have been asked that question I would now have no liver! When I was on the road full time, the first year I took two weeks holiday so I could fish for myself. I booked May 1st until the 15th. I got one day’s mayfly fishing on the 15th May because that is when the fly finally appeared; I had missed it! Three years later, Tommy Philbin, the great boat builder from the Carrick Shore, on April 29th caught three trout on the dapped natural after picking two-dozen mayfly on his jetty! That said the middle two weeks of May should see you hitting some form of hatch but once more I will deny saying this. Mayfly time is carnival time!


Thanks to Larry McCarthy and Denis Moss, two guys that have pioneered caenis fishing, this has become an important event on Corrib’s calendar. It can appear in late May and extend the fishing onto the end of June after the mayfly which heretofore was a real quiet time on the Lough. stalking wild browns with fine tackle, 4 and 5-wt rods and 6x/7x tippet, targeting trout up to 5lb and bigger.

Corrib’s Caenis!

Larry McCarthy with a 6.5lb Corrib brown taken at caenis time.

The one thing I will say about Caenis fishing is don’t try to run before you can walk. It is not easy fishing and you would definitely require a guide and be prepared for early starts… at 4 am!

So, with such a variety ahead of us on the Corrib for the first few months you can see that I am raring to go!


Based on his farm on the Dooras Peninsula on the shores of Corrib, Tom operates a guiding service and boat hire on the Western Loughs.

T: 00 353 87 6113933
Facebook: Tom Doc Fly-Fishing

Tom ‘Doc’ Sullivan

Tom ‘Doc’ Sullivan has over 20 years guiding experience on the western Loughs of Corrib, Mask and Carra. He is the Irish agent for Airflo and Fulling Mill and is a keen competition angler. Tom has fished for Ireland on nine occasions. In the winter he suffers from withdrawal symptoms from fly fishing!

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