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The early bird gets the fish

Water water everywhere. The Southwest has lakes, rivers and loughs everywhere you turn. And to make the most of them, an extended season for game fishing.

Where there's this much water, there's sure to be plenty of wild fish for the taking.
Taking Upper and Lower Lough Erne, the feeder rivers and many other lakes, well over 70 square miles of our Southwest is water.

Even better, the game season kicks off early, with great catches possible from February to September. Lough Melvin opens in February for anglers seeking that elusive spring salmon, through March and April, until the grilse appear in June. But many other species also draw anglers to this extraordinary water. In addition to brown trout, Melvin is home to three distinct races of trout - the ferox, the gillaroo and most famous, the sonaghan, all genetically distinct. Though not large, the sonaghan, found only in Fermanagh will give truly memorable sport with its aggressive and acrobatic fight.

Lough Erne opens in March when anglers seek trout on the first of the duckfly. April brings lake olives, and from mid May the wondrous mayfly heralds the peak fishing period. The hatch will continue until mid June; fly fishing heaven with wet fly, dry fly and the dappled natural!

With sizes averaging 1.51b (0.68kg), this is the time when your wild fish of a lifetime is a distinct possibility. The larger trout will come to the fly, and each year trout up to 7lb (3.2kg) and 8lb (3.6kg) are recorded to both dry and wet patterns.

For those who prefer river trouting, the lovely Colebrook, flowing into the Erne near Lisnaskea, provides really good dry fly fishing for its native trout year-round, plus the added bonus, from late July, of 'harvest' trout. These are big Lough Erne fish running to their spawning grounds. These trout can be hefty, with fish exceeding 6lbs (2.7kg) each season. Other Erne feeders, among them the Ballinamallard, Arney, Kesh and Termon rivers also enjoy runs of heavyweight trout.

The Blackwater, Oona and Torrent Rivers are to the east in Tyrone. The Blackwater, with good river trout, has salmon in September and October, joined by the dollaghan, a bonus back-end quarry on this Lough Neagh feeder.

Achork, Meenameen, Coolyemer, Keenaghan and Brantry - the names themselves beg a visit! Not, they're not still more unique native species, but stocked lakes, some in wonderful mountain locations.  Jumping with brown and rainbow trout, these lakes will allow fishing whatever the conditions, plus there are designated rainbow fisheries open year round.

The adventurous angler can take to the hills and climb to isolated lakes in quest of wilder fish. Or pop out for the evening 'rise' on waters literally on the doorstep of your holiday cottage or hotel. In Fermanagh and South Tyrone, you're never far from a great catch.

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European Regional Development Fund