This week we are reviewing one of Northern Ireland’s best kept secrets, Lough Fadden. A treasure lying precariously on the edge of a rugged clifftop in the middle of Game of Thrones country, Fadden has plenty to attract all abilities of angler.
I know when I first coined Game of Thrones country to the owner, he said he didn’t like the term because Fadden has been around longer than the series! If anything, it’s a compliment of the impressive rugged backdrop and 360 degree scenery that Fadden offers. On a normal day, one can easily see Ballycastle, Scotland and Donegal.
As soon as your car disappears up the lane, you don’t know what to expect. The suspense is long, the road disappears, livestock appear on the gravel track beside you and once you get over the crest of the hill. There lies the welcoming Lough Fadden in all it’s glory.
Great Hospitality– It’s rare you can go to a fishery and feel welcome. I find in most of my time fishing that as soon as you pay your money, the owner is often looking to the next customer. This doesn’t happen here. The owner treats you like a guest, checking to make sure you are having a good time, giving snippets of advice as to what to try, where to cast, making your lunch and even joining in the ‘craic’. Even the resident dog ‘Alfie’ gets in on the act and is constantly trying to get the upper hand on his owner, which raises plenty of laughs. Regardless, customer satisfaction appears to be high on the agenda.
Within a standard all day ticket, one has the option to pre order a burger (this may have changed recently to sausage bap). The meat is locally sourced and I have say, when you get the shout that your lunch is ready, despite the awesome fishing, it is definitely worth the interruption! I can honestly say this was one of the tastiest burgers that I have ever inhaled! The lodge does have basic amenities to facilitate the visiting angler, and improvements are in the pipeline to develop these.
The Fishing – The real reason we all come. The great thing about Lough Fadden is it caters for all levels of angler. All fishing is from the bank but don’t let that deter you. As tempting as it may be to whine about needing a boat to get out to the middle, the beauty of Fadden is that the fish tend to feed very close in to the rocky outcrops with the abundance of natural feeding.
The Tactics – While it is always fool proof to use a lure, my strong advice is to try some traditional patterns, given the amount of natural feeding that occurs in the Lough. In a way it almost feels criminal to come to an Irish lough and not try some traditional patterns. Patterns that have worked well for me and my fishing buddies include hare’s ears, pheasant tails, diawl bachs and spiders. We have also had fine sport on miniature cdc patterns and sedge patterns. That’s to say we encountered the odd angler who liked to fish blobs and they also appeared to fare reasonably well.
Based on the patterns that we used, you may have guessed by now that a lot of our fishing at Fadden tends to be on the surface. There are three reasons for this:
- A lot of the natural feeding appears to be on the surface
- A lot of the fish appear to be active on the surface, no matter the conditions.
- The shallows are very rocky and potentially snaggy, but also full of fish!
We tend to approach with a floating line, at least 12 foot of leader and a team of the aforementioned patterns and always end up with more fish than we anticipated. Which brings me to my next topic….
THE FISH -When we were first setting up at Fadden, the owner gave us two pieces of sterling advice:
- Make sure you have backing, and if you have backing make sure it is properly secured.
- Change your leader after every couple of fish, otherwise you will regret it.
At the time, I laughed it off. I mean was he trying to tell me his fish fought that hard? In hindsight I was very naïve and it took the guts of 2 or 3 fish to realise he was 100% correct.
The fish in Lough Fadden will take off. I think the reason for this is because in the shallower water’s edge, they have no opportunity to go deep. Every fish feels like a steam train, even if it isn’t the size of one! Every fish thinks that it can fly and I can definitely say that you will likely have to go to your reel. They will also wreck your flies!!!
As for the leader change, every fish will go to the rocks and after a few runs, the lower end of your fluorocarbon leader is frayed. Don’t get lazy and do change it!
So now we have covered the fish feeding habits and their fighting ability. What about their condition? The main thing that impressed me about Lough Fadden was the variety of rainbow trout within the lake, we had dark fish, light fish, spotty fish, silvery fish and almost all fish appeared to be fin perfect. This only serves well for the reputation of the fishery, which does not feel like a put and take fishery.
PERSONAL OPINION – I can honestly say, this has fast become my favourite place to go and there are multiple reasons for this:
- The atmosphere is always positive, even if the weather isn’t and the hospitality from the hosts play a good role in that.
- Add to that, the stunning scenery and wildlife and it is very easy to just go missing and explore (as I have done many times).
- The fighting power and acrobatics in each fish is as clear as day.
- There are guest appearances from some very big fish. Always a chance of a personal best.
- Plenty of natural surface feeding.
- I could go on.
To summarise, do put this high on your fishing list, whether you are local or travelling to Northern Ireland or Ireland for some fishing. There are plenty of nearby accommodation sites in Ballycastle, Cushendall or Cushendun and the area is still reasonably close to tourist hotspots such as Bushmills, Portrush and Portstewart.
You won’t regret it, there is plenty to occupy you at Lough Fadden.
- Bring leader and change leader regularly
- Use backing and secure backing
- Fish the surface
- Bring a camera, the scenery, the skyline and the incredible sunsets will occupy you more than you will anticipate
- Go for the burger!!!!