Tuesday, 22 March 2016

A Year on the Ray’s - Adam Wells

My Year on the Ray’s from the Shore 

Adam Wells

I have always had a serious passion for Rays ever since I caught my first one back in the late 80’s, the sight of that first Ray coming in, in the beam of my headlamp, through the surf and onto the beach will be something I never forget, I still get the same excitement today as I did back then.

I still get that adrenaline rush when sitting watching the tips of my rods and get that typical tell-tale first pull down on the tip of my rod as the Ray settles over the bait.  That’s when I have to sit on my hands (as I get too excited) as you need to give the Ray a little time to engulf the bait. This is when I normally roll a fag and pour a coffee, eyes stilled glued to the rod tip, then as the Ray has engulfed the bait it moves off, either pulling the grip lead out and giving you a slack line bite, or moving off and pulling the rod tip right down (if not careful taking the rod off the tripod). This is when I pick up my rod and lean into the fish, such a satisfying feeling.

We are very lucky to have excellent Ray fishing along our beaches, we can catch most species of Ray from shore marks here in Hampshire and Dorset, I have been asked by many people why I have had some success on Rays from our local marks. Patience, determination, and sticking to my game plan the duration of the trip is always my answer…
One of the biggest problems I see with anglers is that they know how to catch Rays, but, they give up to quickly. Example – most anglers just want to catch fish, any fish, just want to get bites, now with Ray fishing, success come's with sticking to a game plan.
We will take Small eyed Rays for an example, best bait to catch them on is Sandeel, now if there are no Small eyed Rays about, you aren’t going to get to many bites during that trip fishing with a Sandeel bait, so, what most people do is get rid of the Sandeel bait and revert to the 1lb of ragworm they have brought along and start catching small fish.

To be successful with Rays you have to stick with a game plan when you arrive at a venue for a trip, stick with the right bait and rigs and wait, you may blank, not even get a bite, and the angler next to you fishing with worm baits is pulling in a steady stream of small fish, don’t give in, for when it all goes right, you will be in for a trip to remember on Rays from the Shore……..

Anyway here is my little guide with a few hints and tips that hopefully will help you catch a few rays from the shore…….

Tackling up for Rays  

Rods - I use fairly powerful beach rods for my Rays fishing, Rays may not be the most spectacular of fighting fish but they can use there bulk size to their advantage buy either burying their wings into the seabed or just kiting and using their size to hang in the tide. Either way I find a powerful beach rod helps to get them in.

Reels – I use multipliers, but fixed spool are OK, the main thing is what you load your reels up with? Now for most of my Ray fishing I will use 15lb BS mono (0.35 dia), the reason for this is that most Rays are caught at range (100yrds or so), this line will help with getting your baits out at range. There are times when distance casting is not so important and then I will increase line to 20lb BS (0.40 dia).

Rigs – Now there are a multitude of rigs out there you can catch Rays on, fixed paternoster, pulley rigs, up and over rigs, etc. Everyone will have their own favourite that works for them, I personally always use an up and over rig, and always use a spiked breakout style weight, and the main reason for this is that I can fish a long trace (Hook snood 4-6ft long) on an up and over rig. The reason I use a long trace (hook snood) is because of the make-up of a Ray, the Rays mouth is on the underside of its body and has to settle over the top of the bait to eat it, this means that if the trace is to short I believe the Ray when it settles over the bait feels the spiked lead on your trace, thus putting them off. Now there is no scientific proof of this, but it is something I believe in, hence using long traces so to get the bait well away from the spiked weight.

Different variations of the up and over rig, but all working on the same principle
The make-up of the up and over rig I use will consist of a least a 60lb mono rig body, 60 lb Hook snood and a pair of strong forged 3’0 Hooks Pennell stile. Many people ask why I fish with such heavy mono hook snoods, the reason for this is that Ray have no teeth but have very strong crushing pads/gums in their mouth, which can quickly were through thinner breaking strain mono snoods.

For the majority of Ray fishing from the shore you will need to use fish baits, usually a combination of Squid, Sandeel, Mackerel, or Bluey, and quite often I will use a cocktail of Squid and one of the mentioned fish baits. There are certain species of Ray and in certain situations, which other baits are needed to catch them, but I will touch on that a bit later when I tell you a bit about how to target each species of Ray. But for the bulk of my Ray fishing is done with frozen Squid, Sandeel, Mackerel baits, which are in my freezer ready for me to go when I get a window of time to fish.

Squid Bait
Sandeel Bait

The Ray Species

I fish for Rays nearly every month of the year, there is normally at least one species of Ray to target, Of course there is always exception to the rules but I will give you my personally run down on the individual species, when I fish for them, where I fish for them, what baits I use, and venues that have proved successful for me

Thornback Ray
Thornback Ray   Raja clavata

 I generally fish for this species from Nov – March,
Thornbacks can be caught on many different
types of bait, and my personal favourite baits are Squid,
Bluey, Mackerel, sometimes a cocktail of them. Local
venues that fish well for Thornbacks are Calshot, Lepe
and in more recent years Southampton water, places such
as Shore Road and Hythe marina. A nice target size ray
for Thornbacks would be 6/7lb and anything 10lb or more
would be classed as a good specimen size for them.

Small Eyed Ray

Small Eyed Ray   Raja microocellata
I fish April – Sept for this species, they can be caught all year round, but this period of time is when there are at their greatest numbers. Small eyed Rays are quite selective on baits there are caught on, without any doubt Sandeel is the number one bait, but they can be caught on Squid and Pouting fillet. Local venues would be anywhere from Hurst Shingle bank, Milford on sea, Barton on Sea and Southbourne beach. Small eyed Rays don’t get caught inside the Solent; well I have never caught one or seen one caught. A nice target size fish would be around 5/6lb, a big Small eyed Ray would be anything over 10lb, but these are rare, I have only ever caught 1 double figure Small eyed Ray.

Spotted Ray

Spotted Ray   Raja montagui
I fish March –Sept for this species, I tend to catch Spotted Ray at the same times as fishing for Small eyed Rays on the same baits, so tactics and venues are pretty much the same as that for Small eyed Ray. The only exception is that Spotted Rays can be caught in the Solent at venues such as Calshot, Lepe and Park shore. Spotted Rays are one of the smallest Ray species we get, with a nice target size fish being 4lb and a 5lb fish being a good specimen.


Stingray   Dasyatis pastinaca
I fish June – Aug for this species, best bait for Stingrays is Ragworm, nice big bunches of them. Stingray are the largest of the Ray species, true heavyweights, every year fish of 40-50lb get caught from the shore with fish up to 100lb caught in nets of commercial fishermen very close to the shore.  This species of Ray is the only species I have found that actually fishes better in daylight tides instead of night time tides, and with the weather the hotter the better. Obviously great care is needed handling Stingray as they have a poisonous barb on the tail, always best to fish for this species with someone who has experience in dealing with them. Good places to try for Stingray are Park shore and Sowley, but they can turn up on about any beach in the Solent.

Undulate Ray

Undulate Ray   Raja undulata
I fish April – Dec for this species, but, this is one species that does seem to be caught nearly every month of the year. Best baits are Squid, Sandeel, Mackerel, Bluey, or cocktails of them. Undulate Rays have made a great comeback to our shores, back in 80’s and 90’s they were unheard of from our shores, except for one or two very secret marks. Now venues from Hurst shingle bank, Milford, right down to Bournemouth beaches all produce Undulate Rays. A good target size would be a 10lb fish, with anything over 15lb a specimen.

Blonde Rays

Blonde Rays   Raja brackyura
I fish April – Oct for this species, but Blonde Rays are very rare from our shores, they occasionally turn up at Hurst shingle bank and Bournemouth beaches, best baits are any fish baits, Squid, Sandeel, Mackerel. I have only every caught one from our local beaches, so any size Blonde Ray is a good one in my books, but the species can grow big, so I would say 8-10lb a specimen from our beaches. The way to distinguish a Blonde Ray from a Spotted Ray (as they do look very similar) is that on a Blonde Ray the spot’s cover the whole fish and continue right to the edge of the wing tips, on a Spotted Ray the spots stop about an inch from the edge of the wing tips.

Hopefully by reading this article you will have found it interesting and hopefully help you to catch a few Rays from our shores!

Huge Stingray

Adam Wells - Noble's Fishing

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Christmas Carpin’ - George West

Christmas Carpin’

George West

A combination of a new job and the start of the footy season meant limited time was available to me for carp fishing. As much as I was itching to get out, it just wasn’t happening, so when Christmas came around with the prospect of 2 weeks off, fishing was all I could think about.

The first session took place just after Christmas at my local club water. Having never fished this lake in the winter before, I wasn’t too sure what to expect but with textbook weather forecast for the time of year, I felt reasonably confident. I opted to bait fairly lightly, so just half a kilo of MC Nut was catapulted out to the zones.

 The first night soon drew in, as it often does in the winter and with that, a fishless night followed. I was up at first light looking for signs of fish and I eventually found a couple of fish making some pads twitch a few swims down to my left.  I quickly grabbed myself a handful of MC nut and chucked  some chopped and whole baits into the pads. Almost instantly, pin prick bubbles started to surface where I put the bait. Understandably my confidence rocketed as I rushed back to my swim and retrieved a rod. 

A 16mm linch special was hastily tied onto a multi rig and after flicking a few more baits into the pads to half spook the fish off; I dropped the rig bang on the mark. I was up a tree watching these two fish circling the spot when one dropped down and then seconds later, the Neville was away. It was hit and hold once connected with the fish, as I was fishing tight up against the pads. Luckily the dead pads broke away and it wasn’t long before a much needed carp was sulking at the bottom of my net. I weighed it in at just over 19lb and recognised it as one of the originals so I was off to a decent start to the holidays.

I decided to move the rest of my gear down to the swim I had just caught from, hoping there would be a few more about. I quickly set up in the fading light and put one rod back into the pads and another down to my left in a silty area. Again the night was uneventful but just as my mate Lawrence turned up at first light, my left hand rod wacked round and I lifted into another fish. 

The fight was savage and it was a good 15 minutes before a dark, scaley mirror was seen twisting and turning in the gin clear margins. It looked like a proper one so I was relieved when it rolled over the net cord. We were both totally in awe with the colours and scale pattern of this fish, as it was arguably one of the nicest fish I’ve caught. Weight really was irrelevant with this one, so we took a few snaps and slipped him back. Well happy!

I packed up soon after, well happy with the result of my first session in a few months.
Still buzzing from the previous trip, I was soon making plans for another. It was again to another club water but on a different ticket to the last one. I knew this lake had good winter form and the fish in there are real stunners, so I was looking forward to it! 

Although only a day session was planned, I still felt confident.
The lake itself is shallow and silty and usually responds well to mild weather, which definitely seemed to be the case on this session. I set up next to some snags that looked like an obvious fish holding area and it wasn’t long before a couple of dark shapes were seen gliding in and out of them. Light leads and long hooklinks were flicked out into the deep silt, tight to the snags. One with a Linch Special and the other a yellow pb, followed by a few handful of MC Nut

Everything was locked up solid and after only an hour, a savage take occurred and a big bow wave could be seen kiting away from the snags in the shallow water. Lukcily the fish went straight into open water and after a lively 5 minutes, she wallowed into the waiting net. The fish was a typical mirror from the lake, nice and dark and in mint condition. It looked to be one of the bigger ones in there as well and at 26 lb 7 this proved to be the case.

A decent start but the action didn’t stop there, as the other rod tore off while I was doing the photos for the one I’d just landed. Another chunky mirror soon laid in the folds of my net. The orange bellied mirror weighed in at 22lb 6 to cap off a fine winter brace.  Soon after this the ducks moved in and ruined any chance of another so it was time to pack up and starting planning for the next session!

The next session was planned on the same lake but this time for a night. My mate Oz was coming down as well, so a chance of a social and a few fish looked promising. Again I opted for the same area near the snags, as I was sure they would still be there. My thoughts were proved right as a few hours later my first common of the winter was having its pictures taken. The chestnut coloured common weighed in at just under 20.

Three more fish followed during the night up to 21+, which capped off a quality couple of sessions fishing before the dreaded return to work. The mild weather definitely helped things but a combination of MC Nut and bright pop ups made things that much easier.

 George West - Noble's Fishing

The Unknown - George West

The Unknown

George West

I've been across the channel a fair bit recently but this time there was an added buzz, as three of us were given the opportunity to fish a lake that is yet to be open to the general public. A friend of ours has recently bought a 52 acre lake in the champagne region of France called Etang 52 and apart from the odd reccy trip where he’d caught fish to 39+, he had no idea what was in there!  Sounded Ideal!
This is the sort of fishing I like, as your next bite could literally be anything and I was sure a mixture of Mc Nut and GS crab would enable us to find out what was in there…. As we approached the lake via a bumpy gravel track we kept seeing glimpses of blue ahead of us and it wasn’t long before we got our first look at our home for the next 6 days… The lake had a blue tinge to it and as we looked down at the margins we could see it was crystal clear, which would be perfect for locating the fish!
We arrived at the lake Friday afternoon and the weather forecast looked promising for the next couple of days, with a big south westerly due the following day.  After a good look around and not being able to spot anything Carpy, the three of us decided to set up on the bank that would be on the end of this new wind that was due in, in the hope that the fish would follow it. After a long day travelling it wasn’t long before we got our heads down for the night but before that, my mate James managed a 28lb common which was a promising start!

The weather looked spot on…
As the night drew out, the wind increased and by morning white caps were seen racing across the surface in our direction and it wasn't long before I spotted a few subtle shows in close. They had clearly moved onto this wind and I knew it wouldn't be long until they found the bait. Ricky landed an immaculate 34lb common in the early hours and as we still hadn't a clue what was in there, our imaginations wandered as to what else could be swimming in the depths in front.  It was just me now who was waiting to get off the mark and the shows continued throughout the morning so I knew it was only a matter of time.
To my left there was a bay and as the wind increased the better it looked. I flicked a GS Crab special hookbait  40 yards down the margin over around 50 GS crab and Mc Nut boilies and it wasn't long before my tip buckled round and I was in to my first Etang 52 carp! As I lifted into it, the rod hooped over and deep powerful lunges occurred as the unknown beast powered out of the bay. I could tell by the fight that I was into something decent and Ricky kept reminding me that was this case, cheers for that mate! After around 10 minutes, it was still holding deep and there was still no sign of the fish giving up but after constant pressure she finally rose from the depths and a big set of shoulders broke the surface.  She was clearly a big fish and Ricky waded out to meet her with the net as she took her first gulps of air. What a feeling it was when she went in the net, a proper beast of a carp and highly likely uncaught as well.

Once I’d admired her and settled down a bit, we went about getting the photos and weighing done and when the needle settled on 46lb I was more than made up. Big up to Ricky for the shots he took as she looked mega! The fish definitely got us wandering what else could be in store for us as we still had 5 nights to do.

What a Fish!

The weather had definitely pushed them in front of us but the forecast for Sunday was the complete opposite, with very little wind and bright sunshine. Good for us but not the fishing! Because of this it was no surprise that I received no further action and on the Monday, with the use of a boat we set about in search of our quarry again. Because of the flat calm conditions and the clarity of the water, it wasn’t long before we stumbled upon a group of fish sunning themselves. As expected they were at the opposite end of the lake in shallower water.  Finding the fish was the easy part but finding somewhere to fish wasn’t due to the overgrown nature of the lake with no purpose built swims. In the end we settled on a tiny gap in amongst the trees and after borrowing some tools off a local we set about building a swim bigger enough for the two of us, proper carping!

On the move…

While out on the boat we drifted across an ideal area to introduce our baits, which was a large plateaux with depth as shallow as 4ft surrounded by 10 foot of water….. The one! Due to the numbers of fish we had spotted on the boat we decided to introduce a big hit of bait and put out 15 kilos of hemp, maize and boilie onto the spot in hope of ‘having it off’ for the rest of the trip. We figured if we baited heavily we could potentially hold the fish in the area. Two rods were placed on the plateaux each and 2 down to our right hand margin, where we’d also spotted fish. We couldn’t believe the response to the bait that night and by the morning we had landed 5 fish to 36lb on MC nut with Linch specials over the top. Well worth the effort anyway!

The move definitely paid off!

The action continued throughout the week, despite the unfavourable hot and calm conditions and by the end of it, myself, Ricky and James had landed 22 fish.  The 46 was the biggest of the trip, although I’m sure there are bigger present and I can’t wait to get back out there to see if there is!

A chunky 36 common for Ricky on a pop up over MC Nut

A Clean looking mid 30 on a MC Nut special hook bait

George West - Noble's Fishing

Thursday, 14 January 2016

The Forgotten Lake - Martin Noble

The Forgotten Lake

Martin Noble

With waters becoming increasingly busy from anglers I try my best to search out quieter places to fish. A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to find an old estate lake which had almost been forgotten about and managed to secure a lease in which I could run the water myself. Of course the first thing I wanted to do once the paper work was signed was to get on there with my rods & see what lurked beneath the surface.

Old Estate Lake

A place of beauty!
The lake is only a small little place, no more than an acre in size but with depths exceeding 15ft or more, hidden away deep in a thick wood where the only sounds that can be heard are from the abundance of wildlife & birdlife. I already knew the lake held some fairly decent carp as I had seen them sunning themselves within the fallen tree snags when I first discovered the place.

I decided to do an over night session giving me 2 days to see what I could try and catch. I got to the lake around 9am with all my gear and before even thinking about setting up I quietly walked the banks to see if I could see any signs of fish. Within minutes I came across 6 upper doubles sunbathing on top amongst some old fallen trees in the water, what a lovely sight! Great to see but there was no way I could fish for them there surrounded by sunken trees, they would just instantly snag themselves & it wouldn't have been fair on the fish.

Carp Sitting in the Snags
I quietly moved on trying not to disturb them to see what else I could find. As I got nearer to the far end of the lake I could see some larger shadows moving tight to the far margin. With a clearer area of water I decided this would be an ideal place to fish. I quickly got the gear & set up keeping as quiet as I could not to spoke the fish on the far bank.

Seeming these fish had barely been fished for I decided to go with a Hi-Vis White Pop-Up presented on a blow-back rig & a little PVA bag of pellet & broken up Shoreline Baits GLM Redbull Boilies and a few grains of corn to add some colour.

The first rod I put inches from the far margin just to the right of where I had seen the shadows of the carp moving, the second rod I put just in front of a thick bush over hanging on the far bank to the right & my third rod I put down to my left under some large over hanging willow braches, the sort of ones you would see on Redmire Pool.

Off the mark - 15lb+ Mirror
Traps set & I started to sort the rest of my gear out & get the bivvy up when suddenly the far margin rod was already ripping off! It had barely been in the water 5 minutes. After a good old battle a lovely old looking Mirror of around 15lb+ rolled in the net. A great feeling to see the first fish on the bank. After a few quick photos I slipped it back and got the rod straight back on the spot.

Since the disturbance of catching the fish I decided to put a little bit more bait across the far margin spot. If fish were there or visiting the area regularly I wanted to try & keep them grubbing around on the spot. I catapulted a bed of pellet, corn & crushed boilie.
Over the next few hours I watched the water carefully, enjoying the songs of the birds, often seeing fish moving along the far margins & also moving in & out from under the far over hanging bush so I knew I was on the right spots. Not much was happening to my own margin rod down to my left under the willow branches but I kept gradual handfuls of bait going in over the day, I felt confident this would be a cracking little spot once the light of the day had gone.

Another Mid Double Mirror
Around 1pm my right hand rod under the over hanging bush on the far margin burst into life ripping off to my right, I was quickly on the rod & into another carp. After a short battle another mid double Mirror was in the net. With 2 fish off both my spots I was feeling confident there was more to come.

The lake is located far down in the bottom of a large valley surrounded by tall trees so it starts getting dark a lot earlier than normal. Around 8pm the light was starting to fade when the far magin rod ripped off again. I hit into something that felt a little better this time. It was staying down deep and was hard to stop when suddenly it went solid. I kept the pressure on for about 10 minutes or so but nothing was giving so I let off the bail arm & some slack & lay the rod down in hope that the fish would free itself. After another 10 minutes had passed when the slack line suddenly tighten up, I quickly picked up the rod and was back into the fight & the fish which had freed itself.

After a lengthy battle a chunky Mirror came to the surface & slipped into the net. This one looked a bit better than the last 2. Another mint fish that went just over 21lb on the scales. A decent fish but I had seen bigger cruising the margins. After a few quick snaps I gentle put her back & got the rod back on the spot along with a top up of crushed boilie, corn & pellet again.

Chunky 21lb+ Mirror

Beautiful Sunset over the lake!
With the light fast fading the clouds in the sky started to pick up the highlights from the falling sun which produced a beautiful sunset, the sound of the birds in the surround woods slowly starting to quieten down for the night ahead.

About half an hour had passed as I sat there soaking up the beautiful moment & surroundings when suddenly my right hand rod was away & I was in to yet another fish. After a scrappy battle I landed a cracking looking long old lean Mirror of around 13lb+. This fish although smaller had alot more character, hopefully some of the larger residents in the lake might look as lovely as this fish! 

After a few snaps I quickly got it back & got the rod back on the spot before it was to dark to get the accuracy right.

I put the kettle on and gathered my thoughts, not a bad start to the day with some nice fish on the bank on what looks to be a promising little water. I was excited to see what the night would bring & if any of the bigger girls might show!

Cracking Old Character!

As the night set in, the temperature dropped slightly & the whole place went dead silent, you could of heard a pin drop it was that quiet, quite an eerie feel which I've never experience at other lakes I've fished. 

About midnight the moon started to rise above the tall trees letting beams of light down onto the lake & my swim. This place was getting more magical by the moment!

I decided to get some sleep & tucked up in my sleeping bag & nodded off at the thought of what monsters might be lurking under the surface.

Around just after 3am my own margin rod under the willow branches went into meltdown, as I woke I saw my rod flying off the alarm as it was getting wrenched to the left. I flew out of my sleeping bag and grabbed the rod, the fish stripping line off the reel as it powered up the left margin under the over hanging brances.

After finally managing to get the fish to turn I slowly started to gain some line back & get it out fighting in the open water in front of me using only the moonlight to see what I was doing as I didn't want to spook my swim with my head torch light. 

After getting it in the net & on my mat only then did I turn my head torch on to find a beautiful dark Common laying in front of me. Another pristine upper double!

I quickly got the rod back out & topped the area up with a bit of bait & got back in the sleeping back as it had got a lot colder now with the clear sky. Not much happened for the rest of the night, I think the drop in temp probably put them off a bit.

I woke up early & decided to have a wonder about to see if I could see fish moving about around the lake. It wasn't long before I came across a group of 4 fish cruising along together, the biggest around the 20lb+ mark.
They didn't seem to be feeding, rather just cruising about but they were heading up towards my end of the lake so I decided to stay put.

By around 9am the sun was starting to rise above the tree line bringing the lake back to life with colour & warmth. I could start to see fizzing around my spots so I knew the fish were on the feed again. Hopefully the new day might bring something a little larger this time.

About an hour passed as I watched the water carefully when the far margin rod was away again, quickly on the rod I was into something which felt a little better again. The fish stayed deep & was slowing pondering around in the open water. Eventually after a 10 minute battle a long lean Mirror was in the net, this one looking a little better in size!

23lb 7oz Long Lean Mirror

The Mirror went 23lb 7oz on the scales, biggest of the session so far, it was a long old fish & had a lovely colour to it. If this was the sort of fish that was stocked in the lake it made me even more excited to see what else the lake was hiding!

A few photos & I put the fish back and got the rod back on the spot. I think the disturbance of fighting this fish spooked the swim a little & it went quiet for the next few hours which I didn't mind as I got to sit back & enjoy the surroundings and wildlife for a while. This truly is a magical place, not just the fishing but the whole surroundings!

Early afternoon came and not a lot had happened since, I was just thinking maybe to try a couple of new spots for the last few hours when my right had rod had a few bleeps. I position myself ready to pounce, suddenly the line tore off the the right & I was into another fish. This one didn't feel quite as big this time, splashing about on the far bank. After a short battle it was in the net, and what a stunning little fish it was, probably just over the 11lb mark but was the prettiest fish by far, a heavily scaled Mirror. I was over the moon with this fish & this was another glimpse into what this cracking little water might hold.  

Cracking Scaly Mirror!

Early afternoon I decided to call it a day, I had caught more than I ever imagined I was going to on my first session, I cant wait to get back down for another bash & see if I can find where some of the bigger girls are hiding! 

Martin Noble - Noble's Fishing