As the painted ray season was well on the way myself and Dan decided to go and fish one of our local beaches. We started in Garryvoe, a renowned beach for painted ray. As we arrived at night we could not see whether there was any weed on the beach or not but we soon found out after the first few cast. As we were reeling in you could see streams of weed flapping on the line with a huge lump around the hook and lead. We stuck it out for an hour and then decided to pack up and move to Ballinwilling beach. Like before with a few casts we knew we would have to move. With the jeep packed again we decided to fish Ballycreenana the next beach up with the same fate, weed… with the gear in the jeep we decided to go to Youghal beach hoping it would be weed free. We hauled the gear out again and headed to the surf. We took a few casts that resulted the same problem, lots of weed. Honestly, after all that all I wanted to do was go home and sit next to the fire. As Dan is a man that doesn’t like to be defeated he said why don’t we head to Green Park for a few casts as it an hour from high tide and the weed problem should not be too bad at this stage of tide. So with a deep breath I said why not, we had plenty of crab and sand eel to use plus the bosses were not expecting us to pack up until all hours of the morning. As we drove alongside the beach and a passed the light house we could see a few head lights on the promenade where we wanted to fish, it was a good sign that it could be fishable. As we walked up the path we could see one of the anglers lifting up a large flat ray type fish and as we reached the angler I could see it was a painted ray. I took out my weighing scales and asked him would it be ok for me to weigh it. With his permission it brought the needle over the ten pound specimen barrier. As he had no interest in filling out a form he put the fish back where it belongs. With a sudden burst of new life injected in to us we had or rod set up, baited and casted. As I was talking to the lads both of their rods started to bend, I was thinking the worst the weed is back until they said another ray. With their fish landed and unhooked I asked could I take a picture.
It is nice to see a Father and son out night fishing and in between the cod they landed three cracking painted rays
With the two fish released I asked did they mind if I fished a bit closer to them as I was looking for rays and not Cod. They said work away. As I headed to my rod it lifted off the stand and started thumping as the line was being striping off my reel. I grabbed my rod and lifted into the fish, the first thought that came to mind was if I did not set the drag on my reel my fishing gear was gone. As it is near impossible to land the fish were I was fishing I had to walk along the wall towards the corner pulling the ray through the swells and light weed I could see the waves crashing onto the small beach where I was going to attempt to land it. As I looked back to where I was fishing I could see that Dan was doing the same pulling a fish while battling with the surges and swells. As I got on to the beach and walked into the wave crashing sea Dan shouted ‘as your there grab mine’. As I had my fish under control I passed up my rod to Dan so I could grab his ray as well. With a wave bashing of a life time over I knew I had potential specimen fish in either hand. With both rays weighed and measured the lads alongside us returned the favour and took pictures of us.
Dan with a cracking 11lb 14oz that took peeler crab on a one up and one down trace and me with a 12lb 2oz that took sand eel on a pennel pulley rig. I must agree what Dan’s saying, you are not beaten until you are at home
It was not long after those fish that we were joined by a few lads from Cork and as we knew them we made room for them to cast into the same area. It did not take long before I was connected to another ray and as I leaned into the fish it woke up and started to fight back. As I gained line I had to ask the lads to lift there rod so I could pull the ray around the corner so I could head to the beach. With the same ordeal over I got Dan to weigh the fish as I got my breath back. He said it weighed exactly the same as the last one, 12lb 2oz, and then said to me ‘‘just think, only three hours before this fish we had to go through all the hard ship walking up and down four different breaches, hauling in tons of weed, lugging rods, pods, and seat boxes and we were feeling disgusted with despair. It’s amazing how the human brain works. We are now catching fish and I bet you have forgotten the feeling of what we went through?’’ How right he was.
My second ray over twelve pound and the last three hours are long forgotten
With a few dogs and small cod being landed between the five of us it was like all the rays got the same thought ‘let’s feed’. With every rod bending over with rays we were all walking towards the beach to land our fish. I would love to have got a photo of us walking the fish towards the beach because, we were like planes waiting for the slot to land. With all five fished landed, photographed and weighed as fast as humanly possible they were all returned alive to fight another day
Jonathan Leahy with a 12lb, Dan Lynch with a 12lb 10oz, me with an 11lb 15oz, Colin Mullane with a 12lb 6oz and Andrew Thornton with a 7lb painted male
A few simple tips on preparing a sand eel. Look at the photo from top to bottom. First try to buy large sand eel when possible, when the sand eel is thawed out cut off the tail and cut through the head and then split the belly. Then set out where you are going to position the hooks. With the hooks threaded through the sand eel wrap your bait elastic up and down the length of the fish, this will stop the hooks ripping through the flesh as you are casting and it all so helps to prevent crabs stripping it off your hooks.
When I was fishing Garryvoe beach for rays my two rods bent over at the same time and produced a two pound bass and a codling
If fishing off Ballycotton Pier (or most piers) a drop net comes in very handy
Over the next few weeks I was joined by a lot of friends from all over the country. We tried all the beaches from Youghal to Garryvoe with each night matching the previous super night’s ray fishing. That was until a commercial boat came to town… then another and another. In all four commercial boats that I had never seen before (so not local boats) were working right through to the early hours of the morning. The fishing turned from mega to crap in a short few days. I know the fishermen have to make a living too, but taking fish as they spawn and trawling areas that you can cast to is sickening. Remember we basically sold 95% of our fishing rights to the EU but we still own five miles from our shores. These fish belong to every man, woman and child who are a citizen of Ireland. We should have a voice and there should be areas for fish to spawn safely and areas that can only be fished by anglers.
Mirror image Kilian on left with a 9lb painted and Glenn with his first painted ray from Ballycotton that weighed 12lb 8oz
Terry Jackson with a specimen painted from Ballinwilling
Andy Wolsey with his fifth specimen from Garryvoe
Bill Brazier carefully returning an 11lb 15oz specimen Painted ray at Ballycreenana
You can buy ready-made rigs at affordable prices if you don’t have the time to make them. But if you have time or just like making your own rigs you will find that the pulley rig is quite easy and cheap to make.
Firstly, whatever strength your shock leader is the main body of the trace (to which you attach your snoods) must match it. I would cut about twenty-four inches of your chosen line and then tie one end to a lead link. Slide on a buffer bead then a pulley swivel bead or a normal swivel and then another buffer bead. When that is done tie it to a swivel.
Secondly, cut your hook line material a few inches longer, don’t use anything less than 30lb. Next cut one inch of shrink tube and slide it up the line about two inches then get a 1/0 hook and put the line through the eye and then slide the tube over the hook until there is about an eighth of an inch of tube left showing. Next use a lighter and gently heat the shrink tube for a few seconds, it will start shrinking and molding itself around the hook. Give it a moment to cool and slide it up the line. Then cut off the damaged line that might be caused by the lighter and then tie on a 3/0 or a 4/0 long shaft hook. When you tie your hook link to your swivel make sour it is shorter than the main body that is attached to your lead.
With the bait wrapped and ready for casting put the bottom hook onto an impact lead and pull the main line and lead tight. This will straighten out the trace and keep your bait behind the lead until it hits the water were it will unlatch itself so it can sit on the bottom waiting for a willing fish to take. When you are fishing for rays you can pick up a verity of species especially cod and bass.
Damo with his first specimen painted ray of 11lb 7oz
 Pulley rigs are my top trace choice especially if you need to cast long distance.
 Beach caster, a good reliable reel loaded with 15lb line and 60lb shock leader.
 Tripod stand, head torch, tip lights or reflective tape.
 Drop net if you are fishing off rocks or pairs
 My main hook is a Long shank, wide gape size 3/0 or 4/0 hooks all depending on the size of bait and my second hook is a size 1/0 .
 Bait elastic, 30 to 50lb line for snoods, pulley rig beads, and lead sliders.
 Grip leads, buffer beads, size 8 swivels and shrink tube that suits the size of your hooks.