Flatty Match Fishing

Thu 23 October 14


Written by Jamie Harrison

Venue: River Trent, Laughterton, Tidal

Featured Angler: Wayne Bartholomew

River Trent scene

During October and November, the resident roach, dace, skimmers and bream that anglers target throughout the summer months move lower down the river leaving match anglers with a dilemma as what species to target. Perch still remain in areas and so do chub and barbel but these species rarely feed in numbers hence they become more unpredictable and unreliable. Step up the humble flatty!

River Trent scene 2

These odd looking fish are naturally mistaken for more of a sea-dwelling fish but at this time of year they appear in numbers and can often reach a very appealing 2lb in weight! This time last year, these fish were the only fish feeding in any number so anglers had to target them and weights of 15-16lb became quite common and when you realise that these weights were framing and winning matches, you can see why anglers wanted to master the technique of catching them. One of those anglers is Wayne Bartholomew. He’s a former England youth international and Barnsley Black who fishes the tidal river all through the summer and autumn and he has become extremely effective at targeting these potential match winners.


As with most fishing on the ‘tidal’ timing is key with most of the fishing here as tides change daily and whilst you might find the right method, you may not get the potential from it if you fish it at the wrong time! Just after the tide has ‘topped’ is the best time as the river is at its maximum depth (for that day anyway!) and the river is running in its correct direction. At this time, the flatty’s come onto the gravel in the slightly shallower water close in so that’s the area you should target.



Whilst these fish can range in weight from 2oz to 2lb, as with most tidal river fishing it’s important to use durable tackle and as these are ‘bottom-hugging’ fish you need to put quite a bit of pressure on them when hooked in order to keep your rig out of any rocks in the swim. Once hooked, Wayne emphasises how important it is to keep winding until the fish is ready for netting. They hug the bottom and whilst they don’t go for snags, it’s your rig and hooklength that is easily damaged if you’re not careful so keep the rod high and keep winding!

Terminal tackle components

On certain days, some anglers target these fish on the pole, whip and even the float but the number one banker method is the feeder. The perfect reel mainline is 4lb Daiwa Sensor (004) as its relatively low diameter but very strong and a great reel line which Wayne uses for all his feeder fishing on rivers. Hooklength line is always Guru N-Gauge which is again low diameters (it’s marked up at exactly the same diameter as it actually measures at!) and it’s very durable. This line also eliminates line-twist which can be a problem when fishing a worm or double hookbaits.

One main piece of kit you need on these types of rivers is a platform and some sort of an idea of what the tide will be. By knowing when the tide will turn and big it will be, it will allow you to gauge better where to position your platform to maximize comfort and efficiency. The last thing you want to be doing in matches is to be wasting time moving your tackle back and forth if you’ve positioned yourself in the wrong place!

Allow for tide level variations when setting up


Whilst some anglers go down the route of more ‘sea’ based baits like prawn and various forms of prawn paste, Wayne confirms that the number one bait is worm. Yes, as with all fish in this river, maggots will catch them but they are nowhere near as effective as worm. He introduces the worm, chopped-up through a maggot feeder

Block end maggot feeders are the way forward

Large Lobworms are fantastic for attracting these fish but as you can imagine, it can be expensive if you’re using ‘shop-bought’ worms so Wayne likes to bulk out the worm with a 50/50 mix of Lobworms and dendrabenas. Hookbait is almost always small sections of a dendrabena.


Hook the tail of the worm and nip it with your finger nail or scissors so it’s about 3 inches long. This is the perfect length and it will also leave a nice, open end to the worm which will allow the juices to escape and help draw fish upstream towards your bait.

Chopping the works ready for the feeder

Initially, Wayne will recast every 2 minutes in order to get a scent of the worm going down the swim in the hope of attracting any fish up to the feeder if they are further downstream. He’ll do this for the first 10 casts and then he’ll change accordingly once he has judged the response he’s had. If it’s hard then he’ll start to leave the feeder in longer. The flatty’s are generally throughout the river at this time of year but as depths and variations in flows change from peg to peg, you will find that there may be more flatty’s on offer in certain pegs than others.

Flatty the target species

Mastering catching these fish is a must if you intend on fishing tidal rivers especially at this time of year. Yes these fish are the main species to target during October and November but it’s important to understand that these fish are in the river all year round and can be very valuable get-out-of-jail fish during the summer months on the harder days so get out there and experience the delights and rewards of the rather alien looking match winners!

catch shot

Tight Lines
Jamie Harrison


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