North­ern sole

Tar­get flat­ties from the Hum­ber es­tu­ary.

Sea Angler (UK) - - CONTENTS - Words by Paul Fenech Pho­tog­ra­phy by Mike Dob­son

Rarely on the radar of most an­glers, the Dover sole is a species that al­ways seems to bring a smile to your face if you catch one. On the right tackle, the species can cer­tainly pull your string, and will al­ways put up a ter­rific fight. Hook into a two-pounder and you will def­i­nitely know about it. They taste great too.

Usu­ally found feed­ing in shal­low water with a muddy seabed, these soles pre­fer to move closer to the shore dur­ing warmer months. That means there’s re­ally no need to cast huge dis­tances to present your bait.

Re­garded as more of a noc­tur­nal crea­ture, there are in fact a few venues where you can set your stall out to tar­get them in day­light.

One such place is Barton-upon-Hum­ber, lo­cated on the south bank of the mighty River Hum­ber, within the shadow of the tow­er­ing bridge. Win­ner of Sea An­gler’s Penn Sea League fi­nal, and in­ter­na­tional match an­gler Ge­orge Smith, from nearby Grimsby, en­joys tar­get­ing soles at Barton, es­pe­cially when he’s us­ing his ul­tra-fine kit and del­i­cate baits.


“For ul­ti­mate sport, I pre­fer to use 8-10lb main­line cou­pled with a 20-30lb shock­leader or a ta­pered ver­sion,” he ex­plained. “I use a long, one-up, one­down rig of around 4ft, con­structed with a 20lb body and 10lb snoods mea­sur­ing 30in, armed with size 4 Ka­masan match hooks, so I can cover more ground.”

Ge­orge loves the fact that these fish can be caught re­ally close to the bank, mean­ing casts of around 20 yards or

“When they find your baited hook, the bites can be ex­cit­ing and dra­matic”

even closer bring him bites. By us­ing a small pyra­mid-style sinker on the set-up, his baited rig can move slowly with the tide.

Flat­ties are preda­tors and love to chase a meal. Dover soles are no dif­fer­ent and, when they even­tu­ally find your baited hook, the bites can be ex­cit­ing and dra­matic.

An­other neat trick rec­om­mended by Ge­orge is mov­ing or twitch­ing the bait: “If you haven’t had a bite within 10 min­utes, sim­ply give your rig a slight pull to­wards you. Of­ten, a sole may be po­si­tioned very close to your bait, and just by mov­ing it you can tempt it to pounce,” he said.


Best baits are king rag­worms, gut­ted black lug, blow lug and mad­dies (har­bour rag). You can fish these on their own, or per­haps to­gether, but re­mem­ber to match your baits to the size of your hook. By head-hook­ing sev­eral mad­dies on the point, leav­ing the tails hang­ing, it cre­ates at­trac­tive move­ment as they wrig­gle.

Dover soles be­gin to ap­pear from June on­wards, and will cer­tainly hang around un­til Septem­ber, or even into Oc­to­ber if the weather is favourable.

The Hum­ber es­tu­ary al­ways seems to have a lot of colour in it, and this is the rea­son day­light catches can be quite good. How­ever, it’s prob­a­bly bet­ter to choose medium to small tides be­cause the run may be too fierce on a large spring tide to hold bot­tom.

This venue is rel­a­tively easy to fish, ei­ther from a grass bank where you’ll need a tri­pod (keep the rods low in the rest) or from the railed sec­tion on the prom­e­nade.

You’ll prob­a­bly need to cast over the mud when the tide be­gins to flood, but it even­tu­ally creeps all the way to your rod tip. Never ven­ture out on to the mud. “This stuff is par­tic­u­larly soft and sloppy and it’s easy to be­come stranded,” he warned.

Along with Dover soles, you can ex­pect to con­nect with lots of floun­ders and eels too. There’s even a good chance of bag­ging a bass. Most of the soles av­er­age 8-10oz, with a fish of more than 1lb re­garded as a good one in this area.

Win­ter can be just as pro­duc­tive at Barton too, es­pe­cially in Novem­ber and De­cem­ber, but re­mem­ber to scale up on your tackle be­cause there’s a real chance of catch­ing a de­cent cod, with spec­i­mens up to 10lb pos­si­ble to lug and squid baits.

Ge­orge with an­other great sole

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