Yes folks it’s blog time again, so rather than being out on the bank like the rest of my angling friends, I am sat here on a Saturday evening jotting down a few words about how my February went.

Unfortunately at the time of writing, my 100 pike target for the winter is still stuck on 91; and sadly I think that’s where it will stay now as I only have one more day of the season left before I head off to a week of carping at Lake Serene in France.

On a positive note though, throughout the 2014/2015 season I’d been chasing the much sought after Osprey Specimen Group salver for the most prestigious captures of the group. After what can only be described as probably the best season of specimen angling I’ve ever had, I was fortunate to be voted as the winner by all the members of the group. As is normal for the group, we always hold our prize giving event down on the lovely Lower Itchen Fishery, where we usually all spend the day ambling about trying all the different parts of the river before converging on the anglers hut at mid-day for a spot of lunch and the awarding of the silver wear.

The Lower Itchen is one of my favourite chalkstream venues where I normally fish for the roach and grayling, but this time rather than do that I intended to try and break a longstanding ambition of catching a barbel on the float. I suppose I could have gone to somewhere like the Wye or Severn and caught one on a well stocked stretch, but I thought I would make it a bit more challenging by trying to get one from a chalk stream (luckily there’s loads in this stretch!).

I had been given the nod about a swim near the bottom of the fishery where there were a head of barbel that had taken up residence, so as soon as we all arrived at the venue and everyone else headed off upstream, I headed down to this swim. I started off bait-droppering in about a pint of hemp and half a pint of red maggot, before leaving the swim to settle while I set up my trotting rod. For the majority of my trotting with the centrepin these days I prefer to use 6lb floating braid, the control and feel of it being far superior to normal monofilament line. On this went an 8AA Avon float and being such a clear chalkstream venue, I opted for a 4lb Mirage fluorocarbon hooklink as it is almost invisible underwater. This was combined with a size 14 Target Specimen hook baited with four maggots. These little hooks are not only razor sharp out the packet, but very strong for their size.

Having left the swim to rest for about an hour I started to have a few runs with the float but no bait, just to see if I could detect any stray strands of weed lurking about that could impede a steady trot. Once I was happy with the bottom layout, I added the maggots to the hook and started fishing. Rather surprisingly I went for about an hour without the float even dipping once, very strange for this venue as even if the roach and grayling aren’t on the munch, the hordes of ravenous trout and salmon parr will normally throw themselves at the bait with gusto.

Eventually, after droppering in a bit more bait I started to get a couple of bites, all but one of which I missed; but when I did make contact, it was immediately apparent this wasn’t a roach or grayling! I could feel something large and heavy on the end just staying deep and hugging the bottom. After 10 minutes I could feel the fish trying to get behind a sunken tree at the bottom of the swim, but eventually I started to gain the upper hand and bring it slowly upstream. The fish was still staying low down and plodding up and down the swim, after a while I could feel it tiring and after one failed attempt at netting it, I finally slipped the net under what looked to be a very nice barbel. I left her resting in the water whilst I organised my camera and scales etc, and once she’d had a bit of a breather I lifted her out and up into the sling. Well, I had planned to get my first float caught barbel that day, so to do it with an absolutely immaculate fish of 12lb 3oz was more than I had hoped for. Luckily just as I was weighing her, my mate Pete wandered downstream to see how I was doing, so he was able to do the honours with the camera to save me faffing around with the self takes. After rattling off a few shots we popped her back into the net and let her rest in the edge again to recover before slipping her back and watching her swim off strongly again.

I did lose another fish that felt like a barbel a bit later, but apart from that one fish all I had was a small grayling to show. A low catch rate day for there but I was far from complaining with what I had caught.

Well, that more or less sums up my February for 2015. By the time I write my March blog I shall have had my week’s carp fishing in France, so fingers crossed I shall be able to tell you all about all the massive carp I caught.

Until next time all, tight lines.