Back in 2016, I acquired a ticket that I had my eyes and heart set on for a while, The Woolpack in Cambridgeshire. On lakes 5&6, 7 and 8. Many will know the history of this place but for those that don’t, we are talking about some proper old scaley ones. Some stocked back as late as 1977 by Bill Chillingworth when the fishery was first finding its feet.
The stock differed, with some original Leney strains, Galician strains, in all just some real pearlers but most of all they were proper old ones and well it just had a bit of me written all over it. Set back from the A14 road at a distance where it could just be heard faintly. Laid a 50-acre site that captured and held an abundance of flora & fauna. Tranquility at its best! Not to mention the creatures that called the water their home.
Historically It was one site comprising of 8 lakes. Nowadays, these are split into two different fisheries. We now have Lakes 1, 2 and 3 as one side, then 4, 5 & 6, 7 and 8 as the other.
The lakes were full of naturals, which could make the fishing very tricky allowing the carp to switch on and off of anglers bait whenever they chose to do so. After spending a couple of seasons down there It was obvious as I had discovered that it was one thing putting a bait in front of them, in the right place, but it was another getting them to pick it up.
The piece I am about to tell you about is my first capture from the woolpack and what a buzz it was.
I had started my first season as keen as mustard, The ticket started from January 1st, in hindsight this was a bit too keen, as it became evident over the following seasons that whilst it wasn’t completely impossible to get get a pick up. The fish generally didn’t start to wake up until March each year.
I had ploughed what felt like my very soul into getting down there as much as I could from the very off. Usually one overnighter a week and from Friday until Sunday afternoon.
A lot of the first part of the season especially up until march was very hard going, I hadn’t seen anything despite being up at dawn and watching, roaming the margins and trying to read off of wildlife signs such as birds.
It wasn’t until mid March when I got my first 100% sign that I could absolutely say without a doubt was carp. It showed itself by way of slipping what seemed very stealthily out to the bottom of its gills before gently going back under. If I hadn’t been looking in exactly the right place I could well have missed it and dismissed it if I had seen only the aftermath disturbance on the surface.
With that properly igniting the fire within me, it was just the boost that was needed. But unfortunately these clever old ones had different plans. The lake proceeded to beat me up through spring and into spawning in the warmer months. Although I had now seen a fair few especially during the warmer hotter days, cruising under the surface, I had started to really wonder where, why and when will one of these scaly’s trip up.
I had by this time, seen and spoken to some other anglers that had been successful though the spring with a capture or two. This was inspiring but as frustrating as you like as you can imagine. With July having now arrived, work had become busy and some working away was required that I couldn’t opt out of.
It wasn’t until mid August that I could get back and the lake, had evidently changed, some big weed beds had reared their heads, out in the centre and in the Corners of the lake. The rules on the Woolpack were a maximum of 72 hours on and for whatever length of time you were on you had to be away for after the session had ended. However you were aloud a pre arranged week once a year and I had my sights on September.
It was September 16th and the car was loaded ready to set off in determination of hunting down one of these Wiley Woolpack characters that had so far been very successful in being able to avoid meeting me.
I arrived early morning with plenty of time not wanting to rush but to take my time and put in some leg work trying to find where they were spending their time and where they may be heading to with the weather we had ahead of us.
The first couple of nights were quite, but they had me on the run after the first night, as I had set up in a swim known as “steps” halfway down the lake and I heard them in the middle of the night slightly to my right but seemed to be past halfway over. The fish in there always seem to like showing just after dark. It seemed to be their thing, as light dropped they became more willing to give away there presence.
The second night, I moved over the other side which put me roughly in the area of where I had heard them the previous night.
As before, they did indeed turn up after dark and seemed to be right over me but, were still not having any of it. I done my third night in that same swim but again no result and there seemed less activity that third night. The very next day I decided to reset, and as I was now the only one on the lake following the departure of a couple of other lads that morning. I packed the gear away on the barrow and headed on a few laps around the lake.
They particularly liked a certain corner of the lake near a swim called “Southey” as it was on the south bank. They had an area in amongst snags where there was relief from any angling pressure and they would very often drift in and out of there as they felt confident.
Later that day I decided to settle in Southey and I put a bit of bait out towards a spot I had found near that corner. The other two rods were fanned out in an arc to cover a nice sized area. I was now heading into my fourth night, but I was now the only one down, so I settled in for the evening with a couple of drinks and a bbq as it really was that sort of lovely September warm evening.
That night I had a few very vicious liners which nearly ripped my heart out my chest before the bobbin slowly settled back down into its position. With still nothing the next morning I thought they had done the off. So after breakfast and around 11am I wound in and went for a walk right down the other side of the lake and stood in a swim called Jerrys where the lake narrowed up and at the back again were reeds and a snaggy areas they favoured.
As I stood there I said to myself I’m going to stand here for 15 mins and see if anything is happening down here, and I kid you not I set a timer as I wanted to head down the shop as well bang on 14 minutes one launched itself out over the back by the reeds.
I was torn as I knew at least for a couple nights they were further down the lake and after the liners I had last night. Also I had now put a bit of bait out and it had been primed for over 24 hours nearly so if they were going to come into that snaggy corner where I was I stood a good chance.
I said to myself I’m going to go to the shop and decide. Take the long walk back to the swim this way again. If I see anything else ill up sticks and shoot straight down that end. I didn’t see anything else on my return from the shop despite standing another 15-20 minutes. I stuck to my guns and stayed put in Southey.
Another calm warm evening my fish evening and I settled down with anticipation. The next morning around 4:45 my right rod hooped over and I was on it as fast as possible. The moment I picked it up it was solid in one of those weedbeds I mentioned, it must have kited so quickly before I could do anything it was in there.
I remember thinking Oh Nooooo Pleaseeeee! Just please! All this time you know what its like you’ve been waiting for chance and now in a moment like this it all hangs in the balance. Having to eventually put the Rod down I walked the split bank between lakes 7 and 6 and I see Jason Haywood was just sitting there. I said Ive got one but its done me!
Being a very helpful chap he offered his assistance he went and watched the Rod round the corner for me whilst I ran down the bank got in the boat and began to row headwind the whole length of the lake. By the time I was at my swim I was shattered.
Jason Handed me the rod and said good luck. I got above the fish and I felt a couple of thuds, my heart sank again, It was still on. After turning me a few times in the boat I managed to slip it over the cord. Utter relief and emotion as I had waited so long and done so many nights for an opportunity one of these old characters was mine. I got back to the swim and Jason helped me get the boat tied up to the swim and helped lift the fish out.
Later I found out it was one known as the ancient Lin (RIP), now no longer with us what a stunner! At 27lb it was all about the history of these fish and those old scaley features. Andy informed me that Bill had records of that in 1977 so I could have been even older that that! What a creature.
I later went on that season to bank another, known as the pit 7 fully at 30+ and another common at 22lb known as Jamies 17.8 after Jamie Clossick I believe after he caught it but this fish had only done 3 captures Andy knew of.
What a place the Woolpack had defiantly grabbed me and I was more than willing for more punishment if there were the rewards. But that is for another time.