Fly anglers Karen Brooks and Jules Stevens know what it’s like to put catching a fish above everything else.
“There’s this drive that comes – you just want to catch this fish,” Ms Brooks says.
“You do just about anything to land that fish, and in a competition it’s very important that you keep that fish,” Ms Stevens adds.
The women are part of Australia’s squad for the first-ever Women’s World Fly Fishing Championships, to be held in Norway in June.
They will face teams from 10 other countries, including Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic, the United States and South Africa.
“Some have been in men’s competitions for many years, open competitions, so they’re very skilled,” Ms Brooks said.
Swap trout for arctic grayling
The Australian Women’s Fly Fishing Team is led by Ms Brooks and made up of five angling members, plus a manager and trainer, and includes three Tasmanians.
“It’s a fantastic representation for Tassie,” Ms Brooks said.
Like her Tasmanian teammates, Julie Butler and Ms Stevens, Ms Brooks developed her angling skills primarily by fishing for trout.
The target fish species for the World Championships, however, will be the Arctic Grayling.
“They feed very differently to Tasmanian trout,” Ms Butler says.
“So we’re going [to Norway] a little early… to understand how these waters work and how we need to change our practices to catch the grayling.
“[This] will be really necessary for us to be able to trick these fish into eating our flies.”
Prepare for “all eventualities”
Ms Brooks says the team members will also hone their skills here at home before leaving for Norway.
“It’s really about working on our strike rate, being accurate with our flies and getting our depth right,” she says.
Unlike trout, which were skittish and would run away if approached, Ms Brooks says grayling tends to congregate under an angler due to the nymphs being dislodged from the riverbed by the angler’s boots.
“They like to be right below you, so a lot of the techniques we’ll be using there will be swinging flies,” she says.
“It’s something we have to practice here.”
Tying lots of flies for championships is also high on the team’s to-do list, as is sourcing a full kit of emergency gear for each member.
“When we fish, we usually carry three to five rods [each] with us…we’ll have all of those with us, and backup rods in case one breaks,” says Ms Brooks.
The preparation of women for the next “worlds” also involves maintaining form.
“Sometimes we have to go up and down the river, and … wading can be very physically demanding,” says Ms Butler.
“We’ve all been focused on our physical condition as well, and we will stay that way until we leave.”
Outside of fishing, arranging fundraising, flights, car rentals, accommodations and even uniforms kept Ms. Stevens, the team manager, busy.
Pleasure meets serious fishing
Ms. Brooks looks forward to meeting anglers from around the world at the championships.
“Everyone stays in the same hotel and we’ll share meals with them…it’ll be fun,” she says.
Members of the Tasmanian team, however, agree that the fishing during the event will be “very competitive”.
“Keep that fish in the net and get it to your controller… [even] if that means going swimming.”
“Once you get [a fish] you’ll really want to get it to the controller quickly so you can get back to where you caught it… the race is about to begin,” Ms Brooks says.
An ‘honor’ that I dreamed of
In the midst of training before the start and preparing for the world championships, the three Tasmanian anglers still stop from time to time to “pinch themselves”.
“It’s an experience you never think you’ll have, to represent your country…and I think it’s an absolute honor to be able to do that,” Ms Stevens said.
“It was actually amazing…preparing for the world championships because what we have to do is fish to practice,” Ms Brooks said.