Taupō woman Theresa Beilby, 29, has been selected for the New Zealand Commonwealth Fly Fishing Team, along with fellow Taupō Fishing Club member Dr Rachel McNae who is a reserve.
The Commonwealth Fly Fishing Championships are being held in March, with fly fishers from all over the Commonwealth competing on the Tongariro River, the upper reaches of the Whanganui River, Lake Rotoaira and Lake Kuratau.
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Theresa, a qualified nurse, grew up in Tairua and says she was raised on game fishing. Her mother is from Camotes, a small resort island in the Philippines.
"When we go back to Camotes, we sort of have to fish. My whole family over there is into recreational fishing and supplying the markets is a regular income."
Theresa says her dad is a keen pig hunter and he taught her to navigate in the Coromandel bush, a very handy skill to have for back country fly fishing. But Theresa says it can be dangerous if you go on your own.
A chance meeting with a tall, blond Swiss national who was fishing the Tongariro River, and Theresa was hooked on fly fishing for trout. She says fiance Claudio Wyss has been a tremendous help in teaching her how to fly fish.
"If I am having a difficult time I go ask Claudio. He will fish it and work it out and give me advice on my gear or technique," says Theresa.
After meeting Theresa, Claudio gave up the biennial trip to New Zealand and moved here. Now working as a Unison line mechanic, Claudio runs fly fishing workshops for his Unison workmates who are keen to learn to fish.
"What I love about the Kiwis is they give so much. That's why I do the workshops, as a way to give back," says Claudio.
Starting at the Waitahanui rip, Theresa says she is slowly realising there are many details in fly fishing.
Practising for the championships is currently a full-time job for Theresa and she is out fishing eight hours a day. Last week she fished six days in a row, at times when the light is difficult and the fish are less active, because the competition is held between the hours of 9am to 12pm, and 1pm to 4pm.
"The only way to improve is to fish in difficult conditions. Yesterday I took half a day to figure out how to catch fish on Lake Rotoaira in sunny and flat conditions," says Theresa.
Part-time work at Taupō Rod & Tackle, and sponsorship from tackle suppliers goes a long way towards keeping her in new rods, fluorocarbon tippet and flies.
"Sometimes I am up until 3am tying flies," says Theresa.
She says the Taupō Fishing Club has been a huge support, as has Tūrangi friend Andrew Burden and current New Zealand champion Cory Scott, and Tim Rich.
Theresa says she expects the championship will be mentally tough. People who want to come and watch will have to follow strict rules.
"There will be no moving around, no talking, no white clothing or gear, only neutral coloured clothing."
Fellow Taupō Fishing Club member Rachel McNae is also part of the 11-person squad representing New Zealand at the championships. Living in Hamilton and a professor at Waikato University, Rachel says it is the first time that women have been in the team. She and Theresa are both hopeful this will pave the way for a future New Zealand women's team.
"For me fly fishing is an absolute passion. When I nod off to sleep at night, I dream of striking," says Rachel.
There are currently more women than men in the Taupō Fishing Club and Rachel says it has been nice to meet other women who enjoy fishing and keen to compete. Her work at the university is around women's empowerment and development, and she hopes to see a women's only team at the next championships.
"Juggling family commitment, work and quite a structured training programme. The phenomenal thing is having women represented in the team. It's inspiring."
* The 2020 Commonwealth Fly Fishing Championship will be held from March 17 – 22, based at the Wairākei Resort.