A home-grown fishing initiative - a women's trout fly fishing tournament on the Tongariro River - proved such a success in 2019 it's being repeated this year.

The Tongariro River Motel Annual Ladies' Fly Fishing Tournament will be held in Tūrangi from June 25 to 27 and this year is expected to attract over 30 anglers, a jump on the 22 or so who attended in 2019.

Interest in the tournament has been so high that Tongariro River Motel owner Ross Baker, who is offering accommodation at cost to the participants, said he could have filled the rooms twice over.

"It just shows there's a big gap in the market."

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Organised in conjunction with Taupō Fishing Club, the tournament is open to all female anglers, whether seasoned fisherwomen or complete novices.

For $160 the entrants get three nights accommodation, trips out on the river, dinner at Tūrangi's Hare & Copper Eatery and, thanks to generous donations of prizes and fishing gear like vests, rods and waders, every woman will take home a prize.

There are no prizes for biggest or most fish caught, but prizes will be awarded each day for the trout in the best condition, although Ross expects most of the fish caught will be released anyway.

Shirley Fraser of Taupō Fishing Club with a rainbow trout on the Tongariro River. Photo / Supplied
Shirley Fraser of Taupō Fishing Club with a rainbow trout on the Tongariro River. Photo / Supplied

The tournament was held for the first time last year and was such a success that organisers decided to repeat it for 2020. The tournament was scheduled for earlier this year but was postponed due to Covid-19.

Ross says interest has been so keen that he could have booked the motel out twice over and some women were also staying off site. So far about 30 women have entered, with entries still coming in. Last year there were around 22 entries.

The idea came about last year after a Taupō lodge advertised a fishing tournament. When one of the male entrants' wives also applied to participate, she was told it was for men only.

"So we said 'we'll hold a women's one the same weekend' and it was great, they thoroughly enjoyed it.

"I got hold of Shirley Fraser and Cherry Twaddle from the Taupo Fishing Club and the ladies that run it, and they did the weigh-in and the programme."

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Some of the entrants in the 2019 Tongariro River Motel Annual Women's Fly Fishing Tournament, with fishing guide Richard Mowforth at left. Photo / Supplied
Some of the entrants in the 2019 Tongariro River Motel Annual Women's Fly Fishing Tournament, with fishing guide Richard Mowforth at left. Photo / Supplied

Ross says he's excited this year that more local women are entering too, including a contingent from Whanganui Bay on Lake Taupō, who he jokes have promised to clean up all the prizes.

The anglers will be joined by fishing guide Richard Mowforth and Didymo Dave Cade will also be there to instruct the women in the art of wet lining.

"The idea is to introduce and encourage ladies into fly fishing…to my knowledge it's the only ladies' fly fishing tournament New Zealand.

"We're certainly excited about it this year. It's a nice fun thing to get involved in and it's good to see them having so much fun. It's not competitive. A couple of the ladies here are in the New Zealand fly fishing team and they are guns but they have as much fun as anyone."

Ross says they don't divide the river into 'beats' for the tournament as the women mostly prefer to fish together.

"They like to go out together and thrash the pool to a foam. It's the environment and learning rather than just the number of fish and a lot of [the trout] will probably be released."

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Once the day's fishing is over the women return to the motel to clean up and socialise.

"Happy hour is a big part of it".

Ross says without the competitive atmosphere of the mainstream fishing tournaments, the novices have the opportunity to team up with a more experienced angler and go off together for some fishing.

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