Angling for the top spot
NZ’S fly fishing champ hopes to cast a spell over competitors at world championships
At the end of a fly fishing competition, Billy Thrupp is more battered and bruised than after any contact sport match he’s ever played. That includes rugby league, which he played for years before he discovered fly fishing and started competing seriously in the sport.
He’s the Sport Fly Fishing New Zealand national champion, and is now part of the eight-strong team representing the country at the World Fly Fishing Championships in Slovakia in September. He’s the lone competitor from the Te Puna-towaih¯ı Beach area, and the Waih¯ı Beach plumber is currently raising money to get himself there.
Fly fishing often involves threehour sessions of fishing in designated areas of a river, or off a boat on lakes.
Some people have a different perception of the sport, he says. They think it’s as easy as strolling along a riverside catching fish.
“I tell ya, after three hours of rough fishing, I’m battered. So you catch a fish and you have to get it across one side of the river to the controller (where it’s measured and released), and then you have cross back . . . the [number] of times you can get blown down the river, sometimes for 200 metres . . .”
The world competition is a different kettle of fish — excuse the pun. It’s high-pressure. You never know what’s going to happen, he says.
Fishermen are allocated a “beat” where they catch as many fish as they can.
“Some areas have large numbers of fish. One might do 45 in three hours,
another five. You can’t control where the fish are.
It’s very much a mental challenge as well as physical, he says. The trick is to keep your head in the game,
sticking to the process and methodically working your way through the water.
“You can’t waste time. If you muck around for five minutes, you might lose five fish.”
Billy and the Kiwi team will be up against the best in the world. Many of their overseas contemporaries are able to dedicate their days to fishing, but workers like Billy just have the weekends.
Spending time with family — partner Sam and children Logan, 12, Nevaya, 11, and Braxton, 11 — is also a priority.
The Slovakia event is a river fishing competition which includes sessions on four different parts of a river and one session on a lake. There will be a practice day, then three-hour sessions once a day for five days.
Billy has been fly fishing for seven years. He fished at the Commonwealth Fly Fishing Champs in New Zealand in 2020 in Taupo¯, and won his first national title in 2021 (and again in March this year).
To help Billy on his trip, raffle tickets are on offer. See https://www.waihibeachinfo.