Fly fishers Karen Brooks and Jules Stevens know what it’s like to put catching a fish before everything else.
“There’s this drive that comes — you just want to get that fish,” Ms Brooks says.
“You do just about anything to land that fish, and in a competition it’s most important that you keep that fish on,” Ms Stevens adds.
The women form part of the Australian team that will compete in the first-ever world fly fishing championships for women, which will be held in Norway in June.
They will compete against teams from 10 other countries, including Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic, the United States and South Africa.
“Some have been competing for many years in men’s competitions, in open competitions, so they’re very skilled,” Ms Brooks says.
Trading trout for arctic greyling
The Australian women’s fly fishing team is captained by Ms Brooks, and made up of five fishing members, plus a manager and a coach, and includes three Tasmanians.
“It’s fantastic representation for Tassie,” Ms Brooks says.
Like her Tasmanian team-mates, Julie Butler and Ms Stevens, Ms Brooks has developed her angling skills mostly through fishing for trout.
The target fish species in the world championships, however, will be arctic greyling.
“They feed very differently to Tasmanian trout,” Ms Butler says.
“So we’re going [to Norway] a bit early … to work out how those waters work, and how we need to modify our practices to catch greyling.
“[This] will be really necessary for us to be able to trick these fish into eating our flies.”
Preparing for ‘every eventuality’
Ms Brooks says the team members will also be refining their skills here at home before leaving for Norway.
“It’s really just working on our strike rate, and being accurate with our flies, and getting our depth right,” she says.
Unlike trout, which were skittish and raced off if approached, Ms Brooks says greyling tend to congregate below a fisher due to dislodgement of nymphae from the river bed by the fisher’s boots.
“They love to be just below you, so a lot of the techniques we’ll be using there will be swinging flies,” she says.
“It’s something we need to practise here.”
Tying plenty of flies for the championships is high up on the “to-do” list for the team too, as is sourcing a full backup kit of equipment for each member.
“When we fish, we generally carry three to five rods [each] with us … we’ll have all those with us, and backup rods in case one breaks,” Ms Brooks says.
The women’s preparation for the upcoming “world’s” also involves keeping fit.
“At times we need to run up and down the river, and … wading can be quite physically demanding,” Ms Butler says.
“We’ve all been focusing on our fitness as well, and we will be right up until we leave.”
On the non-fishing front, the organisation of fundraising, flights, car hire, accommodation and even uniforms has been keeping Ms Stevens, the team manager, busy.
Fun meets serious fishing
Ms Brooks is looking forward to meeting anglers from all 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.
The Tasmanian team members agree, though, that the fishing during the event will be “very competitive”.
“Keep that fish in the net and get it to your controller … [even] if it means going for a swim.”
“Once you get [a fish] you’ll really want to get it to the controller quickly so you can get back to the spot where you caught that one … the race is going to be on,” Ms Brooks says.
An ‘honour’ only dreamed of
Amid pre-departure training and preparations for the world championships, the three Tasmanian fisherwomen still occasionally stop to “pinch themselves”.
“It’s an experience you don’t ever think you’ll have, to represent your country … and I think it’s an absolute honour to be able to do that,” Ms Stevens says.
“It’s actually been amazing … preparing for the world championships, because what we have to do is fish to practise,” Ms Brooks says.