Written By Nicky Mowat

Photo Credit Cory Scott

Billy Thrupp is a well-known identity around Waihi Beach for his plumbing skills, café hopping and his gregarious personality.

He is so much more than that; through his passionate interest in fly fishing. That is competitive fly fishing at a National and International level. He won the National Championships in 2021.

In late March, this year, Billy claimed his second Lake Nationals title with a record-breaking final session.

Going into his final session on Lake Kuratau, on the west side of Lake Taupo, Billy was in second place, but an incredible 34 fish followed in the next three hours. This meant Billy ‘plumbed’ a fish and released it every 5 minutes 18 seconds. A record was set on that day and put Billy in 1st place. He also won the biggest fish of the weekend prize with a 58cm horse of a rainbow trout.

Following on from the Lakes Nationals, Billy competed in the River Nationals on the Whanganui River in mid-April. This was the last stage of the overall competition.

His 8th place at the River Nationals, combined with his 1st place at the Lakes Nationals, meant that he took out overall ‘First Place’ to become Fly Fishing Champion of New Zealand, 2023.

If the reader is thinking, ‘Fly Fishing’ is a gentle walk beside a river, forget it!

The ‘River Competition’ is held over two days and is comprised of two three-hour sessions each day. The drill on each competition day, is to find your allocated section on the river – your ‘beat’.

An allocated beat could be approximately 250 metres of the river, and there will be up to 25 anglers working their different beats. Half an hour is initially allowed to assess the river conditions and then each angler goes into a three-hour session of fishing in the morning.

Break for lunch, another assessment of the river is followed by a three-hour session of fishing and competing in the afternoon.

By the afternoon session, your beat could be quite different from the morning session; river depth, light and weather conditions change and that beat could also have been completely fished out – it comes down to luck! That could mean another section of the river, which others have fished already, either successfully or not.

At each competition, and for each ‘Angler’ there is a ‘Controller’ who sits on the riverbank and measures the length of each fish caught. After recording the length, the fish is swiftly released back into the water. Billy says, “This scoring method keeps the sport honest.”

Like most professional and serious anglers, Billy does tie his own flies – and he is not shy to pick up a bit of ‘roadkill’ to add to the mix of the finished fly. That may well include a possum tail!

Billy got into fly fishing through family connections, while he was growing up in Murupara. He rode his pushbike to the Whirinaki River one day and ran into a couple of American anglers.

They gave him a few tips, such as nymphing and casting upstream. Billy rushed home, grabbed his fly rod and was back working the river with his newfound angling buddies.

Those American anglers would be very proud of Billy today.

The New Zealand Team will be heading off to Slovakia, in September 2023, to compete in the World Fly Fishing Championships.

All teams will have a guide and the New Zealand Team’s guide will be Lubos Roza, a three-time winner of the Worlds, who has elected to guide and forego the competition himself.

The guides will enable all teams to become familiar with what is otherwise unknown terrain.

The format to the competition in Slovakia is very similar to the New Zealand competition, however the differences are: Fishing on 4 rivers and one lake; Each team will have 5 anglers; The venue is different each day.

Sponsorship, for Billy, is not monetary, rather equipment such as rods and flies.

His main sponsor in New Zealand is Peter Scott and his wife Lynley. They are the New Zealand distributor for the Hanak brand.

Franta Hanak is the owner of Hanak Competition rods and Billy tests/trials the rods while they are still in the prototype stage, prior to going into manufacturing.

Hanak also do fishing flies, lines and reels. Interestingly, these days flies are barbless and therefore more ‘fish friendly’. All very sustainable!

Manic Tackle founder, Rene Vaz, also an acclaimed fisherperson, was the key sponsor of the championships this year.

Andrew Burden and Tore Nilson, at Flytackle NZ have, also been great sponsors and ambassadors for Billy.

If this reads like a ‘free ride’ for Billy, it is absolutely not. He takes time off work and will be paying for his own airfare to Slovakia, including all accommodation costs.

If competing in New Zealand, the same is the case. In addition to that, he pays for travelling and accommodation for the ‘Controller’ who measures each fish caught.

  • The NZ team heading to Slovakia in September 2023, are:
  • Billy Thrupp
  • Cory Scott
  • Hugo Pearce
  • Ollie Bassett
  • Tim Anderson
  • Tim Rich (reserve)
  • Paul Dewar (captain)
  • Jason Pearce (manager)

They are highly competitive, but solid team members and mates.

The writer is compelled to state, that whilst there are a number of women competing on the fly fishing competition circuit, unfortunately none have earned the points to be a part of the New Zealand World’s Team this year.

Huge support for Billy comes from: his partner Sam; his parents and other family; the many friends he has at Waihi Beach; and the wider community of Sport Fly Fishing New Zealand, (SFFNZ).

This article is sponsored by Waihi Beach Events and Promotions. We are most grateful for the professional photographs, courtesy of Cory Scott – a fellow team member, who has competed in the World Championships about 7 times.

Help us send Billy to the World Championships in Slovakia! Thanks to the generosity of local businesses, we have put together three fundraising raffles. All profits from the sale of these raffles will be donated towards the cost of Billy’s trip to the World Championships. The winner of each raffle gets a full-day guided fly fishing trip with Billy and weekend getaway in Waihī Beach for two – valued at $3000. Tickets are $30 each and can be purchased online here

Quote from Billy: The Lakes Competition

“I and Tim were actually travelling up the lake together before the final session then, when we got to the sticks, he went left and I went right. There were three boats up there before I was, at the top of the lake, so I just pulled up about 40 metres in front of them, which meant when I began my drift, I hit the pod of fish first. I had 20 fish in the first hour and then just built on that to finish up with 34. It was just a dream session. I didn’t have one break off, not one tangle, and only did one fly change during the whole session. At one stage I had 7 fish in 9 casts. It was crazy.”