Ready to retire, almost, but world champs beckon
THREE-time national fly fishing champion Cory Scott has one or two competitive events left in him before he hangs up his rod.
The Gisborne angler is preparing for the world championships to be held in Tasmania from November 30 to December 8.
The lure of the Commonwealth Championship being hosted in the Taupo region in March next year may well be enough to hook him one final time.
What he’s sure of is that he has competed in his last domestic competition. It was the national championships held on the Whanganui River and lakes Kuratau and Aniwhenua in March and April and he won, for the third consecutive year.
“The idea of giving it up is to create more time for my family,” Scott says.
He and wife Sarah have three sons — Max, 18, Rico, 13, and Cruz, 7.
The boys have “grown up on the river”.
“My family have sacrificed a lot and I’ve achieved everything I wanted to, bar a world title,” Scott says.
He owns New Zealand Surfing Magazine, for which he is also editor and an award-winning photographer, so that takes up a fair chunk of time as well.
Aware of the time, dedication and commitment required to compete at the top level, he is wary of competing and not being able to give it his all.
“I don’t want to compete and finish second.”
Scott has been to four world championships — one in the United States and the others in Europe.
“Tasmania will be the best chance we’ve had,” he says.
The conditions will be similar to those found at home and that will be something for European anglers to get used to.
Many of them are full-time professionals, though.
Scott is part of a five-man New Zealand team.
He believes it’s New Zealand’s strongest line-up in 10 years.
Scott says intense concentration is required for competitive fly fishing.
He has to maintain a high level of alertness and focus for three hours at a time — blocking out distractions and minimising lapses in concentration.
Anglers compete on rivers and lakes and each fish caught is measured and released. The total measure for a session determines who wins.
The nationals this year had four river sessions and four lake sessions.
Scott says the lakes competition can be like the America’s Cup yachting, at times, as anglers jockey for position in boats.
Agility, fitness and leg strength might be key to getting an advantage on the rivers.
“In a rivers competition, I’m absolutely spent at the end.”
Scott’s concentration and focus were to the fore in his last national competition.
After finishing first in rivers, he was placed third in lakes going into his last session. He just needed to hold that to win the overall title.
He was seemingly too far behind to challenge for first on the lake but fished a good session anyway and ended up winning both competitions, as well as the overall title.
It was a great way to go out, having won the rivers title in 2015, then the hat-trick of national titles overall in 2017, ’18 and ’19, including the rivers competition in those years.
“It was a surreal feeling to know that was the last competition I was going to do.”
Scott started fly fishing when he was four years old, under the guidance of his grandfather.
After a break in his teenage years, he picked it up again in his early 20s.
He was eventually persuaded to give competitive fly fishing a go and it gelled with him.
With a background in surfing and gymnastics, Scott knew what it took to compete in elite-level sport.
A three-time New Zealand gymnastics champion, Scott lived in Hong Kong in the early 1990s as he eyed the 1994 Commonwealth Games and a chance to qualify for the 1996 Olympics.
But, after winning the Hong Kong Open on rings in 1992, he suffered a career-ending injury two years later.
“I had a fall and blew my shoulder joint.”
He was somewhat lost after that and surfing filled the void.
When he took up competitive fly fishing, he was quick to work out he could give the sport a good crack.
“Competitiveness came flooding back to me.”
Scott loves the great outdoors, venturing where few people tread.
“We’ve got a great variety of fishing conditions around Gisborne — and it’s world class,” he says.
“It’s the perfect place to prepare.”
Scott is about to transition to the next phase of his action-packed life, but the fish get no let-up.
He has been passing on knowledge to the next generation of fly fishers.
On a recent trek into the back country — the trees, the tracks, walking into the mountains and taking in the scenic beauty — Scott reflected on how much he missed recreational fishing.
“When you’re there, you feel like you’re the only person on the planet. It’s just quite uplifting.
“I really like the buzz of the back country.”