Andrea Smith has become a high-flier in the sport of angling – just three-and-a-half years after picking up a rod for the first time.
The 46-year-old has been selected to represent England Ladies at the Commonwealth Fly Fishing Championships.
Smith will fly out to Mont Tremblant in Canada next month as part of a three-woman team that will compete against nations such as South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Malta at the prestigious event across the Atlantic.
In total, 10 countries will be represented at the championships, with the women’s teams competing alongside their male counterparts.
The tournament is run over three days and will test the fly fishing skills of competitors in both fast-flowing rivers and deep lakes.
The event then finishes with a fly casting and fly tying competition.
Unsurprisingly, Smith’s call-up to the England ladies side is the pinnacle of her short fly fishing career.
The Portsmouth ace has been hooked on the sport since attending the New Forest Show in 2012.
And it appears her emergence onto the fishing scene hasn’t gone unnoiced either.
Smith said: ‘I first picked up a rod at the New Forest Show in 2012 at a casting demonstration.
‘A few weeks later I had my first lesson and I was hooked!
‘I learned to fish at Meon Springs Fly Fishery, near Petersfield, and I’ve never looked back since.
‘I realised that I must be pretty good when I started winning local competitions and beating the men!
‘That’s part of the enjoyment – competing on a level playing field, so to speak.’
Ever since she was selected to represent England, Smith’s been training hard to hone her skills.
That has meant visiting different rivers and reservoirs to develop the techniques needed for different waters.
She’s also met up with her fellow team members to get to know each other and discuss tactics.
‘I’m really excited about going to Canada this year and, of course, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we will do well,’ added Smith.
‘But, more importantly, I’d like to raise the profile of fly fishing – especial for ladies and girls.
‘It’s a great sport and really accessible.’
Jamie Butler, who owns Meon Springs, said everyone at the fishery is rooting for Smith and the England ladies team in the hope that they do well in Canada.
‘We’ve been working with Andrea over the last couple of years and she is simply amazing,’ said Butler.
‘It just goes to show that fly fishing is one those sports where both men and women can compete on equal terms.’