This dynamic fly fishing team is making history as the first female team in the country to make the Challenge finals since its inception 18 years ago. KZN locals, Roxanne Stegen (Captain), Bridgitte Stegen, Sindi-Leigh McBain and Lyndall Blaikie are gearing up for the event final which, fittingly, takes place in Women’s Month from 22 to 25 August, in Nottingham Road in the Midlands.
Breaking male-dominated barriers
Leading the team to victory, team captain, Roxanne Stegen believes that their passion for the sport, love for nature, lighthearted approach and unique skill set puts them in strong contention at this year’s event. “At the finals, I’ll be more strategic around dam allocation. As opposed to the first leg of the competition which we left to lady luck, I will allocate dams based on knowledge and fishing style preference of each team member. Good knowledge of all the waters in the area is a unique challenge in its own right”.
Roxanne also hopes to raise the playing field (and awareness) around female fly fishing competitors in South Africa.
Sindi-Leigh McBain says that one of the team’s biggest challenges is how they are perceived by their counterparts. “To our competitors, we look like a team of ‘not so serious ladies’ until we go out there and actually catch those fish. You put all your effort into casting and retrieving for hours and there’s nothing better than being rewarded with a beautiful trout on the end of your line,” she says.
No stranger to challenges, team member, Lyndall Blakie recently summited Mount Kilimanjaro and placed third individually in the first leg of the tournament leading up to this month’s finals. “Interestingly, I beat some very well-known fly fishers in the process. So many people don’t do whatever it is they want to do because they are scared of failing, but the truth is that everyone has to start somewhere – start small. Just get out there and follow your passion” says Lyndall.
Backing females in sport
As the proud sponsor of this female powerhouse, The Finance Team have encouraged and supported Women in Waders along this exciting journey. Passionate about fly fishing themselves, Managing Director, Grant Robson says that support for females in male-dominated sports still has a long way to go. “The TOPS @ Spar Corporate Trophy Challenge is arguably the most prestigious freshwater fly fishing competition held in South Africa and it has been dominated by male competitors since its inception. The event consists of three legs held over three separate weekends in June / July each year. Each leg is made up of 15 teams of four anglers and the top five teams from each leg qualify for the finals. We are so proud of our team for securing their place in the finals and we back them all the way,” he says.
Speaking to the team’s sponsorship by The Finance Team, Women in Waders’ team member, Bridgitte says that the team was born to make fly fishing relatable to women and that The Finance Teams’ vested interest is putting them on the map. “Fast forward to now, two years after a voice note between Sindi and Grant (The Finance Team), and the rest is history”.
Fly fishing as a sport
According to Roxanne, fly fishing is fast becoming an outlet for those trying to escape the fast-paced ‘rat race’. “Most importantly, we are seeing an increase in women joining fishing clubs with a recent statistic by US Orvis confirming that 44% of new young anglers are female”. Sadly. we cannot confirm the same for South African female fly fishing statistic at this stage.
According to Bridgitte, people generally assume it’s an extremely difficult sport to learn. “Learning to cast does take practice but it’s not impossible to do. Get someone with know-how (in my case my brother) and experience in the sport to take you to your local park or waters to show you the basics. YouTube has also taught me a lot but like in any sport, you can never stop learning” and experience cannot be beaten.
Balancing sports with home life
As women, this remains a challenge for many. Leading up to the finals, Roxanne says that like with everything in life, knowing ones’ priorities at a particular moment and balancing them is key. “I have an incredibly supportive husband who has always supported me in everything I do. We make the most of the time we spend together as a family (Maximilian now 2.5 years old) and also allow for one another to enjoy and connect with things we love doing”.
Bridgette seconds this notion saying: “I’m absolutely obsessed with this sport, but I have had to quickly learn to balance the sensitive scale between career, friends, family & me-time on the water. Not only because they’re all important to me but also because not everyone gets it”.
The Finance Team/ Women in Waders hopes to elevate female fly fishing in South Africa. “To date, we have been met with great support and enthusiasm from industry experts as well as sponsorship – that’s better than any trophy!” concludes Roxanne.