2024 Hanak New Zealand Fly Fishing River Championships, Whanganui River,  April.

Following another year where water conditions had disrupted the regional river championship schedule, it was with some relief that organisers Peter Scott and Billy

Thrupp welcomed the eighteen qualifiers and their controllers to a weekend of perfect weather ahead of the four-session finale to the 2023/24 season.
With daylight savings ending overnight on Saturday night, the briefing took place in the half-light of dawn and all talk was whether anyone could stop Ollie Bassett claiming a hat trick of River National wins on this venue and a second title of the season, having dominated the Lakes National a month earlier.

After the first session it was clear that there would be several challengers, with Ben Henton and Aaron West pushing him hard, and Nathan Pollard and Hugo Pearce recovering from slow starts to feature strongly, and the ever-consistent Billy Thrupp lurking close to the top of the pack. At the end of Day One, Ollie’s lead over Ben was only on fish points, with them tied on 5 place points each. 

On the second day, however, Ollie’s consistency shone through with two successive double-figure scores of fish, which no-one else could match, and he was deservedly crowned Champion. Ben pushed him closest, with an excellent third session but a slower fourth one and Billy Thrupp pushed his way out of the chasing group to nab the third podium spot with a very strong final return.
Top lady was Rachel McNae, top Master Tim Anderson, and biggest fish was a 63 cms Rainbow caught by Billy Thrupp.

Ollie once again demonstrated his outstanding ability to navigate a slippery and powerful river, connect with and land big fish while others often lost them, which was also a mark of his Lake Nationals victory and with all his session rankings being top three, he was simply in a class of his own.
Ollie said “I was stoked to win the River Nationals for the third time to go with my first Lake Nationals trophy this year, and it was great to be joined on the podium by fellow NZ squad mates and friends Ben and Billy. I focused on covering the water effectively, being willing to wade deep and take the risk of a fall to reach the best spots and then ensure my technique was good enough to convert the takes and land some really good fish.
Massive thanks to Hanak New Zealand and all the controllers and organisers for making the event possible but especially my parents who travelled down to support me this weekend and for the years leading up to it. I am looking forward to the World Championships in France now.”

Co-organiser, Billy Thrupp, said “we owe a huge debt of gratitude to Hanak New Zealand for sponsoring both our Nationals. The venue fished well to type with some superb fish landed and many lost, the wading was challenging and many of us took a dip, but that is all part of the experience – big shout out to Ollie and Ben for amazing consistency in those conditions. We would also like to thank the controllers and folks who helped mark beats as well as Leann and Paul Bassett who did the scoring – big events like this cannot take place without all those people.” 


Billy Thrupp (L - 3rd) Ollie Bassett - Winner, Ben Henton (R - 2nd)

Ben Henton 2nd place, fishing fast water!



The Hanak Lake Nationals was fished on Lake Aniwhenua, in the North Island’s Bay of Plenty, created in 1981 by the damming of the Rangitaiki River.
Aniwhenua offers a wide variety of options for a fly-fisher with shallow channels and sand bars at the top where the river enters and deeper areas closer to the dam with extensive weed growth in the bays away from flow. This meant anglers could focus on trying to catch higher numbers of small fish in the upper reaches or look for larger specimens on the edge of weed growth, which had been prolific during this warm summer.

The Lake Nationals consist of four sessions of three hours’ duration spread over three days ensuring that consistency and the ability to cope with varying conditions would challenge New Zealand’s top twenty qualifiers from the Regional Championships. In the event, the weather ensured a huge variety of conditions - from torrential rain on the Friday afternoon, a windy, dry day on Saturday only to
finish with a Sunday session that started with mist and frost and bloomed into a bright, still morning. In general, the venue fished extremely well with high numbers and some very large fish being caught, measured and released.

For the eighteen anglers who fished (two withdrew due to injury or other commitments) this created a situation where the majority of the field experienced highs and lows in equal measure, with many having at least one session where they struggled, and consistency was the key to success.

Coming into the final session, NZ Silver Flies Team member Ollie Bassett, however, was on a remarkable score of three session wins and only South African and fellow youngster, Nathan Pollard, was even within touching distance with the highly experienced Brendan Lyon lying in third place. The lake however, still had a trick up its sleeve, as all three struggled and Ollie found himself getting a lesson in his own boat from octogenarian fly-fishing legend, Neil Hirtzel, with no fish in the first half of the contest while Neil caught well and Nathan was suffering a similar fate, going fishless for over an hour. Both showed their mettle by working things out and putting a few fish together in the closing stages to avoid a total catastrophe, securing the Championship and second positions respectively. Third spot went to Slovakian Andrej Banas, who has impressed while on his year in New Zealand and again showed great consistency to complete the podium.

Biggest fish was a 64cms brown caught by 2023 Champion Billy Thrupp, who finished with a terrific top session score of seventeen fish in the event on Sunday, after a disastrous Saturday afternoon.
Top female angler was Suzie Foggo and top Master, Johnny Bell.
Ollie said “I am delighted to win Lake Nationals for the first time. The first three sessions went really well fishing fairly slow on a tip line with small streamers near the weed, but in the last session the conditions changed, and I got a little nervous having not had any fish with just over an hour left of the event. Luckily, I managed to catch some big rainbows stripping out deeper in the last hour.

Thanks to my great boat partners, organisers Billy and Damon and my dad for scoring and coming to support me. Also big thanks to Peter Scott of Hanak NZ for sponsoring the competition and providing great prizes - I used the Hanak BL230 hook all weekend
and it was ideal both for small and really big fish”.
SFFNZ President Damon Taylor said “this was a true test of angling and character where everyone faced varying conditions and had to deal with the ups and downs that fishing brings us all – the lake provided some terrific quality fish and the podium positions clearly went to the most consistent performers across the four sessions. It's great to see a number of our top anglers firing as we look to send our first full Master's squad to the World Champs this May, and look ahead to the 2025 season where we will send both the Silver Flies and Fly Fern squads away to their respective world championships. A special thanks to Hanak NZ and Peter Scott for sponsoring this year and supporting the event so well, not only with prizes for the podium but also “goody bags” for all entrants.”


 Andrej Banas (3rd), Ollie Bassett (1st), Nathan Pollard (2nd)

Ollie Bassett with a shiny new rod courtesy of Hanak and Peter Scott