BANBRIDGE’S Neil Cardwell is part of Northern Ireland’s first Commonwealth Fly Fishing squad.

The Championships, the fifteenth in the competition’s history, get underway in Tasmania, Australia today (Tuesday) and run through until Sunday.

Sixteen teams have entered the competition from 10 Commonwealth countries including England, Scotland and Wales.

The team has been selected after qualifying in competitions held throughout Ireland at Provincial and all Ireland level organised by the Trout Anglers Federation of Ireland (T.A.F.I.). Some members of the NI team have already represented Ulster in T.A.F.I. organised Inter-Provincials and represented Ireland in the Home Nations, European and World Championship over the last number of years. This is the first time a full representative team from Northern Ireland has entered the Commonwealth Championships.

Entry this year was only made possible with the full support and encouragement of T.A.F.I. who unanimously gave their support to the proposal at their AGM held in Athlone in Feb 2011.

It has cost the team Tasmania approximately £16k to enter this championship which has been raised with the help of sponsors (see Facebook page) and a generous donation by T.A.F.I. but the majority of the costs have been made by personal subscription from the team members and donations from within the Fly Fishing community in Ireland. No official sports funding has been forthcoming.

Jill Mandeno. Chairperson, Commonwealth Fly Fishers stated: “This year we hope to welcome several new members as participants in this CFFC. I am particularly pleased that for the first time we will have a team representing Northern Ireland. It is organised by T.A.F.I. the Irish FIPS-Mouche member through their members in NI. Although they (TAFI) have represented all of Ireland in both the European and World Fly Fishing Competition, this will be their first time to participate in the Commonwealth Fly Fishing Competition.”

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Owen Patterson MP stated: “I am delighted to learn about a Northern Ireland Fly Fishing team participating in the forthcoming competitions in Tasmania for the first time.”

T.A.F.I. will also be hosting the World Youth Fly Fishing Championships in Ireland (North and South) in the summer of 2013.