Big Fish No Big Deal for Wanda Taylor

After months of plotting and planning, patience and persistence paid off for Wanda Taylor. The South’s First Lady of fly fishing caught two blue marlin on fly.

Not just two blue marlin. Make that two world-record caliber blue marlin.

The first fish checked in at approximately 150 pounds. The second? A mere 280.

Both catches easily surpassed the International Game Fish Association women’s world record for blue marlin on fly. The second marlin more than tripled the current 20-pound tippet mark.

Not bad for a first-time student at Jake Jordan’s Costa Rica Blue Marlin Fly Fishing School.

“I want to do it again,” Taylor said during a phone interview from her North Georgia home last week. “I’m truly in love with bluewater fishing. It’s really hard to catch a trout now. Really, I love to trout fish. I love any kind of fishing. That was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.”

Neither of the two fish Taylor landed counted as an official world record. IGFA guidelines require strict documentation before a catch qualifies as a world record. In many big-game fishing situations where a world-record is at stake the fish is killed. Killing blue marlin is illegal in Costa Rica.

Regardless, Jordan practices catch-and-release, as does Taylor.

“I don’t care about having my name in a book,” she said. “We know we did it.”

Actually, this trip was supposed to happen last summer, but was delayed when fishing conditions unexpectedly declined at the last minute, a development that left Taylor unfulfilled, but not undeterred.

“It’s like a fighter,” Taylor said. “You have to get ready. I had to get my head right. It just took a while (to get over the disappointment), then I had to. It took me a few days, but I did it.”

The yearlong delay, no doubt, sharpened Taylor’s resolve. She attributed much of her success to teamwork. Jordan, a fellow TFO national advisory staffer, coached her; the captain handled the boat; and the mates manned the teasers and handled the big fish.

All were aboard the Dragin Fly for a four-day, three-night trip out of the Los Suenos resort in early August.

“It’s like a dance,” Taylor said. “They all work so well together. If someone screws up, it’s over.”

Taylor said she’s caught sailfish before, but that species does not compare to the breathtaking power of a blue marlin. What about tarpon on fly?

“There’s no comparison,” said Taylor, a fly fishing and casting instructor, who was the first woman inducted into the Southern Appalachian Fly Fishing Hall of Fame. “You can’t stop a marlin. You can fight a tarpon. But a marlin is totally different. They have no idea they’re hooked. If you fight them, they break off. It’s like fighting a train. You can’t stop a train.”

Jordan teaches his students to fight big fish by pointing their rod at their quarry and using the drag to apply pressure. There’s no bend in the rod, which runs contrary to the “down-and-dirty” approach many tarpon fishermen use.

Jordan’s method may not be conventional, but it works — if you have the skill to execute under pressure and not revert to muscle memory. Done right, the fish should fatigue well before the angler does.

“It’s not one of those things you just go out and do,” Taylor said. “If you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s over. The way that Jake teaches it, it’s so different from the way anyone else teaches it in the world. Everything that you know about fighting fish, you can throw it down the toilet when you fish with him. He’s got it figured out how it hurts the fish more, but not the angler. It’s a very, very cool procedure.”

The first fight lasted about 30 minutes. The second took less than 25. She used a TFO Bluewater Heavy Duty rod with a Mako reel. Her fly? An 8/0 pink and white Cam Siglar.

“That (second) fish jumped a lot,” Taylor said. “It was almost to the boat and jumped. A photographer’s dream. I told myself not to rush it. I tried to slow everything down.”

In marlin fishing, timing is everything. Once you get the fish near the boat, you don’t have long to get your quarry under control for the release. Those who dawdle can be in for an extended battle if the fish regains its strength.

And if you’re in open water, do not, under any circumstances, decide to slug it out. Taylor’s third fish, estimated at well over 300 pounds, imposed its will well away from the boat, a 43-foot Maverick.

“I got the big head,” Taylor said. “I thought I could stop the fish. It started jumping and darting. It was a mile away. I couldn’t believe it was my fish. I didn’t take my hand off the reel and it popped. Angler error. I don’t know, I blacked. Just watching that monster jump like that, it was just amazing. Such a magnificent fish. I was in the moment. I didn’t bow.”

Nevertheless Jordan, who has caught 56 blue marlin on fly, offered a tip of the cap to Taylor’s performance.

“She is a really good caster and has a lot of really good fishing skills,” Jordan said. “She’s a really good fisherman. Wanda, being the great athlete and angler she is, she was able to listen to instruction and do what she was told. She caught the first marlin she hooked, a 150-pounder. That alone is pretty incredible.”


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