Fly Life Magazine

A conversation with Wanda Hair Taylor

Wanda Taylor has been fishing since she was four. Her grandmothers taught her to fish and her love for fishing increased when she agreed to marry a professional fly guide. Wanda later became a fly fishing guide, fly casting instructor and Fly Fish TV hostess. She has been featured in fly fishing video’s and online podcasts, has become a published outdoor writer and has joined the Patagonia Pro Staff. Wanda has been a National Advisory Staff member with TFO for over 16 years. Photo credit TFO. Click on image to visit Wanda’s website.

It’s easy to tease enthusiasm out of Wanda Hair Taylor – she can ‘set fire to the rain‘ on that score, but a hint of boasting, impossible

By Skip Clement

Wanda Hair Taylor is known below the Mason Dixon as “The South’s First Lady of Fly Fishing.” She’s also one of the fly fishing industry’s best ambassadors, as well as, the real deal step-up to the plate conservation protagonists, and when it comes to help your sisters recovering from breast cancer via Casting For Recovery and other such organizations – she’s right there.   

Last weekend, I got Wanda’s version of catching an International Gamefish Association (IGFA) Women’s World Record shortbill spearfish on a fly, which she did under the guidance of the most noted billfish fly fisher Guru in the world, Jake Jordan. That all took place after my waving goodbye to them after the Atlanta Fly Fishing Show in 0n February 2, 2019.

“Just the facts, ma’am.” Photo by Jake Jordan.

When you congratulate Wanda Taylor on any one of her seemingly never-ending accomplishments, saying nice catch to her on the occasion of her world record will only get you a polite (southern) thank you. Then she’ll be off… saying she only played a part in whatever it was she succeeded in accomplishing, or that somebody mentored her. It’s always thanks to whomever or whatever. She believes it too. And if something doesn’t work out, it’s her fault, of course.

Yup, go team

Well, she finally was right, but not to the degree she’ll admit. As the African proverb goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Well, in billfishing, no matter your religion, fly fish or big game wind up reels and fat glass rods, it’s a team sport. The best onboard combination is captain and two mates, and a partner who knows the score who can always help keep the cockpit clear.

Being a success at landing a billfish on a fly in the sporting manner of being IGFA rigged takes a team. And the team, which includes the angler, has an excellent chance at success if ALL the players know what they’re doing. The captain is quarterback of the team and directs the mates managing the “active” teaser (the bait of interest to the fish), and the other mate managing the outriggers or whatever must be done. The captain has to maintain a visual on all the players – the angler “at all times.” More on that in another posting.

Photo taken by Capt. Keven Nakamaru aboard his boat Northern Lights on February 6, 2019. World record shortbill spearfish caught by Wanda Hair Taylor. Mates to the left and right of Taylor are Dave and Kyle – far right is Jake Jordan.

Wanda, what in the world did you do now?

She recently caught an International Game Fish Association World Record shortbill spearfish (Tetrapturus angustirostris) on a fly in Kona, Hawaii under the coaching care of her friend, Florida Keys icon Jake Jordan. It was a 33-pounds on a 20-pound tippet using a TFO Heavy Duty – Jake Jordan designed blue water fly rod and using a Mako model 9700 fly reel. The pair fished aboard the vessel Northern Lights on February 6, 2019.

The captain was Hawaii’s top bluewater captain, decades-long friend and Jake Jordan’s Spearfish School collaborator, Capt. Keven Nakamaru – assisted on the catch by his mates Dave and Kyle. 

One leader pull away from Wanda Hair Taylor’s world record 33-pound shortbill spearfish on 20-pound tippet. Photo credit Jake Jordan

While some will sit back and say that the shortbill spearfish is so small, compared to a marlin – it’s no big deal. Well, wrong. It’s the toughest of all the billfish to catch. Any billfish seeker with some nautical miles on their resume will agree.

About

The shortbill spearfish is a surface feeder species of marlin, native to the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is also little known that it is the most challenging billfish to catch of all the billfish. The current records (IGFA) are all caught in Australia or off Keahole or Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, west coast of Hawaii Island – the Big Island.

Hawaiian fish markets call spearfish Hebi, but native Hawaiian fishermen call it A’u.

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