Blake Warren – ON THE HOOK

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Friday, August 18, 2017
June in August
Friday, September 22, 2017
Carpe Tunnel

Surfin' U.S.A. — Now, THAT'S 'dialed in!'
Those of us who fish and have a certain type of passion or affinity for fishing hear fish stories all the time — at least you do when you happen to work at a weekly fishing newspaper. But when you hear a fish story that absolutely stops you in your tracks and instantly transforms your mentality back into that of an 8-year-old boy, you certainly know you've walked into something pretty special.

When I got an off-the-wall voice message forwarded to me from former WON Editor Pat McDonell about a 30-pound yellowtail caught from the surf off this past Wednesday, there was no doubt I'd be following up soon. And follow up I did. I first returned the call of one Brian Murphy of Santee, who first informed me of the amazing catch from the beach that he just happened to witness first hand. Murphy, a lifelong fisherman himself who fished albacore commercially for 15 years, set out last weekend to spend a leisurely day at the beach at Torrey Pines with his girlfriend, Sandra Lee, and find himself some relaxing time in the mid-August SoCal sun. While he managed to find plenty of sun, the relaxing part of the equation abruptly ended when he bore witness to a 16-year-old kid landing a bruiser yellowtail from the breakers.

“It was just totally crazy,” Murphy said. “I'm just hanging out, and all of a sudden I watch this kid catch this big yellowtail, right out of the surf! Being a fisherman, I couldn't help myself and went down to check it out. I ended up spending the next couple hours talking to father and son William and Sean Taylor, and the fishing knowledge these guys had just blew my mind. These guys were absolutely dialed in! I've fished a long time, but I haven't seen anything quite like it before.”

William Taylor was born in Cape Town, South Africa. He grew up both there and in the city of Durbin, and worked in Johannesburg for a decade before coming out to the United States in 1991. As a youth in South Africa, William learned to fish and fell in love with the sport as a young boy, advancing to and competing in a 17-state, nation-wide surf fishing event in South Africa for a half-dozen years, making the national championship round in three of those particular opportunities. Over the years, he's caught black seabass to 40 pounds, white seabass to 30 pounds, bat rays up over the 100-pound mark and troves of various shark species along with oodles of other game fish — all of which were landed from the beach. Taylor's done surf fishing seminars here in the States and fished extensively on both the East and West coasts, and just in talking to the man for the better part of an hour, it is certainly on display in the most profound of ways.

The catch of the 30-pound forkie was no fluke, I can assure you of that. These fellas were well beyond “dialed in” and they knew exactly what they were doing out on the sand.

Armed with a custom, 13½-foot graphite baitcasting rod that goes for about $1,000-plus, a Daiwa Sealine X30 reel spooled with specialized 20-pound leader material, a custom, four-pronged, 3-ounce weight and a 6/0 hook baited with a jumbo, cotton-thread-wrapped fresh-frozen sardine, 16-year-old son Sean was hurling casts of over 130 yards out from waist deep on the beach. One of those very casts resulted in the one, very big forktail bite.

“He hooked that fish and it just started screaming line off the reel,” William relayed. “Sean did a great job but pretty quickly he only had maybe a quarter spool of line left, and when I got out to him about chest-deep, he handed me the rod with just maybe 6 or 8 turns left on the spool.

“It's a real key just how you fight these big game fish at this point,” he explained. “You've really got to fight the fish according to the angle as to where you're fishing from. I managed to hold it there just enough and I started to slowly walk it back and slowly turn his head and get it leading him back to the beach — you know, right then at that point where it's just one more pull and they're going to snap that last bit of line. If its head turns, it's over. Once I got a few more winds on him I gave the rod back to Sean and he finished it off. I gotta say Sean did a great job. He handled everything — kept the rod up, had the right drag set, everything.”

Sean already knew a little about big game fishing from the surf going into the ordeal, having beached a shovelnose shark twice the size of himself at just 5 years of age under his father's tutelage.

“We've all got to do our best to encourage kids to fish,” William said. “Getting kids to catch fish of any kind is absolutely terrific. You can get 'em catching perch after perch and they'll have a blast for a long time, but eventually it'll kind of become 'ho-hum, ho-hum,'” he said. “But you get a kid that has a fishing rod being just pulled out of his hands by a big game fish in the surf, and believe me, he's hooked for life.”

Along with the big yellowtail the Taylors put on the sand, they also landed a quartet of soupfin sharks utilizing the same tactics. An epic day wading in the surf with rod and reel to be sure — likely a feat that even the most experienced, veteran surf casters can hardly manage to soak in and truly believe.

The key to pulling a catch of this magnitude off, William said, is to have every minute detail covered and each and every nuance of the approach well thought of in advance — from rod and reel, to line, leader and terminal tackle and baiting, to the particular tactics used in the heat of the fight.

“You've gotta do just everything right,” said William. “The way you freeze the sardine is important, and so is the way you defrost it. It's gotta look like it just died. The key is 'floating' our baits — wrapping them in thread just the right way and getting it up off the bottom so it looks like a natural sardine. That's the whole concept behind it. And you've gotta get it waayyy out there. The farther out you cast, the better you catch in my experience.”

And so it was said. Undoubtedly, these cats have it about as “dialed in” as one could hope to get things.

The Fisherman's Prayer: “Lord let me catch a fish so big that even I when speaking of it afterwards may never need to lie again.”

A YOUNG SEAN TAYLOR — then 5 years old — with a shovelnose shark nearly twice his size on the beach.

A COTTON THREAD-WRAPPED fresh-frozen sardine got this forkie to go, and 16-year-old Sean Taylor finished him off.

FATHER AND SON, William and Sean Taylor, are all smiles with their 30-pound, surf-caught yellowtail.

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