Fly Fishing Tips for False Albacore, by Jack Larizadeh
The island of Nantucket is nestled just 26 miles from the mainland port of Hyannis, Massachusetts. In the late 18th and early 19th century, the island was the world's whaling capital. Today, I call it the Albie capital of the world. Typically, Albies first enter the waters of Nantucket in mid to late August and finally leave toward the end of October. What shocks me the most about the Nantucket albie fishery is not only the volume of albies but the size of the fish as well.
What makes the Albie fishing in Nantucket so good? Well, there are a few factors. The island has access to gin-clear oceanic water due to its offshore location, and this is a must when it comes to Albie fishing. Another thing to consider is bait. Albies love sandeels, anchovies, and squid. Nantucket has all three food sources, and the island attracts the largest-sized Albie baits I've ever seen. It's common to see sand eels measuring 7-8 inches long. The final piece to the puzzle is the swift current. Albies love to cruise the current lines and crush any bait trapped in the fast water. If you've ever targeted these fish, you'll know how picky they can be; however, when clean water meets a constant supply of large bait and swift current, magic happens.
Regarding access, Nantucket has plenty of beaches to drive on or walk. My favorite spot is Great Point, a 7-mile-long undeveloped beach that splits the ocean from Nantucket Sound. The area is owned privately by the trustees of the reservation, and access is open to permit holders. Although the fishing is spectacular, the site is also home to a large grey seal population. These seals are cunning and easily steal fish off my line. I always try to find a spot hidden from the beasts.
Fishing at Great Point can be intimidating; there are 7 miles of fishable beach. Typically, I start by driving down the ocean side shoreline looking for signs of life, such as busting fish or hovering birds. If I see nothing appetizing, I use a trail to cut over to the sound side. The sound has more beach structure, such as drop-offs and rip lines attracting Albies. Luckily, this year, Nantucket has experienced a dominant north/ east wind, which favors casting on the sound side. When it comes to conditions, I prefer sporty weather. The fish seem to love a rainy day with strong gusts. As for timing, first light to 9 am and 4 pm to sundown is perfect. In terms of approach, the name of the game is blind casting, so I like to be mobile. Usually, I make a cast and then shuffle down the beach. Moving around gives me confidence since I know I must search for these fish. Regarding retrieve, I tuck my rod under my shoulder and maintain a steady two-handed strip. Ultimately, keeping the fly in the water is crucial. More times than not, these fish hit right along the beach lip.
Let's talk gear, I always air on the side of fast action rods when targeting Albies. Fast rods have more backbone and load quicker, resulting in fewer hauls and longer distance casting. My favorite reel is my gold and blue Cheeky Limitless 425. Albies are true drag screamers, and the Limitless series is perfect at putting the heat on a monster fish. Not only does the reel have a spectacular drag system, but it also has the ideal amount of room for backing. Regarding leader choice, I typically build a 50/50 10-foot split of 40lb to 30lb fluorocarbon. This rig really allows me to apply a ton of pressure to larger fish. When looking at fly choice, I primarily fish surf candies and small deceivers. My favorite colors include pink, yellow, and green.
Although it can take some time to hook a fish, the battle is no joke. Whenever I hook an albie from shore, I wonder if I have enough backing. The first minute of the fight, I hold my rod as the drag screams, and I pray for the fish to slow down. Any line I can get back on the reel is dumped back out. As my fly reel spins at a million miles an hour, the Albie eventually changes direction and comes right at me. Within a split second, I must regain all of the line I lost to remain tight to the fish. While I usually think it's the end, the fish turns sideways and run parallel to the beach. After a bit of side pressure, it finally hits the sand. It's a chaotic few minutes. That said, I always try to minimize handling time once I get my hands on the fish. These beautiful fish are easily stressed and need to be handled with care. Regarding the release, Albies must be put back head first with a propulsion-like push to breathe air into the gills.
With False Albacore fishing gaining popularity, the fishing community has come together to learn more about these speedsters. In particular, the American Saltwater Guides Association has made an enormous push to understand Albie behavior migrations and assess the overall stock. These efforts are currently spearheaded by the "Albie project", a new tagging program - sponsored by Cheeky Fishing. By getting a deeper glimpse into these fish, the organization looks to conserve our Albie populations for the future. Be sure to keep an eye out for project updates and new research. You can check out our Blitz Blog, 'Little Tunny Trouble' and 'An Update on #TheAlbieProject' for more information.
Meet the Author: With roots in the northeast Jack Larizadeh is a passionate fly fisherman and writer willing to go to the ends of the earth to catch some of his bucket list species. Through fly fishing he’s met a ton of new characters and friends who share the same pursuit of the next catch. Jack has authored a multitude of educational and informative content with an emphasis on catch and release practices and community. Off the water, he's sharing his passion as one half of the blog Long Haul Fly Fishing.