CATCH ALBIES ON FLY

Tap into the false albacore invasion along Northeast and MidAtlantic beaches.

False albacore, aka albies, little tunny, and bonito, are aggressive feeders and a perfect target for fly rodders.
Widespread throughout the East coast, from New England to Florida, false albacore have long been a favorite target of many saltwater fly fishermen. They travel in large schools, feed voraciously on baits easily imitated by flies, possess great speed and strength, and some grow to as large as 20 pounds. What’s not to like?Ed Jaworowski

A SPECIES WITH MANY NAMES

Officially designated "little tunny" by the IGFA, false albacore (Euthynnus alletteratus) are also commonly known as little tuna, tuna mac, albie, fat albert, albacore, or bonito, although true albacore and Atlantic bonito are entirely different species. Wavy worm-like markings on the back and several dark dots below the pectoral fins are easy identifiers.

Lacking a swim bladder, albies will swim until they expire, so use a 10-weight rod and end the flight quickly.
CASH IN ON FLURRIES: Albies are known for their high-speed, mass attacks on schooling baitfish. So multiple hookups are common.Ed Jaworowski

MATCH TACKLE

A 10-weight rod is a great choice for albies. You can take them on lighter tackle, but you do them no favor by extending the fight. They never give up. Lacking a swim bladder, albies will swim until they expire, and these fun and exciting game fish deserve better.

False albacore reach speeds of 30 to 40 mph, so connecting with the fish requires quick reactions.
QUICK DELIVERY: Veteran fly angler Bob Clouser knows albies disappear as quickly as they show up to feast on a bait school, so he was ready to deliver the fly to the feeding fish.Ed Jaworowski

BEST SUITED FLY LINES

Although floating lines work well, if limited to one line, I would choose an intermediate. However, in choppy water, a fast-sinking 30-foot shooting head is sometimes required to get the fly down a couple of feet. I recall an incident in Connecticut when the fish chased our flies but refused to grab them as they neared the surface. We switched to sinking lines, which kept our flies a couple of feet below the surface despite stripping at fast pace, and had no more refusals.

Surface attacks from false albacore are fast, powerful and very exciting.
RECKLESS: False albacore often break the surface, and are known to even skyrocket, when in hot pursuit of prey.Ed Jaworowski

RECOMMENDED REELS

Since albies reach speeds of 30 to 40 mph and really rip off line, fly reels should have smooth start up and overall drag, and be capable of carrying at least 150 yards of backing. A large-arbor design helps to regain line quickly when a fish turns and heads back your direction. If one should suddenly do a 180 and swim rapidly toward you, dip the rod tip into the water to prevent the line from wrapping around it as you reel as fast as possible to take up any slack and stay tight on the fish.

Some claim that false albacore only strike straight ahead, that they won't deviate from their line of movement.
TIPPET SAFE: Unlike other members of the tuna and mackerel families, false albacore lack the sharp dentures that easily slice light tippets.Ed Jaworowski

TIPPET SELECTION

While not especially leader shy, albies have very small teeth that pose little threat to light tippets. Therefore, seven or eight foot leaders with 15- to 20-pound tippets are standard. But when fishing from rock jetties, it’s a good idea to add a straight piece of 30-pound mono as protection against fraying.

favorite patterns include Alba-Clousers, Jiggies and Surf Candies, tied with nylon or bucktail wings, in sizes 1/0 and 2/0.
SURF CANDY: This lifelike Bob Popovics pattern, the Surf Candy, has become a must for every fly rodder intent on catching false albacore.Ed Jaworowski

TOP FLY PATTERNS

When it comes to flies, patterns in more subdued color schemes — usually combinations of blue, green, gray, tan, and white — work best. My favorite patterns include Alba-Clousers, Jiggies and Surf Candies, tied with nylon or bucktail wings, in sizes 1/0 and 2/0.

favorite patterns include Alba-Clousers, Jiggies and Surf Candies, tied with nylon or bucktail wings, in sizes 1/0 and 2/0.
ALBA-CLOUSER: A simple, but very effective pattern for false albacore is the Alba-Clouser. It's derived from the Clouser Minnow, but tied with nylon fibers, which also make the fly more durable.Ed Jaworowski

IDEAL TECHNIQUES

As for the best techniques, they differ depending on the situation. When fishing from a boat, long casts are generally not called for. Albies frequently ravage dense masses of baitfish that seek protection under boat hulls. During the chase, they push the bait pods toward the surface, where mayhem ensues. Just throw your fly in front of the feasting albies, use a slow to medium-fast retrieve, and let the fish intercept your offering.

If you are fishing deeper water, a few handfuls of small baitfish, like bay anchovies or silversides should bring albies within casting distance.
CLOUSER DEEP MINNOW: This venerable classic pattern, the Clouser Minnow, remains as effective as ever, especially when the false albacore are feeding subsurface.Ed Jaworowski

IN DEEP WATER

Chum is sometimes needed to lure fish into range. If you are fishing deeper water, a few handfuls of small baitfish, like bay anchovies or silversides should bring albies within casting distance.

Surf fishing for false albacore is a special challenge, the pinnacle of the sport, calling for fast, long, accurate casts.
SURF'S UP: A boat is not essential to target false albacore. Plenty are caught from the beach or a nearby rock jetty.Ed Jaworowski

ALONG THE SURF

Surf fishing for false albacore is a special challenge, the pinnacle of the sport, calling for fast, long, accurate casts. Unlike striped bass, seatrout, or bluefish, albies move fast. They don't stay in a zone for long, so consider any you catch from the beach a trophy. Jetties that stretch far out to sea afford great help in getting to the fish.

Often anglers get caught up in the frenzy and retrieve too fast, taking the fly away from the fish.
TRIPLEHEADER: When albies go on a feeding frenzy, every angler onboard has the chance to hook up. Just take turns casting and watch your back cast to avoid tangles and broken rods.Ed Jaworowski

FROM A BOAT OR AFOOT

Whether fishing from a boat or along the surf, too often anglers get caught up in the frenzy and retrieve too fast, taking the fly away from the fish. Some claim that false albacore only strike straight ahead, that they won't deviate from their line of movement, but saltwater guru Bob Popovics has videos of fish turning around and grabbing flies well off to the side. So don't pull your fly away too quickly if it lands off target.

Sometimes no retrieve at all works best. Cast a Clouser Floating Minnow near the crashing fish and let it sit, bobbing in the waves.
FLOATING MINNOW: Another versatile fly pattern from Bob Clouser, the Clouser Floating Minnow, is perfect for albies feeding right on the surface.Ed Jaworowski

WOUNDED PREY TACTIC

Sometimes no retrieve at all works best. Cast a Clouser Floating Minnow near the crashing fish and let it sit, bobbing in the waves. It's amazing how often an albie will zoom past and grab the apparently hapless, wounded prey.

If fish stay down and refuse to come to the surface, fish a floating fly pattern, like a Blados' Crease Fly, on a fast-sinking line.
CREASE FLY: The popping action and the silhouette of the Blados' Crease Fly makes this an enticing pattern.Ed Jaworowski

COMBINED TACTICS

If fish stay down and refuse to come to the surface, fish a floating fly pattern, like a Blados' Crease Fly, on a fast-sinking line. Between strips, the fly tends to wiggle toward the surface like an escaping baitfish, rather than sinking like a weighted fly does.

Once you hook up, keep your rod tip low to fight albies with the rod butt.
TRADING PUNCHES: Fighting false albacore is a workout that puts stress on your back and arms. Use your leg and core muscles to lift and pull the fish to the boat.Ed Jaworowski

HOOKED UP

Once you hook up, keep your rod tip low to fight albies with the rod butt. Novice fly rodders and many converts from freshwater routinely make the mistake of "high stick" the fish, which is a recipe for disaster. At best, that will prolong the fight. At worst, it will result in a broken rod tip.