When albacore are feeding, it makes accounts of Roman gluttony orgies seem like fasting rituals. At these times, they will eagerly strike just about anything you offer them. However, since they feed primarily on anchovies and sardines, you can't go wrong with baitfish patterns like Clousers, Deceivers, Sar-Mul-Macs and Jiggies. For color combinations, I rely on the formulas that have worked for decades on the trolling rigs. As a general guideline, in the low-light conditions you find in the gray dawn hours and on overcast days, darker colors like black or green and yellow are good choices. As light increases, you may want to change to red-and-white or red-and-yellow flies. At midday, blue and white is my first choice. Sizewise, try to simulate the baits you're throwing as chum. For anchovies and sardines, this will generally range from 2 to 6 inches.
Because they belong to the superathletic tuna family, albacore will challenge you and your tackle. This is one style of fishing where the reel plays a vital role in fighting the fish, so go with the best you can afford. Normally you can expect an initial run of at least 100 yards or more, and the drag should remain absolutely smooth. In the course of making several sprints, albacore sometimes veer toward the boat, which can create slack in the line. I've lost a number of fish in these situations. But the advent of large arbor spools has made it much less of a problem as I can now pick up line faster.
When fishing live bait, albacore can become line shy; however, that usually doesn't happen with artificials, so 16- and 20-pound-test tippets work fine. Albacore do not have cutting teeth like larger yellowfin, so a bite leader isn't necessary. The simplest leader setup is a straight 3- to 4-foot section of class tippet. I tie a bimini loop in one end, fold the loop over itself, then tie a double surgeon's loop and interlock this to the loop in the tag end of the fly line. The fly is tied directly to the tag end of the class tippet. Over the years, I've used both loop knots to allow the fly more action on the retrieve and standard ties like the improved clinch and palomar knot, but I really haven't found any difference between the two. Just be sure to tie your knots properly, because any weak spot will surely spell disaster with fish of this caliber.
Contrary to some misconceptions, it isn't necessary to try to burn the fly through the water to draw strikes, although I do use a fairly rapid retrieve, often with two hands for better line control. When I get a strike, I simply apply resistance by holding the line firmly. Given the speed at which albies are traveling when they take an offering, there's no need to strike back violently. If you do you'll pop the leader. When they feel that initial shock of resistance, they're going to accelerate, so your first priority is to make sure that any remaining line clears the rod guides. After that, just hang on and relish the awesome display of power emptying line from your reel. Pretty soon, you, too, will be anxiously awaiting the next season's "fever."