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Well, Albie: a fly target as hot as the season!

Fly fishers who love little tunny in Northeast U.S. waters are surprised when they see how big the "albies" are here in Florida.

Numbers of these fish--which we of course call bonito--increase sharply all summer and fall along the Florida coast, especially in the proximity of inlets. The key is to find bait. Albies will shadow bait schools from right up in the surf on out to blue water, over ledges and wrecks especially.

For the most part, the fish stay in 15 to 100 feet of water, and once you find them in bait, there are a couple ways to fire up the bite. You can drift and cast to busting fish, but the fish tend to pop up here and then there, and it can drive you nuts. You might jag a couple, but if you chum, you stand a much better chance.

Here's an effective drill: Get upwind or up-current of the feeding fish, birds (dipping terns or gulls) or bait pods you spot and shut your motor down. If you have an electric, ease into position and cast at busting fish, or showering minnows. "Match the hatch" with fly selection if possible. Size match means more than exact coloration. You will fish blindly as well as by sight. Keep your fly wet, but upon seeing a fish at the surface, get your fly there pronto for best chance at a strike.

Sweeten the Deal

Chumming is a big plus. Live pilchards (squeezed first) tossed out over a school revs things up, and so does chumming with commercial blocks with an occasional handful of dead glass minnows. Where shallow enough, you might anchor up, or simply continue drifting with chum bag deployed.

Tackle Up

Do not go too light--an albie will fight to the end and may not survive it, and you don't want to spend too much time trying to winch up that spiraling bruiser in the 12- to 15-pound class from down below. Choose a 9-weight rod at minimum, and seriously consider a 10-weight as the all-round stick. I prefer an intermediate sinking clear fly line. If you have a sink-tip, that is a good choice, too. A floating line calls for a bit longer leader; the sometimes spooky fish are put down by the opaque floater. Go with a 9-footer at least. With the clear intermediate, I use an 8-footer tapering from a 40-pound butt to a bite tippet in the 12- to 20-pound range. Some days, the lighter bite tippet gets more strikes.

A large-arbor reel gains line very quickly and that is ideal because a hooked albie can stop on a dime and swim right at the boat at times. When that happens reel like the devil with your rodtip in the water to prevent tip-wrap. That quick pickup is good, too, when you are pumping a big one up from below.

When you release a false albie, grab it by the tail with support under the belly and "jet" it into the water from about head-high. That forces a jet of oxygen through that tired fish's gills. They are fairly hardy so long as you don't allow them to hit the deck, or keep them out of the water too long.

Flies

Albies in minnows can be selective, and only a like-sized fly will score. I find that a white-bellied, dark-backed pattern tied with translucent material is best. On cloudy days, chartreuse and hot-pink have worked for me.

You can't go wrong with a Clouser Minnow tied with Ultra-Hair or similar, in gray-over-white or tan-over-white (some call it the Alba-Clouser). A little flash completes it. Choose the dumbbell lead eye for the situation. Are the fish smack on top? Go with bead chain or X-small lead eyes. A bit deeper and not busting continuously? Beef up on the lead size. A No. 2 or 1 hook is ideal.

Caption: Author's array of small streamer patterns suitable for catching little tunny (above left), a.k.a. false albacore, albie or bonito.
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Title Annotation:FS SEMINAR: FLYFISHING
Author:Conner, Mike
Publication:Florida Sportsman
Date:Aug 1, 2017
Words:670
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