INSHORE TUNA TACTICS: Fly Fishing for Bonito and False Albacore

Had it been mere mayhem I might have been able to cope a little better, but this was something different. Two schools of sand eels had been corralled on either side of our boat and were being decimated by heat-seeking, eel-eating, supersonic, drag-burnin g, bonito and false albacore which attacked as if with personal vendettas. My fishing partner was kneeling at my feet muttering something about 200 yards of backing, as he attempted to untangle my long-handled landing net, an 8-weight Sage fly rod, and h is first fly-caught bonito, a 6 pounder that had a mouthful of net caught in his choppers but insisted on bleeding profusely and disgorging sand eels. I offered such advice as “what’s your problem,” and “can’t you move” but in the bliss of having boated a new species, he was oblivious to my encouraging words.

I was in an entirely different state of mind. It mattered little that this was the third consecutive day that I had crossed Nantucket sound in search of bonito and albacore, or that I had already caught several nice stripers that morning. All that matte red was that fish were boiling all around the boat, crashing through schools of bait, and I hadn’t boated a fish yet, despite the fact that four fish had already eaten my fly.

Continuing to talk aloud to myself, I lifted the fly line from the water with the reel still tucked under my armpit, and with one false cast, shot my fly 40 feet into the sand eels clearly visible on the surface behind the transom. A trio of false albaco re erupted through the school as my fly hit the water and were gone just as fast. I began a fast double-handed retrieve, and was screaming “eat it, eat it!” when a flash of iridescent blue and green engulfed my fly. I stripped until I felt pressure, the n raised the tip hard and fumbled to clear the coils of line at my feet before the fish hit the reel. Only when I was well into the backing could I relax under the weight of big false albacore, my first of the day.

Little rivals the thrill of the first run of a pelagic, or ocean-going, species like bonito and false albacore. Built for the open ocean where speed is king, there is no ambushing or casual foraging for these animated torpedoes; only blinding speed and k een eyesight. The beautiful consequence of these tunas’ love for speed is that they expend so much energy that they need to feed ravenously, during most of the day.


Mark N. Cahill has been writing and editing for since 1995. He started fishing in the mid-1960's and caught his first striper off World's End in Hingham in 1966. From there on in it was an obsession. He loves fishing for tuna, and fly fishing for striped bass. In a pinch, anything with fins will do...

Posted in False Albacore, Saltwater Fly Fishing

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