I grew up in Massachusetts right near the coast and was raised fly fishing. Although dad and I made the occasional surf fishing trips to the ocean, most our time was spent fly fishing for trout and bass. Interestingly, since I left the area in 1983 to live out west, I find myself hitting the New England saltwater more than I did back then.
Last night I gave a talk at the Osterville Angler’s Club here on Cape Cod. Today I gave a full day saltwater flats fishing seminar for the Cape Cod Flyrodders. The organizer of my events this week is Bob Lewis and when Bob booked me to speak he planned to take me out in his boat to try for my first false albacore on the fly.
The thought was to fish tomorrow after my work was done. But rain started today and the forecast for tomorrow looks intimidating. With the fear of not getting out, Bob suggested fishing for a few hours this morning before my seminar.
Cape Cod is a beautiful part of the East Coast. This morning didn’t exactly show that with the dreary skies and wind but sometimes these days are best for fishing. At 6 AM, just as it became light, Bob hit the throttle of his center console and we headed out of the estuary for the false albacore grounds.
It wasn’t hard to tell when we reached the fish. There were a heap of boats. Everyone had an angler casting from the bow. There was an even mix of fly fishers and spin casters. Best of all there were schools of false albacore busting everywhere under birds.
Regardless of the weather I was especially excited not only because I saw the little tunny’s but because today’s arsenal included the new Winston Saltwater Air 9’ 8-weight. I hopped in the bow and launched a long practice cast to get ready for action and feel the rod. In only one cast I knew the crisp smooth action of my new green stick could handle the demands of saltwater fly fishing.
I was rigged with a Scientific Anglers intermediate line. Bob handed me a surprisingly small minnow fly pattern. Despite the false albacore averaging about 6lbs the flies are tiny because the bait fish they eat are tiny. The plan of attack is to wait for the fish to feed on the surface than get your fly on them and strip fast.
It didn’t take long for my opportunity. I had about 15 feet of line out of the tip of my Salt Air and another 70 feet of line resting neatly at my feet. In less than two false casts I hit the albie frenzy nearly 80 feet away. One strip and I was on!
The iridescent blue/green fish took off at the speed of sound – something they’re famous for. I cleared the line and hung on tight. About 50 yds. of backing followed sizzling through my guides as it went. It was textbook false albacore fishing!
False albacore are the perfect fly rod fish. They fight hard but not for too long like some of their larger cousins. After a few wicked runs I had my albacore to the side of the boat. Bob snatched the small tuna by the tail and we clicked off a few photos. New species on the fly!
The next false albie didn’t come as easy. Bob put me on school after school but they wouldn’t eat. It’s normal that the false albacore are finicky eaters and this hour it showed. Worst of all when I finally hooked up again, while clearing my line I got tangled around the butt of the rod. It’s a rookie mistake to have happen but it happens to the best of us.
By miracle, despite going tight on the fish in such a tangled mess, the albie didn’t break me off. Rather than making a second mistake of letting the fish pull my rod tip down and ending up straight towards him which leads to instant break off, I was able to keep the rod bent. A bent 8-weight absorbs a lot of torque and sure enough the fish turned and I was able to unravel the near disaster. I think this was only possible because of the Winston flex!
Time was running out for our morning adventure after the second albie. The plan was to head in at 8:30 to get ready for my full day seminar. But you know how it goes. We pushed the time envelope because the fish continued busting. I racked up a third at 8:45. Lucky for us the albies finally went deep and it was easy for us to reel it in.
I had a great day with the Cape Cod Flyrodders. I customized a class on how to pack for an international fly fishing trip to the flats. We did some advanced casting outside in the wind. This evening at a restaurant in Hyannis I demonstrated saltwater knots and delivered my PowerPoint presentation, “Tricks and Tactics for the Worlds Best Flats”.
Not only did I have a great time with the Cape Cod Flyrodders but I’m extremely pleased with my new rod. Once again Winston has set the bar. The new Saltwater Air handles the challenges of saltwater fly fishing yet maintains the traditional Winston feel allowing for effortless tireless seamless casting. I can’t wait to break out the rest of the rod series for more upcoming adventures!