Click through the gallery above to see all the images.
Nothing that swims in the ocean or in an angler’s dreams can compare to a monster tuna tethered to a fly rod. Pound for pound, no fly-caught fish can match the raw power of a tuna, and truth be told, nothing puts more of a strain on angler and tackle alike.
Starting with the bite, tunas command respect; it sometimes seems that these brutes were created to bring grown men to their knees and make blubbering fools of the most seasoned fly-rodders. These fish are built for speed and everlasting endurance. To catch one on the fly requires an epic force of will and sheer strength, and though I hate to admit it, these slab-sided brawlers win more often than not.
Fortunately, different varieties of tuna are widely available, affording anglers ample opportunities to hone their skills before taking on a true monster. Blackfin, yellowfin and bluefin tuna (listed in ascending order) are considered the heavyweights, but let’s not forget about false albacore, bonita and skipjack. All of these species offer tremendous opportunities for fly-rodders, but for simplicity’s sake, I’m breaking my suggested methods down and will cover tuna in the small, medium, large and supersize categories.
Lessons with Lightweights: False Albacore
[Hot Spot: Mid-Atlantic] [Local Expert: Capt. Brian Horsley; firstname.lastname@example.org]
Up and down the East Coast, opportunities abound for smaller tuna species. False albacore (albies) rank as one of the most pursued and maintain a loyal following. Albies are inshore firecrackers, and though they are considered an apex game species in their own right, they make ideal sparring partners for tuna anglers training for heavyweight fights farther offshore. Small baitfish patterns cast on rods in the 7- to 9-weight range matched with floating or intermediate lines are the standard tools for this game. Small, shallow-draft bay boats should be all you need to get into marauding packs of fish, and believe it or not, shore-based opportunities exist as well. When you hit it right, the spectacle of a feeding school will not soon be forgotten. Keep an eye out for lots of bird activity and acres of white water erupting as the albacore slash through tightly packed baitballs. The Outer Banks of North Carolina is perhaps the best-known albie hot spot and makes a perfect starting point in your quest for big tuna. Plan your mid-Atlantic trips around the fall months to take advantage of prime time. Albie fishing tends to be a high-volume game when it’s on, so expect a lot of action; the cast, the strip, the hook-set, the clearing of the line and the fight are all translatable to larger tuna, so bring your A-game. Fall albie fishing tends to require a “run-and-gun” approach, and inshore waters of the mid-Atlantic often have many anglers chasing the same schools, so be prepared for a little competition. In general, be courteous to the other anglers, and do not run over the schools of fish you are targeting. If you are quick on the draw, polite and willing to strip a fly faster than you ever thought possible, you’ll get a good taste for the fast and furious game that lies in store offshore.