Albacore 2020: Lesson's Learned

SilverFly

Active Member
Given that the Albacore 2020 thread is currently at 35 pages, I was advised by a wise WFF member (hint: crab eating sculpin) that it would be a good idea to post a Lessons Learned thread. The intent being a quick(er) reference to collect/preserve the quantum-leap in PNW albacore FF knowledge contributions made by WFF tuna crews in 2020.

For now I'm just going to copy/paste the content added after I posted the following:

(1) What worked
(2) What didn't work
(3) Lesson's learned (what not to do, mistakes, goofs)
(4) Albacore FF hacks
(5) Surprises
(6) Cool observations
(7) Notes on trip preparation
(8) Gear recommendations
(9) Rigging
(10) Techniques
(11) Fly patterns
(12) What do I do with all this tuna
<edit> (13) Retrieves
 
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SilverFly

Active Member
I'll start...

(1) What Worked:

<a> Casting aft, parallel to the boat immediately after a troll hookup. This turned out to be very successful and a great technique since it could be done with zero chum on board.

<b> Kicking the motors into gear with non-biting fish under the boat. Several times this triggered bites when we were ready to search for fresh schools.

<c> Poppers! Score one for Nick's observational powers, massive experience, and general fishiness. He was dead-nuts correct that a surface fly producing a gentle V-wake would drive albacore crazy ... although not sure he expected to launch one like a Poseidon missile.

Feel free to tag on...

<d> (edit: just remembered) Buck tailing in the propwash! OK, not technically fly fishing but @cabezon had some exciting hits in the foam only a few rod lengths of the stern.

<e>
 

SilverFly

Active Member
Get a rod with a for grip, my 14wt was great as it had more grip.

You don't need to cast far, I just roll casted most of the time.

Don't high stick that rod at the boat!

You don't need a High end reel although I had em, Just need capacity for 300yrds of GSP.

I was amazed that a simple nail not worked for GSP to flyline and, even when horsing them in!

Strait 30lb flouro worked great for leader!

During a blitz get your shit in the water!

Learn how to short pump, it works amazingly!

Take a break and take some photos and enjoy the company out there. We were so focused on catching I probably missed something.

Fishing with Nick is a blast!!!


Albacore stink!
 

SilverFly

Active Member
I have exactly 1 FF day for albacore, so take that for what it's worth.

Our day was rough and windy, so mostly I tried to sit on the gunwale and brace myself to avoid falling into the water, both while fishing and while reeling them in. Leverage is tricky doing this, especially as the tuna get into gaffing range. I also wished for shortish leaders to more easily get the tuna right to the top to the gaff, as the sound and feel of the leader knot getting into the guides (and going out again rapidly if they ran) made me worry about breaking the rod tip, especially because I was using someone else's rod. But if they are leader shy, you are going to need the leader length. With time, I hope we all figure out how much leader length is really needed. I think I had 4' of 25 lb fluoro.

Ralph Cutter (wrote Trout Food book) is basically positive there is no such thing as fish not seeing your leader and fly line perfectly always, no matter what you do or what you use. Mostly he thinks fish typically just don't care about it, and the longer leader aspect is a myth with respect to actual visibility (but not presentation). It might be true then that very short leaders will work just fine, if they don't actually care. Commercial fishing setups can illustrate this point very well at times.

I liked the wind drift, it helped me to stack mend until 70-90' of the fly line was out, providing a decent length of line to strip back in. That also got my fly deep, as it might take a minute or two to get that line out during the drift. Mostly I used coho style retrieves, fast and erratic, which were rising to the top. Seemed to work. Got fish both early in the strip (so deep, at first movement) and next to the boat as I was lifting to roll out again. Fish it all the way in.

BK's success with Dennis's fly in the late morning troll time makes me think fly selection matters, at least for the troll. I think he got 3, or maybe even 4, hookups in a row although 4 of us were dragging our junk. That's too much to be random chance, I got one bump in the same period. Fish different flies on the troll for sure.

Pay attention to BKs "short pump" advice. I had to see him do it to understand what it was. Watch a video. Will integrate that into the system now.

I was worried about fly size initially, went with 3-4" ties, but am sort of thinking even 1-2" bait fish probably might work on the right day or many days. Silverfly has the Kraken, and I respect that, but I am curious to know how small we can go. The good thing about small bait is that fish know they need to eat alot of it, so it can keep them thoughtless. Curious what is actually in stomachs, not including chum fish/pieces, wish that data was out there.

I can't wait to go again next summer. I bought a 12wt reel, will pick up a rod one of these days. Seeing how tight everyone is, with 6 people on the back deck, and how chaotic it can be during the bite, makes me think I want to avoid overspending on the rod, because rods are going to routinely get broken. Make sure the boat has some backups rigged and ready.

Can't wait to fish the bow on a clean day and watch the tuna movie below.
 

SilverFly

Active Member
One more: clearing line for the initial run is tricky; a system for this would be nice. I had one horrid knot go up into the guides, which I think resulted in a break off and could easily pull a top section out and into the water. But I was more worried about other people stepping on the line, and also had one thrashing tuna tangle into my stripped line. Brought my stripping basket, but don't think that will work well. Maybe need some floor buckets/barrels to strip into? Line management in the 4 pack charter boat model is a tricky problem.
 

SilverFly

Active Member
Casting into the chum slick.
SilverFly said:
(2) What didn't work

Comfortably bombing casts off the bow, away from the chum slick, did not work on my 2020 tuna day. That technique has worked in the past, however.
SilverFly said:
(3) Lesson's learned (what not to do, mistakes, goofs)
Double check you pack the right damn rod(s).

Book more than one day of tuna fishing per year. One day is not enough! Plus, as always, more days = more chances of hitting it just right, or at least hitting it on a good day.

Get plenty of rest prior. Can be easier said than done.
SilverFly said:
(12) What do I do with all this tuna

Eat as much fresh as humanly possible.
Unless you're processing 10 or 12-lb peanuts, vac-seal and freeze smaller portions. A half a loin is just a bit too much for my family. A half a loin is about perfect if you have another family to eat with. Haven't done much of that lately though.
I was cooking half-loins whole, often in a pretty elaborate marinade, but I have taken to cutting steaks and searing those on a smokin' hot flat griddle on the grill. Also can get a nice quick sear indoors if needed. Olive oil, salt and pepper turns out a great versatile product to set on a salad, put in a taco, etc.
 

SilverFly

Active Member
On my boat we just walk back and get the fish close. I typically do the gaffing and never have a problem and don't really overthink it. We net a lot of them too, just cleaner and easier for the most part. Only fish we tend to not net are the ones with treble hook lures hanging out their mouths.
 

SilverFly

Active Member
How are y’all gaffing your fish? Do you try to gaff the fish while you fight it from the rod? Or do you have someone leader the fish at the boat and gaff it? I have found the later technique works best and you avoid high sticking and rod breakage. I strip out some extra line to land the fish and get ready to head to the rail if the fish takes off again at the boat. Most tuna don’t like gaffs.
Not sure why that isn't SOP with albacore when that seems to be how it's done offshore everywhere else. Should work no problem since we're using 25 - 30# leaders.

Currently we just lead the fish to the gaff. As @tallguy pointed out, why we run short leaders. Having a legit wind-on leader method would be sweet. Open to ideas here. Otherwise thinking I might play around with hollow-core braid later this winter to work out a seamless flyline to leader connection.
 

SilverFly

Active Member
I've netted albacore a few times. It works fine. The main reason we use gaffs on the charters is that with 6 people in a busy bait stop they are just way faster. Im also not a huge fan of wielding a big bet around on a busy deck full of anglers. Ive never really tried grabbing the leader first, never need to with our standard program with shorter gear rods. May have to try it next summer with fly rods. Gaffing fish while people were using long fly rods was definitely a bit new this season and much different than our standard day for sure.

As Ive mentioned before, the company I work for is not a fly fishing business. The fly trips are just something they are open to doing for people interested and they give me a lot of freedom to try to book those trips. But, the boats are simply not setup for fly fishing, and aren't ideal boats for fly anglers for sure. Still, we made it work pretty damn well.

Good stuff being discussed here. I for one learned a hell of a lot this past season.

The summer did a good job of covering all the possibilities one could encounter while targeting albacore. That first trip the fishing was so hot that fly pattern didn't matter a ton, long casts definitely weren't necessary, and retrieve mattered less than other days.

Later in the season we saw how finicky these fish can be. That second weekend you guys came out we had to really work for them, and many things seemed to matter. The prop wash was crucial that day and while fishing was tougher I highly enjoyed experimenting with that. Leaving the boat in gear, dropping down to idle, and circling after a hookup was very eye opening to me and definitely added fish to our day. It was frustrating how the fish would hit on the troll, on the slide, maybe get a grab the first cast or two, and then boom shut off until the motor was in gear again. The fish were there, boiling on the chum, the sonar lit up....but just not biting. Ive seen that behavior a lot over the years I've been doing this and I still don't totally know what accounts for it.

During that time longer casts helped more than earlier in the season for sure. Brendan's only fish that second day came on a long cast, and all his fish the previous trip were the same.

Getting bit in the prop wash while trolling wasn't a surprise to me at all. I see that a lot every season. With my normal troll spread 2 of our lines are always short, short enough that if you're patient you can stand there and watch the jigs get bit on the troll. Saw the same while commercial fishing. I used to love standing at the stern and looking straight down off the transom to watch clones get eaten.

Fly patterns definitely made a big difference, and I've already been adding more stuff to my box for next season. Especially small to mid sized baitfish along with shrimp and squid patterns

The short pump technique is money for sure. Its the only way to fight albacore as far as I'm concerned. It truly makes a huge difference. Using those short, fast pumps, keeping tension on the lift and the drop, you keep their head tipped up and while they are circling they are circling to the surface. High rod lifts tends to get their head too vertical and it seems to just piss them off and they run harder.

I agree with bk regarding rods with a fore grip. To me it makes a huge difference. Expensive reels definitely aren't needed. Ive been using the Echo Bravo reels the last two years and they easily handle albacore. I think they sell for around 160 bucks. Cheap in the saltwater fly fishing world.

I'm really looking forward to next season, and in particular am hoping we get a true run and gun day chasing jumpers. We could have done that that first day, but the fishing was so amazing it was hard to really stop and think about it lol.

As far as what to do with so much, personally I can most of it. Once canned it lasts a long time and its just so damn good. We eat a lot of it in my house, and never have any problem giving jars away.

That first day you came out last year was easily the most fun Ive ever had on the ocean. I day dream about that trip often. Especially that popper grab. I can picture every single detail of that clear as day.
 

SilverFly

Active Member
I lost way more fish then I landed, I got good grabs but just could not keep them hooded, Nick and I talked about that and we both feel I had my drag set too loose. I just kept forgetting to tighten my drag a little past free spool. That and I was sure on on my game that day. I’m looking forward to getting out next year. Going to be fun with out a patch behind my ear for the first time.

It’s funny I got most of my grabs on a 7 inch long blue over white flatwing with a blue barbed feather in the middle of the pattern. Also the only fly that brought a fish to the gaff for me.
 

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