Westport Tuna Tuesday 7 September 2021

cabezon

Sculpin Enterprises
WFF Premium
2nd tuna trip for me of the week. It was hard to know what to expect. On my first trip of the season with my BIL and two friends, we landed 14 albacore. But Silverfly and three other flyfishers had been out on Monday with another charter and landed just two tuna. On the other hand, Nick and the mostly gear-fishing team that he led put 30 tuna in the boat on Monday. It has been a challenging, uneven tuna season.
Learning from Thursday, I made a few wardrobe changes for this morning’s tuna trip to stay warmer on the long trip offshore. And I added my scopolamine patch the evening before to give it more time to be effective; that actually worked out quite well.
Our five-person team consisted of @SilverFly, @Bagman, @thatguyryry, a former WFF member, and myself. Thatguyryry was a newbie in fishing for tuna, but the other four folks had fished together for tuna previously. We met up with Nick and his new deckhand, loaded our gear, and set off through the dark harbor. We passed the bar pretty easily and settled in for the 2+ hours offshore.
On a partly-cloudy morning, the sunrise over the Cascades was quite spectacular. The rising sun painted the clouds a bright orange.
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Nick had the boat cruising at 16+ knots, but the trip out seemed a bit easier than on the previous Thursday. Nick and the other boats from All Rivers headed to the same region that had been productive the previous day. When we arrived, there was substantial bird action, mostly by pink-footed shearwaters
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(but with a few terns, sooty shearwaters, Sabine’s gulls, juvenile glaucous-winged gulls) feeding in the same waters. There were also some sign of schools of small sauries at the surface.
We set out four fly rods and started the troll. Silverfly was using his Kraken squid pattern. I had a large green flatwing-style fly.
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Thatguyryry was using a shock-and-awe style conehead fly in blue. I don’t remember what fly Bagman was using. After perhaps 20 minutes, Bagman’s rod got hit, Nick put the boat into neutral, and Silverfly had a grab on the slide. A few live anchovies were tossed overboard to keep the school interested. I had a tug on the “slide” (the deceleration of that boat) but the fish was never hooked (short strike???). After a short fight, Silverfly’s fish got off. The rest of the team started casting and staying out of Bagman’s way. Bagman fought his fish hard and eventually got it to the rail. But the fish got off at the rail. Grrrrr. The sonar was not indicating any tuna under the boat and so we were back on the troll.
Nick maneuvered the boat to intercept areas that had bird activity with the thought that there might be albacore tuna underneath. This did not appear to be the case. After another period of trolling, Thatguyryry’s rod bent over. The boat went back into neutral and both Silverfly and I got bit on the slide but neither fish appeared to be hooked. While Thatguyryry had extensive saltwater fishing experience, he had never tussled with a fish this big or powerful that would take him into his backing. This albacore played the usual game of ripping off line several times during the fight.
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While he was battling back and forth with his fish, we continued to cast and retrieve but to no avail. Finally, Thatguyryry had his fish up close to the surface. Nick wanted to experiment with netting versus gaffing tuna. His first swing was a miss but the fish was still there. Thatguyryry led the tuna back for another pass and Nick was able to net it and bring it over the sides.
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Interestingly, the fish lay quite docilly on the deck until the mate cut into its gills to bleed it. Then it showed it unhappiness by beating its tail like crazy and spraying blood all over the stern. I got the requisite hero shot for the not-a-tuna-virgin-any-more Thatguyryry.
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We went back on the troll again. But it was very quiet not only for us but for the other charter boats based on the chatter on the radio. As the morning continued, the birds largely disappeared. When we started, the overnight tuna charters were fishing with us, as were a few commercial boats. But with hour after hour of eventless trolling, the fleet began to disperse in search of active fish. Using his track recorder, Nick went back to where we started and had some action. But the players had either moved on or now uninterested. We did all the usual strategies to elicit a strike. Nick varied the troll speed and threw in some S curves. We passed by a few floating logs, one of which appeared to harbor a blue shark. We changed flies. We changed the position of the flies in the boat wake. We tried to put more action into the flies by hand-retrieving and then letting the fly line back out. Nothing, nothing, nothing.
Finally, about 12:30, I had a strike on a small white squid pattern that I was using. In true albacore fashion, it ripped off all the fly line and was well into the backing. Over time, I managed to recover the backing and the sinking head of my leviathan line. And then, it made another run and I was back where I started. But eventually, it began to let me recover more and more line. We were approaching the end game. I got it up close to the surface and as it passed by the boat, the mate caught it with the gaff and hoisted it over the side. This fly was lodge deep in its gills, which was fortunate as I had accidently tied on a barbless fly…
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Again, this was just a singlet fish. There were no fish marked under the boat. Nothing came after the other folks flies on the stop. Back on the troll. No birds, no surface activity, no strong reports from other boats in the fleet.
We invoked plan B, head inshore to see if we could bucktail up some coho. After running in for an hour, Nick started a slow troll in an area where other boats were fishing and where he was marking salmon on the sonar. Alas, while I had one double-nip on a small baitfish fly, whatever it was never stuck and others had no bites. A failed experiment.
The only redeeming aspect of this coho stop was seeing a large ocean sunfish loll by us.
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Finally, time was up and Nick put the pedal down to get back to the barn.
I am sure there would be some brainstorming among the captains. No one did very well. That’s fishing. I hope that they figure it out before my last trip on Thursday.
 

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SilverFly

Active Member
Nice ocean, awesome crew, and challenging fishing. Was stoked that @thatguyryry got his first tuna. Guessing it won't be his last based on that grin. Slide hookups were a consistent theme the days I fished, even if the fishing was sporadic at best.

I was up on the bow when we saw the big mola mola so I had a much better vantage point - which is the only way I'd ever get a better pic than @cabezon. They get far bigger than this, but still an impressive animal. The body of this thing was the size of a truck tire, and the fins the size of canoe paddles.

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Clarkman

Huge Fly Guy
WFF Premium
Nice ocean, awesome crew, and challenging fishing. Was stoked that @thatguyryry got his first tuna. Guessing it won't be his last based on that grin. Slide hookups were a consistent theme the days I fished, even if the fishing was sporadic at best.

I was up on the bow when we saw the big mola mola so I had a much better vantage point - which is the only way I'd ever get a better pic than @cabezon. They get far bigger than this, but still an impressive animal. The body of this thing was the size of a truck tire, and the fins the size of canoe paddles.

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you shoulda dropped a fly in front of its face....haha! Or would Nick not allow it?
 

SilverFly

Active Member
you shoulda dropped a fly in front of its face....haha! Or would Nick not allow it?

The thought has occurred to me with smaller ones.... much smaller. According to old maritime lore however, it is seriously bad juju to mess with them. Nick also told a story about an unintentional hookup with one and said it was the fastest fish he's ever seen. Far faster than any albacore. I know, the physics just doesn't seem to work, but apparently those big paddles have some horsepower behind them. Hearing that also didn't help dissuade thoughts of tying up some jellyfish patterns.
 
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...According to old maritime lore however, it is seriously bad juju to mess with them...

This translates all the way across the Pacific and into the Indian Ocean. Have seen several of them over the years, some huge ones in the Western Pacific, and have always been dissuaded from catching them. They look uncatchable anyway on a fly rod, can't imagine having to fight all that fin power.

Thanks much for sharing, guys,
Kenneth
 

Matt B

...
WFF Premium
Great write-up, Steve. Congrats on the first tuna, @thatguyryry! They pull pretty damn hard, don't they?

Steve and I and 2 other board members went out yesterday with similar results. 3 troll fish to the boat, nothing on cast and strip, and one fish that followed and turned off the fly at the last second near the boat on the slide. Oh and there was a hookup under a kelp paddy that came off, may have been a semi-exotic species for Washington--I'll let the responsible parties fill in more deets on that.

The ocean was a little lumpy and jumbled up, and the fishing was tough, but we had some good laughs, and we did what we could; you can't catch 'em if you don't try. I'll be back again next year.
 
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SilverFly

Active Member
This translates all the way across the Pacific and into the Indian Ocean. Have seen several of them over the years, some huge ones in the Western Pacific, and have always been dissuaded from catching them. They look uncatchable anyway on a fly rod, can't imagine having to fight all that fin power.

Thanks much for sharing, guys,
Kenneth

Biggest I've seen off our coast was the size of a queen mattress. Still a baby compared to the max recorded weights in excess of 5,000 pounds (worlds heaviest bony fish).
 

JayB

Active Member
Wealther's a bit iffy for Saty but if the trip goes it should be easy to achieve a continuous jigging action....

"SE wind 10 to 20 kt. Wind waves 1 to 3 ft. W swell 3 ft at
7 seconds building to 6 ft at 13 seconds in the afternoon.
Showers likely in the morning then a chance of showers in the
afternoon."
 

Matt B

...
WFF Premium
C'mon Monday!!!
Well I talked to Silverfly on the drive home last night and he is confident that the albacore fishing action is still going to heat up at some point in the next month or so. It could be tomorrow! So you got that going for you, which is nice. ;) Have a great trip, I hope you catch many delicious tuners.
 

SilverFly

Active Member
Wealther's a bit iffy for Saty but if the trip goes it should be easy to achieve a continuous jigging action....

"SE wind 10 to 20 kt. Wind waves 1 to 3 ft. W swell 3 ft at
7 seconds building to 6 ft at 13 seconds in the afternoon.
Showers likely in the morning then a chance of showers in the
afternoon."

At this point a change in the weather might be a good thing. Fronts coming in tend to amp fishing in most fisheries, and this one is no exception. I'd have been more than happy to trade one of the nice oceans this week for more consistent action.

As Matt said, my 1-3 trip per year tuna gut keeps telling me late-season madness is going to turn on at some point but definitely not so far this week (with the possible exception of Nick's Tuesday crew). I've experienced great tuna fishing in mid-August, generally more-so in September, but the most insane foaming-at-the boat fishing has always been in early October.

Every year has it's quirks and surprises (which is a big part of the addiction). Unfortunately, the weirdness parameters have been completely re-scaled in 2021. Good bet there will be a lot of bald tuna captains by season end from all the head-scratching that's going on.



I'd say expect a pelagic wildlife watching tour combined with an on-the-water albacore fishing seminar from one of the best captains out there. Fishing-wise expect a reasonable chance of hooking a tuna or two, with the possibility things could finally light up and your arms and back will be on fire for the next few days.

I will say that the guys getting into albacore fly fishing now have a massive head-start over when I caught the tuna bug about 12 years ago. At that time fly rods were a novelty at best, and only one captain that ran fly trips - and it was the same program every time. In the years since, I've fished on 6 charters with 8 tuna captains and 3 private sport boats. Ironically it was one of those sport boats when I finally caught my first cast fly tuna. There's a common belief that this fishery is a simple one - and sometimes it can be. More often there are subtle aspects which are easily over-looked, that can make the difference between a mediocre day and a spectacular one.

The point I'm getting at here is that although these charters are expensive, the price of admission is a BARGAIN to fish with a captain with a massive wealth of tuna fishing experience, that is only exceeded by his passion for fly-fishing. Over the years, I have spent somewhere in excess of $20k (possibly 30+) - most of which was blown on the steep side of the learning curve. My suggestion is step on board expecting to catch a wealth of knowledge, experience, and hopefully a new fishing addiction that surpasses all others.
 
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Jake

veni, vidi, fishi
At this point a change in the weather might be a good thing. Fronts coming in tend to amp fishing in most fisheries, and this one is no exception. I'd have been more than happy to trade one of the nice oceans this week for more consistent action.

As Matt said, my 1-3 trip per year tuna gut keeps telling me late-season madness is going to turn on at some point but definitely not so far this week (with the possible exception of Nick's Tuesday crew). I've experienced great tuna fishing in mid-August, generally more-so in September, but the most insane foaming-at-the boat fishing has always been in early October.
Just got off the phone with Merry. No go for tomorrow (Saturday 9/11).

October 9 and 10 are Nick’s remaining open weekends, if anyone wants to go I suggest calling All Rivers soon.
 
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