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FLOAT ‘N’ FLY ALBIES FROM SHORE

False albacore have come to be synonymous with fall fishing for many anglers in the region tossing slim, heavy metals, deceivers, and this unique "float and fly" combination of the spin and fly techniques.
By David Pickering
Tags: surf
FLOAT ‘N’ FLY ALBIES FROM SHORE
Sal Padavano of Seaside Park, NJ with a nice false albacore taken from the Jersey surf on September 12, 2016. "Couldn't reach 'em with the fly," Sal said, switching instead to the metals on the spin outfit; try a Deadly Dick, Crippled Herring, Tsunami Slim Wave or the Float n' Fly!

One of the most prized gamefish of fall fishing in the Northeast is the false albacore. Their explosive hits and drag-screaming runs are unmatched by any other species in our waters.

Yet, they remain elusive and are rare catches for most fishermen, particularly those who fish from shore. Targeting high percentage spots with the right choice of lure could be the ticket to your first albie.

These fish which actually come from the mackerel family are often referred to as “little tunny” because of their resemblance to tuna. They tend to prowl in deep water where bait exists, thus limiting shore fishermen to finding deep water or areas that are accessible to deep water where there is a concentration of bait.

Being able to make long casts also helps. Prime locations along the coast are inlets and breachways, and the shorelines inside these gateways to the ocean. These areas provide the deeper water preferred by albies, and also attract and hold large concentrations of baitfish like bay anchovies and peanut bunker.

ALBIE EGGS
I have developed a shore fishing technique that has proven very effective with these fish. I use a float and fly and cast it with a heavy duty spinning outfit. If you use the right float, it casts like a bullet and can deliver a small offering way out to feeding fish. The float I use is a heavy, aerodynamic homemade wooden float that casts like a bullet. The offering that I favor is a fly, more specifically a Deceiver fly. That pattern, when tied in the right colors, has proven to be the most effective lure for these fish.

You will probably have to make your own float because they are not readily available in tackle shops. You will need dowels that are at least 1-1/2 inches in diameter. You can also try the wooden eggs sold in craft stores. I like my floats to weigh about 1-1/2 to 2 ounces. Lead can be added to dowel sections if you want to add a bit more weight to them.

I build my floats with through wire construction although stainless steel screw eyes can be used. When using dowel wood, I cut my dowel sections to the length that I want (usually about 2-1/2 inches) and then drill a hole through the center, using my drill press for a good perpendicular hole. I then paint the floats by dipping them in a white stain first, letting that dry and then applying a coat of white enamel. Finally, the float is wired. I use stainless steel wire (bought in plumbing shops). Form a loop at one end by pinching the end section of wire around a Philip’s head screwdriver with pliers. Next, pass the wire through the float and pull tightly. Finish it off by twisting the wire end around the screwdriver several turns to form an end loop. Clip off the excess and you are finished. The fly is attached to the float using 2 to 3 feet of 20- to 30-pound monofilament.

DECEIVING ACTION
When using the float and fly, you want to cast it out and then reel it in slowly with a pop every once in a while to create a commotion on the surface. While flat-faced floats make a better splash on the retrieve, wooden egg floats that are popped on the retrieve also attract attention. I suspect that albies are drawn to the float’s splash and once in the area of your float, the fly becomes the target. Expect hits to be explosive as these fish will attempt to destroy your fly offering. Once a fish is hooked, hold on tight since the first run will be a drag-screaming affair that will have you worried that all your line will disappear.

It helps if you can spot a school of fish rather than casting blindly. But you don’t always have to see them to catch them. Remember that these fish move quickly, often torpedoing through the water at high speed. If you see fish speeding through bait, make sure you lead them with your cast, putting the cast way out in front of moving fish. Try to also get your offering to them as soon as possible since they are the masters of the hit-and-run and will often disappear in a flash.

DIALING IN
Just like most predators in saltwater, albies are often found near big schools of bait. Dark patches of water usually signal the presence of big schools of peanut bunker or bay anchovies. It is sometimes a waiting game until the albies appear. It’s not unusual to find anglers camped out all day just waiting for their one shot at a school of albies. False albacore also tend to feed better in low light with early fall mornings and late afternoons providing the best action.

While I’ve focused on shore fishing with the float and fly, you should know that this set up is also very productive from the boat. The advantage to boat fishing is that you have great mobility in deep water and can move as the schools of feeding fish disappear and then reappear. The float and fly has caught more albies for me from the boat than any other lure.

False albacore have come to be synonymous with fall fishing for many anglers in our region. They usually start to show in our waters in late August, with the whole month of September being primetime, and good fishing often lasting well into October. Their numbers often fluctuate according to the amount of bait that is around, but now is the time, so get those floats and flies ready for action.

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