Anything Fly Fishing

Two Tales of False Albacore

7 Mins read

It is 1 PM. The sky is dark. The air is chilly. The Southwest wind is damp. Puffy clouds cover the Sun while displaying various shades of grey. The waters are a deep blue-green and choppy. Alone, Ricky guides the Pilar II from the Warren’s Landing mooring field; between the red and green channel markers; out The Cut that separates Nantucket’s Smith’s Point from Tuckernuck Island. Coming from the Atlantic ocean, an incoming tide is at its mid-point; heading from west to east; into Nantucket sound. Birds are flying all around. Herring gulls as well as Common and Least Terns. Flapping their wings; circling directly above; like Mother nature’s radar; hovering over baitfish and predators alike. Squawking, diving, hitting the water; returning to the sky above; sometimes with baitfish in their beaks and sometimes not; again, and again; while predatory fish break the surface with a splash, snapping and jumping at the fishing birds. Perfect conditions. All Ricky needs to know is which species of fish is splashing the surface and lurking beneath?

Ricky stands 6 feet 2½ inches and weighs 200 lbs. He wears a rain jacket with waterproof over pants; an Adult Type III PFD; rubber boots. Ricky positions himself behind the center console. While one hand steadies the Pilar II’s throttle, he peers out over the bow to gauge the activity of his prey.

Ricky travels with two, right-handed, 7-weight, 9 foot fly-rods lined with floating shooting heads; 2.5 inch per second, sink tip leader; 1X tippet. Imitating baitfish, his flies are black and chartreuse Clouser Minnows. (Ricky was once told by a fisherman, If it ain’t chartreuse, it ain’t no use. A witticism he has never forgotten).

The rods and reels stand upright; secured in a holder on left side of the center console. The holder is made of slotted PVC with Velcro™ straps. The line, leader, and tippet wrap around the reel, on the side opposite the spool/frame gap, while the fly is hooked to the rod’s keeper.

Ricky guides the Pilar II with its outboard engine along the right edge of the channel; out through The Cut; past the Bonito Bar; into the unguarded Atlantic ocean. After turning the Pilar II 180° into the main channel, Ricky silences and raises the outboard engine. Any vibrations or noise; from a running engine; from a dragging propeller; from a stumbling walk; from a falling gaff; will scare predatory fish. They will no longer feed. They will leave the water’s surface and sound to the ocean’s depths for safety. The fish will become uncatchable, especially with a fly rod.

With the throttle in neutral, the Pilar II dead drifts with the current. Ricky unfastens one of the fly rods. He walks to the bow of the boat, readies his rod and fly, climbs onto the casting stand, and waits. It is 2 PM. The sky is darker. The air is chillier. The wind is damper. The puffy clouds are greyer. The waters are gloomier and choppier.

The Pilar II continues to drift freely. Ricky stands guard and continues to wait. The birds continue to fly everywhere. Gulls and Terns flap their wings and circle overhead. They squawk and dive; hit the water, and then return to the sky. Fish break the surface. They splash and jump and snap at the birds. Again, and again. This time, Ricky adds to the cacophonous chorus by casting, double hauling, and retrieving. He anticipates the direction of the Pilar II’s float. Ricky casts down current at 45°; ahead of the splash. And he hopes, ahead of the fish.

Suddenly, the rod flexes, the reel whirs, and the line tightens. Although Ricky does not see a splash, he feels the hook set and knows a fish is on his line. A fish has lunched on the Clouser Minnow. Ricky raises the rod and keeps the line taught. He descends from the casting platform onto the main deck of the Pilar II. The gunwales and the side walls offer Ricky leverage for his retrieve as well as prevent him from falling overboard.

The fly line continues to run; the reel continues to whir; the fish continues to sound. Finally, after 100 feet of fly line and into the backing, Ricky feels the fish tiring. Keeping the rod high, he begins to reel in the fish. He stops reeling when the fish is rejuvenated and begins to sound again. Reeling only when the fish tires. Over time, the to-and-fro of the retrieve versus the sound, favors Ricky’s patience, perseverance, and persistence.

Finally, the fish breaks the surface and Ricky can see. A beautiful False Albacore. Keeping the fish in the water, Ricky brings the False Albacore alongside the Pilar II. Ricky reaches for his wooden boating net. Once in the Pilar II, the fish measures 22 inches. After removing the chartreuse Clouser Minnow, Ricky returns the fish to the saltwater, rests it among the waves, and releases it to swim away. After over an hour of dead drifting, casting, double hauling, and retrieving 150 feet of fly line and backing, Ricky has caught and released one False Albacore.

Ready to fish again, Ricky powers up the Pilar II’s engine and travels along the shallow edge of the channel, ½ mile into the Atlantic ocean. He repeats this float dance, two more times. Dead drift, cast, double haul, and retrieve; dead drift, cast, double haul, and retrieve. Patience, perseverance, and persistence reap rewards. One False Albacore with each silent, dead drift with the current. After dancing for three hours, the False Albacore are gone. No more splash. No more blitz. No more birds. Only an ominous sky; air that is chilly and damp; Nimbus clouds; choppy, blue-green water. Ricky stows his rod and his net and guides the Pilar II back to its mooring by Warren’s Landing. Three False Albacore caught and released in three hours. A superb day on the water.

Now many of you might say, where are the pictures? Where is proof of the float? Of the cast and the retrieve? Of the False Albacore? To those points, Ricky responds that he fished alone. No crew. No phone. No camera. No GoPro™. No evidence. You will have to faithfully believe that Ricky’s story is the way that it was.

The Plaque of Truth II

It is 10:30 AM. Jeff picks-up Ricky at Barrett’s public landing in Hither Creek. Ricky boards Jeff’s boat, a center console Boston Whaler Outrage 21. They secure the FishStix™ saltwater rods, the IRT™ reels, the selection of lures, and the remaining kit. Accompanied by an incoming tide, they head out for Nantucket’s Bonito Bar. Idling along at No Wake pace, the Outrage 21 passes other boats, moored along the way. These vessels are 18 to 30 feet long, rigged for saltwater and deep sea fishing, scalloping, or lobstering. No pleasure craft here.

Once outside Hither Creek, Jeff and Ricky zip through the channel, passing the portside red buoys and the starboard side green buoys. Upon reaching The Cut between Nantucket’s Smith’s Point and Tuckernuck Island, the Outrage 21 declines to a crawl. Jeff reconnoiters The Cut, navigates the waves, sounds the topography, and motors on.

Once safely in the Atlantic ocean, Jeff and Ricky survey the sea and figure out their next steps. A perfect day. The sun is glimmering, radiating down on the boat’s deck. The sky is a cloudless, azure blue. There is not a smidgeon of wind. The water is glassy calm and clear as a bell. To their right is the Bonito Bar, a sandbar that forms a quarter mile off Madaket beach and earned its name because of the large numbers of Atlantic bonito that congregate there to feed during the months of August through September. To their left is the south shore of Nantucket Island with its numerous cliffs, dunes, and beaches.

Boats are everywhere. All makes and models. From single fishermen to tandem fishermen to fishing parties to fishing guides to families out for a relaxing day on the water. People are fishing everywhere and not one rod is bending. No one has a bite; not so much as a nibble. Nothing. The day is gorgeous, but the fishing is terrible. For now, Ricky and Jeff care less. They locate their favorite spot. Finding a safe direction from each other as well as well-distanced from other boats, they begin casting.

Boat casting is straightforward. Jeff and Ricky fling righthanded, 7 or 8-weight spinning rods with green, braided line, 60-lb. monofilament leader, and silver reflective lures.

In preparation, the line is reeled in to where only the leader and the lure hang off the tip. Using two hands, the right hand grips the rod where the reel arm is seated while the right index finger reaches-up and pinches the line against the rod’s handle. Once the line is stabilized, the left hand flips the bale open.

The cast itself is simple. Hold the loaded rod with both hands, (the left hand secures the rod’s butt). The rod is accelerated through an arc starting at the ~2 o’clock and finishing at the ~10 o’clock position. Once the rod, line, leader, and lure point skyward (~45°), the pinched line is released. The weight of the lure whirrs the line off of the reel’s spool. Once gravity prevails and the lure hits the water, let it sink; anywhere from 5 – 20 seconds. At depth, flip the bale closed and begin the retrieves. All the while reeling and jerking and whatevering both to mimic the behavior of chased baitfish and to just plain annoy the prey. Once the lure is within 8 feet of the boat, reload the rod and perform the routine again.

Relentlessly and monotonously, Jeff and Ricky cast lures into the glassy water. Different depths; different directions; different lures. All to no avail. They move the boat to a different favorite spot. They commence the cast and retrieve cycle again. No fish breaking the surface. No activity. No splashes. No blitzes. No bites. No birds chasing baitfish. No wave action. No other activity on any other boat. No bending rods. No water splashing. No cries of, I got one. Nothing but calm. Nada. Nothing. If it were not for the outboard engine, Jeff and Ricky are experiencing the horse latitudes of fishing.

It is 2 PM and Jeff and Ricky decide to move. Traveling down the south shore, they stop to fish the waters one mile off the beaches they pass. Madaket beach; Cisco Beach; Ladies beach; Sadies Beach; Miacomet beach; Surfside beach; Fisherman’s beach; Nobadeer beach. Jeff and Ricky are the only folks fishing. No one has ventured forth.

At Madequecham beach, Jeff’s and Ricky’s luck brightens. They strike proverbial pay dirt. Suddenly, Jeff’s rod flexes. His line whizzes off the spool and zips through the guides while his lure plunges to the depths below. Reflexively, Jeff flips the bale. Not sure what he has hooked, Jeff begins the retrieve. Having set the drag to keep a 7 lb. fish on the line, but not break off, Jeff begins to reel in his fish. The fish dives, under the boat, to port, to starboard, to the stern behind the engine, to the bow. Round and round, keeping Jeff moving, until he has stepped on every inch of the Outrage 21. Still uncertain as to what he has hooked, Jeff continues to walk about the boat; reeling and whirring; reeling and whirring. Finally, after an interminable amount of time, Jeff gets his fish to the side of the boat. One hefty False Albacore, 29½ inches. Ricky grabs the saltwater net; Jeff controls the fish; together they bring the False Albacore aboard. With a res ipsa loquitur or, with apologies to Fred R. Barnard, [Our] picture is worth a thousand words.

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