Extra coverage from the October 2008 FS article: ”False Albies, True Grit”.
False albacore are caught year-round in Florida coastal waters, with peak numbers from May through October.
“We catch albies in waters from 12 to 200 feet off the southeast Florida coast,” says Budd. “When the small menhaden show along the beach in May or June, smaller fish from 5 to 10 pounds shadow them. Albies grow fast, so by October, you’ll catch fish pushing 18 to 20 pounds, in deeper water over structure and ledges. And out there, you may hook as many as a half-dozen species on fly.”
Though live-chumming holds them at the boat and makes them especially hot for the fly, you can attract good numbers by deploying a commercial chum block and/or doling out frozen glass minnows. Or, by just running the beach and fishing around any diving birds (seagulls, terns and pelicans ) and fish busting schools of pilchards, small sardines and bay anchovies (glass minnows) at the surface in water 20 to 100 feet deep, particularly over hard bottom and shallow wrecks.
Approach a bait school quietly, setting up a drift to get into casting range. Bonito will eat a range of flies, but are occasionally selective, so try to identify what the fish are feeding on, and then choose a suitable fly.
“If there is a strict application for the ‘match-the-hatch’ philosophy in salt water, flyfishing for albies is it,” says Budd.
Realistic baitfish patterns with prominent eyes, such as anchovy patterns tied with synthetic material such as Polar Fiber, Super Hair or others, are deadly. Otherwise, standard patterns such as the Deceiver, Glass Minnow or the Eat Me (sometimes called an Eat ‘Em) tied with translucent synthetic materials, do nicely. Just keep in mind that feathers or bucktail get torn up easily, so you’ll spend a lot of tie changing flies in a hot bite. Flies in the 1 ½– to 3-inch range are standard, tied on No. 2 to 1/0 hooks.
A surface popper, a Crease Fly in particular, can produce exciting strikes when fish are chummed at the surface.
A sinking fly line is best, though a floater is mandatory if you’re tossing poppers. A clear intermediate line is excellent for surface-feeding fish, particularly those live-chummed, but a medium-rate full sinking line (such as a Scientific Anglers Uniform Sink, Rio similar line) is more versatile–you can fish just below the surface by stripping your fly immediately after touchdown, or fish deeper by pausing a while before stripping.
With sinking lines, rig with short leaders. Unless you are looking for tippet world records, choose a 3- to 6-foot piece of 15- to 20-pound mono or fluorocarbon leader will get bites in clear water and provide plenty of abrasion resistance.
Keep this fish’s power and stamina in mind. You can handle smaller albies with an 8- to 10-weight rod, but for bigger fish (in the 12- to 15-pound-plus range) you’ll be glad you packed an 11-weight, and some fly fishers fish a 12-weight, particularly when live-chumming and hooking multiple fish.