For us New Englanders, some of the best fishing of the year is just around the corner. False Albacore are showing up in my home waters of Cape Cod as we speak, so there’s no better time to get my gear ready for these speed demons. For those who don’t know, False Albacores, or Albies, are close relatives of tuna that live and breathe chaos. Basically, give Tyreek Hill a set of gills and an appetite for small baitfish and that’s pretty much what we’re working with; speed with a fistful of attitude. Trying to catch an Albie in flight is not easy, but definitely not impossible. If you can nail down the basics, you can give yourself a good shot at coming into contact with one of these epic fish on any given trip. One of the most important keys to success is upgrading your equipment. Here I will show how I set up a brand new Renegade White Series reel for Albie fishing.
What you need
Albies put up the hardest fight of any inshore species I have had the good fortune to follow. Their strength and speed must be respected so I would recommend a 9-10wt setup. This range of rods gives the angler more than enough backbone to lay on these fish while still keeping the fight fun. Obviously, you want a saltwater fly capable reel to go with your rod, but an often overlooked factor when it comes to saltwater rigs is pairing your reel to your rod. This season I will be running the Renegade White Series 10wt rod with the 9-10 White spool. While a 9wt rod is definitely capable of Albie fishing, the larger 9-10 reel is best paired weight and size wise with the 10wt rod. This gives me a perfect balance of stopping power, support capacity and backbone, while still being able to easily get through the day through wind and waves. Speaking of casting, line choice is also key to success with hardtails. I always run an intermediate line for Albie fishing and to be honest for Striper fishing too. I like to get my fly down to a few extra inches through the cut in the water so I can keep tension on my fly even if the waves make life difficult. Some guys will tell you to use sinking line, some will tell you to use floating, but the in-between is what I’ve found the most success with.
To begin setting up your reel, feed the backing through the guides and connect it to the reel. If you’ve wrapped a fly reel before, then you probably already know this step, but if you’re new this allows you to quickly spin on props without the use of spinning machines or even a helper. To connect the back to the spool, I use an improved knot tied around the spool. Many people use arbor joints which also work great, but I don’t see the need to make a big deal about which joint you use. If you are reeling from an Albie, the support link knot on the reel is the least of your worries, maybe you need to rethink how much support is on your reel or how much drag pressure you are applying.
Once you attach the back to the spool, you can start spinning on the stand. I like to use a pencil or pen to hold the spool and check the pressure as I spool the fly. If you thread a spindle through the support spool, you can check the tension of the support with your feet or let a helper check the tension while sitting across from you. Light and consistent tension on the backing spool while spinning your fly reel allows for consistent, clean work.
This step is where people have the most trouble when setting up their fly reel. How much support should I put? This is a good question, and my answer is always the same, especially when it comes to fighting fish like the False Albacore; however much you can put on the reel. With that said, you can’t forget the space required for your flight line. To run this smoothly, I like to use the spool of plastic packaging that the fly line comes in to stretch out exactly how much space I need. This will allow me to get an accurate estimate of the space needed for the flight line, which is usually pretty close. If you’re still unsure, remember that you can always go back and remove some extra support, but you can’t go back and add more.
Connecting the support line for flight is also a very important step. These nodes are very important as almost every single Albie attached will lead you to your support, so the last thing you want is to lose your entire flyline on a wrong node. I find that a loop-to-loop connection is efficient and effective for this connection. A good loop will stand the tests of an Albie fight and will also allow you to change fly lines relatively easily if you decide that’s something you want to do in the future. Most fly lines already come with a welded loop, so the only knot you need to tie is for your support loop. I simply double about 1 foot of the support and tie a double or triple knot to form a loop. This is nothing fancy, but it’s quick, easy, and hasn’t failed me yet. Bimini twist knots are also common for this rig, so if you want to learn one of those by all means, go for it.
The final step in setting up your fly reel for the Albie season is to reel in your fly line and tie on a leader. It seems like everyone has their own theories about Albie leaders as they are very smart and sharp fish, but I like to keep mine simple. I usually use a 6-9ft straight section of 16lb fluorocarbon. This is invisible in water and strong enough to lie on a running Albert. As for the knots, I use the same binding as before and a no-slip knot on the fly; fast, simple and foolproof. Albies will find any mistakes in your equipment or techniques, so I always do my best to keep things simple in hopes of eliminating any chance of those silly mistakes.