I arrived on the Cape on Thursday afternoon 9/11/08. After depositing my gear in Lane's place, we immediately stepped foot on the vessel and were underway in search of False Albacore. Jesse and I had fly casted until we were blue in the face at schools of Albies, with no luck, on our way home from a Bluefin skunk last year with Lane; this year I was dead set on getting one. With Robbins off to the midwest in search of cut throat, it was up to Lane and I to seek out these fish and put one on the fly. The first afternoon was more of a glorified booze cruise over to the Vineyard, with no Albies spotted; fine with me I had several days left.
If you're not familiar with the False Albacore, it is fish that all must hook on the fly at least once in their life. A fish that has been clocked up to 70 mph in the water, and a fish that once hooked, turns and runs just that fast directly away from the boat. A fish that can be on the surface one moment in a feeding frenzy, and subsurface two or three seconds later. A fish that can be leader shy and finiky when it comes to fly presentation and fly selection. A fish that when hooked is worth every one of the last 500 casts you made that day. A fish that rarely exceeds 32 inches but makes up for its size with pure power and intense drag screaming speed. A truely epic fish on the fly.....
Day two on the cape was spent chasing blue fin tuna, if you read Neil's post several days ago you all know how that turned out. Day three was dedicated to chasing the Albies once more on the fly. We showed up at the mouth of Waquoit Bay at 7 a.m, eyes keen, senses elevated, looking for the slightest blitz. Soon enough we saw it, it was quick, but they were there. Other boats began descending on our find, and it wasn't long until a dozen boats were honing in on each tiny blitz of False Albacore. The fish seemed to be moving in very small schools of 3 or 4 fish and it was difficult to not only be the first boat to arrive at a blitz, but to also get a fly into such a small school of fish. Often these fish are traveling in much larger schools, that when blitzing the surface, make an easy target to land a fly within; not on this day however.
After a near altercation with another boat who was angry with our movements within the fleet, we decided to seek another area down the shore. Several hours passed with continued frustrations: spot a school, chase them with the boat, arrive to a school that was just about done feeding, cast into the school, miss the school by a matter of seconds.......over and over we continued this cycle. Maybe once per hour I would get a fly into a small school that was still feeding, only to be snubbed. 5-6 hours passed, my arm was in agony after casting an intermediate line all day with heavy weighted flies at the end of my 12 lb leader.
Then it happened, a small school rose, we moved in slowly and the fish continued to slam the surface except this time they were coming toward the boat. One cast in front of the rapidly approaching school was all it took and BAM! I yelled "fish on" and Lane responded, "don't fight him with the line, go to the reel". A split second later this fish was off to the races and I realized that I had a massive knot in my line that I had been stripping feverishly and dropping at my feet. I could do nothing, and no sooner could I even recognize the issue before the knot was torn through every guide on my 9wt. rod; line continued to tear off the reel, problem temporarily bypassed. I was out of my mind stoked!
The fish ran, and ran, and continued to haul off line. 240 yards of backing are on my reel and I can attest, as can the Captain Lane, that a good 3/4 of that backing departed from my reel in a mind numbing straight away run. Then it happened, the line went slack. I hadn't touched the reel, moved the rod, or adjusted the drag. The knot hadn't pulled; it was a clean break on a straight away run on the most insane fish I've ever hooked on a fly rod. That was the only fish on the fly that any of us managed to hook after that, but no matter, my Albie addiction had just begun!
(Below is a video of my initial hookup after fruitless hours, and the line screaming from the reel)