My old man is a long time fixture fishing out of Garibaldi in Tillamook Bay Oregon for just about everything. The last few years or so his obsession is tuna. Lots of tuna. Albacore tuna on the brain. I have been thinking about tagging along one of these days to try and hook some tuna on a fly. It is a long ride out to the tuna usually but i imagine that it would be some spectacular action on a fly rod. Of course i would need a 10-12wt rod but that is easily solved.
So, i am hoping someone on this forum has done some tuna fishing with a fly in the Pacific and they are willing to pass along some knowledge.
I'm curious as to what the technique and fly patterns used. Is it a fast strip retrieve? I imagine the flies are bright and gaudy.
Ard, you seem to know everything else, what do you have filed away on this subject?
I fish for the smaller hardtails here in southern NewEngland from my kayak. False albacore (little tunny) and bonito, but there's a good following for bluefin tuna also. The bluefin are a little more than I care to deal with, plus you need at least a 14 weight.
There's a run&gun mentality when it comes to albies but if you watch them they have a definite pattern to their feeding. You figure that out and they will come to you rather than you having to chase them.
They're speedsters (that's why they're popular ) but they don't maneuver well, so expect to see them swim in a relatively straight line, only surfacing and diving in the water column.
They have excellent eyesight so you want to go long and fine and use imitator flies to "match the hatch". While they will take a big squid fly, normally you're better off with something small....and white. I'll drop my fly in their path and then try not to move it out of their feeding zone, but still make it look animated.
A favorite albie fly around here is called the "marabou estaz". But there's a version of this fly everywhere you go so you won't be far off to try one
Vans-- that sounds like a blast-- i haven't fished for tuna except for some small ones in Baja and around here in the Northeast (Bonito and False Albacore) but if you're chasing the "real" Albacore (aka Longfin Tuna) in the PNW you'll probably be going well offshore 50-60 miles (so in a bigger boat and probably involving an overnight trip to be on the grounds at day break) You might troll feathers with conventional gear until you get slammed and keeping the hooked fish on the line to hold the school and attracting them close to the boat with scoops of live bait thrown over the side-- then casting into boiling water-- I think you'd want to have imitations of the baitfish they'll be using to attract the tuna-- probably live anchovies, so 4-7" long imitations of Northern Anchovies on 1/0-3/0 hooks would be a good bet. Since tuna will often trap bait of the surface to feed, you'll want something with a good profile that stands out when viewed from below as well as in a side to side profile-- so something cigar shaped like an Abel's Anchovy, Sea Habit etc. white with greenish-blue back and some flash would be good.
Carrying imitations of sardines and squid couldn't hurt either, and you might run into bait balls of Pacific Herring and Pacific Sand Lance. We have a lot of squid, herring, and deep sea sand eels found along the tuna grounds off our Northeast coast too, along with mackerel and menhaden.
You'd also want sticky sharp, super strong hooks for tuna-- i would tie flies on something like Owner Aki's
Tackle probably would need to be 12-14 weight considering you may also run in to school sized bluefin tuna and yellowfin tuna-- and if fish are boiling on bait, it probably wouldn't be unusual to have more than one hook up at a time-- so you'd want to be able to have tackle heavy enough to handle the fish since the boat more than likely wouldn't be able to chase your fish to recover line if it takes off, and you'd want to be considerate of other fishermen on the boat that also want to get their shot at fish.
As far as a boat goes you'd want to have a captain with lots of experience operating offshore (essential) and some previous fly fishing for these fish (if possible) and a very seaworthy boat that has a plenty of room for casting and an easy 360 degree walkaround if a hooked fish circles the boat. You'd also want to be with a good group of folks that are all on the same page regarding fly fishing as the agreed upon method.
Also once you're out in blue water you never know what might show up-- having an extra outfit rigged up with a large 6/0 shark fly on a wire bite tippet might be good to have if you get a chance to throw something at a mako.
Good luck with this and keep us posted-- it sounds like an absolute blast.
Thanks for the ideas peregrines. Guess i need to start to look into tying my own flies. I have been putting that off a while.
As for the particulars of the trip...
The Captain would be my old man. He has been fishing on the ocean for 50 years. Operating his own boat out there for at least 40. The boat would be his 26' Striper. It is a pure fishing set up. I should be able to set up an area for me to cast easy enough.
I have been going out on the ocean since i was 12 years old(43 now) after lingcod, red snapper, salmon, halibut, etc, all with my dad. I certainly trust his knowledge and captain abilities(not saying you in anyway implied otherwise) His typical tuna runs are 45-70 miles off shore. Leave the dock at oh dark thirty and back late afternoon usually. He always runs with a friend or two in other boats as well.
Unfortunately i would be the only one fly fishing. I just want to go do it for the obvious excitement of the species. I am certain the would accommodate my fly fishing requirements for the most part. Most of his fishing partners are his buddies i have known all my life. I think they would look on the idea of me fly fishing for tuna with a lot of curiosity. That and humoring "the kid". lol
Great call on being ready for some other species just in case. More than one blue shark has been boating over the years. Dont know if Makos come this far north. Great Whites have been spotted up here and have attacked surfers as well.
Thanks again for the info, just what i was looking for.
Great advice from Rip and Mark. I had to look up a picture of Pacific Albacore and those I saw looked to be about 15-20 lbs. They aren't the same as our albies or football shaped blackfins.
I'm sure your dad is well versed in catching them, and no doubt, live baitfish thrown out will put them into a frenzy once they are located.
A baitfish immitation matching the live chum stripped fast and steady nearly always works on blackfin, skipjacks and albies. But it must track straight, and light (20 lb) fluoro is what I use for leaders on blackfin, skipjacks, false albacore. They can be quite leader shy.
Vans that sounds like you have all the makings of a great trip-- sounds like your father has it pretty wired as far as his experience both in terms of off shore boating and going after tuna specifically. The ocean is a pretty big place so knowing where to look for them is a big part of of it, as is advance planning and a bit of up to the minute researching of sea surface temp maps to get a sense of where to find clean water and 60 degree temp breaks.
Having good friends aboard will just add to the fun as they all participate in this adventure--
And having a few other boats along is always a good idea from a safety standpoint, but also can help everyone zero in on fish if you work together to cover more water.
How does your father usually fish for them? Does he troll using outriggers to find them? Then toss live bait to hold a school? Jig deep over structure?
Knowing how your father fishes for them can help develop a plan for catching them with a fly rod--
For example if your dad usually trolls and doesn't have room for a large live bait well on his boat, you might want to just use the starboard side outrigger (assuming you cast right handed), that way when you cast from port side corner of the stern you'll have some room for your back cast. If you think that you may just be be getting quick shots at fish, I would strip some fly line into a 5 gal bucket to keep it from flying all over the place-- that way you can pick up your rod and cast right away after you hook a fish on the troll and the school follows its hooked buddy back to the boat.
If your dad usually jigs deep over structure, then you'll probably want some fast sinking of fly line like a Teeny TS-450 or heavier.
This sounds really exciting-- please keep us posted and best of luck.