Captain Zak Robinson (IG: @risingtidefly) is the owner and operator of Rising Tide Anglers, a fly fishing, and light tackle charter out of Portsmouth, NH and Point Judith, Rhode Island. Like many other anglers, Zak started fly fishing for trout before finding out he could target saltwater species on the long pole. Now, he owns and operates Rising Tide Anglers and is able to share his enthusiasm of inshore fly fishing with other anglers. Currently serving on the Board of Directors for the Coastal Conservation Association of New Hampshire, Zak, like others in his field, are equal parts an angler as they are a conservationist. With his 18-foot Action Craft and 25-foot Contender, Captain Zak targets Striper, Bluefish, Tuna, False Albacore, Sharks, and anything else that happens to be swimming by. Today, we sat down to talk with Zak about Albies.

1. Could you tell me a bit about yourself? First fish on the fly? Most memorable/what got you hooked?
I grew up with a healthy dose of the ocean and the mountains. I had family on the seacoast and lakes region and I was lucky enough to be able to explore extensively. My first fish on the fly rod was a 70-pound Tarpon on a 9wt with 12 lb tippet, from shore… Just kidding, but really, when I was 7 or 8 years old I caught a sunfish on a dry fly, it was a formative experience at an impressionable time in my life. I had no idea that the experience would shape the course of my life.

2. Could you tell me a bit about Rising Tide? How long have you been guiding? What sort of fish do you generally guide for?
Rising Tide Anglers offers fly fishing and light tackle trips out of Portsmouth, NH, and Rhode Island. I target Striped Bass, False Albacore, Bluefish, Sharks, and Tuna. With my two boats, an 18-foot Action Craft flats boat and a 25-foot Contender, I can cover any part of our inshore fishery. I established Rising Tide Anglers to share my enthusiasm for the local fishery and ocean in general. After 10 years working on other charter boats I was anxious to start a business offering something that I was truly passionate about.

3. Favorite fish to see a client hook into?
False Albacore, hands down.

4. Favorite fish to personally hook into?
Scup

5. Some of the saltiest dudes I know talk about Albies with shaking hands and a child-like excitement in their eyes. Out of all the fish you’ve caught on the fly, what sets Albies apart?
Albies evoke emotion. My most rewarding experiences in life have been chasing goals that were difficult, but attainable. These fish are demanding, emotionally, physically, mentally. They can drain you when they’re tricky, and they’re fulfilling when they’re cooperative. Albies are the most accessible game-fish sized Tunoid on the East Coast, but still, tunoids at the end of the day.

When Albies blitz on Anchovies or Peanut Bunker for an extended period of time you can nearly see the water vapor in the air from their slashing if the school is eating flies the joy is contagious.

6. How is it that the same rod/reel that can handle a 90 lb tarpon can snap on a 15 lb little tunny?
A little-known fact is, that funny fish, have a magic sauce inside that makes them go, they do not abide by the laws of nature. More often than not, you feel the line come tight and they’re already heading away from you, they peel about 100 feet of backing in the first 10 seconds then turn around and swim back towards you. Dreams are realized or broken in those first 15 seconds.

7. I’ve heard Albies will hit 12 lb test leaders all day and thumb their nose at 15 lb test. I’ve heard schools of Albies called “10wt graveyards” and have been told only the experienced albacore angler will be able to wrangle one on a 9 weight rod. ..What is your preferred gear and what have you seen fail in the past?
In an effort to lower the post-release mortality rate, I usually start the day with 20 lb. Mirage fluorocarbon. If they prove tricky I’ll change fly patterns twice before I switch to 16 lb. Mirage fluorocarbon. I’ve seen only a few days where 12 lb. fluorocarbon was totally necessary. I also make every effort to fight fish on the bottom third of the rod, this allows the angler to put more pressure on the fish with the hope of releasing it sooner.

If used correctly, most modern flyrods from 7 to 10 wt should handle the Albies we see in MA, RI, CT, and NY. The most common rod failures I see are due to ferrules and flies hitting the rods mid-cast. Broken fly lines, bent and torqued reels, broken rods, line burns and cuts, bruised egos and sore wrists are all casualties of Albies.

My preferred setup is a one piece 8 or 9 wt with an intermediate WF fly line and a 9-foot leader. My leaders consist of a 25 lb. butt section and a 15 to 20 lb. tippet. I prefer to tie on my fly with the non-slip loop knot (be sure to check for wear inside the loop after an hour of blind casting or after each fish, re-tie if necessary)

8. I have heard Albies can be a bit fussy when it comes to the flies they’ll take and the speed at which they’ll take em. Burn feathers or imitate an injured baitfish? Without giving away all your secrets can you hand out a couple tricks or tips to the new Albie enthusiast?
Get a positive ID on the forage fish as soon as possible, keep an eye open to the water directly under you for clues, use binoculars pointed towards the blitz. The most common bait that I see Albies feeding on from smallest to largest are:

  1. Snot Bait- Juvenile Anchovies

  2. Anchovies

  3. Peanut Bunker

  4. Finger Mullet

  5. Juvenile squid

  6. Halfbeaks

My most productive flies are tan surf candy, olive surf candy, chartreuse surf candy, and any peanut bunker fly.

My mantra on retrieve speed is to mix it up. Start by imitating the escape speed of the natural forage. Do a couple full retrieves at a slower speed, then a couple at a fast retrieve. Try the dead drift: cast a sinking line into the middle of a blitz and allow your fly to sink while maintaining tension.

This fishery requires patience and persistence, gather as much knowledge as you can beforehand but nothing is more important than putting the time in on the water. If you know there are greenies in the area but they’re not blitzing, continue blind casting until they pop again. The real battle begins when they eat the fly, trout sets are the most common error when hooking Albies, train yourself on other species to keep the rod tip low and to never pinch the line tightly in the rod grip hand.

When you finally get an Albie to the side of the boat or jetty, keep the rod high with the leader out of the rod tip. Grab the leader with the opposite hand and spin the fish in circles as it comes to the surface. While spinning the fish on the surface, drop the rod and grab the fish at the caudal peduncle and hold on tight. REJOICE!

Photos by: Benjamin Reed-Senning (IG: @benjamin_senning), Zak Robinson (IG: @risingtideflyand Kyle Shaefer (IG: @kyleschaefer)

Britton Beal is a Fly Lords contributor out of Maine. Check him out on Instagram @hightide_lowlyfe!