Many years ago I chased the Delaware River's shad with spinning tackle. About fifteen or twenty years ago, I laid the spinning and casting gear down and chased fished exclusively with the fly rod. Up until this year, I never pursued shad with fly tackle. One of the main reasons I have never gone after shad with a fly is the timing of the run. It occurs during our primetime for trout. This year, with so much excellent fishing opportunities this winter, I felt I could take a few days off from trout fishing and finally give shad on the fly a go. Thanks to some friends who shared their expansive knowledge of fly fishing for shad, I have discovered a new thrill.
These fish are a blast! Shad eagerly take a fly and on a 6wt fly rod they make a good showing of themselves. On this tackle you will not land every fish! They will push 6wt gear to its limits and will escape from time to time. Though they take a fly readily, their bony mouths can offer a bit of resistance to a hook, they are prone to leaping and on occasion a large fish will break a ten pound tippet on the initial strike like it was made of sewing thread!
When the fish are pushing through the action can be hot and heavy. When they are not, you cast until your arm wants to fall off. But they can show up at any time, so you cast away. This time of year it is running lines and fast to moderate sinking shooting heads. The use of a stripping basket is mandatory. There is nothing graceful about fly fishing for shad but it can be terribly effective. Although it is certainly not always the case, on the days I have been out, the fly guys have out produced the spin fisherman.
The flies are ridiculously simple to tie and they are a great patterns for new fly tiers, especially children. The brighter and gaudier, the better, and the kids love combining colors that would have not have a place on any respectable trout pattern but are perfect for shad flies. I'll put up a post in the next week or so on the flies used for this species.
But like most forms of fly fishing, you occasionally connect with a trash fish like this brown trout! What did I say about colors that don't belong on a respectable trout fly? I may have to rethink this one!