Swedish version


Double your shad catch
Five Simple Techniques

By Brian M. Wiprud


The dynamics of fly fishing for shad are different from most other freshwater species. It’s all about the shad moving up stream and you getting your fly to where a bunch of shad can take a whack at it. Some days, shad move up river in a constant stream, and you’ll catch a mess of fish swimming up a single channel. Chalk that up to good timing and a bit of luck on your part. But much of the rest of the time, you’ll find the flow of shad slows to small pods of fish following different paths up stream, and you’ll have to modify your tactics to catch fish. What follows are five tried-and-true techniques used by some of the most successful shad anglers that can easily double your catch. They’re sure to put some fast action into what might otherwise have been a slow day.

1. Work Your Range.
Let’s say you’re casting to the same seam of river where you caught a couple fish an hour ago, but the fish have since disappeared. That may mean you’re between pods of fish - but not necessarily. When shad aren’t running at peak volumes, moving bands of fish can deviate quite a bit form the preferred channels. To pick up on these maverick fish, you need to methodically work the entire range of areas they might pass. Now sometimes – depending on the light conditions – you can see them. But you might be surprised how invisible they can be, even right at your feet on a sunny day, so take nothing for granted. Start with short casts and gradually extend your casts farther and farther, working not just the channels and seams, but some of the less likely looking spots too. Repeat as necessary until you nail a passing pod of shad. Work this newly productive spot until you stop getting hits, and then go back to working your range. You’ll be surprised how often eager fish are a mere roll cast away.

2. Change Flies Every Ten Casts.
There are days when different pods of fish seem to want a different fly. Sounds a little crazy, but it’s not unlike trout in different parts of a stream feeding selectively on different bugs. Except that with shad, the selective fish are moving up stream to you. So when you’ve worked your range over thoroughly, and particularly if you’ve seen shad pass by, it means a bunch of shad have refused your fly. Time to start changing flies. But how? Since shad hit front-weighted brightly-colored attractor flies, it isn’t like you can use deductive ‘match the hatch’ entomology.
The trick is to work with different fly sizes in certain color ranges. Size is pretty easy to gauge. Generally, it’s best to use 1/16 (#6 hook) or smaller flies in shallow clear water, and as large as 1/8 oz (#4 hook) in high or discolored water. Color depends largely on water temperature. I try green, chartreuse and red/white darts in water under 60 degrees. Above that, I move from red/white darts to pink, pearl and purple combinations. Once you establish the color and size range you feel applies, start changing your fly every ten casts.
Let’s say, for example, the river is 63 degrees, it’s June 1st and the water is low. I’d start with a 1/16nd (#6) red and white, then switch to a pink and pearl combination, then move to purple and pearl, then all purple, all the while covering my full range of river. Still not working? Put on a split shot. Getting stuck on the bottom? Go to smaller flies, with a split shot. And so on. It’s astounding how often you’ll get a hit on the first cast after changing flies. Even more amazing is how often you have to keep changing flies to keep getting hook ups.

3. Change Your Leader.
Shad can be quite leader shy, and I would recommend sticking to clear six pound mono tippets to be on the safe side. While I’ve caught shad on brown tippets, I know that there are times in sunlight when those opaque leaders spook them. And the same holds for short leaders. What with all the fly changes, you’re apt to find yourself with a shorter and shorter leader. When in doubt, take the extra few minutes and pennies to tie on a fresh 24" tippet. Better still, tie on a whole new 1X - 9' leader once in a while. I’ve put a boot to my own backside more than once for letting shad pass me by because I was too lazy or cheap to tie on a new leader.

4. Do "The Dangle".
Now you’re changing flies and casting all over the place. It’s getting to be a lot of work. So take a break, slow it down, and do The Dangle. At the end of each cast, as the fly swings across current and your line straightens directly down stream from you, just let it drift down there for ten, twenty, or even forty seconds. Meanwhile, take a breather, straighten out your fly box, chew some gum. This technique targets resting shad in an eddy, seam or pool, and it sometimes takes a while for the shad to strike – often violently. I could open a tackle shop if I had a fly for every time a shad nearly snatched a rod from under my arm while I was both dangling and lighting a cigar. The Dangle can be an immensely effective - and startling - technique.

5. Rest the Pool
Sometimes shad become aware of the angler and that danger blocks their path upstream. The shad get so skittish that not only will they not hit your fly, but they won’t move up river. Even if they do move up, their spookiness is passed along to the other shad moving up behind them. Or perhaps a canoe drifts over them, which almost always puts them down. That’s the time to go to shore light up a pipe, have a sandwich, or look under rocks for Ephemerella nymphs. Give the shad - and you - at least a half-hour to settle down. Five will get you ten there’s a hit in your first couple casts.

"They’re not hitting" or "They’re not coming up" are common but often poor excuses for getting skunked in shad fishing. If it’s May and the water is about 60 degrees, the shad are in the river wherever you go. Like any other fish, they will hit something. You just have to work at it, turn these five tricks, and put a bend in your rod and a smile on your face.


Shad (Alosa)

Shad are an anadromous fish that migrate from the ocean up many of the larger rivers across the East and West Coast states. Male fish (bucks) weighting from two to three pounds are the first to ascend the river followed by the females (roe) that can weigh eight pounds or more. Generally, the best time for fly anglers is late May and early June when a large number of fish have migrated sufficiently far up stream to where they can caught in relatively narrow and shallow segments of the river. The migration is almost always over by mid-June when water temperature top 75 degrees and the fish spawn. While many angle for shad using spinning tackle and brightly colored jigs called ‘darts,’ fly fishing for shad has become increasingly popular using flashy weighted flies.

© Brian M. Wiprud




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