I am starting to hear reports of shad caught in the Delaware River. Their numbers over the last few weeks have been on the flat side indicating that the run has not begun in earnest, but it should not be long now. I friend of mine was on the river last week and reported the water was lower than it should be at this time of year. Low water will have an effect on the run. A flush of water should encourage the fish to begin their upstream push. With some wet weather in the forecast perhaps we will see some better numbers caught. I know most anglers pursue shad with a spinning rod, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that! If you have never fly fished for shad, I highly recommend it. The fish eagerly take flies and fight like hell on a six weight rod. I am a relative novice when it comes to fly fishing for shad having fished for them for only a few years. In any case, I am happy to share what I know.
The most challenging part for me has been finding sections of the river that are suitable for fly fishing. With fly fishing, an open bank for unobstructed backcasts is necessary, unless you are going to employ spey gear. Being able to reach the main channel give you access to more fish as they tend to concentrate there. With the limited casting range of a fly rod (compared to a spinning rod) the channel needs to swing close to the shoreline your fishing. On the Delaware River, spots that meet these criteria are few and far between, especially if you don’t want to interfere with the efforts of other anglers using spinning tackle. That being the case, I need to keep specific locations to fish close to the vest. I’m going to leave finding a place to fish up to you, but that’s half the fun.
As far as rods go, I have been using a nine foot six weight for most of my shad fishing. Since you are throwing shooting heads with fast sinking or intermediate lines, a fast rod with a bit of backbone helps to cast this setup. When the water is high I will often switch to a seven weight nine feet or longer. Late in the season, I may drop down to a five weight and may even use floating lines. When fishing with shooting heads, a stripping basket of some type is mandatory equipment.
The flies are very simple to tie with bright and flashy being the norm. It takes a bit of experimenting to dial in on a retrieve that the fish find appealing. In most cases a fast, steady retrieve is what the fish prefer. A two handed retrieve with the fly rod tucked up under your arm usually does the trick. If you are a saltwater angler, you know the drill.
I hope to report more in the weeks to come and plan on sharing more information on gear, terminal tackle and fly selection so stay tuned…