American Shad are highly valued as a sport fish. Known as a Poor Man's Tarpon; the American Shad fights like a fish many times its size. On a fly rod they provide quite a challenge, making long powerful runs along with plenty of aerial antics.
There are two species of shad that are of interest to anglers. They are the American Shad and the Hickory Shad. Both fish are members of the herring family. They are anadromous fish, spending the majority of their lives in saltwater, only entering freshwater rivers to spawn. It is at this time when they become an interest of anglers. Historically they were found in most major river drainages flowing into the Atlantic Ocean from Florida to Nova Scotia. Unfortunately over harvesting, pollution and dams have reduced that range significantly. Chances are if you are nearby a river system that is still home to these fish you will already know about it. American Shad can also be found on the west coast. They were introduced into Pacific drainages in the 1800’s and the fish have flourished there. They have been known to move hundreds of miles upstream in search of suitable spawning grounds in both the main stem of the river and its tributaries.
Shad are members of the herring family. They are an anadromous fish that spends the majority of its life in saltwater, returning to fresh water to spawn. Like Atlantic Salmon they have been known to
Shad feed mostly on plankton like other herring, but they have been known to consume shrimp, small fish and fish eggs. It is puzzling why shad readily take flies and other lures, being the plankton feeders that they are. It could be out of aggression or perhaps simple curiosity. Fortunately, we don’t need to worry about why they hit flies, just be confident that they do.
Shad will typically enter freshwater rivers when water teperatures reach 50-55 degrees. They will move considerable distances up stream
Flies for American Shad are very simple to tie. The only guidelines is they should be brightly colored and/or flashy. I prefer to tie them without weight using a sinking fly line to get them to a fish catching depth. Others prefer to add weight in the form of lead wraps, bead chain or lead dumb bell eyes. Shad are among the unique anadromous fish that retain the ability to feed when they enter fresh water to spawn. This feeding instinct is easily triggered by a bright flashy fly. So have fun, experiment with differnt colors, designs and styles