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Federation of Fly Fishers Master Casting Instructors offering private and group lessons in One-Handed and Two-Handed Fly Casting

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Lady Grant Classic

American Shad on the fly:

dennis grant
Dennis Grant - Canada

Shad are fun on the fly. Shad were once labeled   “Poor-man’s Salmon” . In many of the eastern rivers from Nova Scotia, Canada to the Florida Atlantic Coast they venture every year to spawn in fresh water then head back out into the ocean. Unlike salmon, shad retain the ability to digest  food during the spawn run. 

In Eastern Canada coastal rivers and estuaries some of the rivers have thousands of Shad return from April to mid June. My choice of tackle is a 9 foot 5 weight  with a sinking leader. If the river is deep I would use a sink tip line as well. I like the 5 weight rod just for the fun of feeling the pull of a fairly strong fish and the big bend in the rod. As Shad have a very soft ‘fluted” style mouth it takes a steady, even, retrieve once hooked and you can lose fish often if they get out into the faster water and take advantage of their deep, wide body.

I usually have 100 yards of backing just in case the Shad decides to turn and head down stream in a strong current, which they often will. My fly of choice is a jig hook, with the hook eye on the top  1/64 th ounce, pink, yellow or green body seem to work well. White and red should also be in the fly box, as Shad can turn on and off to different colors depending on the water color and temperature.

Verlie's Shad flys\FLIES\shad fly 001.jpg

I retrieve the fly with a short and quick motion. The sinking leader keeps the fly very close to the bottom of the river during the entire retrieve and very often the Shad will strike when you are about to make your next cast.  So be ready.

It is a great fishery for new fly casters as Shad are not line or leader shy and many times I have had a school of fish bump into me standing in the river. So casting a distance is not real important. With the weighted fly you will want to open the casting loop to avoid getting smacked in the back with a jig hook

I like the morning and evening fishing the best. Mid day will work sometimes but not as well as the evening.  Shad can turn on and off very quickly so don’t leave the river too soon if you know they are there but haven’t started to take the fly. At dusk, Shad start to go crazy, swimming close to the surface and quickly up and down river, then it’s time to quit for the day!

Tight lines, Dennis