The Shad Are Here And They’re Biting

Written By: Bill Adelman, March 13, 2012
Species: Shad

Generic Trout Kokannee Image

Last time we managed to catch a few bass, (we did, didn’t we?), but now it’s time to move on to some really important fishin’ news…SHAD.

They’re here and they’re bitin’. But first, a couple pieces of old business. A few years back I was complaining that Mustad had discontinued the only hook that will ever catch shad.

A fellow angler, Brad, recalled that column when he somehow found some of the old style hooks, and sent them to me with a very kind note. Due to either a severe loss of memory or just the natural aging process, I know not who Brad is. If we’ve met or fished together, my sincerest apology.

If not, thank you so much for helping me out. I’ve held this info in check mainly because I wanted to include it in my shad column, so, Brad, thanx again for your thoughtfulness as well as your generosity.

Part two. Either go to wherever your boat happens to be sitting, or take a Philips screwdriver with you the next time you go out, toss an anchor and wait for the shad bite to commence. There are around 250 small Philips head screws scattered all over your boat, holding everything except your engine in place. Or so it seems.

If you haven’t tightened them within a year or two, they WILL be loosened. So, as you keep one eye on the tip of your fly or spinning rod, or both if you purchased a two-rod stamp, tighten those little puppies up.

Now it’s time to get down to business. We’ve all heard the saying, “If the good Lord’s willin’ and the creeks don’t rise,” such and such might happen. That referred to creek could very well be the Sacramento, Feather, American or Yuba.

The late snows and a heavily anticipated runoff may very well bring the creeks to a flow level that makes them unfishable for shad, especially for those who have invested trillions of dollars in fly fishing tackle and all available accessories. Oh woe is us.

As far as fly rodding is concerned, my comfort level is up to 11 feet deep. Any more than that, by adding weight to my flyline in order to get down deep enough, just takes all the fun out of it.

Should you choose to fish the Sacramento, it’s almost mandatory that you have a boat, or a friend who will either take you along or loan you his boat. Say what?

Many shoreline opportunities are available on the American River while options are greatly reduced on the Feather or Yuba. Fly fishing the American is relatively easy from the many gravel bars, but the limited access on the others is most likely fished best with a spinning rod, as casting is so much easier.

I’m well aware there are those who can toss an 8 weight shooting head 90 feet with little effort, but most of us don’t belong to that club. We do belong to the spinning rod club that allows members to toss a teeny rounder 90 feet.

Shad will generally follow a given route from day to day, as long as there’s not a significant change in water level. Speed of flow and water clarity are two very important factors when seeking shad. The inside of the mouth white feeding gills are very sensitive to dirty water.

Should you be trying for some success where there is a defined color change, always fish on the clearer side. Where there is a change in flow, caused by a wing dam, a fallen tree, old pier pilings or a bend in the river, seek out the medium flow speed. If plying gravel bars, and no-one else is fishing there, (like that will happen), start at the top and slowly work your way down to the tailout.

Somewhere in there, shad will be hanging out. I’d suggest fan casting the deeper water at least 25 times, altering the swing, before moving about 15 feet.

When you hit a fish or two, stay there until the bite has disappeared. Then go back upstream, as that’s the direction the fish are moving. Duh!

Tossing a fly in similar water is very much the same technique. If you’re on the American or Feather where normal water depth is 6-7 feet, the heavier shooting head is too much. It’s entirely possible that the old sink tip floating line will work just as well.

Consider keeping the 1/3rd middle section of an old, worn out, (like me), shooting head. You can decrease the weight of the line by using only a re-structured 10-15 foot section, rather than the full, out of the box, 30 feet. Regardless of the choice of tackle, try to stay as close to the bottom as is possible, without constantly hanging up, of course. Duh again!

Next time we’ll stay with this shad fishing stuff, hopefully including a very positive fishing report. Seeya then and Tight Lines!

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