Searching for Shad – Take 2

My last post left off promising a few things: Pictures of actual fish, fly fishing info related to shad, a little bit on the Rappahannock River, and What to do in Fred. Signed, Sealed Delivered I’m Yours!

Grizzly Adams with one of the first. Dude looks like a cone head with that hat/hood combo.

Got pretty excited over this guy!

3/16/2016: First shad hooked. I always get uncontrollably excited and my voice turns into a high pitched laugh when the rod bends over nicely from my first shad of the year. The fast current adds a little to the battle, which creates even higher pitched squeals. My brother had the day off. So, he fished the James fall line down in Richmond during the AM, before heading up here for an evening sessions on the Rapp. He found no luck fishing the James, but the Rapp provided nicely.



Not as many flies in the box as I would like, but it’s getting there. Next year, I’ll start tying more than a couple weeks, in advance, just in case the season kicks off early again. All shad flies shown here are size 6.The bottom rows are larger Clouser Minnows.

We had a little rain a couple days before and the water was pretty high and a little off colored. I’ve heard the muddy color is better for shad fishing. I don’t have a reason, other than speculative guesses. It’s just what I’ve heard… Wading out was pretty tough but we made it to our destination and usual spot, safely. Remember what I said in my last post. These rivers are no joke. So, wade with caution!

As far as gear, I used a size 6 fly – like the flies pictured above. Some of which I tied while attending the shad tying event Dan instructed at RRO – on a sink tip line (or leader) with about two or three feet of sixteen pound tippet. You could get away with using a thinner tippet, but this seems to work fine and I don’t have to worry about snapping it if I hook into a big American shad in the strong current, or if I find a nice striper.

-click the bottom right of the video to make it full screen.  Appologies for the inconvenience…

For the rod, I use a TFO Axiom 9 foot 7 wt. that I picked up on a hell of a deal at Green Top, accompanied by a Redington Behemoth 7-8 reel. Again, you can easily get away with less. I’ve fished the shad run with a 5 weight rod without an issue. It’s just nice to have a little extra in the tank, if needed. You also land the fish faster and this setup is new so, I eagerly want to use it.

Where should you purchase shad flies? Well, you can check out RRO‘s selection, tied by Dan Dutton. I’m sure they’d be happy to ship you some. You can check them out here,  or purchase some here. Most don’t have names but Tommy’s Flash Torpedo and Rob Snowhite’s are probably the most popular. I fished the Flash Torpedo a lot. Honestly, though, this fly (bottom left) works great! It’s very easy to tie and you can get a tying kit at RRO with all materials included – enough to tie fifteen to twenty five flies – for around fifteen bucks.

Cool face, but looks like bad handling techniques. He’s holding the fish pretty high out of the water and it looks like a tight grip. In actuality, the fish’s out of water experience lasted less than five seconds. Still, that might be too long.

A little bit on fish handling: I’ve posted about fish handling before in Grip and Kill, and The Great Debate… With the shad, they’re spawning. Therefore, straining to swim upstream. So, they pretty, pretty, pretty tired. It is true that lot of shad die – never making it back to the great blue sea – after the spawning session. However, let’s give ’em the chance to make them babies before they die. Use barbless hooks (#pinchyourbarbs), land them quickly (another reason I use the heavier gear), and as with all fish, limit air exposure (#keepemwet). At least wet your hands before handling and return them ASAP.

A much better example of a proper fish photo session; quick and wet, and #keepemwet

The Rappahannock River is the longest free flowing river in the state of Virginia. Although, it only took back this title less than two decades ago. The Embrey Dam located just downstream of the I-95 bridge blocked off the river to a number of migratory aquatic species. It’s removal in 2004 lead to benefits for numerous anadromous fish. Every year shad find their way farther upstream to breeding grounds. Here is a cool video of the dam’s removal. “and boom goes the dynamite…” Don’t get the reference? Google it. A man can only hyperlink so many things.

Warning: language disclaimer

Where it purchase your fly fishing essentials? River Rock Outfitter in Downtown, Fredericksburg. I may be partial, but this store is fucking awesome! If you like any outdoor related activity, then check them out. Their fly fishing selection is small, but very specific to the needs of local anglers. For fly fishing, they carry Patagonia, Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO), Rio, Terra, and anything from Wapsi.

@cormander88 casting away – taken from the south bank of the Rapp

New to fly fishing? Dan Dutton, their fly fishing guru, can help. A fly fishing know-it-all/snobby douchebag looking for very specific information to which you probably already know the answer? Dan can help you too. Want to get on the water, but aren’t really sure where to go, or how to work a specific fly? Dan can teach you how to tie the fly, recommend a spot, take you out for some one-on-one instructions, or you can hiring him for a guided trip. The gist, River Rock Outfitter provides everything you need for a professional, fun, and relaxed fly fishing experience.

“Drink it in. It always goes down smooth” – Ron Burgundy

As for what to do in Downtown, Fred? Go to RRO, hit one of the many bars/restaurants, run/walk/hike/bike on some of the trails, or get a history education from a number on famous historical sites. I can give specific recommendations; just ask in the comment section.





2 thoughts on “Searching for Shad – Take 2

  1. Pingback: Searching for Shad – Take 4 | Adventures of Sims

  2. Pingback: Searching for Shad – Take 5 | The James River Mermaid

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