Yuba River Shad

Soloing the soft edge with a floater

Currently we are in the height of this year’s shad runs and Joe Neil’s input could not come at a better time. We were very fortunate Joe worked at the Trinity Fly Shop for over nine years. His devoted fly fishing lifestyle, on-the-water knowledge and willingness to share is invaluable and sure to help anyone, who reads between the lines, excel and become a more accomplished angler. Thanks Joe!

By Joe Neil

Yuba Shad fishing

When not satisfying taste buds with his grilling talents, shadder- Allan Guggia-always favors the floating line and shallows

Shad are often referred to as “the poor man’s steelhead/bonefish.” Although the moniker might fit some of the time, depending on one’s preference or experience, the only similarity between all three is that they give a righteous pull on the ends of our line when they take a fly, which is what the majority of us seem to be addicted to so I guess it kind of puts all three of them in some sort of loose category. Anyway, most addictions are some kind of sensory experience and although “sensuous” is not a word I hear around the fly shops when we’re talking about the sport, it plays a rather large role in the whole game. Seeing, feeling, and hearing are how we experience our day to day reality. When they happen during a fly fishing event it rings the bell and we hit the #10 on the “Whoopee Scale”. Consider which is the most exciting: 1. Feeling a pull on a sunken line, 2. Watching a strike indicator (bobber) go under and then feel a pull, 3. Watching a dry fly as the rising fish takes and then feel the pull as you set the hook. If you don’t agree on #3 then it’s time to get out the Mitchell 300, split shot, dig worms and go back to a darker time.

Swimming Shad

Often referred to as “the poor man’s steelhead/bonefish” Shad are great floating line quarry

Now shad are not famous for taking a dry fly. So how can one make fly fishing for shad a more exciting event? How about adding a visual component? Normally a down and out cast with a sinking shooter with the take on the swing is the conventional method, but using a floating line on a shad cast can offer the visual enhancement, and at the same time, make for a better and more effective presentation. Not all conditions are right for a floater. The water should be slow and not too deep. The line should be heavy (WQF6 at least), the leader long (10-12ft.) and the fly heavy (lead eyes). Just like greased lining for steelies, cast straight out, let the fly sink, and go sideways for as long as possible before mending. Continue mending until 45 degrees. After 45 degrees the mending can be reduced in intensity but continue in frequency all the way to strip in. Takes can occur at any time after the fly starts to sink, often when the fly is straight out. The floater offers much better line control; the heavier fly sinks quicker and doesn’t get pulled downstream. Continual mending and stripping a shad fly coupled with a set up on even the slightest pressure will result in more hookups no matter which line you’re using. Obviously, you can’t see the fly or the take, but watching the line straighten on top of the water as you feel that big pull adds a new dimension to swinging for shad.

In shallow water (12” to 14”) where you can often see pods of fish a weightless fly works best. If the fish are in close you can stand on the bank and roll cast to visual fish which makes for an educational and enlightening experience as shad will often mouth the fly with no discernible feel on the line. It will make you wonder how many fish you might be missing on a normal cast. Even seeing a shad mouth the fly takes a fast reaction as they often sit the fly quite quickly. Using a floating line and watching the take, or seeing the line straighten and lift quickly off the surface of the water on unseen fish will add new sensations to shad fishing; try it you’ll like it!