A variant of the shad dart is probably the first fly you will see if you search online for shad flies. Usually these flies are tied in a combination of bright colors like chartreuse and hot pink or yellow and red. For my initial forays into fishing for shad I tied some of these for my box, but as a rule I like to carry "natural colors" with my bright colored flies. Natural colors in my mind means two things, earth tones and match the hatch colors. The shad dart variant featured here is one of the later. I wanted to have a fly that would represent a newly hatched baby fish. While I remain uncertain if this logic was the key to the fly's success, I am certain the fly works. I do however keep some olive colored ones in my box too.
Relocating for work creates new fishing opportunities or at least it should. I will always have pity for those that do not move to places with new fishing opportunities. Being one of the lucky ones, I have been continuing to explore new opportunities in Northern California. My latest endeavor has been shad fishing. For someone from Texas, shad are often just thought of as bait. However, as I recently discovered first hand, some species are worthwhile targets for flyfishing.
Shad had been on my life list for a while, but I had only known of fisheries on the East Coast. It was not until arriving in the Sacramento area that I discovered that American shad were introduced to the American River.
I break down exploring a new fishery into three things mentally.
1. Research: This step is straightforward. I gather all the information I can on the fish, locations to find them, and the flies to catch them. This info comes from online sources, fishing reports and most importantly the local shop guys.
2. Location: This comes from the researching portion too, but selecting where you will go can aid in the likelihood for success. Also, depending upon the fishery, it may change things like regulations, the time fish will be migrating through the area or even how often you can reasonably expect to access the same spot.
3. Expectation: While all of us want to believe our fishing skills are infallible, in reality we have equal chances of failure or success if all other circumstances remain the same. Thus, I prepare in part by taking a realistic look at my goals and likelihood of success. For example do I expect to have to cast all day to find a single fish? Is finding a school the key? Should there be many small fish, but few big fish? What is needed for me to consider the day a success?
So to break this down for my shad experience, I first researched on fishing for shad in the area and asked around at the local shops. Using that information and knowledge about accessibility I was able to select an access point on the river. Finally, I set my personal goals for the day. 1) I want to fish my switch rod and catch the shad by swinging flies. 2) I would locate a school by methodically working down stream until finding fish. Once hooked up, I would continue to fish the area more thoroughly. (Part of my research described that if you can find a shad, there are usually others in the same holding area). 3) Catching even one would be a successful day. Catching one on a fly of my own design would be even better.
Obviously from the photos, its obvious that I managed to succeed in my plans. American shad surpassed my expectations. They are now in my list of awesomely under appreciated species to target on the fly. I particularly enjoyed getting to swing flies with my switch rod which is not something I have had many chances to do.