America’s Fish

They’re back! American shad are entering the rivers of the Southeast and its already turning out to be a good year. If you’ve never tried this historical battlier, its time my friend. A saltwater fish, they enter the freshwater to spawn far upriver once water temperatures become ideal.

Their arrival is responsible for town celebrations and “planking” festivals up the east coast. Did you know it was the American shad that saved George Washington’s army from starvation? Yessir.

Assortment of Shad Flies

Here’s the lowdown on catching them on a fly rod:
Shad prefer the lower portion of the water column so getting to their depth is one of the most important things. A sinking line is well worth the investment here. When water is being generated by the dams of the lakes, the current triggers a much better “bite,” but it also creates more drag on the fly line so a heavier grain is often necessary.

I like to fish a 250g line on a 7wt rod in moving water or a 150g line on a 6wt if the current is slack. When drifting flies on sinking lines a shorter leader (5’-6’) will lead to more fish due to the fact that there will be more slack in longer leaders resulting in weaker hooksets. Leaders should range anywhere from 6-10lb test.

Traditionally shad flies have been tied in white, pink, chartreuse, and a red/yellow combo. A dropper fly is almost a requirement and I will generally use the same pattern for both. They will hit the back fly 99% of the time. You’ll notice the spin fisherman around are all fishing small chartreuse crappie jigs.

I follow the Ol’ Timers advice on this one for flies too, “If it ain’t chartreuse, it ain’t no use.”

I follow the Ol’ Timers advice on this one for flies too, “If it ain’t chartreuse, it ain’t no use.” I’ve tried to test it during a good bite and it true. Its a reaction to that particular color and they wont hit anything else in the Lowcountry…sounds crazy, but try it out.

Flies need to be weighted and simple since you will donate a few to the bottom. To simulate movement tails made of marabou feathers or rabbit work very well.

In sometimes overly popular places such as the Rediversion Canal and the Tailrace Canal expect company. This is not the solidarity of fly fishing, but a celebration of like minded fisherman and of course, the fish. There can easily be 20-30 boats in a rather small space so be courteous, meet your neighbor, have fun,and above all catch some shad!


Scotty Davis – Lowcountry Fly Shop /

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