Shad fishing on the St. Johns is something that I have been looking forward to doing for a very long time. I had always heard wild stories of thick shad schools nailing small flies, and finally I worked up the motivation to get out there. Thanks to a good friend of mine, we were able to ride in style and hook up on a good number of fat shad.
Needless to say, this area is an incredible fishery. With multiple species of bass, shad, crappie, bluegill, and catfish there are plenty of fish willing to latch onto a fly. The typical shad flies we were throwing were small with lead or bead chain eyes. Which one we were throwing depended on water depth and the speed of the current. We started of the day with some darker colors and ended up with small chartreuse flies around noon.
The day started off slow as we tried to wiggle our way into some of the better fishing areas. As we arrived at the mouth of the Econ River there were numerous other fishermen looking to get in on the shad bite. To start off we anchored a little ways upstream from the river mouth and started tossing flies into the current. It wasn’t long before we were coming tight on some fish. First a shad, then a bluegill, and then a crappie. Once that fly hit the water there was no telling what was going to come up and nail it.
Overall the half day ended with us working to get 10 shad into the boat and having numerous other fish come off right at the side of boat. For people looking into giving shad fishing a try, a 5-7 wt rod would be most practical. A lighter wt rod could be used, but you may find yourself under gunned when trying to wrestle some of the larger fish. I prefer about an 11 ft leader with a 2 foot section of bite tippet at the fly. Not so much to prevent wear from the fish, but to keep from being worn down by shells on the bottom.
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