Noted Swift angler Gary Metras emailed and invited me out for shad fishing. I’m very grateful to him for his generosity.

I had never fished for shad but had heard much about their fighting power and that their spawning season was very short.

So, I was really excited when Gary reached out. He told me not to worry about flies, as he already had a bunch. We picked a date and a time, and I eagerly penciled it into my calendar.

On The Day, we met up early in the morning and walked to the river. Gary then handed me some flies and told me where to cast. Soon, I was into fish and experienced the glorious runs of a silvery shad. I was impressed with its power.

Over the half-day, we bumped into all sorts of piscatorial critters, from shad to panfish to bass. We saw some enormous carp but couldn’t get them to take. Gary landed a pile of fish. I did decently but was just happy to be out and targeting a new species.

Shad are like steelhead; they are anadromous, and when they’re spawning, they’re not thinking of eating. They’re fish on the move. Shad park themselves behind structure as they rest before continue to push upstream. So, you target “rest places” and not the usual runs where fish hang in order to feed.

Gary and I were fishing during the tail-end of the spring shad run, but the water was still in the cool-ish 60s and decently high. This meant plenty of oxygen and cover for the fish, and their fighting ability displayed all that.

The best fish of the day for me was a beautiful 18″ shad with a purple hue. It smelled of the ocean and was fun to catch.

On occasion, I could see shad in the shallows and proceeded to tightline for them. It was interesting to see their reactions. A dead-drifted fly meant that the shad just slid out of the way. A slow up-and-down jig led to takes.

All in, I learned a great deal and had a lot of fun. It also was awesome to chat with Gary while we fished. He always is very congenial and has many interesting takes on life.

Thank you, Gary, for the gift of shad. I really appreciate your friendship over the years and am grateful for your coaching. Look for a thank-you present in the mail.


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17 thoughts on “Shad

  1. Sounds like fun! You are very coy about the location–not even the river? Could you share at least some info about the fly patterns that were effective? Cheers!

    1. I defer to Gary. As I’ve written in the past, I don’t drop other people’s spots or flies. When people trust me with those pieces of information, I am not comfortable sharing them with others. Hope you can understand.

  2. I have caught Shad while fly fishing for Stripers and the fighting ability of these fish is pretty amazing.

  3. I fished for Shad every spring as a kid and I own an original Denton lithograph, same as you posted. Did you use your 6 weight Contact?

  4. I’ve fished for them two of the last three springs and have had pretty good success. I’m relatively new to flyfishing so keep that in mind. Gear in my opinion is really dependant on flow and the particular location you might be fishing. This year i used my 8 weight with a floating line, i think a 7 weight would be perfect for this specific location and i carried it but I love my 8 wt and the setup was working (5 wt way too light as I caught some fish that tipped the scales a 4.5 pounds in a good current). Added a 10 foot slow sink tip I picked up at Cabelas then had a 6 foot furled leader with a tiny spro power swivel and 5 or 6 feet of 6 or 7 pound grand max fluorocarbon leader or tippet if you will. It was kind of a bear for a novice like me to cast but it worked great and I somehow managed to outfish all other fly fishermen and women fishing the same spot each and every time I fished this year. Some flyfishers were using sinking lines or just floating. I should mention that i was “cheating” as i was using a 1/64 oz. tin shad dart most of the time. seemed to be doing the trick so I just stuck with it. Think i caught one on a “fly” Ended up landing around 130 fish in 5 or 6 trips. They are not much fun, you don’t ever want to try it. wink wink

  5. It was a very good outing, Jo. And my pleasure to share with you this new fly fishing experience. Was the big one you caught on my 5 wt. with 5X tippet when we exchanged rods? You handled it well. Glad I didn’t tell you it was 5X until you netted it, otherwise you might have been too gentle and lost it. My catch, for the record (meaning, of course, bragging rights!) was 17 shad from 14″-20″ and 10 freshwater fish (pumpkinseed, bluegills, small mouth bass (a whopper 4-incher), a crappie bass, and some dace.

    1. Yes, indeed. Your #5 is a sweet fly rod. I like the give.

      I lost quite a few on the #7 and 4x because I think the set-up didn’t “give enough,” given the shad’s soft mouths.

  6. David,It’s to late now but the Chicopee River off Granby Road in Chicopee and the lower Westfield River behind Dunkin Donuts in West Springfield used to be two pretty productive spots.A 5wt with floating line and long leader with 8lb tippet will get the job done.

    1. Thanks, Dan T! A bit of inquiry turned up the Chicopee as a good river, but I hadn’t heard about the lower Westfield. I will try to get out there for next year’s run!

  7. someone told me the Narrow River in Rhode island has a run of hickory shad. In light of the fact that i recently moved to RI i will be giving that a try this year. i’ll report as appropriate.

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