Friday, April 8, 2011

Shad Run: James River Fly Fishing Report

Hickory Shad (18 inches - fish of the day)

Gizzard Shad (14 incher)

I headed down to the James River today just below the 14th Street/ Mayo bridge to get my first taste of the annual shad/ striper run I've been hearing so much about.  I've lived in Richmond only about 7 months, so I've been itching for the Spring season.  Of course, by comparison, shad sounds like a pretty lame fish to target since they are just overgrown bait, however stripers seem to me another matter entirely.  I decided that where ever you find a lot of bait there's bound to be hungry fish close by. 

The large rocks lining the shore of the river were quite crowded (as I'd been warned they would be) with older guys tossing sabiki rigs and the like on spinning tackle.  I walked down within sight without my gear, not having ever scouted the area before, to investigate the scene and see if there was any action.  Within moments, a few shad were landed close by and more rods could be seen bent over and bouncing further down the bank.  Prospects looked pretty good.  Boaters and kayakers could be seen farther downstream anchored off the bridge pilings and I immediately decided that must be where the striper action was.  I headed back for my gear.

I have to say I've confirmed most of my suspiscions since moving here about how little most folks know about fly fishing: namely the widely held misunderstanding that fly fishings only application is to trout, dry flies, light weight rods, false casting, and floating lines.  It probably shouldn't, but this just amazes me.  So as you can imagine, I got a few smug looks when I showed up carrying two of the long rods.  I just eased down to an open space and cracked opened my case of hand tied weighted streamer patterns and strung my 8wt rod with the full sink shooting taper line.  After locating a good platform rock, I launched a cast a good 20ft further out than any of the other guys who were now watching intently as they cranked away.  I began stripping after allowing the line to reach what seemed like a good depth in the current and within moments, I hooked up.  I could tell this was not what my onlookers expected and that, I must admit, was in itself quite satisfying.  But mostly I was just thrilled to have a fish on the end of my line and a good tug...something I've missed a great deal.

It was a shad - a beast of a shad in fact.  I seriously had no idea these things got so big and in the current they gave a really surprising pull.  Even better, they're pretty darn easy to catch and that my friends makes for an enjoyable afternoon.  So while the stripers were absent ( I'll be taking my kayak back down soon to see about locating them) I was distracted enough so as not to miss them too much.  Meanwhile the spin casters began to crowd my spot after watching me bringing one fish after another to shore. 

I was content with the success of the day and so I called it quits.  I'll be back soon - with my kayak in tow.

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