January, February, and March in central Florida means Shad for an ever increasing number of anglers that discover the wonderful fun than can be reached a short distance from their doorsteps. But fish being fish will dash the hopes of even the best organized and practiced angler, therefore increasing the intense desire to return for another try year after year after year.
Shad fishing can be one of those things that will test your patience because you just have believe the fish are there and one will eventually find the fly. I don't think I have ever blindly casted for a fish more than for shad, which requires a great deal of faith on my part considering that I'm a sight fisherman at heart. Thankfully though, shad like to travel certain corridors and hold in particular locations so we can eliminate 90 percent of the water and concentrate on the remaining ten. They tend to run in deeper channels and stack up in holes that can be up to 30 feet in depth, making the presentation tough at times but the rewards well worth it. Steelheaders will appreciate the method of presenting quartering downstream, allowing the fly to sink and swing with the current until it's parallel to the shore, then working slowly upstream for a bit. "Swingers" from out west and the great lakes should love fishing for shad in the traditional manner. Sometimes we do get lucky and have a phenomenal topwater bite but I can count those days on one hand if I'm to be realistic. Enjoy it if it happens but don't plan on it. You might want to check out "Wade Fly Fishing The Upper St. Johns River Basin(Florida) For American Shad" If you'd like to read about some of the locations and tactics before throwing caution to the wind and venturing forth.
Shad season is about more than chasing a fish some might call mythical because they've only seen them in photographs. We look forward to seeing friends on the water, taking pictures of the wildlife, getting some exercise, and maybe catch a few fish in the process. I love viewing all the different birds visiting the region during winter, including the American White Pelicans and the Caracara. Both are indicators that shad season is here and it's time to hit the water.
This season has only just begun and the conditions are near perfect right now so pack up and hit the river somewhere along "Shad Alley" (not too early since the bite may not really get going until late morning or early afternoon) with a few friends in boats, kayaks, or maybe even walking the shore. Bring along some small bright flies along with your favorite five or six weight, or some shad darts and small Rat-L-Traps for the light action spinning rods. Throw them close to the deep drop offs, channels, creek mouths, or anyplace that looks fishy and you never know what you might hook into. Crappie, sunshine bass, largemouth bass, bluegill, sunfish, mudfish, and maybe even a shad or two might join the party. It only takes a little of your time and a bit of effort to have a wonderful time. Good luck.
Brian "Beastman" Eastman