shad flies?


Active Member
having never fished for shad but want to, i would like some input as to what would be a good pattern(s)? it there a color or shape i need to be aware of? and last of all do i fish on the bottom, middle or top part of the water. we are thinking of heading to john day next week. thanks, mike w.

Cameron Derbyshire

Steelhead, Classic Atlantic salmon flies
For shad flies, they are usually very simple arrangement. The bodies vary in color and material, but most of all they all have some sort of weight. The weight is usually some small, medium, or large bead chain tied in at the head of the fly or small to large non-toxic (or lead) dumb bells. You can get real fancy if you feel like it and paint them. These flies will tend to dive head first and when retrieved will have a jigging motion. As the easiest places to reach and fish for shad tend to be where the river is constricted (falls or where the channel is funneled or narrows), the water is fast, deep (more than 5'), or both. So you'll need both a sinking line and fly to get down to them.
As for the bodies, have a variety of colors like red, orange, chartreuse, green, and pink. These fish have a tendency to turn onto one color for a while and then the action goes south. Just start switching colors until you get some takers. I've seen flies tied only out of a sparse amount of marabou, excluding the weight at the head. Others have bodies of thin floss or tinsel overwrapped with clear monofilament. Another style has a thin body hackled with thin or webby saddle feathers. As for flash, have a few tied up with some Krystal Flash or Flashabou.
For some further reading on the subject, check out C. Boyd Pfeiffer's book ; I believe it's called Shad Fishing. John Shewey has a chapter on shad in his book Northwest Fly Fishing: Trout and Beyond Vol. 1. The July 2004 issue of Fly Fisherman magazine has an article on shad as well as an article in American Angler a while back. There are a few patterns in Randy Stetzer's Flies: The Best One Thousand, Northwest Fly Patterns & Fly Tying Guide by the Rainland Fly Casters Club, and Flies of the Northwest by the Inland Empire Fly Fishing Club.
I'll tie some up tonight and post some for you to see. I hope the info helps. I fish for them down here on the mainstem of the Umpqua.


Will Fish For Food
Da Shad King speaks out!

Zen Piscator said:
My best shad fly is a 1/32oz jig hook wrapped in green yarn.
iagree Sorry for the late reply. I'll agree with Zen, the 1/32 oz jig is the best. Sports Authority carries them, they can be hard to find.

I use mostly chartreuse and pink heads on the jig ... white lacquer followed by either the chartreuse or pink works great and doesn't take long.

I've also used the heat-em-up and dip-em stuff they sell at GI Joes, it works, but is actually more difficult than two coats of lacquer because then you have to bake them in the oven. But you can get it in glow-in-the-dark.

For a wing, all I do is tie in a three to six strands of flashabou on the base of the jig lead, folding it back over to form a standard clouser-style wing. I.e., tie it in with the jig upside down, with the wing sweeping upwards towards the hook. So that's a total of six to a dozen strands of flashabou tops in the wing.

I also use the glow-in-the dark flashabou-like stuff, that works well.

In the end, I have combinations of pink and green on the heads, pearl, pink, and green on the wings, and in all variations of glow-in-the-dark and not. It's a huge selection of flies ... probably thirty I bring with me ... and they all fit in the box they came in and weigh a total of an ounce! :beer2:

I do break down and use chum turds as a dropper ... I often get a lot of hits off them.

Pictures of chum turds are hard to find, but it's a standard #6 Mustad stainless hook (34007?), with a small marabou tail (white, pink, green), molded plastic eyes set just where the hook bends. Body is small chenille, hot pink or green, a couple of wraps behind the eyes and wrapped forward to the head. A euphasid imitation, I think, but I'm doing this all from memory. Kaufman's carries them, if you want to look at the pattern.

And not that you asked, but for fishing at Rufus I use a floating line, long but not insanely long leader, and a 14' 9/10 weight CND Custom spey rod. It's the ticket.


(who probably won't be going shad fishing for at least another half-dozen hours. :beer2: )