Three years ago I read John McPhee’s book The Founding Fish. The book is equal parts history and fishing techniques. A fantastic read.
My first experience fishing for shad ended with this little baitfish trophy.
That is my dad in the background. We were fishing near his old stomping grounds, the Potomac River beside Fletcher’s Boathouse in Georgetown. My biggest mistake on this trip was not getting my fly to the deepest part of the deepest channel. That is where you will the shad.
In the ensuing off season, I read more about fly fishing for shad and found this fantastic podcast by Beau Beasley. He focuses on the Rappahannock as a fishery, but mentions the Rivanna, my new home river.
A few residents who came before me at UVA had already found the best spot for shad fishing in Charlottesville. You will have to stay tuned for directions and reasons why this location is prime.
Beau says when the cherry trees along the Potomac are in bloom, the shad are in the river. Last year that generally meant early April to mid May in the Rivanna River. Last year we had extremely high water levels all spring which made the fishing challenging. If the weather stays like it has, I think we may see the shad starting their spawning trip in late March? Here is out best monitor: the Shad Cam. About one to two weeks after we start seeing shad in the James at Richmond we will start to see them in the rivers in Charlottesville.
More to come on fly fishing strategies. In the meantime check out this Wikipedia article on Schuykill Fishing Company. Their history is intimately linked with the American shad and our founding fathers. Dr. Olszewski and I are working on a featured post detailing their history and current status.