This year's two Shad Fish-outs on the lower Sacramento River for the students in the 2018 Intermediate Class of the club's Learn to Fly Fish (LTFF) program are being held on two back-to-back days: Sunday, June 3 (Group 1) and Monday, June 4 (Group 2).
This year's students may sign up for ONE date ONLY (one group) due to the larger class size. Also, any spots not filled within 48 hours of the pre-announced registration opening (via email) will be offered to last year's Intermediate students who unfortunately had their Shad fish-outs cancelled due to unusually high water.
Registration: We are initially limiting each day's student group to 10 registrants (but may expand that by one or two if there is a waitlist). The cost is $175 for the one chosen day, exclusive of all guide gratuities and any lodging should you wisely decide not to drive home late that night (the boats will bring you back to the parking lot after dark).
To quote our LTFF program founder, Jerry Saltzgaber, who famously always announced, "Shad fishing is a HOOT!" Shad are often called the "poor man's tarpon", and for good reason since they can put up quite a battle for their small size. We are fortunate to have them come up our rivers from the ocean to spawn during a few weeks of May and June. This is really a lot of fun and we often get into a lot of fish on this outing, so you'll want to be sure to try this.
Dinner Provided: We will be wading off of a large gravel bar along the Sac river that Wayne Syn (Orland Outfitters) and his guides will take us to in their jet boats. Eat a sack lunch before you get in the boat at noon or bring something along to tide you over to dinner. For each day that we get 8 or more to sign up, we get the added bonus of a hearty BBQ'd chicken dinner that's slow-cooked in a barrel right on the sandbar, with a salad, dinner rolls, fresh fruit, chips & salsa, and cookies (but if not 8 or more, there will still be a provided dinner, perhaps burgers). Cold sodas and water will also be provided. There's often an hors d'oeuvre offered before dinner and dinner should be ready to eat around 5:30-6:00PM, after which we will return to fishing until dusk before finally getting back in the boats. The shad bite is generally better in very low light, so you don't want to leave early.
Location and Time: Everyone will meet at 11:30 AM at the Irvine Finch boat ramp in Hamilton City, which is just east of Orland off of Interstate 5. From the Bay Area, take I-80 East to I-505 North (exit for Winters) to reach I-5. Follow I-5N to the second Orland Exit (HWY 32 to Chico). Go east on Hwy 32 ten miles to the town of Hamilton City. Go through town and just before you get to the bridge over the Sac River, the turnoff for Irvine Finch boat ramp is on the right.
The Irvine Finch Boat Ramp is a state park, and there is a daily use fee (probably $5-6) required to be paid for each parked vehicle. Carry cash for this purpose (and a pen to fill out the envelope) since it is usually self-pay upon entry. DO NOT LEAVE BAGS OR ANYTHING OF VALUE VISIBLE IN YOUR VEHICLE -- or risk a break-in, despite there being a camp host on site.
Be ready to leave the ramp promptly at Noon or shortly before. Be in your waders with rod strung up. The boat ride is fast, so be sure that hats and sunglasses are secured before the boat even leaves the ramp. DON'T BE LATE since the boats won't wait for you.
We will fish until 8pm or so, and it may be very dark before you are back to your car, so a headlamp or small flashlight may be helpful to bring in addition to good sun protection (we'll be facing into the sun all day!), a fleece for the evening, and a rain jacket in case a good shower comes along. You'll want to wade as deep as you can, so a 2nd belt on your waders is a good idea. Wading is easy though in most places, so wading staffs are still suggested, but not required. Sun or other gloves are a good idea though, since these bony fish can be very slippery to handle and you'll be landing and releasing your own fish -- generally without using a net (they are also stinky, so be sure to throw your gloves in the washer afterward before storing).
Two-handed (Spey or switch) rods are nice to use for those who can cast them well enough since they often make longer casts. The Spey folks should bring 10 ft of T8, T11, and T-14 for use on their Skagit lines, along with whatever running lines they may have. The shad can come closer and higher in the water column in the evening, so bring your slower sink tips too.
Single-handed anglers, using a 5-8wt rod (the heavier the better), should ideally fish a shooting head system for the flexibility of changing sink rates. This system should include a 30 ft. long Type 6 shooting head (or a custom-made T-14 sink tip cut in a length to match the grain wt. that your rod wt. will handle) with a good quality running line (either a thin 20-30Lb coated fly line type, or a 30-50Lb. mono type). Since the shad often rise higher in the water column as the sunlight dims, it will help to have either a Type 3 (or Type 4) shooting head or a T-11 sink tip along also. Remember that Rio has already upsized their shooting heads (so, if you hs=ave a 7wt rod, buy a Rio shooting taper "ST" 7 Type 6), but shooting heads from other mfrs. (such as Airflow) should, as a rule of thumb, be two (2) line weights heavier than your rod weight.
Leaders: Tapered nylon leaders can be 7-1/2' or 9' long in 3X -0X with 3X-0X fluoro tippet; or you can use straight mono (or fluoro) tippet, about 5-8 ft. long in 8 to 15 lb. test, rigged for one or two flies depending on your casting skill.
Flies: The flies that we use for shad are called "shad darts". They are strictly very bright attractor flies that don't mimic anything in the water. They are usually tied simply on #6-8 hooks with various combinations of fluorescent orange, chartreuse, fuchsia, red, yellow, or pearl yarns, often with bead head or lead eyes and perhaps a short flashy tail. You can get them at local fly shops, tie some of your own to try out, or ask one of the guides for flies (in the latter case, please be sure to return any that you use and don't lose). Remember to pinch your barbs since we will be releasing all fish caught (they're not very good eating).
Technique suggestions: Shad can bite very softly (just a very light "tap, tap") so always try to keep a tight line to your fly. After making your cast and just before you start your swing, slowly strip in a few feet of line so you come tighter to your fly. You will feel more grabs if you do that. You might also choose to slowly jig your fly line in and out a few inches with your line hand but, if you do this, be sure to let it back out slow enough each time so that the fly always stays tight to the line (don't "bounce" it).
Camping / Lodging: This can be a day trip since you are only maybe 2-1/2 hours or less from home, but you may be very tired by the time you get back to your vehicles late in the evening, so you may want to consider tent or vehicle camping at the Parkway RV Resort in Orland (800-468-9452) or taking a motel room in Orland or Willows. You can also park a camper overnight at the boat ramp for a small fee, but the restrooms may not be open all night.
Beware: Once you try shad fishing, you'll be forever hooked.
Contact: John Murphy (firstname.lastname@example.org
cell ph. 650-799-1695