NOTE: Due to unexpected adverse river conditions on the Sacramento River, the 2019 LTFF Step 3 Intermediate Shad Fish-outs on the Sac River scheduled for 6/2 & 6/3 have been CANCELED. Registration is closed and all previous registrants will be receiving a PayPal credit refund.
This year's two Shad Fish-outs on the lower Sacramento River for the students in the 2019 Intermediate Class of the club's Learn to Fly Fish (LTFF) program are being held on two back-to-back days: Sunday, June 2 (Group 1) and Monday, June 3 (Group 2).
This year's Intermediate students may initially sign up for ONE date ONLY (one group) due to the larger class size. But, any spots not filled within 24 hours of the announced registration opening (via email) will be available to this year's students to sign up for a second day. If there are still spots available 48 hours after that, past years' Intermediate students will be invited to fill them.
Registration: We are initially limiting each day's student group to 8 registrants (but may expand that by as many as four if there is a waitlist). The cost is $190 for your 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!" To that I can only say, "Amen!" Shad have been called the "poor man's tarpon", and for good reason since they can put up quite a battle for their small size. And since they are a schooling fish, we often get multiple hook-ups at the same time, which adds to the excitement (and why you generally have to land your own fish). We are fortunate to have shad come up our rivers from the ocean to spawn during a few weeks of May and June. This really is 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 Sacramento River that Wayne Syn (owner of Orland Outfitters) and his head guide Mike Hendry and others 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 less than 8, 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 beforehand 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 if you can help it.
Location and Time: Everyone will meet at 11:30 AM at the Irvine Finch boat ramp in Hamilton City, which is about 10 miles east of Orland off of Interstate 5. From Bay Area, take I-80 East to I-505 North (exit is marked 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 a curve in the road leading to the bridge over the Sac River, the turnoff for Irvine Finch boat ramp will be on the right.
The Irvine Finch Boat Ramp is a state park, and there is a daily use fee (probably $5-7) 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 sometimes having a camp host onsite.
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 have along, in addition to good some 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 another good idea. Wading is easy though in most places, so wading staffs while suggested, are not required for this fish-out. Don't forget your fishing license(!) which the guides will likely log in before you leave the boat ramp.
Sun or other fishing gloves are a really good idea too, 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, which these fish tend to get tangled in. To best do this, with your rod hand, push the rod butt as far behind you as you can reach backwards before reaching for the top of your leader or your fly line with your line hand. Once you have your hand on the leader or line, stow your rod under your arm and hand-over-hand bring the fish into your side to pin it to your hip. At that point slide your hand over its back (being sure to start at the head so as not to get pricked by the dorsal) and grasp gently but firmly to be able to lift it from the water while rolling it upside down to remove the hook. Then, to release the fish, hold it in the water pointed upstream until it recovers enough to force itself out of your hand. (Note: Shad slime can be a little 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 up 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 30 ft. long shooting heads in Types 3 and 6 (at a minimum) and, ideally, a Type 4 also and maybe a Type 2. Another option in lieu of shooting heads would be various custom-made tungsten sink tips, say a T6 or T7, T8, T10, and maybe T11, all cut in lengths to match the grain wt. that your rod wt. will easily handle). Either system should be connected to a good quality running line (either a thin 20-30Lb coated fly line type, or a 30-50Lb. mono type).
You'll probably want to start the day fishing a Type 6 head, or maybe a T8 to T11 sink tip to get down to where the shad may be holding. If you find that you're constantly hanging up, you may need to go to a slower sink shooting head or tip. But, since shad often rise higher in the water column as the sunlight dims, it will generally help to switch to either a Type 3 (or Type 4, or even Type 2) shooting head -- or a T7 or lighter sink tip -- as darkness approaches.
Remember that Rio has already upsized their shooting heads (so, if you have a 7wt rod, buy a Rio shooting taper "ST" 7 in either S3 or S6 corresponding to Types 3 or 6), but the shooting heads from other mfrs. (such as Scientific Angler or Airflo) should, as a rule of thumb, be either one, or better yet, two (2) line weights heavier than your rod weight.
Leaders: Tapered nylon leaders can be 7-1/2' long in 3X -0X with an added foot or two of 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 simply very bright attractor flies that don't mimic anything in the water. They are usually tied sparsely on #6-8 hooks with various combinations of fluorescent orange, chartreuse, fuchsia, red, yellow, or pearl yarns, often with a bead head or maybe bead 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). Also, although the guides may suggest other knots, I recommend tying your point fly on with a small non-slip loop knot, which is usually stronger than a clinch knot.
Technique suggestions: Shad can bite very softly (often just a very light "tap, tap") so always try to keep a tight line to your fly. Immediately after making your cast across the river at a slight angle downstream (about 11 o'clock if fishing river left) and just before you start your swing, 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 of your rod guides a few inches with your line hand but, if you do this, be sure to let it back out slowly 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