North Coast Angler
"Al's RV Shad"
Captain Al Montello's RV Shad fly was designed to imitate a variety of small shrimp and krill that are known to be an important part of the American Shad’s food source. The North Atlantic krill can be brightly colored with reds and greens and can readily color adapt. The adult krill range in size up to 6cm (2"). When the shad enter the Merrimac river system to spawn, they are most likely not in "feeding mode" but do strike instinctively on this fly pattern.

North Atlantic Krill
Materials and Recipe
Hook: Eagle Claw 3202UK #2 Aberdeen Light Wire-Gold (the gold color is essential)
Thread: 6/0 waxed to match head yarn color
Wing: White- goat, fine bucktail tips or calf tail
Head: Red or chartreuse Glo-Bug yarn
Throat: Red soft hackle
Glue: Head cement
Step 1
The pattern is tied as streamer, starting ¼” behind the hook eye. Make several wraps of thread on hook and form a thread bump. The small thread bump allows the fine hair to angle up over the hook shank. Coat with head cement and let dry. Tie in a small clump(~1” long by 1/32” round) of fine white bucktail(or the other mentioned hairs) just in front of the thread bump. Wrap thread loosely for several wraps before tightening up.
Step 2
Next, tie in a small clump of red soft hackle to form a throat. The hackle should be ~ 3/8” long and tied in just in front of the thread bump, same as the bucktail. Complete the pattern by tying in a small clump of chartreuse glo-bug yarn. The yarn clump is ~ ¼” long after trimming and about a ¼” wide, or about the width of your small finger nail. Take several wraps and finish. Dab in a bit of head cement and you’re done.

Note: The fly is best tied sparse rather than bulky. The fly fishes best when it rides up-right when slow stripped. Any amount of "spin" will result in far fewer takes.

RV Shad with red poly yarn head

Captain Al Montello with a nice Merrimack River Shad
American Shad
The American shad, a schooling and highly migratory species, is a silvery fish with a row of dark spots along its side and sharp saw-like scales or "scutes" along its belly. Shad are anadromous fish which spend the majority of their life at sea and only enter freshwater in the spring to spawn. Historically, shad probably spawned in virtually every accessible river and tributary along the Atlantic coast from the Bay of Fundy, Canada to the St. Johns River, Florida. However, blockage of spawning rivers by dams and other impediments and degradation of water quality has severely depleted suitable American shad spawning habitat. Shad are river-specific; that is, each major river along the Atlantic coast appears to have a discrete spawning stock. Presently, the Connecticut, Hudson, and Delaware Rivers are the primary systems which support viable American shad stocks. Spawning can occur as early as November in southern states and as late as July in New England and Canada. Depending on their geographical location, shad may spawn once and die, or they may survive to make several spawning runs per lifetime. "Repeat" spawning in American shad differs according to latitude. Shad that spawn in more northerly rivers may survive to spawn again; however, most American shad native to rivers south of Cape Fear, North Carolina, die after spawning.

Spawning American shad females (ages 5 and 6) broadcast a large quantity of eggs (30,000 - 600,000) into the water column which are fertilized by males (ages 4 and 5). Spawning usually occurs over gently sloping areas with fine gravel or sandy bottoms. After spawning, adult American shad return to the sea and migrate northward to their summer feeding grounds in the Gulf of Maine. Here, they primarily feed on krill, zooplankton and small fishes.

Fertilized eggs are carried by river currents and hatch within a few days (3-10). Larvae drift with the current until they mature into juveniles which remain in nursery areas, feeding on zooplankton and terrestrial insects. By late fall, most juvenile shad migrate to near-shore coastal wintering areas. Some juvenile shad will remain in rivers and estuaries up to a year before entering the ocean. Immature shad will remain in the ocean for three to six years before returning to spawn. Adult and immature shad overwinter along the mid-Atlantic coast, particularly from Maryland to North Carolina. With increasing water temperatures in the spring, mature American shad will migrate back to their native rivers to complete their life cycle.

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