Thursday, December 26, 2013

More Shad-style Fly Patterns

I think I have posted about shad-imitating flies previously.  And some of these flies below I have posted pictures of before.  But, I keep tying and testing, looking for a fly that will imitate the size, color, and shape of a small Gizzard Shad that is easy to tie, the fish like, and has good action in the water.

I plan to fish these primarily for White Bass and Wipers (Hybrids) in a local river and reservoir.  Hopefully the local Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, and Channel Catfish will strike them as well.

This year (2013), I had REALLY good success on White Bass and Wipers using a gray-over-white Clouser Deep Minnow fly pattern.

It caught White Bass and Wipers in both lakes and rivers.  Full disclosure, the river fish were not in the current, but were caught in a large slackwater area immedately adjacent to the main channel.   Clousers are fairly fast and easy to tie, and I should have no reason not to just stick with them. My only issue is that gamefish that are accustomed to chasing and eating shad might prefer a baitfish imitation that exhibits the deeper profile of a shad.  Clousers have a relatively slim profile.  Obviously the fish DO like Clousers a lot, so I know I can always fall back on them at any time.

I want a shad imitation that casts easily.
It must exhibit excellent motion in the water.
It must have the deeper-bodied shape of a shad.
It would preferably have a slim lateral profile like a shad (meaning its narrow or sort of flat from side-to-side when viewed head-on or from the top or bottom).
It should have some fish-attracting flash in it.
It would be preferable of the head was such that it pushed water, giving off a hydrosonic signature that a fish's lateral line could easily detect in water that has low clarity, or in the dark.
Since I want these for mainly for White Bass & Wipers, overall fly length should be approximately 2"-3".

I've tied and tested the following in the home bathroom sink to see how the behaved in the water.

Simple Shad
The tying instructions for this can be found on Joe Cornwall's Flyfish Ohio website.  He uses them effectively for Wipers and Striped Bass in the Ohio River system.
 The shape is good.  They aren't difficult to tie.  In fact, they look GREAT.  I showed a handful of shad-imitating flies to my wife, and these were the ones she like the best.  I took this picture after I had sink-tested them, and then let them dry out again.  When freshly tied, the material is much less streamlined.  The top one is tied with Arctic Fox as a body material, and the bottom one was tied using wool.
My take is that these would be PERFECT on a sinking or sink-tip line.  They did not seem to want to sink very fast at all, even after being thoroughly wetted.  However, I usually use a floating fly line, so if I want the fly to reach 2-4' deep or more, I would need to weight them with wraps of non-lead wire.
Great-looking pattern, probably needs some tweaking to suit my situation.

Modified Surf Candy
The Surf Candy is where I got this idea.  I'm not sure if its been done like this before...probably has.  Consider the title of this section to be a description of the fly rather than the actual name of the fly.
I tied all but one with Craft Fur tails, since Craft fur has very good action in the water.  The other has a marabou tail.
Wire wraps on the hook shank can help this one sink faster, but even without it sinks fairly well.  It has a nice shape.  Not as deep-bodied as I'd like, but it should work really well for White Bass when a fast-moving pattern is needed.  And White Bass DO love a fast-moving pattern!

EP Minnow
These aren't super-fast to tie, but they are reasonably easy.  The body shape can be tied and trimmed to a very realistic shad shape.
The EP material holds its shape well, but doesn't have good movement in the water.  The flash materials used in the tail can provide the illusion of movement.  They sink fairly well when tied on an unweighted saltwater-style hook, and sink really well with a wire-wrapped hookshank.  Markers can be used to add color to the back, gills, or to add stripes, etc.  Others have told me they LOVE this fly for White Bass and Wipers when fishing in current below dams.  The laterally compressed design darts around well in current.

Variant:  Hoping for more movement in the water, I tied the following one up with a marabou tail (and flash, of course).

One website I'd seen (but can't recall where) talked about flyfishing somewhere well south of maybe southern Missouri or Arkansas, for example.  Forgive me, but I can't recall the name of this fly pattern, but apparently it is a local favorite there for white bass:
Might be a great fly to for me to try locally, especially when the shad are small, or when the White Bass are chasing river shiners.  In general, it doesn't really have the shad shape I was looking for.

Casey Smartt's Meaty Minnow
These are easy to tie, and have pretty much all the characteristics I'm hoping for.  I have seen and tied these before...haven't really used them yet (other than to sink-test).  I really need to put these in front of some fish!
Casey's tying instructions can be found on his website.  The key is in the head.  Casey ties his heads with craft fur in a dubbing loop.  Somewhere (and again, I can't recall where) I had seen a similar-looking fly that did not use a dubbing loop.  After tying in the craft fur and flash for the tail, you just take the front ends of the craft fur tied in for the back and belly and fold it back over the body.  You then put some thread wraps over the front of the fold to keep the head fibers pointed back.  Makes for a compact head, and can be trimmed to shape as needed.  I'm not saying its a better design than Casey's dubbing loop heads.  It is quicker and easier to tie, however.  This folding-back method is how the flies above were tied.

So, they sink well, and wire wraps around the hookshank can be added before tying the rest of the fly if a faster sink rate is desired.  The fish's profile shape is excellent.  There's some flash in the tail, and the Craft Fur gives good action.  The dense head holds its shape in the water yet still feels soft and realistic to the fish. I really like this design so far, and because they are so easy to tie, they may become a favorite if they catch fish as well as I hope.  I WILL be tying more and putting them in front of fish in the coming open water season of 2014!

This is a comparison of the Simple Shad (top 2), and the Meaty Minnows (bottom 2)

Edit 2-4-2014
I could have started a new post with these, but decided maybe they'd be better just added to this one...easier to find all these shad patterns in one place!
Woolhead Minnows:  They really feel great, I put some wire wraps around the hook shank for weight on one, and used dumbell eyes for the other.  They could probably be used without weight...DO make sure to squeeze out any air bubbles once you've gotten them wet to help them sink properly.

First attempt at using SF Flash Blend fibers for a minnow pattern.  I really DO like the translucence, flash, and lightweightedness of these:

And here's using the SF Flash Blend fibers in Johnny King's V-Style tying method in the Kinky Muddler (this one tied with Arctic Fox for the tail):

I'm still really liking this...I hope the fish will too:

I made these with a couple different types of eyelash yarns:

And...the well-stocked (overstocked?) Cliff's Bugger Barn box:

Edit 2-27-2014:
I was trying to duplicate a shad fly I had seen in a photo on another blog.  There was no name or description given of the fly, so I just had to try to duplicate the fly based on what I could see.  In the following image, you can see the top image does not look much like a shad/baitfish.  So I wetted it in a sinkful of water.  The middle image is the wetted fly.  That's more like it!  But in the water, the bucktail sort of spreads out like the dry version.   In the bottom image, I used Clear Cure Goo Hydro on the back and tail to "fix" the baitfish shape.  The result is exactly what I was hoping for!


  1. I am sure all will do well! I am reminded that Zimmerman's famous backstabber is tied by him to imitate shad as well. I am working on tying various color combos of that fly and aim to do that scheme as well. It would be easy to add flash to and once you get the hang of it it is really an easy tie.


  2. I am reminded that Jay Zimmerman's backstabber is tied in a shad scheme as well as other combinations. I've been working on improving tying that fly and tying his shad type as well. Yours will all fly!


  3. Thanks for the heads-up, Gregg! I was not aware of the shad color backstabber, so I looked it up. It DOES look really good for carp! My best carp pattern this year had white rabbit fur tail, pearl estaz body, and a pink beadhead on a #8 hook! I've watched carp chase schools of shad...they love 'em when they can catch 'em!

  4. Hi, Dave. Happy Holidays to you and your family. Really enjoyed this post. I am planning on fishing a local lake that has some good White Bass fishing and am always looking for new patterns. Some great suggestions here!

  5. Thanks, Mel! I look forward to hearing about your experiences with your local White Bass. Maybe I'm overthinking this, and a simple beadhead or similarly weighted white Woolly Bugger might work just fine? :)

  6. Nice looking patterns I've always had luck on Hybrids with clousers but gonna have to give a few of these a shot!

    1. I'd love to hear how you do, Zach! You're right...Its hard to go wrong with a Clouser for Hybrids/Wipers.