Intent on getting my first shad of the season, I dropped the kayak in at CS Lee this morning… a little later than I intended. A mild ear ache/ blockage left me irrigating my ear when I should have been packing up. I put my feet in the water around 9:30am and was quickly greeted with 20mph wind… not a good sign. I decided to fish the creek mouths and make my way upstream to the Econ River to see if I could find any shad. The wind was blowing from the south, and the current on the St. Johns River picks up with a south wind, so this was going to get interesting.
I received an awesome 7ft, 5wt fiberglass fly rod as a present for Christmas this year and I was itching to fish with it. I paired the rod with a 5wt Wulff Ambush Fly Line but with the wind, this was not the optimal choice on this day. I quickly shed the 5wt single hand rod for my 6wt switch rod, which was rigged with a Skagit head, an intermediate tip and 5/32 hourglass fly. The current was too brisk at my first spot for this setup, so a switched tips to a T8. I was getting down to the bottom (odd muscle here and there) but did not hook up with a shad. I fished each of my favorite creek mouths for 30 minutes or so a piece with a heavy tip and fly, but did not hook up.
I continued upstream on the St. Johns River and got a real workout as the wind blew the water downstream at an accelerated rate. I arrived at the mouth of the Econ around 11:30am and found a fellow kayaker along with a gent on a flats boat. I fished the switch and the 5wt for another hour without much luck. I noticed panfish and bass hitting bait near top water and decided to switch tactics. If shad were not there, I at least needed to get the skunk off of me. I threw a popper-dropper for a while with the 5wt and hooked up several times and noticed fish were regurgitating little silver minnows with black tails. The bait were only the size of the last knuckle on your pinky.
I moved downstream where I noticed fish breaking surface. The wind died down so I decided to attach a floating tip to the switch rod and tied on a #6 Crazy Charlie with a tan wing and gold flash, which seemed a good match in size and weight to the small bait fish I saw fish feeding on. I fished the fly just subsurface and had terrific success and nonstop action from about 2:00pm to 4:00pm. I caught bluegill, bass, redbreast, gar, crappie and finally a hickory shad, the first shad of the season. I later switched to the 5wt fiberglass rod again and hooked up with a shad only to lose it. However, I ended up landing one on the new fiberglass rod shortly after. I ended up landing 40+ fish today (albeit most of them small,) which is a real win in my book in an el Niño December.
Here is a video from later in the day…
Weather Conditions for the day can be found HERE.