I launched from CS Lee on Saturday and was greeted with 15mph NNW wind. I fished the creek mouths on the way down to the Econ using my switch rod paired with a 10ft T8 sink tip and hourglass weighted fly. The St Johns River is still outside its banks and the wind was not helping that one bit. Even with the sink tip and heavy fly, the swing was quick downstream and the high water made it difficult to reach the main channel in most places. I made my way up to a point that juts out in to the river on the east bank before reaching the Econ. With the banks submerged, I found myself wading in waste high water with no room for a backcast. This is really where the switch rod shines, as it allows me to make waterborn casts rather than false cast. Fishing the east bank with a NNW wind means my casts were off of my weak side, but I still managed 40-50 feet and then could throw some line in to the mends. Note to self, you really need to practice your off hand casting more. 🙂 I managed one nice shad in about 45 minutes of fishing. The cold water and wind finally got the better of me as I decided one shad an hour was not worth freezing my butt off over. Time for a change of scenery.
I have grown bored of fishing the same old spots for little action this year and decided to do some shad fishing on the Econ River instead. I started up the river at about 11:15am and found that, even though the St. Johns River was outside its banks, the Econ was well within its banks. I decided to paddle to the Culpepper Bend, as I know I can generally make it there in about 30 minutes using Hobie pedal power. I arrived around 11:45 and I fished both the Culpepper bend and the bend following for about 45 minutes and did not find fish. The current was minimal due to the wind and raised water on the St. Johns, so I fished with a 5ft polyleader on the one hander. I have caught shad on both of those turns before, but not today.
There is another turn close to a mile upstream of Culpepper where I have caught fish before so I decided to make my way up river again. When I arrived I found the current to be dismal and decided to continue upstream for a while to see what I could find, and then fish all of the turns on my way back down river. I paddled until 1:15 and pulled off for some lunch. That is the end of the red line on the map above. While another mile of paddling upstream would have put me in prime shad fishing territory, I knew it would likely take another 30 minutes to get there and then I would only have a short time to fish before having to turn around and make the journey home. I stopped and fished most of the turns with decent current on the way back down river with no luck. This is probably because I really did not spend more than 20 minutes or so at each stop, but, I figured they were either there in numbers and I would hook up, or it was as slow as it was back on the St. Johns and I would not.
This was the furthest up the Econlockhatchee River that I have ever ventured. I now know that I am quite capable of the long paddle to make it to the most fruitful water, but, I would say I would need to make shad fishing on the Econ River the plan, skip fishing on the St. Johns River, and head upstream earlier in the morning. My guess would be a 2.5-3 hour long paddle to make it, so an early start would make sense. Figure 3 hours upstream, 4-5 hours of fishing, and 2-2.5 hours back downstream and a total of about 11 miles. Its doable, but a long day for sure.
Note: I did talk to a couple of guys in a canoe that said they saw shad washing like crazy on the Econ about 2-3 miles upstream of Culpepper. Looking at the maps, I would say that would be right where the prime fishing typically is. On my way back down river I also talked to some folks that spent most of their day lower on the Econ than Culpepper and they said they managed six shad between the two of them all day. Slow fishing for sure.