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The Shad Dart (Puff Head)

There are many Shad Dart (also known as the Puff Head in NC) patterns on the internet and this is my adaptation of the popular pattern. I believe the Shad Dart was modeled after the small jigs that spin fishermen use with the same name. I like to keep shad flies simple, as there is a good chance you are going to lose some of them to river bottom structure. After all, you will be fishing these flies as close to bottom as you can. When you lose flies, you want to be able to come home and tie up a mess of them quickly.

Overall, there is nothing drastically different about this version of the Shad Dart. I really only replace the tailing material with kip tail, as its size is perfect for shad flies, and it creates a wispy profile of a small baitfish or shrimp. The original version of the shad dart that I learned to tie called for a marabou tail. Marabou is typically used because when the fly is at rest, it opens naturally and creates lifelike movement.

My problem with marabou in this particular fly is that Shad Darts are typically tied on size #6 or #4 flies, and the amount of marabou that you end up attaching is too small to make any real difference in impersonating a live organism.  My other problem with it is the fly is actually rarely at rest the way I fish it (on the swing and then retrieving with a figure of eight retrieve,) so the modest amount of marabou on the tail never really has a chance to open on a pause, and then close again on a strip. What really happens, is the material compresses, then stays there, and you end up with a profile which is minimal compared to the kip tail which maintains its form in motion. Marabou is also much more susceptible to fouling the hook than kip tail, even in modest lengths, and therefore much more likely to ruin a presentation to a fish that would have otherwise taken the fly.

This version of the shad dart is my second favorite fly for shad fishing. If I am not catching fish with the Kip Tailed Clouser, the Shad Dart is my fallback pattern and has caught many shad, as well as several other species.

The Shad Dart (Puff Head) Fly Pattern:

Thread: Uni- Thread 6/0
Hook: Size #4- 8 (I prefer #6)
Eyes: Hourglass eyes 5/32 size (or bead chain eyes for a lighter fly)
Tail: Kip Tail
Body: Flashabou Accent (same color as head)
Head: Ultra chenille

My favorite color combinations are:

Orange head/ orange tail, orange head/ white tail, pink head/ pink tail, pink head/ white tail


  1. Pingback:Flies for Shad | Shad on the Fly

  2. Bill C.

    At 4:30 in the video, as he’s starting to wrap the chenille to form the head, he mentions that he’s starting to wrap the “flashabou to form a round head.” He’s using chenille to form the head, not flashabou. Also, even though the package says “Flashabou”, all of the flashabou I have ever seen is flat for it’s full length. The material he’s using, which has the appearance of little beads down its length, is typically called Crystal Flash.

    • chelenthal

      Ah yes, at 4:30 you are correct, I said Flashabou instead of chenille. I actually started to say it again at 5:10 but caught myself. LOL. It is indeed chenille and is listed that way in the recipe. While you are correct the original Flashabou was flat, this is Flashabou Accent which is essentially the same as Crystal Flash, just different brands. Either will work. Thanks for your input!

  3. Bill C.

    I also noticed that when the calf tail was tied to the hook shank, it was tied to a bare shank. Wouldn’t it be less likely to slip if even just a few wraps of thread were applied to the shank prior to attaching the calf tail? It’s how I was taught, over 35 years ago. Thanks!

    • chelenthal

      Laying down base wraps is how I learned as well. I would say over the years, I have found it unnecessary in some places though. Base wraps are very important to keep dumbell/ hourglass eyes from spinning around, but I cannot say I have any issue with losing tails, or the tail spinning around the shank on this fly. I think the key is lifting the tail to keep it on top of the shank as you wrap down. By the time you wrap back up, and wrap the body in the Flashabou Accent/ Crystal Flash, it is very secure. This is one of those “guide flies” that I sit down and tie a bunch of at one time, so ultimately, skipping the base wraps just allows me to churn more out during a tying session.

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