I’M NOT MUCH of a fish counter, apart from in terms of false albacore—and even then, the motion can get so loopy that I overlook if I’ve landed 4 and misplaced three or vice versa or some equation that solely approximates that. After which I overlook that I’m attempting to maintain rely within the first place as a result of I’m attempting to maintain the boat within the fish and so they don’t significantly respect my efforts. It’s most likely simply nearly as good that I lose monitor.

However the shad runs within the mid-Atlantic coastal plain this yr have been epic, and shad-fishing Fb teams have been awash in experiences and photographs of eye-popping totals. I’ve by no means seen so many tailgates groaning with hickory shad. Breathless accounts have been flooding in for the final 10 days. One angler claimed his boat had introduced 387 hickory shad over the gunwales in a single day.

So, as I launched into the river yesterday, I believed, Perhaps I’ll attempt to rely fish as we speak. Simply to see. Only for funsies. There’s no actual competitors right here. After which I caught two on two casts whereas drifting midstream, ready for my buddy Mike to park the truck and trailer. And we have been off to the races.

The 2023 shad run was quick and livid. T. Edward Nickens

Gamefish On

Our first anchor drop was a doozy: We picked up 40 fish within the swirling vortexes of water behind a line of stout boulders. They have been massive hickory shad 20 inches lengthy, most with roe-swollen bellies that made them appear to be you’d carved a soccer out of opal. I landed 25, whereas Mike had 15. Nevertheless it wasn’t a contest, simply an unscientific ballot. I watched an osprey fly overhead with a fish in its talons, misplaced within the beautiful begin to the day.

“However you probably did have that head-start on me, after I was parking the truck,” Mike stated. “It is best to most likely issue that in.”

“Oh, that?” I countered. “You realize this isn’t a contest. We’re simply counting for enjoyable, proper?”

Mike despatched one other forged throughout the primary river circulate, and it was a clean supply, with a decent loop—not a straightforward feat with a fly rod and a 300-grain sinking line. Uh-oh, I believed. I might need poked the mistaken bear.  

Subsequent up we anchored in a present seam beneath a protracted, straightforward bend within the river. A stream’s velocity will increase on the skin of bends, making a transition zone between gradual water and quick because the water course straightens. It took a few anchor units to carry, however as soon as we have been in place, the fish saved coming. Mike and I regarded each upstream and down. There have been bent rods in all places.

“Are you able to think about what number of fish are on this river at one time,” Mike stated.

“It have to be like these underwater cameras in rivers within the Pacific Northwest,” I replied, “with the fish crammed collectively like, uh, sardines.”

Mike laughed, then went quiet for a couple of minutes.

“What you as much as?” he requested casually, as if it simply occurred to him that we have been counting fish.


“What? Are you positive you haven’t jumped forward one or two?”        

“Whoa! Are you accusing me of dishonest?”

I might need overplayed the righteous indignation. To be trustworthy, I might need been one forward, but it surely was simply as possible that I used to be one behind. What was clear was that Mike puzzled if my fish counting hadn’t been contaminated by the general rise in inflation nowadays.

So I caught one other one. As I performed the fish, I moved my rod tip a foot over Mike’s ball cap, so the leaping, jerking fly line smacked him across the again of the top a bit.

“That makes 38!” I hollered. “What a tremendous day!”

The Huge 5-0

And it was, however solely partly due to the catch price. Blue skies and temperatures within the higher 70s had one thing to do with it. The greening timber alongside the riverbank helped. I’ll even posit that the mussel shells glittering like confetti on the mud flats—leftovers from a raccoon picnic—helped push the day into red-letter territory. At fish quantity 49, I figured the river had given me sufficient. “Alright,” I stated. “As soon as I hit 50, that’s it. Catch any extra, and I’m going to start out feeling grasping.”

After all, the fish gods have been listening, so I misplaced three stud shad in a row, the hook pulling free every time after they’d surged and swirled, and two even jumped. I’d already counted them in my head.

Serves me proper.

However the final fish I babied to the boat. I slipped the hook out and watched the shad vanish within the water. “Get on the market,” I stated. I beginning reeling in line.

For Mike, it was like calling the sport when his staff was behind.  He was inside a half dozen shy of fifty himself. “Oh, come on,” he stated. “I by no means checked out you as a quitter.”

“OK,“ I replied. “Only one extra.” Which, in terms of fishing, is actually the one quantity I care about.

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