The shad run is in high gear on the Cape Fear River, and Capt. Allen Cain of Sightfish NC is boating big numbers of American shad on fly and ultralight tackle at Lock and Dam No.1 near Rieglewood.

Cain usually guides for redfish, but when the shad are thick on their spawning run up the river, it’s time well-spent to take a break from fishing and go catching. 

“It’s not uncommon to easily have 50-60 fish days, and sometimes even over 100 fish days,” said Cain (336-613-2975).

What makes the Cape Fear shad run especially appealing is the high concentration of American shad.  The heavy hitters of the herring family, American or white shad, are like hickory shad on steroids.  

“We usually catch fish from two to four pounds, but fish five pounds and greater are not uncommon,” said Cain.

 Adding to the excitement, Cain targets these fish with ultralight spinning tackle and 4- to 5-weight fly rods. 

“They put up a great fight on 4-pound test line,” said Cain.  “On the fly rods, we use a sinking line and small brightly colored flies.” 

Cain’s color choice is chartreuse, but he also has success with pink and orange streamers and Clousers. His spinning gear is outfitted with tandem rigs comprised of two small 1/8- or 1/16-ounce jigheads, depending on current flow, that feature 1½ inch curly tail grubs.  Again, chartreuse is the preferred color.

Cain doesn’t anchor in the swift water below the dam; he uses his trolling motor to maneuver and drifts downstream. 

“I’m fishing behind rocks and current breaks, anything that makes little rapids in the water.  I’ll drift until we catch some fish and then anchor up out of the current and work that area over,” said Cain, who starts in the tailrace drifts up to half a mile.

Once in position, Cain quarters his casts upstream and lets the bait swing behind the boat. 

“Most of the fish we’re catching are deeper in the water column, so a slow and steady retrieve is best,” he said.