Fletcher’s Cove, Potomac River, Washington, D.C., May 8, 2021
After some heavy showers hammered our area over the past week, I kept a close watch on the river gauge as it slowly crept up toward the no-rowboat-rental level which is 5 feet. Luckily it peaked around 4.80 Friday evening so I told BassMaster to meet me at the dock at Fletcher’s Cove on the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. to try fly fishing for Hickory and American shad.

It was an overcast day and it began to drizzle a bit as we dropped the rock on a seam just outside the bubble line. The water looked OK…I expected worse due to the rainstorms. It was running high and fariry fast, but it wasn’t that bad. Yet.

BassMaster hooked the first fish about 20 minutes in and added a few more shortly after. It took me almost 45 minutes to get my first fish, but I quickly caught up on the count. These were all Hickories and they weren’t holding at any specific depth. We would catch some as soon as the fly hit the water or dredging down deep, right on the bottom. When a school would enter the fishing zone near our boat, we would quickly get a few. But just as quickly they would disappear and it was back to casting and stripping the sinking lines as we waited for another bite.

We moved around a lot. Usually, if we find a productive spot, we will sit there all day. Never leave fish to find fish. But the bite was so slow, that I pulled the rock frequently to search for a better spot.

Overcast and rain dominated the day. Sometimes it was a light mist. Other times it came down strong. The temperature was fairly cool all day and I was quite comfortable wearing several layers.

Towards the middle of the day the water became much dirtier, with more debris and scum floating in the layers. Fishing remained pretty slow.

Around 4:30pm we decided to call it a day. Together we landed about 40 fish, majority were Hickory shad but with other Potomac species mixed in (catfish, perch, herring, etc.). The season seemed to be winding down, but considering the water clarity, flow, and overall weather conditions, I don’t think the shad run is over yet.

EQUIPMENT: We use density-compensated full sink line, and flies in size 2 to 8 in various colors.

DIRECTIONS: Fletcher's Boat House is located on the Potomac River in Washington, DC, two miles north of Key Bridge and one mile south of Chain Bridge, at the intersection of Reservoir Road and Canal Road. You will know you have reached the entrance to Fletcher's when you see a traffic signal and the Abner Cloud House, a white stone building, which is next to the canal and will appear on your left if you approach the area from Key Bridge/Georgetown, or on your right from Chain Bridge.

WARNING: The entrance to Fletcher’s Cove is a very narrow entry/exit ramp that can accommodate only ONE car at a time so be very careful. It is VERY difficult to negotiate this ramp if you approach Fletcher’s Cove via Chain Bridge because it faces Key Bridge so you have to negotiate a difficult U-turn to enter. Park in the upper lot on your left or go through the tiny tunnel (clearance is 7 feet) to the lower parking lot and dock access.
During shad season the tackle shack opens at 6am. Rowboat rental is by reservation only via the
Boating In DC website, however there might be a few available for walkup rental. Rental fees are $28 for ONE HOUR, $56 for TWO HOURS, and $112 for FOUR HOURS. A late return fee is $25 and you might be placed on a “do not rent” list. Prices are subject to change.
You also need a D.C. fishing license which is $10 for D.C. residents and $13 for non-residents.

WARNING ON WEEKDAYS: Both lanes of Canal Road become ONE WAY into and out of the District during morning and evening rush hour during the weekdays. If you're hitting Fletcher's in the morning and following the route above you have until 5:30am to get there. If you miss this window you must wait until 10:20am because all traffic on Canal Road is one way into the city. Canal Road becomes one way going towards Chain Bridge from 2:30 to 7pm.