Fletcher’s Cove, Potomac River, Washington, D.C., May 15, 2021
A Longnose Gar (Lepisosteus osseus) at the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News, Va., on Dec. 30, 2018. Photo: Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program

I knew it wasn’t going to turn out well, but I had to try.

As I motored out of Fletcher’s Cove on the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. on a dreary and overcast day, I kept telling myself to think positive thoughts and to fish hard because against my better judgement, I was hoping to extend my shad season for at least one more weekend.

As soon as I dropped the rock and secured the boat a very rare visitor swam up to the transom. I was stretching out the
Orvis Depth Charge line when I saw a grey shape swim up to the rowboat and hover about a foot below the surface, three feet behind the trolling motor. It was a Longnose Gar. It hung there, using the hub as protection from the current, and lazily finned back and forth for about five minutes before it dropped back into the depths.

I began fishing, using the colors and sizes that had worked throughout the season. I worked the water column hard, searching for some shad stragglers, but after almost two hours with no bite I decided to move further downstream.

Changing location had no effect on the shad fishing. No bites. Zero. I did get hung up on the bottom a few times when I decided to give the fly a really long and deep soak and all I got for the effort was a few less flies in the box.

I moved to other locations that usually produced shad. However this time I caught catfish, which did not strike and fight like Hickories or Americans and always left your line in a slimy mess.

I moved further upstream, past Catfish Beach, and up to Chain Bridge. Still no shad, however folks were hauling in the catfish—really big ones from what I saw.

After almost eight hours on the water, with heavy clouds rolling in and the wind picking up, I decided to call it a day…and the end of the 2021 shad season.

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. 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.