Washington, D.C., April 12, 2008 
My daughter had just wrapped up a sleepover birthday party with some of her galpals and was leaving for another birthday party in the afternoon so I gently and quietly asked my wife if I could go fishing. I returned from a fishing trip to Cobb Island the day before, so I wasn't too hopeful but when she said 'ok' (because she was going shopping) I packed up and took off for Fletcher's Boat House to tangle with some Potomac River shad. 

It was almost noon and trying to get a rental boat on the weekend, with shad running upriver and the temperature pegged in the low 70's, was going to be impossible. However just to be on the safe side I threw the electric motor and other gear in the car along with my fishing stuff. I should have just left it at home. There was a long wait list and there was no way to get a boat. 

So instead of fishing off a boat it would be bank fishing upriver from Fletcher's. I left the 7-weight in the car and grabbed my telescoping Shimano 11' 6" medium action rod and light action spinner and headed up the trail. I usually fish from a spot on the river that most folks bypass because they think it's too shallow and also because it requires a lot of walking and trail-breaking. As I walked upstream every fishable spot along the bank was taken by pods of anglers--except mine! 
After a quick setup I began the search pattern. The tide was rising. I started deep (30-count) then worked up shallower a little at a time. After several casts I found the fish near the top. I caught one on my first cast to the upper water column. I followed that up with seven fish for seven casts. After 15 fish it slowed a bit so I tied on another color. I was using a small size 10 shad fly--red conehead, white body with flash tail so I tied on a similar one dressed in chartreuse. First cast out and it was a solid hookup. I landed three more before everything really slowed down. 
There was a long period of inactivity as the rising tide peaked. I would pick up a fish after every three to five casts. It stayed this way for awhile but when the tide began to fall the bite picked up and I hammered them for at least and hour and lost count of how many I caught. 

The catch rate was high so I began to experiment with leader length, fly size, shape and color. The results were interesting. White was the best followed by chartreuse then pink. Smaller is better. The size 10 out-fished the size 8 and 6. Flash on the tail was way better than maribou or crazy hair with tinsel. A short tail worked better than a long one. When the fish were biting, leader length and diameter doesn't seem to matter. I used one that was 2-feet long and one that was seven-feet long and I caught just as many fish with either leader as long as the color was white. Same with leader diameter. When the fish were biting hot and heavy, I used 4-pound to 12-pound test and it didn't bother the shad a bit. 

EQUIPMENT: I used an 11' 6" Shimano graphite telescoping rod (not available at stores in the USA). The upper third of the rod has a slow to medium action while the lower sections are relatively stiff so you can really handle powerful fish without breaking light leaders. This is not like those cheap telescoping rods you find at Sports Authority or BassPro. 

DIRECTIONS: Fletcher’s Boat House is located on the Potomac River along the C & O Canal National Historical Park, between Chain Bridge and Key Bridge at 4940 Canal Road, NW, Washington, D.C., and is an official National Park Service seasonal concessionaire, renting row boats, canoes, kayaks and bikes. Fishing tackle and licenses are also available as well as food and drink. Park in the lower lot then walk back on the road towards the tunnel. On your left is a bridge spanning a creek. This leads to the main trail that runs parallel to the shoreline. WARNING! The water may look calm but the currents will pull you under if you fall in. Every year several anglers drown in the Potomac River. Exercise extreme caution when fishing from shore.