Washington, DC, April 3, 2009040309shad001

The weather reports all said it was going to be an absolutely miserable day, with fog, heavy rain and thunderstorms. A perfect day to scout the Potomac River for shad.

I arrived at
Fletcher's Boat House around 5:30am to beat the incoming DC traffic. Canal Road switches to one way only from 6am so DC can deal with rush hour traffic and since Fletcher's only has one entrance, it's safer to arrive early rather than arrive late and attempt to back down the narrow driveway or try to thread your way through two lanes of fast moving traffic to reach the entrance from Reservoir Road.

The boat rental/tackle shop opened around 6am and after picking up my DC fishing license I was soon anchored off the entrance of Fletcher's Cove casting for shad. This is still early in the season and other reports said the bite was slow and after an hour I was ready to agree. I started out with a
chartreuse shad fly and cycled through white and pink as the day wore on. There was no action at all. And the rain continued to pound down.
Fish and game biologist doing electro-sampling near Chain Bridge. The gizmos hanging off the arms on the bow are the electrical contacts. Drop those into the water, flip a switch and stunned fish float to the surface where they're netted, weighed, measured and returned to the river.

Around 9:30am we were forced off the water by an approaching thunderstorm. Lightning flickered across the sky and being in a boat waving 9-feet of graphite while this is going on around you is not a good idea. There were only two other anglers on the water besides myself and we all huddled under the eaves of the tackle shack and waited for the storm to pass. During this time we swapped fishing notes and they had no better luck than what I was having. One guy who was using a spinner and shad darts said he pulled in to Hickories using a pink dart and I filed that bit on info away for later use.

The rain soon let up and we were soon back on the water. I tied on a pink shad fly with flash and about three minutes later I had a strike and a decent hickory shad was on the line. Four casts later another strike but this one was much bigger and it made several high jumps before shaking the hook next to the boat. But the bite died down as the sun began to peek out from the heavy overcast. Other anglers began appearing on the water and after another hour of no bites I decided to hang up the rod for today and head for home.
EQUIPMENT: I used a 7 weight rod with a Type V density compensated full sink line.

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 the Abner Cloud House, an old white stone building, which is next to the canal.

From 66 East, take the Rosslyn exit to Key Bridge. Stay in the left lane. Take a left onto Canal Road after crossing over Key Bridge. Stay in the left lane and turn left on Canal Road, and continue until you see the Abner Cloud House on your left. That narrow ramp is the entrance to Fletcher's. Go down the ramp and either park in the upper lot or go through the tunnel to the lower parking lot and dock access. During shad season the boat rental office opens at 6:30am. Boat rental fee is $20 for the day. You need a DC fishing license ($10 DC residents. $13 non-resident) to fish and Fletcher's sells this at the rental kiosk along with fishing equipment, bait, hot dogs, drinks and ice cream.

WARNING: Both lanes of Canal Road become ONE WAY into and out of DC during morning and evening rush hour. 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 it you must wait until 10:20am. Once it's one way you must come down Canal Road via Chain Bridge way and trying to make that turn into Fletcher's from that direction is a killer because that ramp is the only road into and out of the Boathouse parking lot and it faces towards Key Bridge. Canal Road becomes one way going towards Chain Bridge from 2:30 to 7pm, so you have to hang a sharp U-turn when you leave.