Washington, DC, April 11, 2009
It was pouring when I got up around 4:30am but Jin was driving down from Philadelphia to meet me at
Fletcher's Boat House to fish the annual shad run on the Potomac River so a little bit of bad weather wasn't going to stop us.

When the shad are running you have to get to Fletcher's Cove as early as possible to reserve a boat. They only have a limited number for rent and once they're gone, you're out of luck until someone gets tired of hauling in shad and decides to give up the boat for the day. Usually the boats are gone by 7am but when I arrived I only saw three people parked on the seam just outside the cove. The nasty, cold weather had weeded out the fair weather anglers from the truely hard core fishers.

Jin was due in around 9am and since it was only 5:30am I geared up the boat with an electric trolling motor, rod holders and a fish finder sonar and headed out to check on the fishing. I parked on the outer edge of the seam and began fishing with a hot pink shad fly with flash. I had no action for the first 30 minutes then I felt the familiar tug and it was fish on. It wasn't a very big Hickory, but it put up a great fight. Over the next few hours I boated about three more Hicks and lost an equal number after a brief fight. Jin arrived at the dock so I pulled anchor and headed in to pick him up.
We anchored just outside the fast water and began fishing. After a few casts and a couple of temporary pulls Jin hooked up and boated his first shad of the season. With the first fish down it was time to get serious and pound some shad. The rain continued to fall and we saw other people give up and go home. I can't help but wonder why people would come out to fish in 50-degree weather, wind and rain wearing shorts, t-shirt, jeans and a plastic bag or a very light windbreaker. The dock lady told me later that most of the people were catching shad but gave up because they were too wet and cold.

It was obvious that shad were coming up river in schools. Action would be slow for awhile then suddenly we'd get lots of strikes and the bite would be hot. Then suddenly it would stop. However the one factor that helped us boat fish was to get the fly deep and on the bottom and use a slow strip as you retrieved the line.

We broke for lunch and a bathroom break then resumed chasing shad schools across Fletcher's Cove. We watched a guy on a kayak using a spinning rig pull in a shad on just about every other cast. This turned out to be 'Tracker12' , a
Tidalfish.com member. Steve Rehner, another Tidalfisher, said he "saw a few carp porpoising around and occasionally the cormorants would mass up on the water and follow bait schools. That was really nice. A new sight for me was having a boat anchor near us & one of the fisher persons was a cross-dresser in full regalia (blouse and miniskirt). The man-legs were the give away. Gave him and "her" a few fishing tips and they actually started to catch a few. Urban fishing at its finest!"
EQUIPMENT: We used fast action 5 and 6- weight rods with full sink or sink tip lines.

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 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 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.