Potomac River, Washington, DC, May 1, 2009
The volume of water on the Potomac fell to a managable level and the folks at
Fletcher's Boat House were again renting their rowboats to anglers chasing shad. With the arrival of warmer weather Hickory shad and American shad are running up the Potomac River to Chain Bridge.

I arrived at Fletcher's Cove a bit after 5:30am and Paula (aka Dock Lady) was busily collecting drivers licenses (when you return the boat you claim your license at the concession stand and pay for the boat rental) and handing out oars and life vests. She loudly warned everyone to wear the life jackets because after the
tragedy on the water last week when and 11-yar-old boy drowned after falling in the water near Chain Bridge, DC police and the game wardens were kicking butt, taking names and handing out citations if you didn't have your life jacket on while on the water. The DC police have a mobile headquarters set up in the upper parking lot above the cove and several of their boats and a helicopter were slowly cruising up and down the Potomac searching for the body throughout the day.

The weather was cool with a low overcast and sporadic rain showers. Great shad fishing weather. I decided to fish above the cove at a spot Jin and I usually fish around this time of the season. The current wasn't as strong once you passed the first beach so I slowly zig-zagged up river using the sonar to check out the fish population and bottom features. The Potomac is deep here but there is a an area where there's a sudden change in depth--it goes from 72 feet to 32 feet along a narrow slot that's about 30 feet long. If you anchor the boat just right, you can throw your line into the current and it will give you the perfect swing along the face of the drop-off and if the fishing is hot you'll pick up shad on just about every cast.
A few seconds after securing the anchor line I had the line in the water with a cone head white shad fly as the main and a smaller pink fly as the trailer. On the second cast there was a sudden bump and a fish was on. After that it was steady action throughout the day. The hot color was pink. At the height of the action it was a fish on every cast and swing. The sweet spot was about 30 feet behind the boat. I would cast up current, let the line sink and as it began to go tight but still pointing into the current begin a fairly fast strip. After four or five pulls there would be a fish on the end of the line. It was one of those days that you stop counting after passing 20 fish.

I hated to leave this spot but I had to be home to pick up my daughter so with about an hour left I reluctantly pulled anchor and motored back down towards Fletcher's. Most of the fleet was stretched out along the seam that runs in front of the cove and it looked pretty crowded. I still had a little time to fish so I decided to drop anchor just past a small stream that flows into the river from the Virginia side. The water was really calm here with very little current. I used a pink conehead fly and caught a fish on the first cast. And the second cast. And the third cast. But after that things settled down and I was picking up a fish after every five to seven casts until it was
really time for me to leave. It was tough pulling up that anchor and it wasn't because it was heavy. It had been a great day.
EQUIPMENT: I used a 7-weight rod and a Type VII density-compensated (sinks faster at the front to prevent line sag) 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 7am. 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 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. Once it's one way you must come down Canal Road via Chain Bridge in the morning and trying to make the 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.