Potomac River, Washington, DC, May 22, 2009
After a week of heavy rain washed out a good portion of the annual shad run I decided to take one last shot at Fletcher's. I arrived around 5:30am and noticed that there wasn't the usual bustle of people loading boats amid the bellowing of dock boss Paula Smith. Instead it was myself, two other anglers and and employee of Fletcher's who was handing out life jackets and oars. I offered up my driver's license to secure a boat but he pronounced me to be a trustworthy fellow who would not skip out without paying for the rental and declined to take the license so I loaded up and headed upstream towards Chain Bridge.

The water was the color of double-creamed coffee but the current was not ripping so the electric
trolling motor easily pushed me upriver to the secret spot I fished before the storm shortened the fishing season. Lots of fish were marked on the portable sonar unit but most of the targets were small perch with shad and striped bass mixed in. There were also large catfish ambushing baitfish, charging them from below and the sound of their huge splashes as they slapped back into the water after launching themselves into the air echoed off the slate canyon walls above First Beach.

The tide was slowly falling as I got my Type VII density-compensated fast sink line into the current and lined up in the proper spot. After ten passes and no fish I knew this was going to be a very long day. After working through the various colors and sizes of shad flies I was just about ready to haul anchor and try another spot when I finally caught something. So I changed my plan and stuck around for another hour and pulled in a very small perch who looked like he'd choke to death on the size 8 fly he inhaled.
I was watching most of the Fletcher's fleet strung out below me along the current seam just outside the cove. I noticed that the boats began pulling anchor and moving around, which meant fishing wasn't so hot downstream either. Severla of the boats began moving upriver towards my position so I figured it was time to try another spot and pulled anchor.

I fished at several locations outside the cove but all of it was slow. Other anglers weren't faring any better and I saw only a few fish pulled in here and there. Some people were even taking a nap in their boats while the lines soaked in the current.

After a few more hours of fishing I called it a day and headed in. The Dock Lady was at her station and we talked about the season and said our goodbyes. This was going to be her last weekend working at Fletcher's for the year. The shad season was over and what she calls "the cheap college help" was coming out to run Fletcher's Cove dock operations for the summer while she returned to foraging in the woods.

EQUIPMENT: I used a 5-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 (
WARNING: the tunnel is only 7-feet tall). 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.