Potomac River, Washington, DC, March 30, 2012
Color, size and presentation is everything. It’s the difference between a stellar day on the water or one that seems to drag on and on. I brought my co-worker, Glenn, out to Fletcher’s Cove to fly fish the shad run and after tying on a size 6 fly pattern that I used successfully last week, I secretly hoped that it was still the fly the fish wanted or else it was going to be a very long day.

We arrived at the Fletcher’s parking lot a little past 5:30am. I didn’t want to get caught when Canal Road switched to one way traffic for the morning rush hour because trying to drive backwards down the narrow lane leading to the lower parking lot, in the dark, didn’t appeal to me. And I’m sure Glenn felt the same way.

There weren’t many people around, in fact we were the first to arrive. We unloaded our gear and got it squared away on a boat with a good anchor line and a decent rock then went to stand in line at the bait shack to check out a boat.

We anchored just off the main current seam. A cold snap was making its way through the metro D.C. area and the morning temperature was a chilly 38 degrees. The water was flowing a bit faster than last week and it had a brownish tinge from the rainstorms that swept through our area a few days ago. There was also a lot of debris in the water--tree branches, plastic shopping bags and other trash washed into the Potomac by the rain.
After setting Glenn up with a fly I gave him some brief instructions as to where to cast and how fast to strip the fly then turned to getting myself organized. Before I could finish tying on a fly, Glenn had a decent fish on his line. it put up a good fight and I saw that it was a fat female Hickory shad when it made a run past the rowboat. Glenn had the leader in his hand when the fish flipped the hook. However, according to IGFA rules, if you touch the leader it is considered a caught fish. Good enough for me.

The fishing wasn’t on fire like the previous week but the action was pretty steady. Glenn had them dialed in and was hooking a shad on every third or fourth cast. I caught a few then switched to experimenting with different fly sizes, colors and patterns. I used Glenn as the control since he continued to pull in fish on the same pattern. Some of the other colors worked well, just not as well as the fly Glenn was using. Downsizing the fly drew a few hits but the Hicks and Americans weren’t interested when I went up one or two sizes. I would switch to the same fly Glenn was using and poach his area when he was busy fighting a shad. If I was lucky, I could get one or two shad before he brought his own fish to hand and was ready to begin casting again.

We had several slow periods when the fishing tapered off and you began to wonder if that was it for the day. You could see other anglers pull up their rock and begin searching for a new place to fish however I felt we had a pretty decent spot so we stayed. Fishing eventually picked up again and although we did not pile up huge numbers, the action was good and we were catching fish. You really can’t complain about that.
Just before noon Glenn brought another hard-fighting shad to the side of the boat and released it back into the brown water of the Potomac River. He reeled up his line then looked at me and said he was done. “Always end on a high note,” he said. Good advice. I made another cast or two and hooked a fish. After releasing it I thought about what he said then reeled up and snipped off the fly. It was time to go home.

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, a white stone building, on your left.

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 $22 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 Washington 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 6am 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 then make that turn into Fletcher's. But it’s a killer turn because that ramp is the only road into and out of the Boathouse parking lot and it faces towards Key Bridge. Some will back down the ramp! 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.