Potomac River, Washington, DC, April 20, 2012
It was a morning that ended in crushing disbelief.

The shad run on the Potomac River outside Fletcher’s Cove was still on. With lots of anglers but a limited number of boats I pulled into the parking lot around 5:30am, selected a boat with a good rock, then quickly tossed in a trolling motor, battery, lifejacket waders and equipment box containing a spare anchor, rod holders, water and other gear that may or may not be needed for a day on the water. Another boat had just pulled out of Fletcher’s Cove and was slowly disappearing into the fog that was drifting over the Potomac River.

I moved the car to the parking lot and began gearing up. I strapped on my gear bag then removed the reel from the case and reached for the rod tube. I quickly unscrewed the cap and as I reached forward to pull the cloth bag containing a 7 weight fly rod out I froze. I leaned forward, and looked carefully. I suddenly felt very cold and it had nothing to do with the temperature. The rod tube was empty. Then I remembered--I took the rod to the bathroom to wash off all the Potomac River scum that had accumulated on the rod and grip after
last week’s trip. The 7 weight was in its rod bag. At home. In the closet.

I briefly entertained the thought of handline fishing for shad but quickly shelved that idea. I drove back to the dock and unloaded the trolling motor, battery, lifejacket waders and equipment box containing a spare anchor, rod holders, water and other gear that will not be used today. I stopped to watch as other anglers arrived and the cycle of loading boats began. After a few minutes I drove through the Hobbit tunnel and left Fletcher’s Cove behind. Rush hour traffic was light leaving the city and in 25 minutes I arrived home.

I was in the kitchen in front of the computer drinking a cup of coffee when my dear daughter entered.

“I’ll take you to school today.” I said.

“I thought you were going fishing?” she asked. I told her what happened at Fletcher’s.

“You got up at 4:30 to go fishing and left your rod at home? That’s pretty dumb,” she said. “Can we go to school now?”

I got no sympathy.

EQUIPMENT: I thought I had a 7 weight fly rod in the rod tube. I didn’t.

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. The Hobbit tunnel leading to the lower parking lot is 7 feet high!

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.

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.