Potomac River, Washington, DC, April 13, 2013
That screeching sound I heard was the world coming to a standstill.

I knew it might happen because he dropped hints all day as we were boating shad after shad. But when he said it, I wasn’t really paying attention, thinking it was a joke as I hand-stripped in another shad on my 6 weight. He had just landed another fish and I didn’t really know how many he caught because once you go past 20, what’s the point. So when he said the words, I wasn’t quite sure I heard it correctly because I had only heard him say it once before, I think it was in 2004, on Four Mile Run in Arlington, Virginia, after we racked up an incredible fish count in two hours of fishing.

“I’m done,” said Jin as he clipped the fly off his leader and slowly wound the 350 grain density compensated sink line back onto his reel. “That was my last fish.”

We motored out of Fletcher’s Cove a little past six in the morning. I had arrived at the dock around 4:30am to grab a boat because when the shad bite is on, if you’re not there early to get a boat you will be standing on shore watching other anglers fish. Jin told me when he left the concession stand after purchasing his DC fishing license, the wait list for a boat
had 20 names on it.

We anchored up and began fishing. It was a lot warmer that the previous week and there was some sort of hatch going on because we were soon covered with tiny midges. It started off slow but when we locked in the depth and found “the magic fly” we began pulling in fish.
Jin was dialed in. He was getting a strike on almost every cast. I would poach his spot as he was bringing a fish alongside the rowboat, picking off a fish as he was setting up to recast his line. And at times the shad action would get intense--both of us would hook up as we stripped flies through the school.

When things got quiet we yanked up the rock and motored towards Walker’s Point and set up just outside the bubble line. The action continued as we boated shad after shad. Jin mentioned that his hands were getting cut up by the line but it didn’t seem to bother him much and he was still pounding shad.

After a quick hot dog break we motored back to the lineup and began fishing again. It was like we never left. We caught lots of shad, although the action would come in spurts and we would have to vary the depth and retrieve to find fish. It was close to noon so the fish were deep so most of the time but sometimes shad would be shallow, maybe a few feet under the surface, and I would get takes before the fly got a chance to sink. So we had to pay attention to where we were getting the bites and adapt to the situation.

I think it was almost 1pm when Jin said he was stopping. Finished. Sated. Done. I thought he was joking, but he clipped the fly off and reeled up his line. I was sort of stunned at first, but then I realized I could now fish in his spot and get a few more shad! Which is what I did for the next ten minutes.

Jin decided to get an early start for home and I was pretty much beat myself so we motored back to Fletcher’s Cove, where our boat was quickly snapped up, and headed for home.
EQUIPMENT: We use rods between 6 to 8 weight and quick sinking density-compensated fly lines. A sinking line is essential. You can get away with using sink tip lines in shallower water, but for fishing center river I prefer a full-sink line. Flies should be from size 4 to 8 and I even carry some size 10. The size and color of the fly matters so carry a selection in various colors, with and without flash. If I had to pick a few colors to carry, I would always have white, pink and chartreuse in my fly box. Your leader can be as complicated as you want to make it, but a straight section of 8 pound fluorocarbon about 5 feet long is just fine.

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 $22 (plus tax $23 and change) for the day. You need a D.C. fishing license ($10 D.C. resident and $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.