Washington, DC, April 6, 2014
The water level on the Potomac River finally reached a safe level and since Fletcher’s was renting boats and Jin had a few free hours we decided it was time to catch some shad.

We headed out in the early morning light and lined up just outside the bubble line off the main current. We were the second boat out but boat after boat was loaded, rowed or motored out of the cove and soon there was a bobbing line of watercraft stretching from the Cove to Walker’s Point.

Action was really slow. And it was “effin cold!” What happened to spring? There was ice on the boats and you had to be careful getting in and moving around.

We each were fishing with a different color fly, to see what they wanted to eat. Jin scored first using white and I hooked one, briefly, on chartreuse. Jin had most of the luck but did I mention the action was really slow?

A little past 8:15am I had to take Jin back to the dock. He had to be at a breakfast, and if he was late it was going to get ugly. After a quick potty break and a hot cup of coffee followed by a warm down jacket under the fishing jacket, and gloves, it was back to the lineup outside Fletcher’s Cove.

I fished and fished and fished. It was slow. I would get one fish, then nothing for half an hour. A few fish here. A few fish there. I worked several locations with little or no luck. Other folks were having a hard time too. I saw one guy ding himself on the back of the head with a heavy fly. Ouch. But there was no blood so he was probably ok. Most of the fish seemed to be outside the current, in the slow water or in water that was barely moving.

The action really picked up in the afternoon when the sun came out and the tide was peaking. The fish were still in the softer water and deep. Right on the bottom deep. I worked one section that had a large rock lump--you could feel the fly drag across the top then suddenly fall and the fish were right below that drop off. However that spot was only about 6 to 8 feet wide, so you had to judge the sink rate of your fly line so that everything was on the bottom when you began to strip it over the drop. Do it right and you got a fish.

The action was pretty steady but it died out after 45 minutes. So I tried going really deep and that’s where I found shad--on the bottom. Again, you could feel the fly drag across the bottom but if you gave it a quick twitch and pull, getting it off the bottom for a bit, the shad would bite. I also found that changing up colors would get a few more fish to the boat. I would get a bunch on pink, then nothing. If I switched to white and fished the same spot, another couple fish. Change to chartreuse and it was another bunch of shad until you started using the same color again. Strange, but it worked. I thought it might be presentation that was causing the fish to strike but I fished all the flies the same way in the same spot and usually got an immediate strike as soon as I changed the color.

For me, the shad bite tapered off about midway through the falling tide. But by that time I was done. I was beat. Time to go home.

EQUIPMENT: I usually use a 6 or 7 weight rod and a Type VII density-compensated full sink line. Shad flies in size 2 to 8 in various colors.

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, and will appear on your left if you approach the area from Key Bridge or on your right from Chain Bridge.

WARNING: The entrance to Fletcher’s Cove is a very narrow ramp that can accommodate only ONE car at a time so be very careful. It is also very easy to drive past the Abner Cloud House, so be alert. And it is REALLY difficult to negotiate this ramp if you approach Fletcher’s Cove via Chain Bridge because the entry ramp faces Key Bridge. There is NO RAMP facing Chain Bridge. Park in the upper lot on your left or go through the tiny tunnel (if you have anything on roof racks, I suggest checking the tunnel height BEFORE entering) to the lower parking lot and dock access. During shad season the boat rental office opens at 7am, but when the season is hot and heavy they do open earlier. Boat rental fee, plus tax, is $26 for the day. You need a D.C. fishing license ($10 DC resident and $13 non-resident) to fish and you can get them at the Fletcher's 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 because all traffic on Canal Road is one way into the city. You must use Canal Road via Chain Bridge in the morning and trying to make the u-turn into Fletcher's during rush hour traffic can really get the blood pounding! Canal Road becomes one way going towards Chain Bridge from 2:30 to 7pm, so you have to hang a sharp U-turn, in rush hour traffic, when you leave.
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