Washington, DC, April 18, 2014
It was still dark when pulled into the unofficial unloading area in front of the Fletcher’s dock, picked out a boat and loaded my gear. It was very cold, in the mid-30s, but after a couple of back-and-forth trips between the car and rowboat I was feeling a lot warmer.

The water was running a bit faster than usual and it was quite dirty. The heavy rain we had in our area a few days ago did not raise the Potomac River too much but there was a lot of debris and junk floating downriver and water clarity was shot. This was an excellent opportunity to use all the flies I had that were dressed with tons of flash because if the shad can’t see it, they won’t bite it.

Shad were sitting in the same place--mostly on the bottom although some were holding mid-water. I picked up a few fish with the first couple of casts but then the action slowed down a bit until I found the fish again, holding in a softer seam just off the main current. It was a long count to get the line deep, but after a couple strips I usually had a shad on the line.

I experimented a bit with different colors and different flies but I always came back to chartreuse or pink. Any of those two colors, with lots of flash, was what the shad wanted today.

The weather remained pretty cool for most of the day but the fishing was hot until the tide peaked at 10:30am, then it was like someone turned off the shad faucet. Fishing really slowed down. People would pick up a fish here and there, but the hot bite had cooled off.

I pulled anchor and moved up and down the river, stopping to fish for a bit at several locations. I caught fish in some spots and left without a bite at others. However as the tide began to move, the bite began to pick up again,
I kept an eye on the clock as I fished. It was Friday and I did not want to get stuck in the early rush hour Washington traffic. So afterlanding the third Hickory of my “one last fish” promise, I packed it in and headed for home.

EQUIPMENT: I usually use a 6 and 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.