Washington, DC, April 27, 2014
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This was probably going to be the last best day for shad fishing. Severe storms were brewing in the nation's Midwest and South and the bad weather was expected in our area on Monday, bringing heavy rain that will probably raise the level of the Potomac River to unfishable levels later in the week.

Paul, dad of one of my daughter's friends, joined me at 5am to fly fish for shad at Fletcher's Cove. It was the usual crazy shad season rush for the limited number of rowboats available for rent. Vehicles were pouring out of the tunnel, their headlights cutting through a hazy cloud of dust rising from the gravel and dirt road. Anglers were rushing around, clutching bundles of rods or lugging coolers, motors, oars and life jackets as they loaded their boats. I had arrived early and had the boat ready to pull away from the dock, so when Paul arrived we untied the bow line and quickly made our way out to the main current seam outside Fletcher's Cove.

Paul had fished for shad from shore, up at Chain Bridge, but never from a boat. I helped him set up his stuff and gave him some tips on where to cast and how to present the fly to the shad. Despite what some people think, catching American and Hickory shad is not easy. You have to find them first. Deep, middle water or shallow? In fast water or slow? What is the color fly, and size, they're eating?
We both began fishing as the sun began to color the sky. Paul drew first blood and landed a nice Hickory. He quickly found the range and caught a couple more. We were catching fish at a slow but steady pace. We weren't going crazy on the fish, but it was enough to keep us occupied and interested.

As Paul continued to catch shad I ran through some experimental flies I tied the day before. I would call these non-traditional flies because they do not resemble anything else I've seen people use but were built on what I thought would work. Every fly I tried worked--I caught fish on every single one. However none of them really fished as well as the traditional chartreuse shad fly. Hands down, chartreuse has been the color of choice this year. For the past several years you couldn't keep the shad off your hook if you tied it with pink. This year pink still works but it is a distant second to chartreuse.

Paul's shad numbers began to creep up. He passed 10. He passed 20 and was still climbing. I think he was having a great time. I was boating a few myself and even got a small schoolie Striped Bass that inhaled a micro size 10 experimental chartreuse flash fly that I was deep stripping off a fast seam.
When the tide bottomed out we took a quick potty break and grabbed some Pepsi's from the bait shack before heading back out. We anchored up at a different spot and after a slow start we began to catch fish. Paul added to his tally and so did I.

The fishing picked up mid-afternoon but towards the evening, when fishing should be the best, it just died. It had been a long day, so after a few more casts with no strikes we decided to call it a day and head 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.

A word of 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.