Washington, DC, May 9, 2014
There are days when you know the fishing might not be great but, if the opportunity is there, why not go?

I arrived at
Fletcher's Boathouse early to beat the Washington morning rush hour lane change on Canal Road. There's something about attempting to go down the entrance to Fletcher's backwards or pulling an extreme U-turn a bit too exciting. I want to save the adrenalin rush for fishing, not traffic.

I dropped the rock off the main current seam and began to fish. The flow was down but the water was still very cloudy and colored after the heavy rain late last week. There was also a lot of debris floating downriver--various chunks of trees, plastic bags, paper products and a few dead catfish and carp.

Fishing was slow. I would catch a few shad in one spot then the bite would die. Changing color and size sometimes yielded a few more fish, but not always. The most consistent details about the fishing was the shad were holding deep, your fly had to have flash on it and they still loved the chartreuse.

I moved around a lot and decided to go upriver, using the electric motor to push me almost up to Chain Bridge before turning around to fish my way back to Walker's Point. I dropped the rock at a couple of spots that had some quiet water, fishing for shad that might hold in these areas to rest before continuing up to Little Falls. And I stopped to fish on the Virginia side above Catfish Beach while watching Dan Davalla from the Clarendon Orvis shop and John Billota doing their spey casting thing on the DC side.

Overall, fishing was OK but not on fire like it was before the rain. All the fish I caught were Hickories with an average size between 12 to 16 inches although I did catch one monster that I thought was an American shad but turned out to be a bull Hickory that measured out to a hair over 21 inches.

I expect that as the water clears, the fishing will pick up. The folks at the Fletcher's tackle shop told me they expect the American shad will show up in force once the conditions improve, which might be towards the middle to later part of next week.

EQUIPMENT: I usually use a 6 or 7 weight rod and an Orvis Depth Charge 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.