Potomac River, Washington, D.C., April 3, 2015
Another angler was wishing me good luck as I walked across the parking lot at 5:30am when I felt the first drops of rain. It wasn’t the big juicy ones that indicate a bad storm was on the way but they were large enough that I knew it was going to be a wet day for fly fishing for shad on the Potomac River at Fletcher’s Cove in Washington, D.C.

I pulled on a jacket when I reached the boat and motored out across the dark water. The sun was beginning to peek over the trees but it was still difficult to pick out landmarks on shore so I could properly anchor the boat in the right spot. I had to pull anchor and reposition the boat three times before I got it right and could finally begin to fish for shad.
Fishing was slow for the first half hour. I caught my first Hickory shad of the season within the first few minutes, a little past 6am, but it flipped off the hook as I was leaning over the boat to release it. Then nothing, no more bites. I went into search mode as a steady rain began to fall.

I swapped flies and fished the water column as I tried to locate shad, going really deep and slowly working my way up. It took awhile but I finally got another Hickory and after releasing it I tossed the fly back to the same location and began pulling in fish.
The Hickories were appearing in schools, so you would go for a while with no strikes then all of a sudden it would be a fish on every cast and when this happened it was great. But it also ended fairly quick, so it was best to get the shad to the boat as quick as possible for release so you can get back to fishing before they moved on.

The fishing action was pretty good for a few hours but as the tide began to change things got quiet real fast. All for the better though because I had to head for the office--traded to work in the evening so I could fish in the morning.

EQUIPMENT: I used a 7 weight rod and an Orvis Depth Charge density-compensated full sink line. Shad flies in size 2 to 8 in various colors.

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, 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.