Fletcher’s Cove, Washington, D.C., April 12, 2017
Heavy rain had shut down the rowboat rental at Fletcher’s Cove--the water was too high and current too swift for safe boating on the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. For several days I checked the water gauge information at Chain Bridge but it was always too high (above 5 feet) so I knew the boats would remain tied up at the dock. However the water level soon fell to a safe level and Fletcher’s was open for business.

I arrived in the afternoon and there were three open boats at the dock. I quickly dumped my stuff into the boat and after a quick registration I was anchored off a seam just outside the cove.

The water was still dirty from the recent rain. It was also filled with debris that washed into the river. Plastic bags, styrofoam cups, tree branches and even a huge dead catfish floated past the boat as I began fishing for Hickory and American shad.

It was really slow for the first half hour. Cast and retrieve. Cast and retrieve. But soon I found the location of a sizable school of fish and began bringing shad to the boat. These fish were full of fight and they put a good bend on the 7wt rod. Their silvery scales reflected the red color of the rowboat hull as I brought them alongside for a quick release. And fishing with a barbless hook made the release so much easier and quicker, so I could immediately get the fly back out to try and hook up with another shad.

By the time the sun began to sink below the trees, I had hooked and brought to hand 53 Hickory shad, but no Americans. Maybe next time.

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 traffic lights and the Abner Cloud House, an old white stone building, which is next to the canal, and will appear on your left if you approach from Key Bridge, or it will be on your right approaching from Chain Bridge. The Fletcher’s boat rental office usually opens at 7am, but when the shad sare biting hot and heavy they open earlier to accommodate anglers. You can get a D.C. fishing license and a boat at the rental kiosk. They also sell basic fishing equipment, bait, lures, hot dogs, candy, chips, drinks and ice cream.

WARNING: The entrance to Fletcher’s Cove is a very narrow ramp that can accommodate only ONE car at a time. There is a stop light and a small pull-off area where a car can wait for the light to turn without blocking incoming access. Use it! 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 will be facing away from your direction of travel. 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.

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 if you’re heading towards Chain Bridge.