Potomac River, Washington, D.C., April 12, 2018
I knew it was going to be ugly. All the weather reports said so, so it must be true. The wind was going to make shad fishing very difficult on the Potomac River at Fletcher’s Cove in Washington, D.C.

I was walking towards the tackle shack when I passed Mike Bailey as he was heading towards the parking lot and warned me it was going to be rough fishing. The wind was going to make fishing “very challenging today.” After getting the boat, the tackle shack took my cellphone number down, just in case they had to call all rental boats back to the dock if it got too dangerous.

The electric motor silently pushed the boat out of the cove and, yeah, once I made it past the shelter of the trees, it was bad. After dropping the rock and securing loose gear I knew that any form of casting was not going to happen today. Instead I played the short line game. Flop out a bit of line then feed the rest out the rod tip top by using water friction. Give it a shorter countdown then begin stripping in. Reset and repeat. Let the current carry the line to the fish. This meant anchoring much closer to the area I was going to fish—right on top of the shad.

I was catching fish—whenever the wind allowed the boat to be in the proper position. The anchor line was a huge pivot. The boat swung upriver, then downriver, then to the right, then to the left. As soon as your fly line was straight and sinking, the wind would pull the boat in the opposite direction and run over your line. Most of my strikes came at close range to almost right under the boat.

After a few hours of battling the wind, things began to calm down and the Hickory shad were bitting steadily. However it was also time to return the boats to the dock because Fletcher’s was about to close for the day so I reluctantly reeled up, pulled the rock, and motored back to the dock.

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 are 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. 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, so you will probably have to drive backwards down the ramp. Park in the upper lot on your left or continue through the low tunnel (if you have a large SUV or van with roof racks, I suggest checking the tunnel height BEFORE entering) to the lower parking lot and dock access. Watch out for cars exiting the tunnel!

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 to get on Canal Road BEFORE 6am. 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. Canal Road goes the other way, towards Chain Bridge, from 2:45 to 7:15pm.