Potomac River, Washington, D.C., April 21, 2018
Jin told me he was willing to travel from Philadelphia to Washington to fly fish for shad on the Potomac River outside Fletcher’s Cove. However, the river was near the tail end of a high water event due to a major storm that dumped nearly two inches of rain.

Fletcher’s boat rentals had been suspended for nearly a week and trying to get any information from that useless Boating On DC call center was frustrating. During shad season, there are a limited number of boats available for daily rental. First come, first served. Arrive late? No boat for you! The call center will not tell you whether Fletcher’s will have boats available the following day. Instead, they tell you to call back in the morning, around 7:30 or 8am, and they will know whether there will be boat rentals. Well, anyone who fishes during the shad season knows that if your call back to check on boats at that time of day, you might as well just stay home. All the boats will be out on the water.

So I took a weekend drive down to Fletcher’s Cove to check on the boat situation and the condition of the water. As I crossed Key Bridge, the water did not look that great. When I exited the tunnel to the lower parking lot at Fletcher’s Cove, it looked extremely ugly.

I parked and took a walk along the shoreline. Debris piled everywhere. Garbage, tree debris and a couple dead fish floated in a huge patch near Walker’s Point. The water was heavily colored, like creamed coffee, and moving very fast.

The folks at the tackle shack told me that in all probability, with the falling water level approaching the “safe-to-rent” zone, there possibly would be boats for rent the following day. I texted a few photos and a short message to Jin informing him about the current situation at Fletcher’s. I told him if he was willing to try, I was willing to get up early to snag a boat. He was, so we planned to meet at Fletcher’s the following day.

I grabbed a hot dog and Coke for lunch and ate it down at the dock, watching as the fast dirty water flowed downstream. I knew fishing was going to be challenging tomorrow.

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.