Potomac River, Washington, D.C., April 22, 2018
I watched the Potomac River carefully as I powered up the electric motor on the stern of the old Fletcher’s Boathouse rowboat. The current was moving fast and the water was heavily colored, filled with debris from storm runoff—looked pretty ugly in the early morning light. But something even uglier soon appeared. A banana!

Jin told me he was willing to come up from Philadelphia to try fishing for shad. He knew that the Potomac would not be at its optimal fishing condition after water from nearly two inches of rain slowly drained downriver. Fishing might be difficult, but after seeing him pull a banana from his backpack I knew we might be in for a very long and difficult day of fishing.

Jin doesn’t believe in the banana curse. He thinks it’s a fable, a superstition practiced by angles who are down on their luck and looking for a convenient excuse to explain bad fishing or a lack of skill. He quickly downed the banana in four big bites and tossed the skin overboard to join the logs, plastic bags, household debris and dead animals floating in the fast current outside Fletcher’s Cove.

We dropped our rock near a spot we usually fish. The fast water pushed the current seam closer to shore, so we were not able to anchor in t he proper slot. But we got as close to it as possible and began to fish.
Cast, cast, cast. Switch flies and cast again. Nothing. No bites or taps. I began thinking about that banana Jin just ate. I tried different colors and varied the size and retrieve speeds. Nothing. I also watched the other boats around us and they were doing the exact same thing we were, with about the same level of luck.

The Bass Master arrived in his canoe around 7:30 and asked how we were doing. He could not believe that we were putting up goose eggs across the board. He set up near us and began fishing.

We fished for another hour then pulled the rock to try another location. Nothing. Other folks were also doing a whole lot of casting and very little catching. Around 10:30 we headed in for a short hot dog break before heading back out for more casting practice.

The fishing sucked. No bites and I lost four flies to snags. We tried several other spots that usually produce fish but the water was moving too fast and was filled with lots of small debris. On the sonar unit, I could spot schools of fish tight on the bottom but the water column was packed solid with hard returns—junk floating downstream in the current.

We called it a day around 12:30. The number of shad caught? ZERO. With the fast, dirty water, the shad just weren’t in the mood to bite so Jin decided to catch an early train back to Philadelphia. Other anglers were also calling it a day and several told me they only caught one shad, and they were all foul-hooked. As we drove out of the parking lot, I knew the water level would fall and the water would clear. Great shad fishing would return to Fletcher’s Cove, especially if no bananas would be on the boat!
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 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.