Potomac River, Washington, D.C., April 14, 2019
After failing to wake up on time the previous day, I set two alarms and this time I was first in line when the tackle shack at Fletcher’s Cove opened at 6am. I had already outfitted the boat so I had nothing to do until Jin showed up, which I thought would be very soon.

Other anglers—shad spin and fly, perch, striped bass and catfish—swarmed over the dock as they loaded their boats with rods, flies and bait. Dawn was rapidly approaching and the rowboat lineup just outside the current seam on the Potomac River outside of Fletcher’s Cove was growing. Where’s Jin?

I checked my phone. It was 6:15am. No problem. Still lots of time. All he had to do was show up and step into the boat and we were off. More boats slipped their ropes and headed out of the cove.

I checked my phone again. 6:28am. No Jin. I was beginning to get anxious. Did I correctly hear, over dinner the previous night, that he would be here to fish? More boats pulled away from the dock.

It was now 6:45am and there was only one more boat left besides myself. The fly angler told me he was waiting for his brother, who moved at his own pace and to hell with those who insisted on rushing him. Five minutes later they were gone and I was still tied up at the dock. Alone. One of the Fletcher’s employees asked if everything was ok. I was worried and sent a short text to Jin. It wasn’t like him to be late for fishing.

A few minutes later I got a short text back indicating he would be here in 15 minutes so there was nothing to to but wait. I saw his car peel into the parking lot and he hurried to the boat and we were off. He quickly explained that his alarm did not go off and when he woke up his wife asked him, “Hey, weren’t you going fishing with Mike today?”
The Bass Master was on the Potomac and he told us to join him. We pulled up parallel to his rowboat and began chucking full sink lines and weighted shad flies just outside the current. Bass Master said the bite had been slow so far, but I expected that because the tide was heading down and would bottom out in about 45 minutes. The shad were always not in a biting mood when the tide was low but I was confident it would pick up when the water began heading back up.

About 30 minutes after the tide turned, fishing was still very slow. We would get a fish now and then, but not in the numbers we had on the previous day. Maybe the weather had something to do with it—overcast and I could feel the temperature drop. Instead of t-shirt and shorts weather, I was wearing a fleece vest and rain jacket.
Bass Master picked up a very nice American, one of the first I’ve seen this season although I heard others have caught them going back a few weeks. But the fishing was still very slow. We tried different depths, different colors, different flies (stuff we would never think to fish) and some of these surprisingly worked. But although we would pick off a few more shad, it never turned into a very hot bite.
Jin had to leave a little past noon so I dropped him off at the dock and headed back out to the river. I tried fishing at a couple other spots, but the shad just weren’t in the mood to really bite. Several would chase the fly right up through the water column, right back to the boat’s transom, but they would not commit to bite.

I joined Bass Master and fished with him for a few hours but after only getting two to three fish for nearly and hour of fishing I decided to call it a day and head for home.

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 on your left if you approach from Key Bridge/Georgetown, or it will be on your right approaching from Chain Bridge/Virginia. 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 at the bottom of the ramp 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.