Fletcher’s Cove, Potomac River, Washington, D.C., April 11, 2021
We dropped the rock just off a soft current seam, about ten yards inside the main current. It looked like a good spot to start fly fishing for shad on the Potomac River just outside Fletcher’s Cove and it did not disappoint as on the first cast both Jin and I hooked and landed a pair of Hickory shad. Unlike past trips where we would initially get a few fish, which was followed by agonizing hours of absolutely nothing, the bite continued and we hauled them in to the boat.

They were all Hickories and they were deep, on the bottom. We gave the sinking lines a good soak and usually on the third or fourth strip the line would go tight with a good bend on the rod. We keyed in on color and size. Once that was dialed in all we had to do was cast, let the line sink, a couple strips and it was fish on. We had multiple double-strikes and on several occasions I did not even cast the line, just shake a bunch out the tip, let it sink, jig it a bit under the boat, and a Hickory shad would take it and run.

Jin was hauling Hickories in on every other cast so I decided to try a few different flies—different colors and sizes to see if the fish would eat something else or were they truly keyed in to what we were feeding them. After about a half hour of experimenting, with very little success, except for a carp I caught on an all black fly, I tied the correct fly back on the leader and began catching fish again. The experiment confirmed that the size and color of the fly we were using, combined with the depth and speed of retrieve, was the difference between catching or casting practice.

Fishing was on fire. We hammered them for hours. Finally, with arms aching and fingers tender from stripping in shad, we called it a day and headed back to the dock.

EQUIPMENT: We used 8 weight rods, density-compensated full sink line, and flies in size 2 to 8 in various colors.

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 a traffic signal and the Abner Cloud House, a white stone building, which is next to the canal and will appear on your left if you approach the area from Key Bridge/Georgetown, or on your right from Chain Bridge.

WARNING: The entrance to Fletcher’s Cove is a very narrow entry/exit ramp that can accommodate only ONE car at a time so be very careful. It is VERY difficult to negotiate this ramp if you approach Fletcher’s Cove via Chain Bridge because it faces Key Bridge so you have to negotiate a difficult U-turn to enter. Park in the upper lot on your left or go through the tiny tunnel (clearance is 7 feet) to the lower parking lot and dock access.
During shad season the tackle shack opens at 6am. Rowboat rental is by reservation only via the
Boating In DC website, however there might be a few available for walkup rental. Rental fees are $28 for ONE HOUR, $56 for TWO HOURS, and $112 for FOUR HOURS. A late return fee is $25 and you might be placed on a “do not rent” list. Prices are subject to change.
You also need a D.C. fishing license which is $10 for D.C. residents and $13 for non-residents.

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. Canal Road becomes one way going towards Chain Bridge from 2:30 to 7pm.