Fletcher’s Cove, Potomac River, Washington, DC, April 9, 2023
Jin was fishing with me during the morning but had to be on the road back to Philadelphia. He could fish longer, but did not want to deal with the Beltway and Philly traffic in the evening.

We decided to fish a spot that was often very productive for us, slightly below Fletcher's Cove on the Potomac River in Washington, DC. We dropped the rock well inside the current seam and began fly fishing for shad using density compensated full sink fly lines.
The morning began well, with several strikes in a row. We landed fish, but it was at a so-so pace. However when the sun came out and the tied turned to slack the bite just died. We motored to several different locations, but only picked up a couple more Hickories at each location. We fished hard, but the bite was slow. The shad had lock-jaw.
Jin pulled in a couple more fish before his deadline to begin his drive home. I dropped him off at the dock around 11am but decided to keep on fishing since I had the boat for the day.

I decided to head further downriver, to fish a location off the point. I played around with the anchoring location a bit until I had the boat adjusted correctly for position on the current and the fishing slot. The time was just a hair before 11:30am.

On the second cast I hooked a fairly large Hickory. Thick and deep, one I could barely get my hand around. I put the fly back in the same location and got another strike and landed another fish. Then another. And another. And another. And another. It kept on going, and going, and going.I would have a couple casts where I got no fish, but it was pretty rare to go two to three casts and not get a tap or an eat. It was crazy. If you put it in the same spot, you would hook a shad. It went on like that for the next six hours. I stopped counting when I went past 50.

Other boats began to encroach on my space but they were not getting bites. They asked me what color I was using and I told them. But it wasn't the color, it was several factors.

The first, and the worst—never use a floating, intermediate, or sink-tip line. I use a heavy full-sink line, one that is overweighted for the rod I am using but sinks the fastest at 8 to 9 inches per second. Yes, it is a heavy line but you are not going to be casting 60-plus feet like a normal fly line. At most I am only fishing maybe 35-40 feet of line and casting only the first 10-15 feet. The rest is just hand fed through the guides like
you mend line on a trout stream. You can get away with using a floater, sink-tip or intermediate line in certain locations but overall if you want to catch shad, use a full-sink line.

The second—don't just throw your line out and begin stripping it back to the boat. You have to give it enough time to sink. If the shad are near the top, you will get a bite. But if they are midwater or on the bottom, you won't. If you are using a sinking line, calculate how long it would take your line to sink at least 10-15 feet.

The third—you are anchored in the wrong spot, too far into the main current or too close to shore.

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 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 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. 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 DC fishing license which is $10 for DC 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. During the evening rush Canal Road becomes one way outbound towards Chain Bridge from 2:30 to 7pm.