Fletcher’s Cove, Potomac River, Washington, DC, April 30, 2023
A very soft drizzle was falling on a cold and dark Sunday morning at Fletcher's Cove on the Potomac River in Washington, DC. Alex was busy removing the security chain from the rowboats and I had enough time to check each boat for a good rock and a long length of anchor line. Unlike other mornings at Fletcher's Cove, I could take my time and be really choosy because it was the only one standing on the dock outfitting a boat for Shad fishing.

Heavy rain forecast for Sunday, and dirty water from previous rain, probably put off a lot of anglers from trying their luck fishing for Hickory or American shad.

The drizzle of light rain continued as I pulled out of the cove and pointed the boat upriver. Other than one angler just above Catfish Beach, no one else was shore or boat fishing today.

I dropped the rock at a spot Bass Master and I fished the previous day. Bass Master decided to pass on the fishing and sleep in. Maybe he was the smart one.

The drizzle continued and it wasn't much to worry about because I was layered up with Gortex and ready to fish wet all day. I began casting my full-sink Orvis Depth Charge line off a seam where Bass Master and I had pounded the Shad the previous day and it started off well. The fish were in a biting mood but the weather had other plans.

As I released a Hickory, I heard the boom of distant thunder. A few seconds later there was a very bright flash followed a few seconds later by another, louder, boom of thunder. Then the drizzle turned to rain and it got really dark really fast.

There was another flash of lightning lit up the area and the boom of thunder was much closer. I reeled up, laid the rod flat in the boat, pulled the rock and headed for shore. I pulled into a shallow cut in front of a sloping beach and zipped up tight as the rain came down in sheets, hissing as it poured into the Potomac River.

I mentally thanked Alex and the folks at Fletchers for throwing a makeshift sawed-off one gallon plastic bottle bailer into the boat before I left the dock. I was surprised at how fast the boat filled with water and I used the bailer several times before the rain died down from fire hose to garden hose intensity.

The thunder and lightning disappeared but the rain kept pounding down. I decided to head back to Fletcher's Cove and take a break until things settled down a bit—according to the weather forecast the heavy rain would let up around 9am. It was 8:20am when I tied up at the dock.
I bailed the boat out, again, and motored out of the Cove. I decided to stay close to the Cove and not return to the spot I had been fishing before the storm hit. I figured that if the thunder and lightning returned, it would be easier to tie up at the dock and seek cover in my car or at the tackle shack rather than take a chance finding shelter upriver.

I dropped the rock near a spot I fished several weeks ago, about halfway between Fletcher's Cove and the point. I got several strikes, but nothing stuck and the fishing was slow. Looking at the current and water level, I figured the fish had moved and were now further inshore than the last time so I yanked the rock and reset the boat before continuing to fish.

There were several immediate bites but nothing stuck. The strikes were very hard and I found it puzzling that nothing was hooked. However several casts later something crushed the fly and after a fairly long fight I had a very decent American shad next to the boat.

Over the next couple hours I got several very big Hickories, some perch, and herring. However the biting action was very slow and it was roughly a 20 to 30 casts per fish ratio.
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The pounding rain gradually turned into a steady drizzle. I bailed out the boat several times, usually when there was over an inch of water sloshing around my shoes. And in the afternoon a couple more anglers in Fletchers rowboats and a kayak fisher made their way out to fish the current seam.

But I had enough. The bite was dying off as the water began to get dirtier with a lot of garbage floating downstream. I was hooking more sticks, leaves, plastic bags and other junk instead of shad so I called it a day and headed home.
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.