June 25, 2016
The “full tilt” spring fishing season at Fletcher’s Cove has now morphed into a more relaxed summer style. No more dawn rush to snag the best shad eddy or start the prime striper drift before anchored boats block the way. Hot weather fishing at Fletcher’s is about opportunistic resourcefulness and the ability to switch gears between species. With the current of the Potomac gentler in the summer, a broad range of techniques should be employed to maximize angling success. Deep water trolling for walleyes may give way to dropping senkos over a prime smallmouth spot. Morning casting for schoolies with a bright Clouser could evolve into a rope-fly fest in pursuit of the elusive gar. The C&O Canal, flush with water, is tempting as a shady spot for bobber fishing or casting for largemouth bass. It’s your choice when you come to Fletcher’s for some urban angling in a place that seems far removed from the city.
We seem to have quite a regular group of anglers from the Chambersburg/Franklin county area of Pennsylvania. Just yesterday, two groups of customers from that area arrived early, within ten minutes of each other, to rent a rowboat. They did not know one another, but their homes were five minutes apart. I thought this quite a coincidence. It’s good to know that folks feel that fishing, as well as the welcome mat we offer at Fletcher’s, is worth the long drive from that historic and heroic town. We thank you!
The hot weather brings many kayakers and canoeists to our stretch of the Potomac. Fletcher’s offers these craft for rental when weather and water conditions permit. This part of the river has significantly more current than the wider stretch just downstream by Georgetown. We are tidal, yes, but still sit in the Potomac gorge that runs from Great Falls to just above Key Bridge. Barely submerged rocks lurk just below the water’s surface and extra caution is needed when boating in this part of the river. If you are a novice to these activities, it may be advisable to wet your paddle in the tranquil C&O Canal. With a bit of experience on the canal the river will seem a little more comfortable to you.
Fletcher’s Cove is an historic establishment and location within the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park. One can only guess what would have happened to this land and shoreline without the protection the park provides. I’ve been blessed to get to know many C&O Canal NPS personnel - administrative, rangers and maintenance staff -whose dedicated service I admire and respect. Long before there even was a park to protect the land, Fletcher’s hummed along as a beloved recreational fishing and boating mecca. The Fletcher family operated the business until 2005 when the concession was awarded to Guest Services, Inc. The history of the place is rich with interaction among people, place and business. As I sometimes remind visitors to the park, the canal itself was a business first and foremost, for most of its history. There were many homes, camps and businesses along the route of the canal and the B&O Railroad that often paralleled the path of the C&O. Most of those have disappeared into the mists of time, which makes Fletcher’s, as a business, a rare and integral part of canal history itself.
The rhythms of the seasons indeed define much about this place. A springtime freshet prompts waves of migratory fish to journey this way. In summer, the cooling effects of the flowing water and shade from the palisades draw boaters, birders, picnickers and nature lovers of all types. The fall presents an atmospheric palette of color unrivaled by other places, ironically and appropriately mirrored by generations of annual work to renew our historic wooden rowboats and refresh their distinctive tile red color. The winter brings a quiet serenity to the woods where the vista opens to shades of grey and brown; ice flows in the cold currents of the Potomac and blankets the canal. I’m hopeful that with our new affiliation with Boating in D.C. the essence of our long, rich traditions will survive, including being the only resource within the District where anglers can, in one place, rent fishing boats, buy tackle and bait as well as purchase D.C. fishing permits. Most importantly, they can talk face to face with “river-rats” who know the place, the ins and outs of angling, and the many moods of the majestic Potomac.
We hope to see you down by the riverside at Fletcher’s. It’s always been a people place, a place of mindfulness where self and nature become one. Thanks for reading.