Yes I have shad on my mind. I anxiously look out the window from my offices in Rosslyn overlooking the Theodore Roosevelt memorial, an island on the Potomac river. The TU National Capitol Chapter recently helped the National Park Service and local government to refurbish docks at the historic Fletcher’s Cove boathouse to ensure anglers will be able to pursue this worthy fish in just a few weeks. Shad really were the food item that fueled the birth of this nation. You’ve got to pickup The Founding Fish by John McPhee if you’re an angler or care about fisheries management. Melissa’s Lesh’s film just won first runner up at 2015 RVA Environmental Film Festival. Produced by VCU Life Sciences’ Outreach Education Coordinator Anne Wright for the Science in the Park website, and narrated by former James River Park Manager Ralph White, the film documents the plight and management of blueback herring and American shad in the James River. The film features interviews with Michael Odom, Hatchery Manager of the Harrison Lake National Fish Hatchery, and Alan Weaver, Fish Passage Coordinator for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
I guess the fact that my new office is on the Potomac river is having an effect on me. I walk out for a cup of coffee and I see the river. I glance out the window during a meeting, and I see the river. And on some occasions, I see the big splashes of predators chasing gizzard shad, herring and minnows that skip across the surface. So a couple weeks ago…I finally took the short drive up to Fletcher’s Cove after work and fly fished from about 7pm til sunset.
I took a long walk upstream, maybe half a mile until the trail faded away forcing me to bushwhack to rocky outcroppings. Because the tide was low and the weather hot, I waded to the farthest points where I could cast into the deepest currents with a red and white clouser. I waited upwards of a minute as the fly sunk and then started stripping it back in. I had only one major hit in two hours, but when it came, it was a slammer. It took a moment to determine if it was a snag, but when the rod started to bounce, I got excited. I thought it was a big bluefish or a resident striper. Man was I surprised by the +25″ blue cat ( Ictalurus furcatus) that bent my 8 wt rod over like a twig. My first cat, nice! I lipped him with the boga, removed the fly and sent him back on his way. I’m thinking on my next trip I’ll rent a canoe and head up even further to the falls so I can find some smallies. No offense to the blue catfish, of course.