Fly Fishing the Potomac River Before Work

Written by: Mary Edmondson

fly fishing

Fly fishing the Potomac 


 Had anyone told me two years ago that I would be waking up at 5 a.m. to get down to the Tidal Basin and fly fish before work, or spending my days off trolling the C&O Canal with my boss, I’d have had them committed. Aside from the fact that the last time I’d done any fishing, I was still missing teeth and wearing a turquoise Power Rangers t-shirt, I had somehow gone 22 years living in Washington, DC completely unaware that you could, in fact, fish here. I was one of the many people under the impression that in order to do any worthwhile fishing, I’d have to get in my car and drive several hours. Any impression I’d ever had of fly fishing came from A River Runs Through It…and not even Brad Pitt could sell me on the sport.

All of that changed when I walked into the Orvis store in Arlington, VA for my first day of work and met our fly-fishing manager, Dan Davala. Fly fishing can seem incredibly overwhelming, and had I not met Dan, I don’t know that I would have met anyone who would have taken the time to educate a 22-year old city girl who had no interest in learning about the sport. In my almost two years of working for Orvis, I have seen Dan extend this same courtesy to everyone from ages 7 to 87. Within several months, I had purchased my first fly rod and was heading out on the Potomac River at the Tidal Basin with Dan and one of our fishing associates, Trent.

Though I had been told to gauge my expectations and just have fun with it regardless of whether I actually caught fish, I headed out with my 8-weight rod secretly expecting that the day would play out like a Potomac River version of Moby Dick.

For several hours I cast my line out, waiting impatiently for that moment when a fish would be fooled by my expert presentation, and I’d be starting the fight of my life to land my first fish on a fly. Finally, after what seemed like a lifetime, I had a hit. This was it. My world-record-breaking fish was here. I went to set the hook, just as Dan had taught me. But instead of feeling the resistance of the Potomac’s largest ever fish, out of the water flew a bluegill that couldn’t have been more than two inches long and clearly did not belong on the end of an 8-weight. It landed on the pavement next to me with a large smacking noise. Nothing about the situation was anything like what I was expecting, and yet I was thrilled. I had caught one. Yes, I had flies in my fly box that were larger than the fish I had just caught, but it was a fish.



Bluegill make for great fun on a fly rod


Since then, I have caught larger, and certainly more impressive fish (and stopped carrying an 8-weight around the Tidal Basin). But still, and I’ll tell this to anyone who will listen, I enjoy few things more than catching bluegill on a fly. I’m not experienced enough, and certainly not wealthy enough, to be picky about where I fish or for what I fish. As far as I’m concerned, if I have my line in the water, it’s all good. And while I’m constantly surrounded by people going on trips that I’d love to go on, and catching fish that I’d love to catch, I’m also surrounded by people who love to fish where we live.

Through Tidal Potomac Fly Rodders, a chapter of the FFF that Dan created several years ago, I’m connected with more than 600 people who live in the DC area and love to be able to fish here. In a city where people are too busy to stop and give you directions, let alone have a conversation with you, it’s a community of which I’ve enjoyed becoming a part. The motto of the club is “Fish where you are, not where you ain’t.” That’s the motto that I fish by.

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