Anyone who thinks there are no Washington natives ought to spend a day at Fletcher's Landing off Canal Road. Take along a fishing rod, because if you're there at the right time you can't miss catching dinner.
You'll meet people like Dicky Tehaan and Jerry Ellsworht, local Washingtonians who grew up with the Potomac and know it the way oysterman know the Chesapeake Bay, men who race down to Fletcher's on their lunch hours to jig for crappie or shad or cast to big rockfish.
And you'll meet the Fletchers, big Joe, Randy and their dad Julius, to who the landing has been home as long as or anyone else can remember.
The Fletchers go back 100 years and more, and Fletcher's Landing has been their little piece of the world. It's so deeply a part of them that they have no need to explore history, to where, and if Joe is foggy on which he's too busy being today's Fletcher, holding the fort for the his own kids to take over some day.
The family runs Fletcher's boat-house, a stand of superannuated structures halfway between Chain and Key bridges where boats; canoes and bicycle are for rent and folklore is available for free.
Once they owned the land and lived in houses that dotted the old Canal Road, a dirt path that led the two or three miles to Georgetown. The Park Service took over in the '30s and since then the Fletchers have leased the land and continued the trade.
The boats you rent may have been built by Fletchers 30 or 40 years ago from Carolina cypress and white oak.The steel shack that houses the bicycles was put up by Fletchers 30 years ago. Fletchers paint and repair the boats every year, they fix the bikes, and they watch the river go by.
"See those stee1 boxes" 35-year-old Joe asked as we made our way across the swift Potomac last week on our way to a white perch hole. He pointed to rusted structures about the size of a big dog house.
"Those are powder boxes. Back in the 1800 s there used to be a lot of quarring on the river.Barges worked up and down, hauling out stone. But in those days they didn't have plungers or remote control to set the dynamite charge.
"The guy who set the fuse would just run like hell and jump into one of those boxes and wait for the blast."
Joe Fletcher can point to other historical intricacies of the river the little feeder streams that had to be rerouted when the George Washington Parkway was built, steam compressors for the quarring and rusted-out drill bits along the shore, places to hike and camp.
But the landscape he knows best is the one you can't see, the ever-changing rocky nooks and niches along the riverbed, the places where fish congregate.
White perch were running last week, making their way up the Potomac from the Bay to spawn below littie Falls. Fletcher knew where to find them.
"I like to catch fish, but I go after the big ones. Anyone can come out here and catch a whole mess of little fish. As much fishing as [WORD ILLEGIBLE]big fish."
He found there for us [LINE ILLEGIBLE]The river was running fast on Friday and Fletcher figured the perch would be along the edge at the edge of the quick water, on a dropoff on the west side. "They'll stay here and wait for food coming down in the current."
We had our own food to give them. While the rest of the angling community was fishing bloodworms. We had the benefit of minnows the John Murtro, a Fletcher employee, had captured with a cast net up the canal.
That's what the bigger perch wanted and in two hours we had landed a halfdozen perch in the one-round range and 30 more little throwbacks.
Those big perch made a superb dinner. Fletcher scoffs at questions about the safety of eating Potomac River fish. He pointed to Metropolitan Harbor Police boat that ventured up the river. "They take a sample of the water every day," he said.
"All you have to do is look at the facts. Thousands of people eat these fish every year and we've never heard of anyone getting sick."
White perch fishing at Fletcher's is a little less than thrilling sport fishing. It's bottom fishing and while you can lose fish by not setting the hook right once they're on it's only a matter of reeling them in.
But later this month there will be real sport. Hickery and white shad some running up to six pounds, will make their spawing run from the sea. Fletcher and his angling partners go after the shad with little jogging darts on ultralight gear. Landing one is a sport fisherman's delight.
And there are largemouth bass in the [WORD ILLEGIBLE]year long, plus catfish and [WORD ILLEGIBLE]make [WORD ILLEGIBLE]run later this [LINE ILLEGIBLE]are around now and can be taken on shad darts in the shallower water.
Rockfish make a run in May and stick around until July. Fletcher took an 11-punder last year on light line and has the picture to prove it.
One of the real beauties of the White perch run, which should last another two weeks, is that it's almost impossible to get skunked as long as you go on a warm, calm day.
It's the perfect way to introduce a youngster to fishing. And there's no bigger thrill in the world than watching a tyke feel that first tug at his line, seeing him wrestle with the unfamiliar gear and funally land his very own fish.
Give it a try. It's worked for the Fletchers since way back when.