Explore, Experience and Enjoy the Beautiful Smith River in Southern Virginia

Friday, August 1, 2008

Thursday Evening on the River

Photo essay by Brian Williams

On Thursday afternoon, several dramatic thunderstorms moved through the area producing rain and heavy winds. Our plans for a river trip from Philpott to Bassett, riding the water release, were canceled due to the unpredictable weather. So after work I headed over to the take-out point at the Smith River Trails, North Bassett ramp, just to take a few pictures and enjoy the evening and maybe a short hike down by the river.

The access point is part of the Smith River Trail system and is located in North Bassett just downstream of the Trenthill bridge. This is also home to the old J.D.Bassett Chair factory which sits silent as idle testament to the death of the furniture industry that created this town.

The air was humid but the rain had cooled the area down just enough river was at full force from the water release during power generation at the dam and the surface was obscured from view by the mist. As usual on these late summer days, the chilly water from the bottom of the lake surges downstream and collides with the warmer air it creating quite a fog bank that hovers above the surface as the river surges beneath.

Although the local mallards are quite capable of handling the force of the river, they had decided to sit this one out at the bottom of the canoe ramp.

Just about an hour before last light, a bright flash of yellow came screaming in from upstream and then a flash of blue and I saw that two kayakers had made it into the eddy at the base of ramp. They had smiles on their faces but you could sense a bit of relief as well. I asked how the trip had been. "Cold" came the reply. Seems one had had a little trouble on the fish camp rapids and went for a swim. They were new to the sport and had made the run before in low water conditions. This time they wanted to try it at full water release. Well, they made it. They could have used skirts on their kayaks which probably would have prevented the unscheduled swim, but they did have their PFD's and helmets. After a few introductions and talk about the run they had just made, I learned they they were new boaters and had just purchased equipment 3 months ago. Ben Long of Henry had one of Pelican's new recreational kayaks and Scott Cowen of Ferrum was in the bright yellow Old Town Loon that had caught my eye on the river.
I was surprised to see them as there were no other vehicles at the ramp. They informed me that they had called their wives to come pick them up. That's one way to do a shuttle if there are only two of you ! We talked for a while and I learned they had decided to try recreational kayaks and had recently purchased equipment and practiced on Fairystone Lake before venturing out on the river. I provided them with some information on the Smith River, The Dan River Basin Association, other access ramps and paddling tips and offered to ride the river with them some day. It's always a pleasure to see new folks out there enjoying the river. Hope to see you out there again soon Ben and Scott!
The power generation cycle was stopped at 7 pm and 2 hours later the river began to slowly return to normal. I entered the steady current with waders, fly rod in hand for a few quick cast before heading home. Sometimes the bigger ones like to feed on the declining water and after severalcast into some likely eddies fat little brown took my nymph and made for quiet a fight in the still receding waters.

Releasing him back into the stream, I packed it up and waded back to the truck. As the sun dropped out of sight, the clouds made a dramatic backdrop for the old Bassett chair factory. I headed home dreaming on the next adventure on the Smith!

1 comment:

  1. Just wanted to say as one of the "shuttle wives" that Ben and Scott practice mostly at Philpott Lake and Ben's last name is Lamm. We enjoyed meeting you and thank you for sharing your knowledge. I'm sure you'll be seeing them in the future. Nice story!