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

Monday, September 22, 2008

After The Fall

Part 2:

Now if you really want to cool off after a long day, just plan to be on the river right after they shut down the generators and the water begins to fall. The cool evaporation is incredible and in no time at all you will be pulling on that jacket you brought along with you.

Monday afternoon (Sept 8) the generation was scheduled to stop at 6 p.m. I headed up to the base of the dam to time the actual flow stoppage and the water drop downstream. They turned the spigot off at 6 p.m. sharp and the water dropped 1 foot in less than 5 minutes.

The fog banks began to arrive in ghostly striated patterns above the receding waters. After 30 minutes of timing water level decrease near the dam, I headed back down the river about a mile to check on the falling waters at the next waypoint.

Watching a couple of trout rise through the mist below, I had to go back to the truck and grab my waders and flyrod. As the sun touched the ridge and the air chilled even more, I coaxed a few browns into feeding. They were not real aggressive on the bite, just sort of stopped the nymph and held on and it was sometimes difficult to tell whether it was a fish or the DIDYMO algae that had your nymph.

The Green headed Coneflowers (Rudbeckia laciniata) seemed to be the predominant yellow wildflower on this section although there were some goldenrod and wingstem as well.

A bumblebee greedily digs into the nectar of the bloom on a White Turtle-head flower (Chelone glabra).
Soon my indicator was disappearing again and another fat brown was on the line.

A smaller brown took the fly and after a releasing him, he hung out around my boots for a couple of shots (below photo), then I nudged him and he darted off back into the shadows of the overhanging trees along the bank.

One more nice brown and I was heading home.

As I released the last trout of the evening back into the river, I once again marveled at how this place seems so remote yet is less than 15 minutes from our office. Dusk arrived and was quickly followed by darkness as the days grow shorter. I pulled out my headlamp and picked my way back upstream, back to the truck, back to the "other" world.

Photo and article by: Brian Williams
Edited by: Vicky Thomas

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

After The Fall

Part 1

The days are growing shorter and dusk now brings a hint of cooler air each evening. Its late summer on the Smith and a good time to experience a final showy display of color before the wildflowers return to dormancy and the forest is speckled with falls parade. It's also a good time to get out on the river and enjoy some afternoon wading and fly-fishing, hoping for a possible "showy" display of color from the local trout population.

At this time of year the bright yellows petals of the Wingstem (Verbesina alternifolia) are standouts along the banks of the Smith.

The deep purples of the Closed Gentian (Gentianaceae Gentiana andrewsii) ....

.....compete for attention with the brilliant reds of the Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

Sunday morning arrived warm with still summertime temps, perfect for cooling off in the river. The cool water evaporating into blankets of mist keeps you comfortable, even during the hottest part of the day. I headed out to the special regulation trout section around noon, even though I knew the trout probably would not be hitting till latter in the day, I enjoy just walking up the river and spotting trout as they slink back into the shadows or dart under a rock.

A smaller brown "camoflauged" against a backdrop of DIDYMO algae.
Heading quietly upstream I began to make a few cast and soon encountered perhaps the smallest brown trout I had ever caught on a fly rod. It had to be from the wild population on the Smith because it was even smaller than most of the ones we released from the Trout in the Classroom Program during June. He took a # 18 bead head nymph.

A few more small browns fell to my nymph and I convinced them to hang around just long enough for a few quick photos before I released them, perhaps a little wiser.

Continuing my trek upstream, my eyes were drawn to a vibrant contrast of the black and yellow hanging out in the greens and orange of a stand of Jewelweed (Balsaminaceae Impatiens capensis). A silky trap, beautifully crafted by a writing spider (Argiope aurantia) was attracting its share of the afternoon hatch.

As evening approached, the larger trout were coming out to feed and it wasn't long before I had hooked up with several more "Smith River beauties."

Each one was a little larger than the previous.