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

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Wintertime Fun

The recent heavy snow fall in Martinsville & Henry County allowed for some unique recreational opportunities. Check out "Snow-Yaking" as shown by the Williams family.

The Doss Family demonstrates "Snow Paddling"

Traditional paddling was also a fun activity this weekend with the beautiful scenry below captured by DRBA members, Andy & Barbara Parker, as they kayaked from Marrowbone Creek to Mitchell Road Bridge.

Videos submitted by Brian Williams & Jennifer Doss
Photos submitted by Barbara Parker

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Winter Blues... and Greens

This first week in December brings us rainy and cold weather, but November saw some perfect conditions for wintertime paddling.  Winter can be a great time to see things on the river you might not normally see on summer trips. The leaves are off and you can see a long way through the woods. Wildlife abounds and eagles are a frequent site along certain sections. The stark beauty of the gray sycamores against the blue sky and the quiet reflections on the still waters bring a different perspective to the river scene.

Dress appropriately with layers and wicking clothing, take extra clothes in a dry bag, and enjoy the solitude on the blueways.  Take special note of the various shades of greens and blues to be experienced on the river this time of year.  Several trips were made in November from the Sports Complex to Marrowbone Creek and from Marrowbone to Mitchell Bridge, both excellent wintertime choices.
Andy and Barbara Parker drift by sycamore reflections on a recent Marrowboine to Mitchell Bridge trip

Bella the Wonder Dog
(I wonder why I am in this canoe instead of curled up next to a fireplace)

This enormous old sycamore sure does stand out in a crowd !

Katie Majoris and Andy Kent enjoy a recent November paddle on the lower Smith

Long Island Rapids just upstream from Mitchell Bridge

Wintertime reflections on the Smith  Sycamores meet the water
A juvenile Bald Eagle comes to rest in a huge sycamore just upstream from Mitchell Bridge

A new ramp is not complete yet at Mitchell Bridge but is already seeing some heavy use.

Bella drifts off to sleep under the spell the gentle rocking of the canoe.

Clear skies and the right angle of the November sun create wintertime blues on the Smith

A doe and her offspring spotted on the ridge near the river

Monday, November 30, 2009

Jones to be Presented with Conservation Award

The Dan River Basin Association is pleased to announce that Dr. David Jones is the recipient of the "Taylor Turner Conservation Award" from the Fly Fishers of Virginia in Richmond

The award is presented annually to an individual or group that engages in activities that support the conservation of our fisheries and natural resources.

The award will be presented at the Fly Fishers annual banquet on the evening of January 23, 2010 at the Salisbury Country Club in Chesterfield.

According to Vice President of Conservation Jay Armstrong: "Dr. Jones will be presented the award for his work with Trout in the Classroom and the endeavor to bring this educational tool to the public school environment. It is a great example of how people can make a difference in the future of conservation of our natural resources. Programs of this type can provide the spark that gets children into the sciences and educates people that our natural resources are not infinite and require that we give something back."

Please join us in congratulating Dr.Jones for his outstanding support of our natural resources and his tremendous efforts for the students of Southern Virginia!!!
Article by: Brian Williams

TU Names Brian Williams Conservation Educator of the Year for Virginia

Brian Williams of the Dan River Basin Association (DRBA) was recently recognized by Trout Unlimited, a national conservation organization, as their Conservation Educator of the Year Award recipient for Virginia.

Williams worked as a volunteer with the Trout in the Classroom Program for four years helping with the creation of Virginia’s first Trout in the Classroom program in Martinsville & Henry County. In early 2008, he was hired as the Education, Outreach, and Conservation Coordinator for DRBA where he has continued to support Trout in the Classroom in more than 25 schools and in the Virginia Museum of Natural History. Williams currently works out of the organization’s Collinsville office. Since the inception of the program in Henry County by Dr. David Jones he has led the Smith River Chapter of Trout Unlimited in becoming the largest Trout in the Classroom Program in the nation.

Trout Unlimited recognized Williams at their annual meeting in Ruckersville, Virginia with the Mike Barbour Memorial Award for his extensive work in educating the public about the importance of water quality and conservation. His work has directly impacted many thousands of children and adults across Southern Virginia. Over the course of his career he has given more than 100 presentations to youth groups on the imperative need for conservation in the Smith River corridor and related areas, has staffed more than 25 workshops for teachers and other educators, has served as a river guide for youth and adult groups floating the river and has authored a new guide to the Smith River that is being used as a tool to promote tourism of our area.

According our local Trout in the Classroom sponsor, Dr. David Jones, Williams “is a tireless advocate for improving water quality in the Smith River, protecting riparian borders and view shed forested areas. His work and passions provide us with one of our greatest opportunities for creating jobs and tourism leading to economic recovery in the Martinsville-Henry County area.”

Monday, November 16, 2009

Smith River Flood 2009

The Smith River presented an impressive show this past week as it came out its banks with excess waters from Hurricane Ida.  Brian Williams of the Dan River Basin Association captured nature's fury on film to document it.  Thankfully, the waters are now under control and the trails along the Smith River Trail System survived the event with minimal damage. Check out this footage...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Goodbye October

“O hushed October morning mild, Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow's wind, if it be wild, Should waste them all.”
-Robert Frost

Beautiful yet fleeting seems to be what Frost wanted us to remember about fall. This week fall is showing its peak colors in the foothills. Soon the winter winds will bring the brilliant display to an end as our lawns, decks and driveways pile high with the cast off leaves. Take advantage of the mild weather now and enjoy the brief but brilliant color show that is late October in Southern Virginia.

Fall colors continue unfolding across our region but this past week has seen the colors and variety peak in a color explosion. Everywhere you look another beautiful tree can be found just driving through our county, but the mild weather begs us to the trail and the river to experience the colors and peace that prevails in the Autumn woods.

We are fortunate to live in a part of the world where Nature has one last fling before the dormant sleep of winter takes hold. The days grow shorter and bring crisp temperatures as the deep greens of summer foliage are transformed into the vivid autumn palette.

Three factors are known to dictate autumn color: length of night, weather and leaf pigments. The primary factor inducing leaf color change is regulated by the calendar. The increasing length of the night is the plants first signal to begin the process of “winterizing” for the coming cold months.

The amount and brilliance of the colors that develop in any particular autumn season are related to weather conditions that occur before and during the time the chlorophyll in the leaves is dwindling. Temperature and moisture are the main influences here.


Warm, sunny days and cool, crisp nights seems to bring out the most spectacular color displays. During the day, leaves produce sugars and the cool nights cause the leaf veins to close holding the sugars in. Sugars and light spur production of the brilliant pigments, by way of anthocyanins and carotenoids producing reds, purples, crimson and golden yellows.

Here a brief list of colors and associated trees
Ash: yellow, maroon
Beech: yellow to orange
Dogwood: scarlet to purple
Hickory: golden bronze
Oak: red, browns or russet
Poplar: golden yellow
Maples: brilliant scarlet to bright golds
Sourwood: deep red
Sweet Gum: golden yellow
Sassafras: bright yellow


Where can I go to see autumn color in Southern Virginia? 

You can find autumn color anywhere you find hardwood trees from parks and forest throughout our region, cemeteries, even in our towns as we have an abundance of “sidewalk trees” within our city limits. Your own neighborhood may be one of the best places if you have that favorite maple or dogwood that you always watch for the change.

Although many flock to the Blueridge Parkway for leaf viewing, and rightly so, you can find spectacular color right here in Henry County. Just about any where along a river or lake can provide delightful vistas. Philpott Lake overlook is a favorite spot close to home as well as Beaver Creek Reservoir with its variety of hardwoods surrounding the lake.

I like our local trails as for color watching as you can go often and really do not even need to plan a special trip to visit. are both highlighted in reds and golds but any trail in our region from Fairystone to Philpott, Fieldale to Gravely Nature Preserve. Enjoy it the colors of late October…for as they say, “This is a limited time only offering”



Friday, October 16, 2009

Damp and Chilly, Fall Arrives

I don't really like gray damp days....but I love the early fall leaves
as the forest begins to prepare for the coming winter.

After a brief meeting at Philpott Lake this morning, I took a break for
aquick hike along the river below the dam.  A light drizzle was nothing
a rain jacket couldn't handle and I slipped into the wet forest on the
narrow trail. Walking slowly I could enjoy the peace and beauty of the
quiet woods as raindrops flecked the surface of the river and the
occasional  trout rose, rings bigger than those of the rain drops,
picking off  unseen tiny insects.

This beautiful, natural surface "out and back" trail  borders the
Smith River for one mile along the Henry County side below
the dam and is perfect for a short hike to experience some

outstanding scenery. The rhododendrons cover one ridge
with thick  vibrant greens, contrasting with the gold
and red hues of early fall against the backdrop of the river.

What a fabulous little break before returning to the
confines of the office. 
Even the gray skies seemed a  little lighter as
I traveled back towards town. 
Take time for a stroll, even in the rain.
A short walk by the river in the early fall woods
can re-focus your thoughts and lighten your day. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Smith River TU Features VDGIF Biologist Scott Smith

Smith River Trout Unlimited will meet at Rania's Restaurant in uptown Martinsville, on Thursday, December 3, 2009, at 6:30pm. The program for the evening will feature Virginia DGIF Fisheries Biologist Scott Smith who will present findings and recommendations based on recent samplings and studies of the Smith River trout fishery. We will also hold elections and install officers to lead the SRTU chapter in 2010 - proposed slate TBA prior to meeting along with nominations from floor.

You do not have to be a member of TU to attend our meetings.(You must be a member in order to vote on chapter business). Anyone who has an interest in the Smith River Fishery is encouraged to attend.

For information contact Chapter Pres B.J. Walker, (434) 728-1419 http://www.blogger.com/
Secy Al Kittredge, (910) 868-6235 aakitt@earthlink.net
or check our website for more details and directions. http://www.blogger.com/

Friday, October 2, 2009

Think it's too cold to paddle? No way!

I absolutely love paddling in the fall when the air is crisp and bright yellow, red and brown leaves dot the trees.  Taking a leisurely paddle to enjoy the scenery is a perfect way to unwind and experience nature. For beginner paddlers though, this extra chill can be daunting. To help novice paddlers get into the sport so they will be ready to go in spring, Smith River Adventure Outfitters is now offering beginner kayak classes indoors at the Martinsville YMCA!

Classes are offered the third Friday of each month (October 16, November 20, December 18) from 6-8PM.

Drop your boat in the heated pool to learn entry and exit skills, paddle strokes, river running techniques and introduction to the kayak (eskimo) roll. Classes are $35 each and boat rentals are available for $10 extra.

Contact Smith River Adventure Outfitters - 252-0701 or the YMCA - 632-6427 to register or for more information.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Golden Hour

The nights come quicker in September, the crisp air brings shorter days, and you know autumn is closing fast. The damp air hangs a little heavier when it rains, and blankets of fog sink a little closer to the river, growing thicker with moisture inhaled from thunderstorms rumbling across the Blueridge.

Rain means clouds...and thunderstorms bring the backdrops crucial to incredible sunsets.
Wednesday afternoon brought these conditions to bear on the Smith. The air was saturated with moisture and new storms threatened to the west. Whether photographing floating or fishing, this combination of moisture and light unite, providing for the perfect evening on the river.
Sunlight streaks through the sycamores along the Smith. Last night was one of those nights. The light was right, the clouds were there and the ever present Smith River fog was rolling in.
It wasn't....perfect, but almost. The mist was almost too think for photos or fishing but there is always that "golden hour" which may end up being just a few "golden minutes", where the light is right to photograph or the fog lifts just enough to see your fly get sipped from the surface by a hungry brown.
Darrin called the office about 5 pm and said he was going to be at the river when they stopped generating at 6 pm. That's the excuse I needed to keep from being glued to the computer all night, so I left the office about 5:30 and headed up to the tailrace.

We met up at one of my favorite spots close to the dam. I love this short section of calm water for the nice browns I have caught here in the past. Maybe not as many as in other sections, but definitely a few that you don't mind photographing. We eased into the water as it was dropping and slipped upstream. It wasn't long before the fist "rings of the rise" indicated the feeding had begun. We worked out and way upstream toward the feast unfolding under the overhanging sycamores as the browns sometimes exploded and sometimes just quietly nipped the surface, taking down unsuspecting midges, mosquitoes and flying ants. It didn't take long for the famous "allie worm" to work its magic on a hungry brownie.
(Thanks Al, for tying me up a few new ones of these "fish magnets" at last Saturdays Eden River Fest.) Although the browns were rising, I stuck with the allie worm while Darrin worked although several variations of a dry with a nymph dropper.

I got a shot of this guy, them he bolted from my hand and I felt the line snap as I watched my indicator zipping along the bottom, no longer attached to my leader....oh well, if somebody catches that guy again before he spits it out...bring me back my allie worm !
I also wanted to get some short video footage of flyfishing in the fog for an upcoming project so this was the perfect opportunity as I had Darrin close by. Several video clips latter, I found the time to start casting again and this time hooked up with a little nicer-sized brown. This guy had that nose hook going on and its obvious they are getting close to breeding season again. I was "tippet shy" after the last break-off so I took my time getting this one in. Some razor sharp teeth reminded me why these guys can snap a line so very quickly.
Releasing this guy back to the river I looked up to notice the golden hour of light was only going to be about 10 minutes today.
Darrin was silhouetted against the western clouds and I could see the perfect shot but was just wishing I had the perfect camera
instead of my point and shoot.
For the past couple of weeks, the trout feeding has only lasted about 30 minutes right near sunset.
Not much time, but sometimes even 30 minutes of good fishing competes well with a whole day on the river.

One more fish was it all the failing light allowed and then we worked our way upstream looking for the exit
The sun finally left us, sinking behind the ridge, just enough light for one more shot then out of the river and back to the truck
That was almost a perfect evening on the river. It was dark as we packed up and headed back down the road. I was just thinking, wow, that was almost too good, 3 nice browns and a perfect sunset, what more could you wish for. How about seeing a nice copperhead crossing the road on the way home? I'm always on the look out as they are really moving around this time of year and especially after the rains. Rounding the bend I slammed on the brakes and both Darrin and I hopped out to take a quick look at a very nice specimen laying in the middle of the dirt road. Lucky guy ! He met us and not someone else that would not may not have been quite as considerate. Ok, now the night is complete !
Hey, this all seems a bit too lucky....maybe I should stop and buy a lotto ticket !!!!

Contributed by: Brian Williams