On Friday evening, September 18, 2009, I headed to the Dam Area of the Smith River to fish "the falling water" which occurs right after they shut off generation for the day. Friday's shut off was at six o'clock which did not leave much time for fishing but I was determined to make the most of it.
I elected to start fishing about a third of a mile downstream from the dam so I really couldn't safely step in the water until about six thirty. I sat on the bank and stuck my wading staff in the water's edge as a gauge of how far or how fast the water was receding. I mentally told myself that when it reached a certain point I would venture in. After a short while I realized I was burning daylight so stepped in up to my knees and worked my way downstream to a point where I knew a good run was located.
I had no more then moved off the steep path to the river when I heard a splash where I had just been sitting and saw a doe deer paddling for the opposite shore - This section is a favorite deer crossing as it is normally shallow but it was till well over the does leg length and she was bravely swimming straight across less then 20 feet away. I reached for my camera and realized I had left it in the bed of my truck. Oh well, so much for taking pictures. The deer was pushed about 10 feet downstream by the current but bravely swam to the other shore, climbed out, shook herself off and wandered into the woods. Just another day in the wilds for a deer.
I figured if the deer could brave the current, so could I. I carefully worked out into the river and started casting Ben's Beetle which has been a great "falling water" fly. It was an overcast day with night coming early. Combine that with the foggy surface of the river and it was impossible to tell where the fly was. After a few futile casts I pulled in and slipped a non- discript white hackle fly which I tie as a strike indictor on my leader just above the knot before the final section of tippet. (I have found this is easier then tying the fly to the leader then tying another knot for the tippet - it also floats the fly more naturally) - So I ended up with a white fly indicator and Ben's Beetle about 3 feet below that.
About 3 casts later I saw a big splash just upstream of my white indicator and raised the rod to set the hook and the fight was on. From the bend in my rod I knew I either had a good fish or he was making maximum use of the still very strong current. It took some skill and a little bit of luck to finally bring the fish to where I could get a look at him. It was then that I realized I had not one but two fish on the line. The original splash was a fish which had firmly grasped Ben's Beetle and pulled the white indicator fly under the surface. Another fish of equal size could not help himself and grabbed the indicator. I worked them both to the bank and unhooked a matched pair of very chunky 10 inch browns. They were caught on a single cast, played to submission in the same epic battle of man versus fish so in my mind Ben's Beetle accounted for 20 inches of brown trout.
I caught a few more before darkness drove me off the water.
The following day Paul Fogle a fellow Smith River TU member and I joined Brian Williams of the Dan River Basin Association to set up a booth at the Eden NC River Festival. Paul and I tied flies and talked fishing while Brian gave casting instruction with both fly and spinning rods.
After the Eden River Fest Paul and I hot footed it up to the "hay field section" of the Smith and tied our luck. We only had about an hour of fishing light but were determined to make the most of it. I turned out our luck was not that great. We did not get skunked but "Honest Al" has to report that we each brought only one fish to hand. Not to fear, we had a good time, told some good stories and enjoyed being out there. What more could you ask?
Contributed by: Albert Kittredge