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

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

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