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

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Sunday Afternoon Paddle

We met at the Smith River Sports complex for a nice Sunday afternoon paddle, May 16, 2010.  The early morning weather was threatening  skies but we decided it would probably clear off a bit by noon and it was worth taking a shot at getting on the river.  Arriving at the sports complex boat ramp I was met by Marsha, Marsha and Elizabeth.  We off-loaded the boats and were getting ready to set shuttle to the Mitchell Bridge Canoe Access when more paddlers arrived with the same idea.

First, Martin Gardner and his two boys would be heading down in their canoe and sit on top kayak, while the next group to arrive included Jody and April Ferguson and their friends. 
It was really great to see so many people utilizing the new access made possible by the Harvest Foundation, Henry County, The Smith River Sports Authority and Dan River basin Association.

After setting shuttle down at Mitchell Bridge we hit the river about 2 pm.  Its a short 1/2 mile to the first little riffle where you can get your "river legs" and any beginners can test there skills at going through simple class 1 rapids.  They need to get warmed up quick because coming up in another 1.5 miles would be Eggleston Falls, a class 2+ rapid with a series of drops and maneuvers.

You can portage here or go river left to avoid the falls and the drops but the adventuresome will want to run the best of the white water on this section.

After the Fall part 2

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

After the fall part 1

Part 1
Articles & Photos by: Brian Williams
Posted by: Vicky Thomas

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.

One evening and Smith River Browns

David [Jones] called me at the office yesterday as I was finishing up a report. I had been at it most of the day and was ready for a break. He was ready to get in on the sulfer hatch on the river this evening and was coming by to pick me up. We headed to Bassett and the upper special regulations section.
The current was still ripping as we eased downstream into place. They shut it down at 6 and slowly the water began to recede as we watched a tremendous hatch hovering above the water......then ever so slightly we saw the first signs of trout rising. As the water began to drop, they really turned it on and we hooked up with a few typical Smith River Browns.
It doesn't seem that cold at the truck in 80 degree weather but the river changes all that. It's amazing how cold it gets out there with that 50 degree water flying by and creating a cool breeze. Thoughts of being cold quickly fade as a Smith River Brown rises to your fly and we were enjoying the hook-ups as much as the missed hits. But we managed to pull in a few little trout in which were quickly released.

All too soon the sun fell out of the sky and we headed for the bank and climbed out next to our old friend, the giant sycamore that stands like a sentinel over this section of the river.
Climbing up the bank we stood for a moment and watched the rise of browns as they gorged on sulfers and midges. You could hear the sound of popping as the trout continued a voracious feed on into the night...."river music" at it's finest ! As the light faded across the river bottom, we headed back to the truck... grateful for another brief but satisfying encounter with the feisty Smith River Browns !

Memorial Day 2008

Holiday Weekend... check!
Sunny Skies... check!
Warm Weather... check!
Let's get on the river!

April on the Smith River

April and May are incredible months to enjoy the scenic beauty of the Smith River in Henry County, Virginia.

Pinxter Azalea

Photos by: Brian Williams