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

Saturday, May 14, 2011

CPR: Catch and Proper Release

Fishing is part of our natural and cultural heritage.  Keeping our fisheries healthy and productive for future generations is our responsibility to our children.

 Do you know CPR ? (catch and proper release )

Wild populations of brown trout reproduce in the Smith River but are not stocked.  Practicing catch and release on the brown trout will increase this productivity of the fishery for everyone and eventually lead to consistently bigger fish and even trophy fish.  Continuing to take or kill brown trout on the Smith will only continue the decline in the average size of the trout. 

a "stockie"  rainbow
In some trout streams, like the Smith River, Rainbow trout are stocked by the VDGIF as “put and take” fish.  These hatchery fish rarely survive one full season so catching and removing these fish for food is an acceptable practice.     
4 STEPS to help your Fish Survive
  1. If possible, don’t handle the fish. When you handle the fish you disturb the protective slime coating and the fish can develop a fungus which eventually causes death. Do not touch a fish with a dry hand.  Leave fish in the water and reach down to release the hook from it’s mouth and allow it to swim away untouched. Small pliers or forceps help facilitate hook removal.
  2. Handle the fish gently. Turn the fish on its side in your hand near the water, where it will become immobile. Do not squeeze the fish, this will damage its delicate internal organs.  After the fish is on its side, remove the hook and release the fish easily without a struggle.
  3. Do not put your fingers into the gills to hold the fish. The fish can survive if it begins to bleed slightly from the gills, but will not survive with major gill damage.
  4. Revive the fish completely before releasing it.  The fish is exhausted from the fight and will not survive without water flowing across it’s gills.  Hold the fish upright in the  water, in a gentle flow can get its gills working and recover oxygen from the water.  In still water hold the fish gently and glide it back and forth in the water so the water flows through the gills, providing oxygen to the fish.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter weekend on the Smith

Easter weekend means egg hunts for the kids hunts and chocolate bunnies ( I like the chocolate bunnies too).  But for some it means turkey hunting and for some…fishing.  And for most of us, it means spring is really here to stay.  The flowers are being pollinated, the air has that cool spring fresh smell, mayflies are hatching  and the land is washed in all shades of green.

Good Friday typically starts the weekend but Saturday was my favorite day this time around.  The Morning started out fantastic as I got the DRBA display tent and banner set up and ready to go for earth day at Smith River Sports Complex.  I had to be at PHCC a little later that afternoon for rehearsal for an upcoming play but before that I had an opportunity to fish a couple of hours and when Cricket called to say she was getting ready to hit the river, how could I resist ?
It was one of those days when the river was packed with all kinds of fishermen in just about every section and this was no exception.  There was another flyfishermen just downstream and a spin fishermen not too far upstream.  We would be sandwiched in on a small stretch but I knew there were plenty of fish right there.  I was ready to go before Cricket so I stepped in the water just upstream from Bassett Historical Center floating a red cricket under a parachute adams.   Wasn’t but a few cast and I had my first little brown for the day.  He slammed the red cricket of course !
After another brown, and then losing my entire rig to the tree across the river, Cricket decides to finally wade down to show me how its done.

And of course it didn’t take long for her to school me with a couple of fish from the spot I just left !
But I bounced right back with a couple of little bows to match.  They sure were loving some red crickets this morning. 
We saw quite a few rings but only had one or 2 rise to our drys. 
We worked out way upstream through a few more bows and browns
One little brown just couldn’t stop coming out of the water and flipped a 5 or 6 times  as Cricket was bringing him in to the net.
Fish on !  Another hook-up for Cricket…can you tell she gets a little excited when a smith river brownie gets fooled by one of her creations ?
And to the net he comes….. 
 A kiss for luck….and then freed to fight another day
A brand new family of Geese were testing out their new found watery playground under mom and dads watchful eyes…and protective beaks !
Man those rainbows were really kicking it today and even with the river full of fisherman Friday and the all morning, there were still a few stockies around to catch.  I much prefer the wiley browns but its nice to have the variety.
One bow kept jumping in the shallows right near Crickets feet.  We investigated further and noticed he was stressed and breathing hard.  I finally figure out he was attached to 10 lb test line and a string or split shot that had hung on a rock.  I cut him loose and he was happy to be swimming free once a again
Time for a few more cast and then I had to get to rehearsal. the sun was getting high anyway and the fish had moved up in the shade and slacked off from feeding

And a couple more bows
No doubt we could have caught more but we did make it up to the water intake below Genvas tax prep and then climbed out and headed back to our cars on the road
Later that afternoon around 7 o’clock I put my kayak on the lower Smith to do a little evening paddling.  I decided to grab a spinning rod to bring along and paddled upstream so I would have an easy ride back. 
Even though the mayflies were all over the water, hardly any rises at all
Its amazing to watch a mayfly drift for 100 feet and nothing touch it at all.
But at least one fat brown was hungry enough to grab an offering I was throwing as I glided downstream.

 A couple of quick pics and back in the water he went.  Amazingly this brown was in the slot limit.  I wander how many people realize that even though we have over 100 signs posted in a 20 mile stretch of river?
And then it was time to head home before it got to dark.  The cool fog was lifting off the water as I made my way downstream glad to have the longer daylight hours but wishing there were more hours in the day !

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Danville Flyfishermen on the Smith

April 9 2011

Friday night I awoke to a driving rain and hail pounding against the bedroom window.  It fell in buckets and I knew the tribs on the Smith would be running red.  With no generation scheduled, Saturday fishing was going to be tricky.  The morning dawned gray and cold with threatening skies, but we had folks coming over from Danville and they were still game to give it a go.  I drove to Bassett and checked out river conditions and the water was turbid and stained from Martinsville all the way up to Towne creek.  The old special regs section was going to be out best chance.  For a newbie on the Smith, it might have been difficult to wade as the visibility was only about 1 foot or less but Cricket and I we knew this section well so it was the best choice for todays fishing.
Our new friends, Jim and Mike, were waiting in Stanleytown when Cricket and I arrived.  We headed up to the end of Rosemont Rd where Darrin had graciously sat and waited, "holding" our spot.  All geared up, Darrin headed on upstream to Keaton House rapids to try above Towne creek, leaving the lower section to us. We put on an extra layer of clothes and grabbed our gear.
Since Jim and Mike were fairly new to flyfishing, and the Smith River, we rigged them up with some beadhead nymphs (red crickets of course) and headed across the RR tracks and down to the river.
Cricket worked with Mike while I took Jim and we all headed upstream.  After retrieving a few rigs from those "fly stealing" sycamore branches, we just about had the boys dialed in to fishing on the Smith.
As we made our way upstream through the stained water we saw a couple of rises and not long into the hunt, Mike hooked up with a small brown.  Alright !  the skunk is off lets get to fishing.
A little further upstream and Jim hooked up with a feisty brownie as well.  Man that joker really made some leaps !  Its always a thrill to hook up with a wild Smith River Brown no matter what the size !

The red cricket was doing its job today.  We did catch a few on another Lisa creation, the hares ear with a bit of flash added.  Its all about presentation they say, but I feel better with a "red cricket" in the water.
 As we moved slowly upstream we hooked up with several more browns and its always a thrill watching new folks tie into a little smith river gem.
 A few more tangles and some lost flys we were now up into the better water and the brownies started really popping the surface.  Unfortunately, not only were the brownies getting turned on but the weather was taking a turn for the worse.
Darrin had been giving us regular weather updates via text.  A storm was moving in from Patrick County and we had better be heading back to the truck he said. The thunder was steady and then the lightning moved in a little too close for comfort so we reluctantly made the call to head back.
I sure do hate leaving when the browns are rising but better to live to fish another day.  We got a little damp on the way in but made it to the trucks just in time. Jim and Mike had sushi and chicken salad so we headed back to the Brown Trout Cabin to eat a bite and watch the rain pound the river.  A cold, gray day on the water but you always stay warm when the browns are cooperating !
We hope our new friends enjoyed the day as much as we enjoyed sharing the secrets of the Smith with them.  Thanks Jim and Mike !

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Warm day Brownies help shake off winter blues

" Old Man Winter...I hereby banish you from the kingdom of springtime...do not return for at least 8 months"
                                You're outta here, end of season....game over.

The trout lilys and bloodroots are in full bloom and that means are the days are getting long enough to get on the river after work !

The generation schedule has been tricky the past week due to Philpott releasing water almost all day every day to lower the pool level in anticipation of coming rain.  So you have to take your best shot at getting in just the right place at the right time.

On Tuesday the generation schedule was 5 am - 3pm then 6pm - 11pm.  That left a little window of opportunity and in the evening and Cricket and I took advantage of the slack water to get in a few cast near Rosemont.  Due to the water drop time, we would be getting in just as it was going down and still have a couple of hours before dark.  We would beat the water rise by 30 minutes if we got out at dark
No one else was to be seen as we slipped in the water at the "poacher hole" near the big sycamore.  The water was still dropping and it wasn't long before we spotted the first rise and then a decent size hatch started up and we had big mayflies flitting all around.   The evening started off kind of crappy when I lost my first rig to the sycamore at the poacher hole then lost another one upstream, but I finally dialed it in long enough to stay out of the woods and get some drops in the actual river.

Cricket steps up to the plate......

She shoots....she scores (the crowd goes wild)

The first hook up was an 8 inch little brown right in the deep section....and yes folks...she nailed him on the "red cricket"  This little gem of a nymph is still batting .1000 !!!
They may be small, but there's nothing like a wiley Smith River Brownie to get the juices flowing again and paint over those winter time blues.
Soon we were back at it and we had some competition from a bait fishermen who walked in behind us and was so we headed upstream to the next lane.  I think Cricket could have caught more there but I wanted to hit some of the better water upstream before dark.  We only made it to the next hole and I hooked up with a small rainbow that cleared the water several times and put up a nice fight....you guessed it, hauled him in on a "red cricket"   I love that fly !

Since Lisa was downstream from me, she cradled him for a quick picture
The bow fell to the "bead-head red cricket" this time instead of the goggle-eyed one she had been using.
A couple of these would be mighty tasty after sunset but I just don;t have the heart to keep any of them.
A quick kiss for good luck and back in the water it went.  
On upstream we moved to the next set of riffles as the sun was getting ready to take that long trip around the backside of the planet.  Time for a few more cast upstream..
One final hook up was this tiny little guy who hit my indicator fly.  I had just cut my thumb and didn't stop for a bandaid as it was getting dark too quick to stop fishing and repair myself, hence the red stain.
So its not quite summer yet and that big orange ball drops way too fast this time of year but summer is coming and evening on the Smith is the best fishing there is.