Monday, June 2, 2008

Smith River Trout Unlimited

By: Al Kittredge- Smith River TU Member

Here is a brief summary of the Smith River TU "Fish the Smith River & Cookout event, a recent Trout In The Classroom release and some just plain fun fishing over the past few days.
I made the three hour drive to our "get away" cabin which we have affectionately named "Al's Dream & Anita's Nightmare" on Thursday. The COE were generating from noon to 3pm so spent most of the day mowing the lawn and doing cabin maintenance. At about 4:30 I couldn't stand it any longer so headed for the Rosemont Rd parking area to fish the middle of the Special Regulation Section after the high water had passed. It was a warm afternoon so I just pulled my waders over a pair of shorts and tee shirt and shuffled up the railroad tracks to the old over grown field where fog was coming off the water and the current was still moving right along as the last of the surge receded. As soon as I stepped into the water I realized my trying to "jump start" the warm days of summer with shorts and tee shirt was just a little ahead of schedule. The water was numbingly cold and the air temp was at least ten degrees cooler on the river.
I forgot about my cold legs when I observed a lot of surface activity. I already had my traditional Allieworm tied on so maneuvered my way a little downstream to one side of the feeding fish while dead drifting my offering. I was not disappointed and connected with several fish that looked like the one pictured below.
As soon as I cleared the area where the majority of the surface activity was taking place I tied on a dry fly that looked similar to what I observed coming off the water and turned up stream to see if this old nymph fisherman could coach a few to the surface. Seems like you can teach an old dog new tricks because several more fish were fooled by my "Blue Fly Cafe" special. (I freely admit I can not tie a decent looking dry fly).
By this time my legs were numb and my arms were full of goose bumps so I cut the outing short and headed back down the RR tracks a good hour before dark.
The following morning I helped with a Trout In the Classroom (TIC) release. This was just one of 20+ releases by local middle school students this year. The local TIC is a Trout Unlimited program that was originally sponsored by SRTU member David Jones three years ago. Each year since, the program has expanded with the generous support of David Jones and a few anonymous sponsors. The schools receive brown trout eggs from VDGIF in the fall and end up with about a hundred 2-4 inch brown trout fingerlings by the end of the school year. I talked with several students and their teachers and learned that they take great pride in the care of "their fish". The teachers also said they use the project as a stepping stone to many different topics taught in the classroom to include math, science and the environment.
It is a sad and at the same time joyous moment when the students release "their babies" into the river.

The COE threw a monkey wrench into my plans for Friday afternoon. Myself and a friend who came up a day early from South Carolina for the SRTU event had planned to fish that evening. They changed the announced generation schedule from what we had thought would be noon to 3pm to noon to 7pm which pretty well eliminated fishing the "evening hatch". This is a good time to mention that you should always check the day you go fishing and not rely on just checking at the end of the week when they announce the schedule for the entire week (Call 276-629-2432) - Remember they always insert the caveat "this schedule is subject to change without notice" - They seldom do it "without notice" but you can get in trouble if you don't check back on the day you intend to fish. I keep a Jon boat at a 6 acre farm pond in Patrick Country which is full of a very healthy population of large bream and small bass. We headed there and had soon forgotten all about the confounded COE and their fickle generation schedule (No offense intended - they actually do a good job of keeping us informed). My friend fished his special form beetle and I use an Allieworm on a dropper behind a bass size popper. My two fly set up probably accounted for more fish but my friend also did well with his beetle.
One time I caught a double of bass (sorry no photo) - one was about 12 inches and the other about 8. They sure put a big bend in my fly rod. I switched to a form beetle on a 4 wt flyrod when we located a bream bed up in the shallow water. It was fun to take turns casting to the sweet spot and watch hand size bream erupt up off the bed to engulf the beetle. We caught about 50 between us.

Saturday morning about 20 fly fishermen assembled at the Mirror Factory parking area for the SRTU "Fish the Smith River & Cookout Event". At least a third of them were first time visitors to the river.
The fame of the river is spreading fast. One fellow came all the way from Japan to fish with us. (OK I may have stretched that point a bit. He is from Japan but now lives in the Raleigh NC area where he works for IBM)
After introductions and a passing out of Smith River maps we fanned out to give the water a try. Some piled back into their vehicles and headed to distant sections while others jumped the hedge and followed the RR track downstream to favorite areas in the Special Regulation Section. SRTU President BJ Walker and I headed to the picnic area at the base of Philpott Dam where we set up tents, chairs and grills in preparation for the cookout. Once we had things set up we both grabbed rods and fished close by. We both caught a few fish but none large enough to warrant a photo. The highlight of the morning occurred when a deer crashed down the bank, swam the river and almost ran over BJ's daughter who was watching us fish. The deer had no more then ran out of sight when a brown and white hound followed the same route.
About 3pm the fishermen started to gather for the cookout. Several who missed the 8:30am assembly at the Mirror Factory had fished on their own and were now gathered for some good food and story telling. We hosted about 30 in all.

VDGIF sent fisheries biologist Scott Smith (left in photo) and CPO James Slaughter (center) to the event. Both participated in lots of one on one conversation. Biologist Scott Smith held everyone's attention while giving a candid assessment of the Smith River fishery, Bottom line, the fishery has unique problems, most of which relate to old technology turbines at Philpott Dam. We pretty well know what needs to be done to fix things but they all require money. In spite of these problems the river is a good fishery. It could be better, and we are all working to that end.
At the conclusion of Scott's presentation we conducted a raffle where everyone was a winner of some sports related item, all of which were donated by generous commercial outlets. Top prize was a 5wt, 9ft, 4pc rod and reel outfit donated by Orvis. So ends the weekend. Met lots of nice folks, helped several hundred kids gain an appreciation of nature, learned a little more about my favorite river and just plain had fun.

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