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Smith River 4-14-14

3697 Views 19 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  banjo
Deer hunting is my passion so it has been awhile since I did any serious fishing. With urban archery season behind us I have no excuse - well maybe a little excuse because I'm now scouting for next season and moving stands. Deer hunting for me never really ends. Anyway the generation schedule did not kick in until late afternoon this past Monday so I hit a section of the Smith River.


Maybe some of you guys with photographic memories and eagle eyes can figure out this secret spot.


It took about five hits before I was able to close the deal with this small Smith River Brown. I was fishing a soft hackle dropped off my traditional Allieworm. This particular section had a lot of ditty-mo which made me shorten the distance from the indicator to avoid globs of ditty-mo AKA "rock snot".


Before too long I got into a pod of stocked Rainbows. Kudos to DGIF for stocking some nice size fish.


I now look at Rainbows on the Smith as competition for the limited food source so creeled a limit of six for the skillet. You eagle eyed folks will note the soft hackle is holding it's own.


I finally caught a decent brown which would have been protected under the 10-24 inch slot limit.


I was about to dump my entire fly box of Alliworms in the river when this small Brown fell for the old standby. This was followed by several more of about the same size. Probably a good thing because I have so many Allieworms if I'd chucked them all in the stream I could have been cited for creating a hazardous waste dump.

Well there ya have it. I now have something to do while waiting for deer season to roll around again. Hmmmmm, now let's see - I still need to move the deer stand down near the old stump about 15 feet to the left.
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Unfortunately it seems that the stocker rainbows are the biggest fish you'll catch at the Smith now.
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Some truth to that and there are lots of reasons, mostly have to do with food. I do see things getting better. Browns have grown a bit due to the recent slot limit and the expanded fishery below MV dam where there is more food is producing a few real nice fish.

One way to look at it is that with gas exceeding $3.50 a gallon it makes more sense to drive to the Smith for your trout fishing fix rather then 2 or more hours further to a NC or TN stream.
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Thanks for the report Al. I think I do recognize that midstream rock in your first photo. Glad to see the old allieworm is still working for you. I don't get up there much anymore but I'm thinking of taking the six weight, sinktip, and some of those jumbo articulated streamers below Martinsville dam and target some of those big browns. Hope to see ya up there sometime.
Take care!
Bob
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How far down the river do you find the brown trout?

Thanks
How far down the river do you find the brown trout?

Thanks
30+ river miles from the dam on down to Mitchell Bridge. Bunches of tiny wild browns in the upper stretches below the dam and good to very high populations continue for 17+ miles down into Fieldale. From Fieldale down to Martinsville dam and beyond, there are fewer fish but growth rate is noticeably improved with some very nice browns available. Though some trout are caught all the way into Eden, I don't believe many folks would spend time concentrating much beyond the Sports Complex area. Of course you can continue to use the same patterns and expect to catch some smallmouth bass from that section on down.
Here's some info to put things into perspective.
http://www.danriver.org/river-information
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Crabman pretty will nailed it. Wading is a problem much beyond Koehlor Church. Good area for toon, canoe or kayak. Same can be said for below MV dam. Not as many fish but if your looking for a 20 inch brown below Koehlor is place to go.
What exactly changed from the 1970's that produced all those huge browns? Something to do with the bait fish but don't remember how or why.
During the heyday of the monster brown trout, Alewives in great numbers from the lake would flow into the river below during power generation. The alewives were easy pickens for the Brown trout in the river and growth rates were phenomenal. In speaking with the lake biologist (Dan Wilson) a few years back, he indicates that the lake ecology changed to where the alewives no longer bunch up around the dam like they once did.
The water temeratures in the river below the dam are cold to the point that is not conducive for forage species such as darters, chubs, and suckers. The trout are relegated to feeding on a sparce population of aquatic insects and thus growth rate for trout is far less than ideal. As you move down river and the water warms there is more food available to the trout but not at the level that was produced by the alewives from the lake back in the good old days.
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Are there giant browns in the lake above chasing those alewives? Have any big ones turned up in recent years down around Eden in the warmer water?
VDGIF stocked trout in the lake up until ~2003. During that period there was a very consistent fishery for rainbows in the 1-3 # class with the occassional 5 pounder. Brown trout were fewer but larger with a decent supply of 6-8 # fish. Haven't heard of any large browns from there in the last five years or so, but some small trout are caught periodically that apparently come down from stocked streams entering the lake system.
Haven't heard of any large trout from the Eden area and only occasionally a report of a small fish or two. Summertime water temps are not conducive to holdover trout.
As Al mentioned earlier, if you are looking for 20" class trout you should concentrate between Koehlor to on down below Martinsville dam. Keep in mind that these fish are not the size of those that were present in the 70's.
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I was training a guy for a Fedex route in the Martinsville area a few years ago, and we were at some business located near a bend of the Smith. We saw a kid come up out of the river with a rainbow around 23 inches long, along with three smaller browns. Caught them on red worms, he said.lol Almost made me wanna take up trout fishing full time!
During the heyday of the monster brown trout, Alewives in great numbers from the lake would flow into the river below during power generation. The alewives were easy pickens for the Brown trout in the river and growth rates were phenomenal. In speaking with the lake biologist (Dan Wilson) a few years back, he indicates that the lake ecology changed to where the alewives no longer bunch up around the dam like they once did.
The water temeratures in the river below the dam are cold to the point that is not conducive for forage species such as darters, chubs, and suckers. The trout are relegated to feeding on a sparce population of aquatic insects and thus growth rate for trout is far less than ideal. As you move down river and the water warms there is more food available to the trout but not at the level that was produced by the alewives from the lake back in the good old days.
I went to a Smith River TU event and fished with some Smith River regulars last Sept. Crabman is right about the alwives and I was also told screens were put in front of the turbines which caused less chopped up minnows to come through. There were also walleye stocked in the lake and they did a number on the shad population. The big fish numbers started to decline immediately after those things happened. The story goes in the mid 70's before these things were put in place you couldn't even record your catch in the newspaper unless your fish was over 10lbs. That's how common big fish were in that river. These days if you catch a fish over 1lb\13-14inches you should consider it a trophy.
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Positive things the Smith has going for it .................

1) Lots of fish - good stocking of Rainbows during stocking season and lots of stream spawned browns which are some of the prettiest fish you've ever seen. This is not your typical trout stream. If you're used to fishing delayed harvest streams you'll be frustrated the first few times you fish the Smith. Stocked rainbows are fairly easy to catch but browns will test your angling skills.

2) The Smith is 95% accessable with very little posted land. See a place to park - get out and go fishing. You can even park in many of the business parking lots in town of Bassett and fish. Not unusual to see someone walking the sidewalk with a rod in their hand. BTW some very good fishing right through town.

3) Most of river is wader friendly. A few spots where you have to stand on your tip toes but most spots less then waist deep. Water is 44 degrees when it comes out of bottom of Philpott Dam so don't plan to wade it wet - some try it but seldom do it a second time. Learn the generation flow and you can get in a full day of fishing be staying ahead of the flow or cutting back and getting behind it. Several maps on various websites will give you estimates of flow arrival times. Call 276-629-2432 for COE generation schedule. Announcement is updated for week every Friday. Still best to call daily in case they change schedule.

4) The Smith is the closest trout fishing for most folks who live in NC and with gas going for $3.65 a gallon that is a big consideration. I live in Fayetteville and the closest NC trout stream is a marginal delayed harvest stream 180 miles away. There is another delayed harvest stream 220 miles away. Most regular NC trout streams are 250 miles or more. The Smith is 145 miles and most of it is 4 lane road.

5) Smith River TU is an active chapter which welcomes all to enjoy the delights of the river. Our feeling is the more folks who love her the more politician clout we will have in making a few changes which will turn it into the world class fishery it once was. We'll never see the big fish of the 1970's era but there is no reason we can't grow them to 16-20 inches. Things are already moving in that direction.
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What it doesn't have for it is VA's out of state trout fee. It's $47 and you have to buy the inland too which is another $8 for just one day. That's if you don't fish the special regs section.
What it doesn't have for it is VA's out of state trout fee. It's $47 and you have to buy the inland too which is another $8 for just one day. That's if you don't fish the special regs section.
To each his own. That $47 is for whole year and at today's gas price it is a pretty good investment. You don't need the special trout license during non-stocking months which run from June 15 to Sept 1. Smith is a tailwater which means it fishes pretty good during the summer months when other streams have dried up or are to warm.
I went to a Smith River TU event and fished with some Smith River regulars last Sept. Crabman is right about the alwives and I was also told screens were put in front of the turbines which caused less chopped up minnows to come through. There were also walleye stocked in the lake and they did a number on the shad population. The big fish numbers started to decline immediately after those things happened. The story goes in the mid 70's before these things were put in place you couldn't even record your catch in the newspaper unless your fish was over 10lbs. That's how common big fish were in that river. These days if you catch a fish over 1lb\13-14inches you should consider it a trophy.
Nobody is exactly sure what happened to the big browns. There are some good theories and others that have proven to be false.

Screens with mesh small enough to block the entry of small baitfish would also block all kinds of debris and would clog and reduce flow to the point of rendering the turbines ineffective. The screen theory is a wives tale.
Though there was a small number of walleye present in the lake during the brown trout hay day, regular heavy stocking of eyes did not occur until the trout stocking in the lake was discontinued. The big browns were pretty much history before that happened.

The Smith is a wonderful trout fishery if we accept it for what it is. As Al points out, it has alot of positives.
I went to a Smith River TU event and fished with some Smith River regulars last Sept. Crabman is right about the alwives and I was also told screens were put in front of the turbines which caused less chopped up minnows to come through. There were also walleye stocked in the lake and they did a number on the shad population. The big fish numbers started to decline immediately after those things happened. The story goes in the mid 70's before these things were put in place you couldn't even record your catch in the newspaper unless your fish was over 10lbs. That's how common big fish were in that river. These days if you catch a fish over 1lb\13-14inches you should consider it a trophy.
When I was growing up my daddy and me would fish the Smith 2 or 3 times a week and I have several pictures of some monster trout that my daddy and one of our neighbors caught in there. My dads biggest catch was a 11lb 9oz brown. Our neighbor held the state record for rainbow that he caught about 100 yards upstream from Townes Creek Bridge. It weighed 12lb 10oz and his son still has the state record citation that VDGIF gave his father in 1974. Its sad to say that the current state record rainbow was caught in a pay pond in Chilhowee. Most of those big fish were caught on homemade copper plugs they made themselves in the shop behind our house. As for any big trout caught in Philpott Lake. I caught a 5lb 11oz rainbow where White Falls comes into the lake 2 years ago. We were crappie fishing with 1/16oz white jigs.
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