Since this is the holidays, most of you will probably be staying home or visiting friends and family
during the next four days. I doubt that many of you will be traveling to and fishing the Smokies
although I hope you do. January and the first part of February is probably the coldest time of the
year and you will have to pick out the better days to expect much success fishing the freestone
streams. By the end of February, everyone will be doing their best to force the bugs to hatch and
the trout to respond even though they will probably have to wait a few more days to see any
surface action. That considered, I thought I would write about some fishing trips we have made
to various other destinations. Don't expect these articles to win any awards, just tell you about
some things I hope you will find interesting and a few that I look back on with a gleam in my eye.
Fly Fishing the Smith River Tailwater, Virginia
Even though I have a good friend that owns a Nascar Racing team, I am not a big
Nascar fan. I do watch the races occasionally just to keep up with James Finch's
Phoenix Racing Team. Mark Reno, Phoenix Crew Chief, finally got James to move it
from Panama City, Florida to near the North Carolina Racing Capital of the World or
whatever it is correctly referred to as. I'm a little out of touch since moving from
Panama City Beach, but it sure looks like James has got himself a fine driver in
Mike Bliss, whom I have not met. I'm pulling for them.
I'm sure many of you have watched a few races that have taken place at
Martinsville, Virginia. What I didn't know, until a few years ago, was that one of
Virginia's finest tailwaters was close by. Philpott Reservoir, at Martinsville, created a
fine tailwater for trout. The two-hundred foot high dam releases some very cold
water. The stream is stocked with rainbow trouta nd catching plenty of them is
usually not a problem. However, what makes it a good southern tailwater is the wild
brown trout fishing. There is a regulated catch and release area that has helped
create some very good fishing for decent size browns.
Angie and I have only fished the river twice. Both times we were able to catch
several rainbows and a few wild browns on the dry fly. This is a pretty big tailwater.
The river is wide in a few places but depending on the discharges from the
turbines, it is usually fairly easy to wade at least in the area we have fished. They
do provide a release schedule and it should be checked anytime prior to fishing
there. I had trouble going to the Wilmington District Water Management link who
provides the release info but I feel sure that is a temporary website problem. I
understand this is a dangerous tailwater. They blow a warning horn but the water
can rise very fast according to the locals, so even though I haven't witnessed that
happening, I suggest you use caution if you choose to fish this tailwater.
As we almost always do, we did collect and observe some samples of the larvae in
the tailwater from our kick nets. We did notice a high number of Sulfur mayflies in
one area quite a ways downstream of the dam, and some net spinning caddis
(probably Cinnamon caddis and Little Sister caddis) We also found a few
Hendrickson and March Brown nymphs. Of course there were a lot of midge larvae
everywhere we checked. I would think that would be a key food for the trout there.
I certainly wouldn't rate the Smith River tailwater quite as high as Tennessee's
South Holston River, but it is far better trout stream than most other Southern
tailwaters because of its wild brown trout population. I would suggest it to anyone
who lives anywhere near the river or anyone that just wants to visit a new place to
I wish I was able to provide more information on the fishing there. I am sure some of
my visitors are knowledgeable about the river. We are trying to develop a hatch
chart for the tailwater for our "perfect fly" site. I would appreciate any of you that
can provide any specific information in that regard contacting us.
Copyright 2008 James Marsh