Thursday, July 22, 2004
Bill Cochran's Outdoors: Tips on catching Smith River trout, part II
Bill Cochran's Outdoors
- Virginia’s hunting totals produce mixed results
- A good trade: Virginia trout for Kentucky elk
- Forget the odds-makers; Salem’s John Crews believes he can win the Bassmaster Classic.
- The good and bad of the 2012 saltwater fishing season
- Column archive
Bill's Field Reports
- Virginia General Assembly goes soft on outdoor issues
- Quail Unlimited calls it quits
- Field reports archive
Editor’s Note: Al Kittredge operates Al’s Smith River Guide Service and is a frequent contributor to Bill Cochran’s Field Reports. This is a follow-up to last week’s column when Kittredge covered fly choice and presentation.
I am a fast fisherman. You will not find me spending a lot of time in a likely spot if I am not catching fish. If the trout in front of me aren’t feeding or if they are feeding but ignoring my offering, I will move on until I find some that will cooperate. My objective is to catch 10 fish in a 2-to 3-hour outing. I can usually do that. Any more than that is a bonus.
Go fishing at every opportunity in order to hone your skills. Stealth in wading, long casts and using long leaders are the order of the day on the Smith River. You need to be able to lay out a lot of line. You cannot cast right in front of your feet in gin clear water and expect any self-respecting, stream-spawned brown trout to jump onto your hook. You should be able to side arm cast, left to right and right to left, as well as use the traditional overhead and roll cast.
Practice, practice, practice. If you don’t live near a trout steam there is nothing wrong with fly-fishing for bluegills or other warm-water species. It is fun and also good practice.
A long and supple leader is required to deal with the Smith’s clear water. I start with an Orvis braided leader butt. In my opinion braided leaders lay out much better then traditional tapered leaders.
I loop-to-loop connect 4 to 5 feet of 6-pound tippet material to the braided butt. If I am using a dry fly as an indicator I tie the fly to the end of the 6-pound tippet. I then tie about 2 feet of 4-pound tippet material into the indictor fly eye. Some prefer to tie the dropper material on the curve of the hook. Either method will work.
If I am using yarn as an indicator I use a double surgeons knot to connect the 4-pound tippet to the 6-pound tippet. I then use a clove hitch above the surgeon’s knot to hold the yarn.
The nymph goes about 12-18 inches below the indicator. Dub a bit of dry fly floatant on the indicator and you’re ready to go fishing.
ORVIS TOP CHOICE
I use Orvis Super Strong tippet material. It is reasonably priced knots well and is very supple. Fluorocarbon, in my opinion, is too expensive, is much more difficult to knot and is not as supple. Some fly fishermen use regular spinning line for leader and tippet material. It may be cheaper but it is stiff and will not allow a dry fly or nymph to drift naturally.
I really can’t say that any section of the Smith is better then the other. The entire cold-water stretch from Philpott Dam downstream past Koehler holds good numbers of fish.
Probably the most fish, for obvious reasons, are in the Special Regulation section, from signs below the east bank of Towne Creek downstream to the Virginia 666 (Trent Hill Road) Bridge in Basssett.
I also have had great success both above and below the Special Regulations sections. These areas are stocked, but I often catch more stream-spawned brows than stocked rainbows, which is an eye opener. Some of the locals recognize the value of the stream-spawned browns and put them back, which certainly helps.
I have broken the river down into 2-to 3-hour sections. This is usually dictated by where it is easy to get in and get out of the water, which can be a problem. If one section is not fishing well and I really want to catch some fish, I am very likely to move up or downsteam to another section where I often find the fish to be more willing to bite.
The Smith River is a tail-water fishery, which means the cold water comes from a hydroelectric dam upstream. You cannot wade the river when the generation surge from Philpott is passing your section. Call (276) 629-2432 for the latest generation schedule. Learn how long it takes the generation surge to reach various sections of the river and you can often work around it.
You will increase your success on the Smith River if you approach it with an open mind and try some new techniques. I have a problem with people who don’t catch fish and complain what a lousy river the Smith it. I have personally caught 450-500 trout from the river each of the past several seasons.
Sure, it could be better. We are working on that.