Copyright 2016 James Marsh
Fly Fishing Smith River Virginia
The Smith River is recognized as one of Virginia's
best tailwaters but little is known about its fine
headwater fishing for native brook trout. Of course
this is two completely different types of fly fishing and
anyone fishing the Smith River would have to choose
one or the other for the day. We will focus on the
tailwater which is the main attraction of the Smith.
As you can tell from the fog in the pictures above, the
water comes out from under Philpott Dam at a cold
temperature year-round. When you fish this tailwater
it is imperative that you check on the discharge
schedule and that you are always well aware of the
water level. The water can rise two or three feet very
fast. There are warning horns but you also need to
know the schedule in order to know where and when
There is a three mile long "Trophy Trout Water"
section downstream from the mouth of Town Creek.
The state requires single, barbless hooks in this
section. Although the river has both brown and
rainbow trout, most of the trout are browns.
Smith River has some freestone stream influence,” It
gets colder during the Winter below the confluences
of its tributaries. The bottom discharge water from the
dam stays at a relatively constant temperature and is
why your will see it covered with dense fog on cold
days. The closer you fish to the dam during the
winter, the better off you are.
The biggest problem we have noticed with most
anglers that fish the Smith River, is the tendency to
fish too large of flies. This is both dry flies and
nymphs and larvae imitations. Most of the aquatic
insects in the river are very small. In fact, most of the
food consist of midges which are very small. The only
thing of much size are the baitfish, sculpin and
leeches. The river also has plenty of crustaceans
mostly in the form of crawfish. Large brown trout will
eat small crayfish.
Another problem we have noticed it the tendency to
fish the pools. Pools hold a lot of trout but they are far
more difficult to fish than the runs and riffles. The
trout get a much better look at your flies in the slower
moving water as well as your leader and fly line in
some cases. With the exception of when the water is
cold, your much better off fishing the faster water.
Trout won't hold in the fast water when it is below
around 45 degrees.
Another tendency is to over fish dry flies. About
ninety percent of the time, your much better off
fishing subsurface flies.
Smith River Virginia
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Recommended Tackle & Gear
5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 & 12 ft., 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 71/2
ft., 3 or 4X, Streamers 0-2X
Dry fly: 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 3 or 4X,
Best Fly Rods:
Perfect Fly Superb Five or Ultimate Six
For 5/6 fly line
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
The fishing season is year-round and trout
can be taken year-round.
Springtime brings about the best hatches
and dry fly fishing for the year.
Fly fishing Smith River during the
summertime is an excellent time to fish the
tailwater because the water stays cold on
the hottest days.
Smith River Virginia Fly Fishing
Where and when to fish the Smith River is
strictly determined by the tailwater releases.
The Smith River is basically a wide stream
with little variation in its bottom. There are
long pools, then a section of riffles leading
to the next long pool.
In most areas of the river you will barely
notice the water moving even when it is
moving at a good rate. That is because of
its smooth surface. The surface of the water
is deceptive and tough to fish with a dry fly
until you get used to fishing this type of
Most of the trout, especially the brown trout,
will hold around any structure they can find.
Rock slabs, edges of the riffles, any bank
structure, any tree limb or even a stick in
the water, gravel bars and anywhere the
depth of the water changes abruptly.
The pools hold plenty of trout but all in all,
are more difficult to fish. They usually hold
the larger trout. It is easier to catch the
smaller trout in the riffles but not the large
During the summer it is important to fish the
shaded areas under overhanging tree
limbs. The brown trout will stay out of the
bright sunlit water.
The Trophy Section is the most heavily
fished section. The trout see a lot of flies
and spook very easily in this section. In
fact, it is easy to spook the trout in any of
the pools. If you don't wade very carefully
and slowly, you will spook all the trout in a
pool without having a chance to catch one.
Drag free drifts in the smooth section are
tough to get sometimes. The water has
current seams that are difficult to see. At
times you will need to make a downstream
presentation even using dry flies. In fact
we recommend this method if you can find
a rising trout. In the clear low water, even
your leader will put a trout down. The
downstream approach will let the trout see
the fly first. Done correctly, your leader will
not pass over the fish. Keep each cast to
the inside of the trout and work in towards
the fish until you get the right drift.
Nymph fishing is generally the best way to
fish. Most anglers use a strike indicator.
The almost level bottom of the river allows
the indicator to work great. When the
caddis are hatching you may want to use a
down and across presentation of pupa
Smith River Virginia Hatches and
Our information on aquatic insects is
based on our stream samples of larvae
and nymphs, not guess work. We base fly
suggestions on imitating the most plentiful
and most available insects and other foods
at the particular time you are fishing.
Unlike the generic fly shop trout flies, we
have specific imitations of all the insects in
the Smith River and in all stages of life that
are applicable to fishing. If you want to fish
better, more realistic trout flies, have a
much higher degree of success, give us a
call. We not only will help you with
selections, you will learn why, after trying
Perfect Flies, 92% of the thousands of our
customers will use nothing else.
The freestone section of the river has a
large diverse population of aquatic insects
but not very many of any one species. The
brook trout can be fooled with several
different attractor or generic flies.
Matching the hatch isn't that important
most of the time. From here on we will
concentrate on the tailwater section of the
As with many other tailwaters, the midge is
king on the Smith River. It is not as popular
as one might expect, we believe, simply
because the locals haven't really caught
on the fishing midge imitations. Fishing tiny
flies on light line for big brown and rainbow
trout takes some time to get used to.
However, once any angler sees just how
effective midge fishing can be, they can
become addicted to it in a very short time.
It is tough fishing flies you can't see to
trout you can't see but all in all it is the
most effective way to catch trout
consistently on this river. You should have
a good selection of midge larvae, pupae
and adults anytime you fish this river.
Hendricksons hatch from about the middle
of March through the middle of April. It is
not huge but it can bring on some decent
dry fly fishing.
There are hatches of various species of
Blue-winged Olives, none of which are
very consistent. You will find them from
January through February but only here
The cloudy, overcast days are best but
even then, you may not find a hatch
occurring. The little BWOs hatch again in
the late fall from about the first of October
through December but again, it is not
consistent or dependable. If you find them
hatching by all means fish it.
The Sulphur hatch is the big event of the
year. The hatch is usually very good and
trout can be taken on dry flies. It is actually
a Eastern Pale Evening Dun hatch for the
most part. Both the true Sulphurs and the
PEDs exist in the stream. It usually starts
about the first of May and last through the
month of June. The slightly larger PEDs
start first and the smaller Sulphurs follow.
Terrestrials can be important during the
summer. From around the first of June
through September, you will find imitations
of beetles, ants and grasshoppers work
great. Another plentiful insect is the moth
larva, or inch worm most anglers call them.
They work well during the summer when
the little worms are falling off the tree
limbs. Another overlooked insect is the
Crane Fly. They are very plentiful in April
and May but are present throughout most
of the warm months. Our "Perfect Fly"
Crane Fly Larva and Adult imitations work
great on the Smith River.
Don't forget the streamers. Next to the
midge imitations, they may well be the
most important fly to use on this river.
Imitations of sculpin, small crawfish,
minnows, and baitfish work great,
especially for the large trout during high
stream flows (from the banks, please don't
wade) and anytime the water is off color.
They work great very early and late in the
day when the light levels are low.
If you haven't already done so, please
give our "Perfect Flies" a try. You will find
they are by far the most effective trout flies
you can purchase.
The brown trout spawn in the fall and this
provides the best opportunity for catching
a large trout.
Fly fishing opportunities continue
throughout the winter months. Some days
can be too cold but for the most part, it is
Smith River Virginia Fly Fishing
12/14/13 Customer ordering midges
reporting he is catching a few trout when
the weather has been reasonable. The
water has been warmer than the air and he
has had trouble fishing (seeing) in the thick
fog created. Using our blood (red) midge
pupa and larva fished in tandem.
Thumbnails: Click to enlarge
Thumbnails: Click to enlarge
Fishing Report Updated 10/10/16
(Bottom Of Page)
12/24/13 Checking the discharges will be
absolutely necessary due to heavy rain
in the area. Call (540) 629-2432 before
12/31/13 Currently flowing high mostly due
to discharges from lake due to recent
heavy rainfall. No reports of any fish caught
01/21/14 We have had 2 good reports of
catches this past week from anglers
ordering more midges. It seems the flows
are better now that the lake level is down.
02/11/14 No reports from anyone fishing.
Conditions have been fair but very cold
weather is continuing.
02/18/14 Much better weather is in the
forecast for the coming week. This
should be the first week of good fishing
opportunity in the last few weeks. Be
sure to check the discharges.
02/25/14 One customer ordered some
Midges and Black Flies but no one we
have talked to has fished the Smith
03/04/14 Better weather and stream
conditions should promote anglers to get
out on the water this coming week. We
don't have any reports from anyone
fishing this past week.
03/11/14 We have had several custormers
ordering flies this past week for the Smith.
No reports from anyone fishing even
though the weather has been much better
03/18/14 One customer ordering flies
reported catching some large browns on
our White Belly sculpin last week.
03/25/14 Our local contact reported
catching a few browns when the water
discharges were low this past week. The
weather will get much warmer this weekend.
04/01/14 Nascar race and rain kelp most
anglers away this past week.
04/08/14 We finally got a report of some
Hendricksons/Red Quills hatching in the
lower part of the river. The colder than
normal water probably delayed the hatch.
The same angler reported catching some
|Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org)
with the dates you will be fishing this
stream and we will send you a list of our
fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.
2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will help
you decide which flies you need.
3. Email us (email@example.com)
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them to
you in time for your fly fishing trip.
All orders are shipped free in the
U. S. Orders over $50 are shipped via
04/15/14 Two more good reports of
catches came in this past weekend.
Discharges have presented a problem most
days. Make sure you check the schedule.
04/22/14 Good discharges and warmer
weather has the fish turned on. More
catches reported, including on large brown
touching 20 inches.
04/29/14 Two customers reported
catching several trout this past week. Both
used Perfect Fly BWOs and Midges. Be
sure to check the discharges.
05/06/14 Discharges have been high and
not any fishing reports came in during the
last week. Hopefully, stream levels will be
better this coming week.
05/13/14 Two customers reporting
catching some nice brown trout (wild) this
past week on our Sculpin patterns. Heavy
rain this week so check the discharges.
05/20/14 Eastern Pale Evening Duns,
called Sulphurs by locals, should start to
hatch if they haven't already. The true
Sulphurs will hatch a little later on. .
05/27/14 Be sure and check the releases
from the dam. It is the most important thing.
The levels should be in better shape this
coming week but there is still rain in the
06/03/14 Isolated thunderstorms miss and
hit the headwaters and of course electricity
also determines the release schedule. It
should always be checked to see if you
can wade the river.
06/10/14 There have been a few chances
to wade this past week. Two customers
reporting catching a few trout.
06/24/14 One customer reported catching
nothing and one several nice browns. This
is par for the course on the Smith. It isn't a
stream for those just learning to fly fish.
The browns are very selective.
07/08/14 Three customers reported
catching some nice browns the past
couple of weeks. Levels have been low but
fishing continues to be good for those that
stay well hidden.
07/22/14 Fewer hatches are occurring but
terrestrials becoming important to imitate.
High water is a problem at times, so check
the release schedule.
08/12/14 Tricos have started hatching
and will do so for the next couple of
months. Two good reports have come in
during the past week.
09/02/14 No reports came in for the past
two weeks. The discharges have been
reasonable and fish should be being
09/16/14 Two good reports for the past
week. Discharges have been a problem at
times but when the water levels have been
decent, fishing has been excellent.
09/23/14 No reports from last week but
conditions have been good. Early fall is the
best time to fly fish the Smith. It will soon be
big brown trout time.
10/07/14 Rain has helped the low water
condition. Brown trout will be more exposed
and moving upstream to spawn during the
next month. Brown Sculpin
10/14/14 Watch the stream levels. There is
rain for the next two days and the discharges
could be high near the end of this week.
10/28/14 Two customers reporting they are
catching trout just below the dam and they
are mostly brook trout. I guess they mixed
some brookies in with the stockers.
11/11/14 Brown trout are spawning and
anglers are catching plenty of rainbows and
brook trout. BWO nymphs and Midges are
the main fly to use.
12/04/14 Discharges have been a problem
at times and are something you must watch,
otherwise, conditions are very good.
Streamer and midges have been producing
lots of trout for three different regular
12/16/14 More good reports with lots of
brook and rainbows caught. No reports of
browns through. Midges and BWO nymphs,
size 18 are working.
12/23/14 No reports from the past week but
conditions remain very good.
12/29/14 One good report from a customer
catching a few stockers below the dam.
01/05/15 No reports from the past week.
01/19/15 Recent warmer weather has some
of our customers on the river and catching
some trout. They are using cream and red
midge larva and pupa.
01/26/15 No reports from the past week.
Conditions remain fairly good.
02/02/15 One good report from a customer
fishing midges just below the dam. He
caught 11 trout in about 3 hours.
02/16/15 We had one good report last
week but this coming week will be very cold
- your guides will be freezing up.
03/02/15 Two good reports have come in
from customers this past two weeks. Midges
and BWO are working when discharges are
03/09/15 Your really going to have to
watch the water levels and discharges
from the dam. There has been a lot of rain
and more is on the way. The telephone #
for water releases is on your upper left.
03/16/15 Discharges have been high at
times due to recent rain but much better
weather is in store this coming week.
03/23/15 No reports but levels have been
high. Good discharge rate now, so it is in
much better shape.
03/30/15 The cold streak has ended and
conditions should improve this week.
04/06/15 The water should be warmer this
week but there is lots of rain expected, so
check the discharges later on this week.
04/13/15 Two good reports from one day
last week. Lots of rain is forecast, so make
sure you cheek the discharge schedule.
04/20/15 Another good report from an angler
catching some nice rainbows and browns.
Hatches of Hendricksons are taking place.
04/27/15 No reports from the past week but
conditions remain good.
05/04/15 One good report from lower end of
river from customer using A. March Browns.
05/11/15 Two good reports from customers
this past week. Good discharge levels.
Hendricksons/Red Quillsin the lower sections.
05/18/15 No reports from anyone fishing. Let
us hear from you. Conditions have been very
good with good discharge rates and hatches.
05/25/15 Unlike many Spring days there have
been several good wading opportunities. Two
good reports came in this past week.
06/08/15 Low discharges have given plenty of
opportunity for wading, Sulphurs, Cinnamon.
caddis and Little Sister caddis are hatching.
06/08/15 No reports from anyone fishing last
week but conditions remain very good.
06/29/15 Be sure to check the discharge
schedule. There has been a lot of rain lately.
Terrestrials, ants, beetles and hopper working.
07/06/15 There has been a lot of rain lately,
so make sure you get the discharge schedule.
07/13/15 High discharges have been a problem
at times, so make sure you get the schedule.
07/20/15 High discharges have made it tough
to wade but it should settle down this week.
08/03/15 There have been a few good
opportunities to wade lately and customers
are reporting catching some good numbers.
08/10/15 The discharges should provide some
good opportunities for wading, but be sure to
check them. Tricos are hatching on the lower
08/17/15 Two good reports came in from the
past week. Mahogany duns starting to hatch.
08/24/15 Stream levels have been high at
times but back down. Weather is cooler.
08/31/15 Mahogany duns are hatching, size
18, along with size 20 BWOs. It is warming
back up but should affect the tailwater at all.
09/07/15 Discharges have been better with
wading opportunities most of the time but be
sure to check on them. Midges always work.
09/21/15 Make sure you check the discharge
schedule. It is raining right now and will
continue through tomorrow. It is going to be
much cooler and that should help big time.
09/28/15 Make sure you get the release
schedule. It has rained and there is more
coming, so you want to make sure they are
not running a lot of water through the dam.
10/12/15 Discharges should be back to
near normal with little rain forecast. It is big
brown trout time. Brown sculpin witll get the
10/19/15 There should be some good
chances to wade. Little BWOs and Crfeam
Midges are the main flies you need.
10/26/15 Watch the discharges and stream
levels. There a big Nascar Race this coming
weekend and the area will be crowded.
11/02/15 Stream levels are find as I am
writing this but there has been some rain and
we expect some high discharges. Otherwise,
browns are spawning and fishing is great.
11/16/15 Lots of rain last week but
discharges have subsided some. There two
more days of rain coming and the levels will
be up and down. Call to get the schedule.
Cream Midges and Red Midges are key flies.
11/30/15 We got a couple of good reports
the last week but it is raining hard and you
can count on some heavy discharges this
week. Watch the levels. Midges are king.
12/15/15 Stream levels should be back in
good shape but get the discharge schedule.
There is some rain today and again
Thursday. We added Winter stoneflies to the
12/21/15 Great weather but watch stream
levels and get the discharge schedule. (540)
629-2432 Use Midges/winter stonefly nymphs.
12/28/15 The stream levels have been high
most all the time and more heavy discharges
are likely for the next few day.
01/11/16 The discharges have remained
high for the past few days but soon should
start coming down. Black flies have started
01/18/16 The discharges have been up and
down everyday. I'm adding a USGS link (on
your upper left under the last picture) to give
you a better idea of the flows but always get
the discharge schedule.
01/25/16 The discharges are pulsing up and
down, so you will need to check the levels.
Red and Cream midges are working.
02/01/16 Wow. Two days with 66 degree
weather, but that makes little difference. The
discharges are likely to be high - check them.
02/08/16 The discharges have been high
and you must get the schedule from the
power company. Don't forget, the water is
warmest nearest the dam.
02/22/16 Customers have been catching
good numbers of trout each time the
discharges have been low. Fish Cream and
Red midges, larva and pupa in tandem.
02/29/16 There has been a lot of rain and
you can expect high discharges much of the
time. What the levels and if it is down, fishing
will be good.
03/07/16 The past two days, the power
company has be "pulsing" the water,
meaning running a lot to almost none, up
and down. You will have to get the schedule
from them to know when to fish.
03/14/16 We just discovered we had a wrong
area code for the power company discharge
schedule. Sorry, but please record the new
number on your upper left. (276) 629 - 2432
03/21/16 Levels have been up due to some
heavy discharges but that should subside
and you should get some opportunity this
week. You just have to call them to see.
03/28/16 Customers have been catching
trout as long as the discharges were not too
heavy. Right now they are fine.
04/11/16 We think the discharges and
stream levels will begin to settle down. There
is more rain today and tomorrow, then clear
for five days. You have to call the power co.
04/25/16 Flow are at 396 cfs and 3.44 ft.
That's too strong to wade, of course, so you
will need to check it out before going.
05/02/16 With the dam in the condition it is
in, and with all the rain coming the next five
days, we have a good idea, the levels will be
05/09/16 The river is high and a little stained
right now, and there is more rain coming.
Make sure you check the discharges.
05/16/16 The discharges are still a little high
and too high for safe wading but should be
lower soon. Lots of hatches are taking place.
05/30/16 The flows and stream level are high
right now. This has made it tough on those
trying to fish. Currently at 507 cfs and 3.68 ft.
06/06/16 The flows are high again. You may
be able to wade a few select spots but it isn't
advisable at this level. Lots of hatches are
taking place and good conditions, otherwise.
06/20/16 Flows have been high at times, and
that just stops the opportunity. When you can
wade, you can catch trout, but not otherwise.
07/04/16 We finally got some good reports
from customers. The discharges were low and
wading possible a few times and that made a
07/18/16 The Sulphurs are about through for
the year. Terrestrial are becoming important.
Ants and beetles, sculpin streamers early and
late in the day. Lots of caddis are hatching.
08/01/16 Tricos are hatching good. There are
still a few Sulphurs left, but sparse. The upper
and middle sections of the river are best at
this time. .
08/15/16 The discharges and stream levels are
high right now. You will just have to watch the
levels. You cannot wade at 600 cfs, need 300
cfs or less. Tricos are hatching good. .
08/22/16 Levels may be high a day or two.
Light green midges, Tricos, Slate drakes, ants,
beetles, Cinnamon caddis.
09/26/16 The flows are at 283 cfs at 3.20ft.
That makes it tough to wade some sections
but mostly okay. Slate Drakes, Cinnamon
caddis, little Sister caddis, Tricos and Midges -
creams and blood midges, or reds.
10/10/16 Discharges and stream levels are
down making wading easy. Use midges and
little BWO nymphs.