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Smith River Virginia

Wed, 01/06/2010 - 13:01 -- jmaslar

The Smith River is formed in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the south central portion of Virginia and is known as one of the top five trout streams in Virginia for the trophy browns. Although the Smith River is very long, reaching from the Blue Ridge Mountains down into North Carolina, the major tailwater fishing portion, of approximately 20 miles, lies between the Philpott Dam in Bassett Virginia and the town of Martinsville Virginia. The Smith flows past a few urban areas in its journey to North Carolina. The

The Smith River is basically a flat, wide stream with its depth remaining fairly constant across its sometimes 100 foot width. There are many long pools, separated by riffles with deceptively slow moving water, with a smooth flat surface. Since the water flows out from the bottom of the dam, the water remains cool enough to support good populations of hatchery supported rainbows and browns as well as a good wild reproducing brown trout population.
The Smith is divided into three major sections. Between Philpott Dam and Town Creek, the river is managed by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) as a stocked and wild trout stream. Standard state regulations for rainbow trout  (6 fish/day, 7-inch minimum size) are in effect in this area. From Town Creek downstream to Bassett, the river is managed as a trophy brown trout stream. In 2012 new regulations were adopted that require all brown trout of 10 to 24 inches be release and only one brown over 24 inches may be harested per day. From the Town of Bassett downstream to Martinsville, the river is again managed as a stocked and wild trout fishery. In this segment of the river, the rainbows are the dominant species. These new rules can be reviewed here.
Fishing the Smith river:
The pools are tranquil and the trout will spook easily. The larger browns will be in or near structure such as rocks, logs or overhanging tree limbs, avoiding the sunlight, while the rainbows may seek out the riffles. Fish the pools methodically and delicately from head to tail being extremely careful as you wade the smooth waters.
These waters can be challenging for the fly fisherman as it is difficult to get drag free drifts and the seams are difficult to detect. Should you see a rising trout you may need to present a dry fly in a downstream direction being careful not to let the leader pass over the trout.
The Smith River has a great diversity of insect hatches including the Blue Winged Olives, March Browns, and the Caddis Flies, so be sure to include these in your fly box. Also do not forget to have a sculpin imitation as well as some terrestrials especially in the summer. The Smith River is ideal for wading since it is flat, slow and has a fairly even bottom. However, when the water is released the river can become dangerous, you must vacate the water, it not you may find yourself swimming, so be acutely aware of the release schedule.
Late Winter/Spring:
This is the best time to fish the Smith River because of the diverse insect populations and the hatches. Start with the Blue Quills, Blue Winged Olives and the Quill Gordon patterns in the 16 to 18 hook sizes. Look for the hatches to occur in the warmest part of the day usually after lunch. Be very particular about matching the hatch as these trout can afford to be selective. Nymphs are a good way to start in combination with a dry attractor fly acting as a strike indicator. A 6 WT. rod will be most effective for fishing the large open waters. The down and across presentation is the most common approach among anglers.
In summer, the fishing remains good due to the clarity of the waters and the constant cool temperatures of the water. Look for hatches of the Blue Winged Olive, Giant Black Stonefly and Green Drake, starting early in the morning. Terrestrials will work especially under the low branches.
Fall is a good time to fish the Smith River staring with some Caddis fly imitations, Midges and Blue Winged Olives nymphs in the 18 and 20 hook sizes. A strike indicator will likely be a necessity. Streamers in the larger size hooks imitating the sculpins will work as well as anything.

Geographical Location: 
Type of Stream: 
Tailwater large: 15 to 20 miles long up to 100 feet wide
Brown and Rainbow
South Central Virginia
Nearest Town: 
Martinsville VA & Phillpott VA
From Roanoke, travel south on US 220 to Route 674 at Oak Level, turning west until you reach the river at Phillpott, VA. From Danville, VA take Route 58 to Martinsville, VA, and then take US 220 about 6 miles keeping on Route 57 approximately 3 miles to the river.

Hatch Chart

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Submitted by Len Dillon on

You may want to update the regualtions on tehis page to match those recently made by the Va Dept of Gane and Inland fisheries. And yes, the SMith flows through the town of Bassett and Fieldale on its way to AMrtinsville from Philpott Lake.

Submitted by jmaslar on

Thanks Len for alerting us of the changes to the regulations. The report has been changed to reflect the 2012 regulations and a link has been added. Readers like you help to keep this site useful.

Submitted by james on

Hello, my name is James and I have fished the Smith for many years. I too, have noticed the decline in trophy browns. Has anyone taken a look st the idea of pulsing the generators so the flow does not scour out the river bottom allowing for insect populations to increase their habitat range? Thank you for the information and the video. I did not know that giant black stone flies and Green Drakes even hatched on the Smith. As a side note, the giant black stone fly nymph is a good play on the Dan River through Kibler Valley.

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