This certainly was not worth a 5 hour drive from Northern Virginia!
Thankfully, this was just the first stop on a longer trip that spanned the next several days. My plan was pretty simple – to get in at least an afternoon of fishing after the long drive, then check into the hotel and get ready for the real fishing to come in the Jackson and the other highly touted locations near Covington, VA.
The Flyfisher’s Guide to Virginia had an extensive discussion of Smith Creek. It consists of the area below the dam that I was going to visit as well as an upper section that is supposed to harbor a good population of natives. Hart advertised that the upper section required a bit of a walk, so it was my first stop.
You have to look carefully for the turn into the parking area – I had it marked on my GPS, so I had no problem finding it. If you do not have that advantage, you will need to look at the map closely. The first indicator that you will see is the posted “stocked trout water signs” along the road. When they end, you are at the parking areaa. Just beyond the signs, the road leaves the creek starts up a steep, windy hill – if you climb up and away from the water, you have gone too far.
Below the parking area, the VDGIF stocks the stream, above is native. I recommend you not bother working up the stream unless you are looking for small Virginia native trout. The picture below was taken at the parking area looking upstream. Clearly, this is small, small water and you will bushwhack up a very narrow creek looking for the random pool or two that might hold a fish big enough to see. I really can’t complain. In the book, Hart clearly states that this is “a classic small wild brook trout stream”. But… I was here, so I had to check it out.
I did not waste any more time and moved quickly back to the special regulation section below the dam. Here, I was in a quandary. The book discussed the need to walk down to the stream from the top; a 1/2 mile walk. When I got there, the gate was open and I drove on in with the intent of knocking on the door of the filtration plant to ask for permission to park. When I did not discover anyone home, I was faced with a risky decision. Do I just go ahead and park right at the filtration plant shown on the map, or should I drive back up and walk down. My main concern was that somebody would come and lock the gate and trap me on the inside. So, I called the Clifton Forge Police Station at 540-863-2513 to ask. The officer I spoke with was very nice and indicated that I should park outside the dam as a result of the issues associated with terrorists. While a terrorist might drive a truck, they probably do not have a www.tristatesportsmen.com sticker on the bumper!
So, I resigned myself to an extra hike to get to the water. I looked down the steep road and knew I would suck eggs at the end of the day, but pushed on it. I walked past the filtration plant into the open field beyond it and eventually found my way to a wide spot in the stream where the easy walking/open field petered out.
It was here that I saw and spooked the only decent size fish I saw all day. I assumed it was a trout, but it may have been a big chubb. After crossing the stream and bushwhacking down a tight trail, I came to the wide path shown in the picture below – the classic high speed avenue of approach! The road made it easy. I walked down that path for about a mile until it burst out on a fairly improved dirt road. It had a name, but I did not write it down. I assume you might be able to just drive to this spot and fish up the stream without the long walk down to the dam. Look at the map and you can see the dotted line leading to the red line that marks my track. If you fish Smith, try this option if it is not posted for parking. Otherwise, drive up and around to park at the top.
Finally, I was on the water. This is basically a Shenandoah type stream – especially in September at the end of a dry summer. However, since it is fed by the dam, I expected the water levels to be higher. As I fished up the stream, I was impressed with the feeling of remoteness and the close feeling of the forest. There were nice little (key word – little) pools and laddered small waterfalls that offered up a number of small chubbs to my Mr. Rapidan, but no trout.
The amount of room you have to walk and cast is OK. I did not feel that restricted. Obviously, on such small water, you are not really going to do a back cast – instead – you will rely on short roll casts or gentle flicks to move your fly from place to place. Since the trees do not hang that low over the stream, you can flick back either up or downstream with ease. Do not try anything with an angle as the vegetation is very, very tight on both sides of the stream.
This situation continued as worked back to the dam. Since this was a special regulation section, I assumed that there would be more trout still in here. The water was cold enough at 68 degrees to ensure their survival. It was not to be…. a dry hole.
The stream is actually widest right and deepest up by the filtration plant. In that spot, there are a nice series of fairly deep pools that could hold decent trout. Unless they stock the entire length of the stream, this is where I would spend my time in the future.
Bottom Line: Not a good start to my 5 days of fishing in September, but at least I was outside and fishing. It was new water, I discovered something and had a bit of fun while getting some casting practice. This is a place to go only after stocking.
Hart indicates that this section has a problem with poaching. I’m not sure that anything substantial would be able to survive in the low water and shallow pools I saw other than the scattered chubbs.
So, if you go to Smith, only go when you know that there are fish available to catch. It is certainly not worth any long drive!
Getting there: Mapquest yourself to Clifton Forge and take the exit from I-64. You will need to navigate through a number of roads in the town to finally get to Rt 606. It’s at the west end of town – so if you keep turning to point yourself to the Northwest, you will find it. Follow 606 and be alert for a gate at the top of a ridge on your right. It will be immediately at the top after a windy stretch of road – you may need to read the map to find it. Park at the top where you are not blocking the gate and walk down the hill to the dam and the creek
Look upstream at the start of the “upper” part of Smith Creek.
Nice wide road gives easy access to the lower end of the creek
Looking upstream at my entry point
Looking downstream at my entry point
One of the few wide pools
Interesting laddered waterfalls
This is the only thing that was moving in this water
The water gets a bit better up by the top.
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore